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Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

Meet our seminarians: John Paul Narog 

What seminary are you attending and where are you in the formation process?

John Paul Narog

This fall, I will be entering my third year of philosophy at the St. John Vianney College Seminary. 

When is your birthday? 

My birthday is July 28, on the feast of Pope St. Innocent I. 

What’s your home parish? 

My home parish is St. Mary Star of the Sea in Duluth. It is a beautiful old Polish church that has influenced the way I pray. 

Tell me a little about your family. 

I am the oldest of six kids. My parents are William and Katherine (known to many as Bill and Katie), and my siblings are Madeline, Lily, Daniel, Timothy, and Emily. I have very fond memories of being homeschooled by my mother with my siblings. 

Is there an email address where people can write to you? 

Yes! I would love to hear from you. If you wish, please contact me at johnpaul.narog@duluthcatholic.org 

If people wanted to ask the intercession of a particular saint for you, what saint would you choose? 

St. Ignatius of Loyola is a special patron of mine. I have felt a strong attachment to him ever since I was young. His life is inspiring, especially his go-getter attitude! 

What are some of the things you like to do in your spare time? 

In my spare time I enjoy longboarding (it’s similar to skateboarding), writing music, reading, and mountain biking. 

What is your favorite devotion (and why)? 

Hands down, my favorite devotion is the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I have heard this devotion explained as “God loving us with a human heart” (Father Nick Nelson). Consider how His Heart is so gentle, so kind, so patient with sinners. His Divine Heart is wounded by sins and hurt by the cold indifference of this world, and yet in every Mass, Jesus gives us His Heart all over again. How could you not fall in love with such a devotion? 

What’s the best thing about your home town? 

In my opinion, the best thing about Duluth is the lake! Fresh tap water, lake effect snow, “it’s cooler by the lake” are all great things about where I live. When I moved to the Cities for seminary, I felt that my sense of direction was gone. I had gotten so used to living near the lake that I always knew which direction it was in! 

What person has been the biggest help to you so far as you discern a call to the priesthood? 

There have been many, but I believe the credit belongs to two priests. Father Tony Wroblewski has always been a father that is ready to listen and give sound advice. I am deeply grateful for his guidance. Father Nick Nelson, our vocations director, has accompanied me through challenges and has counseled me many a time. He has influenced the way I want to live out priesthood, especially in the way that Holy Mass is offered. 

If someone asked you how to grow as a disciple of Jesus, what’s your best advice? 

Take action in your spiritual life. Thoughts of “I’ll do it later” pervade many lives. If life is lived with that attitude, we will die with many regrets. Commit to Jesus! Trust in Him! Take action! What does this look like? It is doing a family rosary on Saturday (Mary’s day). It is driving to your parish right after work for 15 minutes of prayer. It is stopping at the gas station to buy water for the homeless man on the street corner. Our Blessed Lord took action when He stepped down from Heaven to be with you and me. Let’s imitate Him. 

What does the priesthood mean in the life of the Church? 

Priesthood is not just ministry. It is identity. The priest is not only a counselor, confessor, and guide; he is first and foremost a son of God: this is the priest’s identity. By Holy Orders, the priest is deeply and irrevocably conformed to the sonship of Jesus. This is why we say the priest is an alter Christus: another Christ. The priest has a relationship with God the Father that no other Christian has. Just as Jesus is a mediator between God and man, between Creator and creature, so too is the priest; he shares in the eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ. Because of this, priesthood is intrinsically a foundational piece of the Church. Your parish priest carries within himself the power to turn bread and wine into the veritable Body and Blood of the God-Man crucified 2,000 years ago. Your parish priest carries within himself the power to turn a soul dead from sin into a soul that is radiating life. The priesthood, therefore, is essential to the life and mission of the Church. 

Editorial: Marriage season is here

Amid all the splendor of a northern Minnesota summer, don’t miss one of its most beautiful aspects: weddings. It’s the time of year many couples choose to begin their lives together. 

In our diocesan vocations prayer, alongside vocations to the priesthood, consecrated life, and permanent diaconate, we pray so often at Masses for an increase in “holy marriages in our diocese.” Society is undergoing a crisis of marriage and family. But it’s also true that the sacrament of marriage brings hope to society. 

The communion of persons in a family is irreplaceable. It is the cradle of new life and a place where love, service, and virtue are learned. It is a profound source of mutual support. In terms of things individual human beings can do to help heal the world, embracing God’s call to the extraordinary ordinary vocation of matrimony has to rank high on the list. 

So as you go out to those weddings this summer, as you act as witnesses to those marriages, truly support them. Pray for the couples. Encourage them. Build them up. Be present to them. 

And if you are married, when you go to a wedding, let it be an invitation to recommit, to deepen your love for your spouse and any children. 

It’s something within all of our power that we can do for the better of the world around us. 

Interfaith advocacy for the poor and vulnerable makes an impact in 2023

Inside the Capitol 

Catholic social teaching espouses a preferential option for the poor and vulnerable. In the public policy context, this means that policies should first be evaluated based on how they will affect those most in distress (Matthew 25). It also means that addressing the needs of the poor and vulnerable should be one of the most important priorities in the legislative process, at whatever level of government. 

To expand its anti-poverty advocacy, the Minnesota Catholic Conference has for decades joined the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, the Islamic Center of Minnesota, and the Minnesota Council of Churches in sponsoring the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition (JRLC). Guided by God’s vision of the common good as reflected in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions, the JRLC mobilizes religious communities to influence public policy in Minnesota. Despite our differences, the JRLC tries to embody the importance of building common ground for the common good, as well as promoting civility in public discourse. 

The JRLC had some important legislative successes during the 2023 session. 

Sacred Settlements 

The Sacred Settlements bill, which passed, provides a list of inspection and permitting guidelines for congregations that want to house chronically homeless people in tiny homes on their property. After three long years of advocacy, this bill is now law. 

The JRLC became a champion of this bill when a pioneering Nazarene congregation in St. Paul offering these “tiny homes” brought it to our attention, and it was clear that this religious liberty matter had to be resolved so that people of faith could be free to serve those most in need. 

The JRLC sponsors are hopeful that more congregations will consider using the Sacred Settlements model to house their chronically homeless neighbors, and that more people will find supportive communities and permanent housing. 

Gambling expansion 

The proposed expansion of online sports betting did not pass this session. The JRLC has long opposed gambling expansion due to the harm it would cause low-income families and individuals dealing with gambling addiction, as well as its impact on young people prone to developing compulsive gambling behaviors. 

The JRLC’s efforts concentrated on ensuring that any proposal discussed included extensive safeguards to mitigate potential harm. Most of those safeguards are present in the House and Senate versions of the bill. This work to mitigate the harms of putting online casinos on cell phones will continue into the 2024 session. 

Emergency shelter capacity 

After a last-minute push to persuade the governor and Senate to adopt the House proposal of $150 million in emergency shelter funding, $137.53 million in emergency shelter funding was included as cash appropriations in the Capital Investment Bill. JRLC put together a letter of support as part of a significant effort by homelessness advocates to secure this funding. JRLC’s interfaith letter included signatures from 66 clergy, and among them were several of our state’s bishops. Expanding shelter capacity will help build out resources and beds ahead of this upcoming winter. 

To learn more about the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, visit jrlc.org

Father Nicholas Nelson: Rules for the discernment of spirits

One of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s greatest contributions to the church is known as his “Rules for Discernment of Spirits.” These 14 rules are necessary, because the soul is moved by diverse spirits, and it is important to discern these spirits so that one may follow the good and repel the bad. 

Father Nick Nelson
Handing on the Faith

By spirits, Ignatius means affective stirrings or movements of the heart: joy, sadness, hope, fear, peace, anxiety, etc. 

The evil or bad spirit can be several things, such as demons, our own weak tendencies which spring from egoism and disordered sensuality, individuals who can lead us away from God to some extent, and bad worldly thinking. The good spirits can also be several things, such as God, angels, theological virtues implanted in us from baptism, influences for good (saints, holy family members, good friends, the Bible, catechism, and other good books). 

The purpose of these rules is to get us to do the right thing. Here are the steps to responding. 

First, we must become aware of the stirrings in our hearts. Many people don’t even acknowledge that they are feeling particular ways. They just react according to their passions. 

Second, we must understand these stirrings. By reflecting on the stirrings, we then understand what is from God and what is not. It’s important to continue to study the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church to form our consciences and to know what is truly from God. 

Finally, we must take action. It’s not enough just to be aware and to understand the stirrings, we must accept and live according to what is of God and reject and remove from our lives what is not of God. 

The first two rules are fundamental and so timely for our world today. The first is this, “In persons who are going from mortal sin to mortal sin, the enemy is ordinarily accustomed to propose apparent pleasures to them, leading them to imagine sensual delights and pleasures in order to hold them more and make them grow in their vices and sins. In these persons, the good spirit uses a contrary method, stinging and biting their consciences through their rational power of moral judgment.” 

How many times have you heard “follow your heart” or “love is love”? Well, not so fast. Right? That depends on if we are living a godly life or not. How many people do you know who are in unhealthy and immoral relationships but tell you that they are so happy and so it must be good? They say they feel so good, and therefore God must be OK with it. Well, they feel that way because those “feel good” stirrings aren’t, in fact, from God, but from the enemy who wants you to continue to live that sinful lifestyle. 

How many times has someone told you not to make them feel guilty? Well, it’s not you, it’s actually the Lord. In these persons, the pricks and guilt a person feel come from God, moving them to repentance and conversion. 

The second rule is the opposite. “In persons who are going on intensely purifying their sins and rising from good to better in the service of God our Lord, the method is contrary to that in the first rule. For then it is proper to the evil spirit to bite, sadden, and place obstacles, disquiet with false reasons, so that the person may not go forward. And it is proper to the good spirit to give courage and strength, consolations, tears, inspirations, and quiet, easing and taking away all obstacles, so that the person may go forward in doing good.” 

I hope we all can relate to this rule. It can be difficult to do good. We need to fight against the bad feelings, realizing it is the evil spirit trying to get us to give up and turn away from God. 

St. Therese of Lisieux is a great example of this. In her “Story of a Soul,” she writes, “On the eve of the great day [of profession of her vows] instead of being filled with the customary sweetness, my vocation suddenly seemed to me as unreal as a dream …. The darkness was so bewildering that I understood but one thing — I had no religious vocation, and must return to the world. I cannot describe the agony I endured. What was I to do in such a difficulty?” 

She was obviously doing something good, but she had a bad stirring in her soul. It was the evil spirit trying to get her to not go forward with her vocation. Imagine if she didn’t recognize that it was the evil spirit. She would never have become a saint, and we would never have known her and been inspired by her “Little Way” and heroic life! 

This column is too short to even touch on the other 12 rules. I hope you understand what they are and are motivated to learn more about them. They can be very helpful to us in discerning the will of God for us in our lives. 

I would recommend three books if you are interested in learning more. The first two are by Father Timothy Gallagher: “The Discernment of Spirits” and “The Discernment of Spirits in Marriage.” Dan Burke also wrote one entitled “Spiritual Warfare and the Discernment of Spirits.” 

Father Nick Nelson is pastor of Queen of Peace and Holy Family parishes in Cloquet and vocations director for the Diocese of Duluth. He studied at The Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Rome. Reach him at fr.nicholas.nelson@duluthcatholic.org

Father Richard Kunst: Getting swindled stinks; don’t do it to God

When I was a young kid, for several summers I caddied at a local country club. It was a pretty inefficient use of time, because I would have to ride my bike for about five miles each way, and then there were many days I would just hang out in the caddy shack with a bunch of other kids waiting for hours to get my turn so I could make a few bucks. Over the years, I must have caddied hundreds of times, and for all those times only one experience really sticks in my mind. 

Father Richard Kunst

There were three grades of caddy; B, A, and AA. B caddies were the beginners, and they had the lowest pay grade. A was if you had some experience but were not a pro. If you were a caddy long enough and you got good reviews from the golfers you would reach AA status, and then you were making serious bucks. 

For most of my years down at the club I was simply an A caddy, not bad but not great. The one time I remember so clearly was when I was an average “A” caddy. I was carrying the clubs for a member who was golfing with a few of her friends. At the end of the round, I was fully expecting $10-$12, which was typical pay at the time, but instead she gave me only $6. 

I remember this clearly because I felt so cheated! I had ridden my bike five miles one way, spent several hours waiting in the caddy shack to be called, and then four or five hours carrying her golf clubs, all to be paid six bucks! I knew there was nothing I could do, because I was a snot-nosed kid without any standing at the country club compared to one of the members; it was a feeling of helplessness. 

Poetically, later in life I became this woman’s pastor, and I am happy to say I never once brought it up to her, and now she is with God, so I will never be able to get the $4 I figured I deserved. It is crazy to think that this is the one experience caddying I remember best, and it was because I was cheated. 

There is an inherent injustice we feel when we think we are getting denied what we’re due. We feel it, and it does not feel good. Six dollars for 18 holes, even in the 1980s, was just not right. 

Famed rabbi Abraham Heschel once wrote, “Everything we own, we owe.” That concept is loud and clear in the Jewish prayer known as “The Shema.” In the 12th chapter of Mark’s Gospel a scribe questions Jesus as to what the greatest commandment is. Jesus replied: “This is the first: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! Therefore you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength’” (29-30). Jesus gives the Shema (a Hebrew term meaning “hear”) as the greatest command. Found in the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy, the Shema has always been the centerpiece and the most essential prayer in all Judaism. In fact, an orthodox Jew will say this prayer several times a day and even has it posted in what is called a Mezuzah on the threshold of their doors. 

Take your time and re-read this prayer and notice the breathtaking nature of the command. Because God made us and everything around us, we owe him everything; all our heart, all our mind, all our strength. Everything we own, we owe! Anything less and we are denying God his due. I got cheated four bucks after a full day’s work back in the 1980s, and I never have forgotten it. What are we cheating God? 

Now, to be fair, we are not all called to be Carthusian monks praying in our cells 23 hours a day, but that is not what God is expecting of us, unless we really are called to that extraordinary vocation. But he is expecting a lot of us (read the Shema again), not to a level where we compromise our vocations as parents or spouses, but still, God does not want to be robbed of his due. 

How much of our daily time do we spend praying? Maybe right before bed or the occasional meal prayer when we think of it? Does that match what God expects of us? Does our financial support for our parish or our volunteer time match anywhere close to what the Shema says? Again, we are not called to be Carthusian monks, but chances are we are called to more than what we are giving. 

The bigger tragedy from my perspective is all the people out there (some in my own family) who don’t seem to give a second’s thought to God. Studies have shown a steep decline of faith among Americans in recent years. Trends like that never end well for a nation or for individuals. In the Old Testament God repeatedly refers to himself as a jealous God. He did not want his chosen people to start ignoring him to worship some other god, and he still doesn’t want us to ignore him. Do we give him his due? 

Pray for your loved ones who don’t pay God any attention in their daily lives, because they need the prayers. Then pray the Shema again. 

Father Richard Kunst is pastor of St. James and St. Elizabeth in Duluth. Reach him at rbkunst@gmail.com.

Betsy Kneepkens: This Fourth, honor those who stand boldly in the spiritual battle, too

As secular holidays go, the Fourth of July is worthy of a grand celebration. As a student of history, I think the birth of this country approaches a miracle, and the brilliance of our founders is nothing short of remarkable. I respect what other women and men sacrificed and continue to offer on our behalf. Those responsible for my freedom have been brave and bold, and I am grateful for their contribution. 

Betsy Kneepkens
Betsy Kneepkens
Faith and Family

Everyone knows our country is not perfect, particularly currently. And we know it will never be. However, our most significant failings are not because our founders’ principles were wayward but because we do not adhere to the genius inscribed in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. 

We should always remember the purpose of this July national holiday. However, we do not have a day to celebrate and commemorate those who are both brave and boldly fighting the spiritual battle of our time. The earthly challenges of our country are massive; the evil force against the Kingdom is certainly more aggressive and getting worse. Those that risk speaking and stepping out in love for the sake of others are often mocked and ridiculed. Having a different opinion than the status quo will silence you and, at times, be a career-ender. Living life as a Catholic, where you don’t compromise but remain steadfast with compassionate integrity, requires armor so thick and resilient that few dare to wear it. 

I have had the opportunity to observe and recognize some who are willing to step up for the sake of a deep and holy love for our fellow humans. 

Most recently, I watched three Oklahoma softball players online respond to an ESPN question about the joy of winning a national championship. The three players, each in their way, pointed out that their joy is in Christ, not a softball game, proclaiming, “Although winning was exciting and thrilling, the next day was just another day without finding true joy in Christ.” 

They spoke on national television about their hard work and sacrifices, which they announced were ultimately directed toward God’s glory. And if their efforts were not for Christ, what value would they provide? The ESPN reporter was not expecting such a response, so the line of questioning ended, and the interview was finished. These athletes poignantly articulated reasons why faith matters in a few brief minutes. They chose to answer counter-culturally, and that placed them in the public spiritual battlefield, and they should be recognized. 

If we had a day to honor spiritually bold and brave individuals, we would identify three professional baseball players, Trevor Williams, Clayton Kershaw, and Blake Trienen. Perhaps other players among the 1,200 in Major League Baseball spoke out against the Dodgers’ organization, which sponsored those who call themselves the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, but I couldn’t find anything. This group of actors performed and honored by the Los Angeles Dodgers is known for its performances that publicly ridicule and mock religious Catholic sisters, Christ, and other Catholic beliefs and traditions. Their act includes lewd and inappropriate gestures. These three professional baseball players spoke out, in love, against the Dodgers’ decision to allow such a hateful show. The potential fallout from speaking out could directly affect these men’s careers, and they spoke anyway. These heroic deeds are the kind of sacrifices that directly impact the spiritual battlefield and provide a voice for decency and common sense in our culture. 

These athletes are famous, and their message was strong, but I know other, less-known individuals who have sacrificed, yet their actions were equally effective. I recently met a person who held a professional position that required an advanced degree, a kind person who is also very faith-filled. Her employer required her and her staff to violate a direct tenet of her Catholic faith. This person did everything possible to convince those in authority that going forward with their mandate would be morally unacceptable. When her efforts failed, she took the sacrificial route by resigning. This woman gave up her career for love, true justice, Christ, and his church. These actions were brave, actualizing courage to live a life in Christ. I would give this individual a medal if we had a day to honor this kind of person for being a soldier in this spiritual war. 

Even more intimately, good friends were blessed with two beautiful children. When the second child was born, it was discovered early on that the child had a genetic abnormality that would take their child within months. Observing this family’s care and showering that child with unconditional love was a testimony for all of us who were granted the opportunity to observe them in action. The dignity these parents poured over this baby and each other was absolutely remarkable. Those of us that were privileged enough to come in contact with this Christ-like love have been forever changed. 

What I found even more impressive was how this couple handled thoughtless individuals who advised them not to have another child. These “advisors” missed the gift of love and holiness that poured from this couple. More importantly, this rightly directed couple, resolved in faith, knew that the decision to cooperate with their heavenly Father had nothing to do with the challenges they faced with their second child. They proclaimed their acceptance of the gift of their second daughter by willingly opening their hearts to a third child, even at the risk of insensitive comments by those non-believers who thought imperfect children were less worthy. After being in a relationship with this family during the loving end of their second daughter’s life, their third child was a more powerful lesson for me and all the students of their holiness. If we had a day to honor those entering the spiritual battlefield and could give medals, I would give them a gold star. 

With much fervor and respect, I think of a young college student who attended what he thought was a Catholic college. Over his four years, he slowly was disenfranchised by the school’s mission and what he was experiencing. During his time there, he tried to speak up, point back to the mission, and share the beauty of the Catholic faith and how the teachings could better enlighten some of the new policies that appeared to conflict with church teachings. 

Much changed culturally during his four years, but the church’s solutions to society’s struggles were minimized. He was not alone; other voices of opposition were ignored as well. He struggled to see any movement toward the richness and beauty that the Catholic Church offered in his four years. Feeling deserving of his secular academic achievements, he felt strongly that the Catholic mission was not inspired throughout the curriculum, and his education lacked that robust promise. He and his friends did not protest at graduation, did not walk out on the speaker, but rather decided not to attend the ceremony to make a respectful statement of the promise that they felt was unfulfilled. 

Will anyone at the institution know or care why these graduates did not participate in the commencement? Likely not. However, their absences were a personal proclamation, standing firmly on the front lines of the spiritual battlefield, making a mark that the university had failed on their part and was undeserving of public support. These students could be honored for caring that much for their faith and needed in the spiritual battlefield going forward. 

The Fourth of July is a necessary holiday, because it honors those who have sacrificed so much for us. Since this country was founded on religious freedom, I see a reason also to celebrate those who give of themselves for a battle more important than our country. As the voice for religious freedom and to a culture gone astray, I find the numerous sacrifices for the sake of faith worthy of special honors. 

As we enjoy a long weekend for the Fourth of July, hopefully with nice weather, let us remember those who founded this great country of ours, but also those who stand up for Christ and the laws and cultural norms that we were given to know the love of our heavenly Father. 

Betsy Kneepkens is director of the Office of Marriage, Family, and Life for the Diocese of Duluth and a mother of six. 

Deacon Kyle Eller: What is inclusion, anyway?

A recording of a Canadian teacher berating a Muslim student for his lack of inclusion recently went viral. The student had, apparently, opted out of a “pride” event at his school, and this enraged the teacher, who informed this student that participating in “pride” events was expected of him in reciprocation for (among other things) the school acknowledging Ramadan during the year. 

Deacon Kyle Eller
Mere Catholicism

At the low point of her angry monologue, she told the student that if he did not believe that marriage should be understood in law to include two people of the same sex, “you can’t be Canadian. You don’t belong here, and I mean it. I really mean it.” 

Hold that thought and then consider a meme that was making the social media rounds at about the same time: “I’d rather be excluded for who I include than be included for who I exclude,” it said. 

It seems to me if you put those two things together, it neatly summarizes a pressing question: What, exactly, do we mean by “inclusion”? 

Until it became an ideological word, even a creedal word, part of that secular trinity of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” that now dominates every cultural conversation and functions almost as a state religion, we all would have understood it perfectly. We’d have given the obvious definition in the Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary from 1999 that sits on my desk: “the act of including,” which in turn means “to take in or comprise as a part of a whole or group.” 

“Inclusion” in this sense would mean recognizing a person as part of a community, such as a nation, despite differences and disagreements. It would mean the opposite of saying you “can’t be Canadian” unless you believe some particular thing about human sexuality. 

As with so many of the words that have been successfully weaponized, that success depends on equivocation — on taking advantage of the fact that people use the word in different and contradictory ways. People still (rightly) value the concept of “inclusion” in its original meaning. That’s precisely what makes the accusation of being “exclusionary” so powerful, and when falsely made, so poisonous. The accusation attacks a person’s character and reputation, and the threat of it is a powerful means of coercion. 

And that, of course, is the point of the meme. While posing as a self-congratulatory bit of virtue signaling, the meme is actually directed at those whom the person sharing it has judged to be “exclusive.” Paradoxically, it’s said precisely for the purpose of exclusion and condemnation. 

The Canadian school where the recorded incident took place distanced itself from the teacher’s comments, declaring the views expressed contrary to the school’s values. Perhaps so. But be that as it may, I can’t help thinking that in the eyes of her ideological allies, the teacher’s real offense was “saying the quiet part out loud,” openly following these ideas to their logical conclusion before it’s politically expedient to do so. 

I’ve lost count of the times in recent month I’ve seen people comment in ways that imply (or outright state) that those of us who, for instance, are opposed to biological boys in girls locker rooms and sports teams or to so-called “gender-affirming care” for minors are not real Minnesotans and maybe should leave. Some of those comments came from my elected officials. 

It’s strange, isn’t it? I’m a native Minnesotan, lived nearly my entire life here, the only exception being going to a college about 30 miles over the border, where my Minnesota accent once got me accused of being from Canada. I’ve eaten many a hotdish at a potluck, I’ve been traumatized by the Vikings, and I regularly engage in the long Minnesota goodbye. I’m generally about as Minnesotan as a person can be. I know Minnesotans with a huge diversity of views about things. And I don’t think it would have occurred to me to suggest someone who disagrees with me about “drag queen story hour” is not a Minnesotan. I don’t think it would have occurred to me to imagine myself the arbiter of that. I’m content just trying to talk with them and listen to them and perhaps respectfully try to persuade them. That, it seems to me, is inclusive, and Minnesotan. 

Inclusion, of course, is much discussed in the church these days, too. It’s right that we should — there is no more important community to be included in than the church founded by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to bring salvation to the whole world. 

In the Second Vatican Council, the church speaks of herself in these terms: “Christ is the Light of nations. Because this is so, this Sacred Synod gathered together in the Holy Spirit eagerly desires, by proclaiming the Gospel to every creature, to bring the light of Christ to all men, a light brightly visible on the countenance of the Church. Since the Church is in Christ like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race, it desires now to unfold more fully to the faithful of the Church and to the whole world its own inner nature and universal mission. This it intends to do following faithfully the teaching of previous councils. The present-day conditions of the world add greater urgency to this work of the Church so that all men, joined more closely today by various social, technical and cultural ties, might also attain fuller unity in Christ.” 

The church fosters inclusion by seeking something still deeper: unity, which can only be found in Jesus Christ, true God and true man, and the truth he has revealed to us about God and about ourselves. Membership in this community derives not from our geographic location or our cultural and family ties but from baptism and from faith in the person of Jesus and in all he has revealed. 

We should be inclusive in the ways we pursue this unity. We should meet people where they are, love them, listen to them, dialogue with them, respect their freedom, propose rather than impose, walk with them gradually. But we can never lose sight of the fact that Christ is the true light of the world, and to abandon any of his teachings would be to deprive people of that light and to betray the truth and to destroy the very unity we seek. 

Deacon Kyle Eller is editor of The Northern Cross. Reach him at dcn.kyle.eller@duluthcatholic.org

Women’s Care Center gets new ultrasound — in a hurry 

By Deacon Kyle Eller 
The Northern Cross 

For pregnancy centers helping pregnant women to choose life for their unborn children, an ultrasound is a critical piece of equipment. It’s estimated that 94% of women who have an ultrasound choose life. 

So when the seven-year-old ultrasound machine at the Women’s Care Center in Duluth, located across the street from the abortion facility in the city, went down, it represented a bit of a crisis.

Bishop Felton and representatives from the Women’s Care Center and the Knights of Columbus at a check presentation with funding for a new ultrasound machine. (Photo courtesy of Margaret Slawin) 

“Ultrasounds are essential tools to help support and educate women who face pregnancies they feel unprepared for,” said Betsy Kneepkens, director of the Office of Marriage, Family, and Life for the Diocese of Duluth, who was alerted to the situation at the end of April. “In the crisis pregnancy ministry, a non-working ultrasound is an emergency.” 

Debbie Ellingsen, executive director at the center, said it just stopped working one day. They reached out to the company, had estimates and field assessments, and there were attempts to repair it at a significant cost, but they failed and finally decided the best course of action was a new machine. 

Thus began “several weeks without an ultrasound,” she said. 

It’s also when the help started kicking in. 

One source of help was Jim and Diane Lee, who are recent additions to the WCC board. Jim is a member of the Knights of Columbus and had been intending to talk to the fourth degree Knights in the Brainerd area about using up some funds in a particular way. When he learned about the situation at the WCC, he switched gears and directed his attention to that immediate need, knowing that the Knights of Columbus have a program where, if a state or local council can raise half the funds, the Supreme Council will pay the rest. 

What happened when he got up to give the speech is something he describes as “a bit of a miracle.” 

As he started talking about the WCC, “this little 12-month-old baby kept throwing a ball towards me,” he said. As he gradually lost the attention of his audience, he introduced the baby and asked, “What would you pay to save one baby’s life?” 

A hand went up of someone offering a thousand, then another, then someone offering $500. “I’d say the first five minutes of the kickoff meeting, we raised $6,500,” he said. 

Support came in from elsewhere. The Lake Superior Life Care Center, another pro-life pregnancy center in the area, loaned the WCC its ultrasound machine, at no charge and no questions asked. 

Kneepkens said Duluth Bishop Daniel Felton made finding funds for a new machine a priority. “The bishop recognized that a crisis pregnancy center such as the WCC without this tool meant that the lives of the unborn were at risk,” she said. 

The bishop wrote an opening for the letter to the Supreme Council supporting the project, which went through with remarkable speed. 

Benedictine Sister Lisa Maurer, chair of the WCC board, said the immediate response is what’s remarkable to her. 

“I know that the Knights are supportive of life, so that part doesn’t surprise me,” she said. “But what surprises me is that this wasn’t a planned fundraiser, like ‘Next year could your pancake breakfast be for our new ultrasound?’ This was ‘we needed it now.’ And the fact that they came to our aid and they rallied, they got everything in order and figured it out, that’s what amazes me, and to me that’s where that miracle comes in.”

The new ultrasound machine at the Women’s Care Center in Duluth is already being put to good use. (Submitted photo)

The cost of the new ultrasound machine was about $34,000. Counting the Supreme Council contribution and contributions from inside and outside the diocese, the Knights of Columbus program raised more than $40,000. WCC also received a check from the bishop’s mission fund and a grant from the Human Life and Development Fund. 

WCC officials said that will help ensure the costs of trying to repair the old machine will also be covered, noting that the center receives no state or federal grants but relies on donations. “Every penny in our budget counts,” Ellingsen said. 

So far this year the center has served 221 women, and in the three weeks since the new machine has been in place, there have been 26 ultrasounds, which are offered after a pregnancy test. 

“It changes lives and it saves lives,” Ellingsen said. 

Mission fields mark Corpus Christi with Eucharistic Processions

As part of the parish phase of the three-year Eucharistic Revival the U.S. Conference of Bishops has called in the United States, Bishop Daniel Felton asked mission fields across the diocese to hold a Eucharistic Procession on June 11, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) or to participate in one in a nearby mission field. Click on the link below for scenes from some of those processions, many of which brought Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament out to the streets of their communities. 

2023 Eucharistic Procession photos 

Bishop Daniel Felton: Thank you for the love, prayers, and support after my Mom’s death

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, 

Greetings to you in the healing, hope, and joy of Jesus! 

Bishop Daniel Felton
Bishop Daniel Felton
Believe in the Good News

Since I last wrote to you, my Mom passed away. After a fall, there were multiple medical complications. At the age of 88, she died very peacefully on Sunday, June 11, 2023. 

My sisters and I would like to thank you for the outpouring of love, prayers, and support that we have received in recent days. As we all know, it is very difficult to lose a parent, no matter their age. 

One of the regrets that I have is that Mom was never well enough to make the trip to Duluth. Had she been able to visit me here in the Diocese of Duluth, you would have come to know her as a loving, fun, and talkative person. In fact, that is the charism that God gave to my Mom to fulfill God’s purpose and mission for her in life: She was a “master conversationalist.” Mom could strike up a conversation with anyone, and she did! 

Mom embodied the art of conversation, an art that is quickly falling to the wayside in our digital driven world. It was more than merely being talkative. In a very personal way, with a story or two, she would put the person in front of her at ease. She would then inquire about their person and life. The person in front of her, now at ease, would find it easy to share their stories, and hence a conversation would begin and a relationship would be formed. 

As a consequence, conversations were at the heart and core of my Mom’s relationship to her friends, family, and faith.

Bishop Daniel Felton preaches at a memorial Mass offered for his mother, Carol Felton, at St. Mary Star of the Sea in Duluth June 27. (Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)

My Mom had many circles of friends: her bowling friends (she was a scratch bowler), exercise friends, card playing friends, and high school friends, to name a few of those circles. I cannot even begin to imagine the thousands of conversations that she initiated with her friends over the span of 88 years. It brought her such joy to love and laugh her way through the relationships formed by every one of those friendship conversations. 

Mom loved her immediate and extended family deeply. With relatives living from the East Coast to the West and the north to the south, Mom, in person or by telephone, often visited with her extended family. It was through those conversations that her family stayed connected to one another. Along with my sisters, there were many a conversation had over the years. Through the years, there would be many sharings among the siblings that referred to some loving and humorous thing that Mom had said in a recent conversation. It is interesting to note that all of Mom’s children went into professions that require good conversational skills. She taught us well. 

And then there is my Mom’s relationship to my dad. Having met in junior high school, dating through high school, they were married in May of 1954, at the young ages of 19 and 20. Through their years of marriage, they raised a family, managed a business, and had lots of conversations in “good times and in bad, and in sickness and health.” On the occasion of their 66th wedding anniversary, my Dad wrote this note to my Mom: 

“Dear Carol, We are in this together all the way. What a great story we have left behind. I am so happy to have you for the rest of my life. I can’t imagine spending my life with anyone but you. I love you, Ken.” 

And finally, along with family and friends, my Mom’s faith was very important to her. She was very active in our home parish of St. Edward in Mackville, Wis. In later years, Mom would often make reference to the people she was praying for or intentions that were in her heart as she prayed the rosary before falling asleep at night. Again, the thousands of conversations she had with God in those prayerful moments are a source of inspiration to me. 

She had a very special relationship with St. Therese of Lisieux. This relationship goes all the way back to her early childhood. When my Grandma needed to go out and work in her garden or in the farm fields, she would place a statue of St. Therese in my Mom’s crib to protect her. It is not by chance that the first-born daughter is named Therese. 

My family finds great consolation in our deepest belief as Christians — that in the face of death, through the mercy and love of Jesus Christ, we are raised to everlasting life and hopefully gathered into an eternal life in heaven. I would invite you to pray for the repose of my mom’s soul, that at this very moment she may be carrying on a loving conversation with Jesus, my Dad, and St. Therese. 

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord. May she rest in peace. May her soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. 



Bishop Daniel Felton is the tenth bishop of Duluth.