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Father Richard Kunst: Introducing the Ulma Clan

Every once in a while something happens in our Catholic Faith that makes me think, “Dang, that is really cool.” That happened this past December, when Pope Francis announced the approval of the beatification of Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma and their children. Beatification is the last major step before someone is proclaimed a saint (canonization). When someone has been beatified, they are then known as “Blessed,” such as Blessed Solanus Casey. 

Father Richard Kunst

First the back story on the Ulma family, and then the explanation why this is all so dang amazing. During World War II, the Ulma family from Poland secretly sheltered eight Jewish people, protecting them from being sent to extermination camps. For about two years (1942-1944) the Jews were living in the Ulmas’ attic until someone tipped off the authorities as to what was happening. According to an eyewitness account, the police surrounded the Ulma home until they captured all eight Jews, shooting them one at a time execution style. To make an example of them, the police then killed Jozef and Wiktoria in the same manner and in the sight of their screaming children. 

After this, again one at a time, the police killed the children: Stanislawa (age 8), Barbara (age 7), Wladyslaw (age 4), Antoni (age 3), and Maria (age 2). This devout Catholic family, who were absolutely heroic in their protection of their Jewish neighbors, showed their love of God and neighbor in a manner that cost them their lives in a most brutal fashion. 

But this is not the full story. All throughout history we have seen Christians heroically going to their deaths for the sake of the faith or a tenet of the faith, from ancient Roman times to our modern age. But what makes the Ulma family beatification totally and completely unique is that there was one other child martyred that day, and that was the child still in Wiktoria’s womb, as she was nearly nine months pregnant. Again, according to an eye witness, Wiktoria went into labor at the moment of the executions, and the unnamed baby was partially through the birth canal when they went to bury the family. This unnamed child, along with all the others in the Ulma family, will be formally beatified by the church this coming Sept. 10. 

Never has there been an unborn child beatified or canonized. Pope Francis, in a stroke of genius, is making a statement that is needed now more than at any other time. 

Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade last year, there has been a demonic nature in how some people have been promoting abortion as a great good and something to be celebrated, by big business, big tech, social media, and state governments, including our own in Minnesota, where you can now have an abortion for any reason you want, right up to the moment of birth. Long gone are the days when people and politicians have said abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. If a minor is pregnant, no matter what their age, they can now get an abortion without having their parents know about it, while at the same time these kids cannot get their ears pierced without parental consent. It has been shocking to me to see the ravenous support that has been shown for killing children in so many sectors of our society since the reversal of Roe. Thank you, Pope Francis, for approving the beatification of the Ulma family. 

There has long been a movement among some Catholic groups calling for the church to declare aborted children martyrs, which I think would be a good idea. But until that happens, this is the next best thing. There have been many young children declared martyrs by the church, most famously the Holy Innocents, who were the boys in the vicinity of Bethlehem two years and under in Herod’s attempt to kill the Christ Child, and now the Ulma children ages 2 to 8, but never a child yet to be born. 

The Holy Innocents never knew why they were being killed, but they are still recognized by the church as martyrs giving their life for Christ, and Baby Ulma had no idea why he or she was killed, but the infant was a witness to the value of human life. With this beatification, we can pray to Baby Ulma and all the Ulma family for intercession. The beatification is an exclamation mark that the unborn, like the born, have an immortal soul, and that they are fully human, created in the image and likeness of God. 

The story of the Ulma family is a compelling one. This brief summary of them does not do them complete justice, so hopefully their story will become more well known as the church prepares for their beatification in the fall. 

The Ulma family, pray for us! 

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

Betsy Kneepkens: Fifth son heading into independence and adult life

This month’s article was written while I was traveling to St. Louis for my fifth son’s college graduation. You can’t help using that time to ponder how quickly time has gone. 

Betsy Kneepkens
Betsy Kneepkens
Faith and Family

My graduating son had to endure half his college experience under stringent COVID rules. He came home early in his freshmen year and had to live by himself his sophomore year and eat alone in the cafeteria. His family was encouraged not to visit him, and he was encouraged not to come home. The rigors of rules and prohibitions overshadowed this critical time of his college formation, and many in-person class encounters were relegated to online. As his parent, you feel your son was cheated out of a significant life experience. All the obstacles and cancellations made the experience seem much shorter and less fulfilling than what my other children received. 

My son’s post-college includes a move to Dallas, Texas. This next chapter makes his first professional position in a city where he knows no one. Each of my other children have been able to begin anew with another family member or a support network established. As parents, we tried to intentionally create a family culture where the siblings have each other and value regular engagement. We did this “count on each other” approach because we knew we wouldn’t be there for them forever, so we wanted them always to know they would have each other. 

There is something to be said about the safety and unconditional sibling friendship that creates a safety net where even if you are not living with each other, you always have someone behind you. My son is an adult, but it does not stop his mom from worrying about how he will manage in a huge city alone. 

Of course, my son feels unfazed about the whole new situation. He is excited about independence without studying, the new employment challenge, and living on more than a few hundred dollars a month. My son was surprised that his new salary, which seemed enormous when offered, was quickly gobbled up with basic living expenses like rent, electricity, garbage, car insurance, and student loans. The idea of affordable housing hits home when your child graduates, gets a decent job, and still struggles to come out ahead. As a society, we must figure out how to make life more manageable for young people. 

I had the opportunity to travel with my son to check out places to live. I enjoyed listening to his hopes and dreams of what he thinks this new beginning would mean for him. At times he sounded very unrealistic, but I knew the early visit to Dallas would bring the whole matter into reality. He quickly learned that where he wanted to live, uptown Dallas, with others his age, was not the most fabulous idea. The stock of housing that he thought he could afford was in terrible condition, in the less-than-desirable portion of uptown, and traffic while driving to work would be horrendous. My husband and I were aware that was likely the situation, but we knew the lesson was best learned by our son seeing the problem for himself. 

As a mom, I was excited that he eventually decided on a safer community, although we let him know that nowhere is perfectly safe. He found a flexible complex with amenities that would help him get to know people outside of work. The traffic is still an issue, but he found a place half the distance from uptown, so although frustrating, it is perhaps more manageable. 

Most importantly, for his mom and dad, he sought a location near a Catholic community he thought he could thrive in, a parish that appears active and prioritizes engaging young people. Better yet, using the Masstimes.org app, he could see several Catholic parishes near his new home. Of all my sons, he has been the one that takes the least risk and is the least outgoing. This move to Dallas will undoubtedly challenge him, forcing him to go outside his comfort zone. 

Until this weekend, I have been bringing up these sons for the past 33 years. I could never overstate the joy of raising these boys to men. If I could turn back time, I would choose to do it all over again, even now, knowing the few hard moments we encountered. I will not miss their frequent wrestling, but they were so funny and still are. 

As a parent, getting my fifth son off the payroll is exciting, but dang, I will miss the regular appreciation he showed us for every little thing we did for him. He never expected anything from us and was always careful to try to figure things out himself before he asked for something he needed. All our kids were that way, but our fifth son was particularly conscientious. 

I still have a daughter in college, but my hands-on parenting will become obsolete in two years. I am grateful my children are so good at helping each other and better at pushing each other to do the hard things that are almost always the right thing. Letting our son fly is proper, and we intellectually know he is well-prepared for this next step. That knowledge does not necessarily convince the heart that we want this to happen already. The best part of expressing this in writing, instead of in something like a video, is that the tears a mother sheds before having to accept this new reality are forever unrecorded. 

I continue to pray for my son, as I do for all my children, that they accept the grace God will lavish upon them, so they take what we know God equipped them to handle and make the best version of their selves for the sake of others, all while I pray God has equipped their parents with the courage and strength to thrive and strive in the life journey ahead of them. 

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

Bishop Daniel Felton: As my third year begins, we’re holding on to the wings of the Holy Spirit

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, 

Greetings to you, as we enter the month of June and its promise of summertime! 

Bishop Daniel Felton
Bishop Daniel Felton
Believe in the Good News

It is also the month that I use as my start date as your bishop. I was ordained a bishop for the Diocese of Duluth on May 20, 2021. However, right after the ordination, I went to back to Green Bay and packed my things on Memorial Day weekend and then drove the U-Haul to Duluth. The seminarians helped me to unpack, and I came into the Pastoral Office for my first day on the job on June 1, 2021 – two years ago. A lot has happened in those two years. 

At the time of my ordination as your bishop, I asked you to join me in reaching out and grabbing on to the wings of the Holy Spirit. I said, “Let’s grab on to the wings of the Holy Spirit as we shout in this moment, ‘I’m all yours. I’m all in.’ As we grab on to the wings of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit is going to lift us up, and we are going to take flight. I have no idea where we are going. I have no idea where we are going to land. But I know this much, that wherever the Holy Spirit takes us as we are clinging to the wings of the Holy Spirit, and wherever that Spirit lands, in the days, weeks and years to come, in that moment, and in that place, that will be the beginning of the next chapter in the Acts of the Holy Spirit in our Diocese of Duluth.” 

Over the last two years, we have witnessed the inspiration of the Holy Spirit happening all around us in so many ways and through so many people. Amid the many wing-flappings of the Holy Spirit, we gathered for 50 Let’s Listen sessions, through which the Holy Spirit revealed to us that people in our diocese need the healing, hope, and joy that we can only find in Jesus. From this discernment of the Spirit there emerged the Pastoral Letter, “The Dawn from on High Shall Break Upon Us: Healing, hope and joy in Jesus.” The Holy Spirit only gives us one step at a time, so we have spent these recent months stepping into healing our hurts. 

As exciting as it is to hang on to the wings of the Holy Spirit, it can also be frightening and at times confusing. Hanging on to the wings of the Holy Spirit means that we need to surrender to wherever the Spirit is taking us. We need to trust that, wherever we land, it will be a place of abundant healing, hope, and joy. 

Sometimes, when the flight is taking a long time or enters territories that are unfamiliar to us, we begin to have feelings of doubt and hesitation. Holy Spirit, maybe I’m not all yours. Maybe I’m not all in. Often, we choose to let go of the wings of the Holy Spirit, so that we can get our two feet on solid ground, only to discover that where we stand has little healing, hope, and joy. 

Now is the time to keep hanging on to the Holy Spirit’s wings, not to let go. We are being carried by the Holy Spirit. We are in flight. We are moving. There is wind. There is fire. There is an energy to our flight that we are feeling in our lives, our families, our parishes, and the communities in which we dwell. There is grace. There is love. There is an emerging healing, hope, and joy we have not experienced for some time. 

All this not by our doing, but by the being and doing of the Holy Spirit in us, through us, and with us. And imagine, we are not even close to landing wherever the Holy Spirit is taking us! At this point we are inspired to inscribe only the beginning paragraphs of the next chapter of the Holy Spirit in the Diocese of Duluth. 

Veni, Sancte Spiritus! Come, Holy Spirit! 


Bishop Daniel Felton is the tenth bishop of Duluth. 

Deacon Kyle Eller: Embracing my inner Carthusian? An experience praying communally in the middle of the night 

I wanted to share with you a recent experience in ministry that was moving to me. 

Let me begin by engaging your imagination. Suppose you leave your house in the dark of night and make your way to your parish, which you find quiet and dimly lit, mostly by candles.

Deacon Kyle Eller
Mere Catholicism

As you settle in to the silence, at the appointed time, all the lights except the candles are extinguished, and for the next hour or more, you pray together with those gathered, sometimes using a small light as you chant Psalms or other canticles from sacred Scripture to simple melodies, sometimes listening in the quiet candlelight and meditating on a reading from the Bible or the church fathers. It is unhurried, peaceful, punctuated by times of silence so that you might listen for the voice of God, both in the divinely inspired words you are praying and in the interior silence of your own heart. 

Would that appeal to you? 

It does to me, and one day I found myself curious to know how common that was, so I asked on Facebook. I was thrilled to learn I was not alone in harboring an inner Carthusian. Quite a number of people found that prospect appealing and wanted to try it. 

So that’s what we did in one of the parishes I serve on the eve of Pentecost. 

The prayer we were praying is from what’s called the Liturgy of the Hours, or the Divine Office, which clergy and religious are obligated to pray, in whole or in part, every day. In fact, at our ordination as deacons, one of the promises we make is to pray this prayer “with and for the People of God.” It’s a prayer I have grown to deeply love, and one I teach as often as I can. 

In the current form of the Divine Office, with the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, there are seven parts to it (called “hours”) that can be prayed in any given day. 

The “hour” we were praying at midnight on Pentecost was Matins, often called the Office of Readings, and its recent history is interesting. Historically, it had a character as a night office of praise. If you have ever watched the movie “Into Great Silence” (which I recommend), when the Carthusian monks the movie follows gather in their chapel in the deep night to pray, Matins is what they’re praying. 

Vatican II, trying to make the Divine Office more accessible to lay people and less demanding on busy clergy, revised Matins so that it could be prayed either in its historical character as a night office or at any hour of the day. Like every hour of the Divine Office, it involves praying with the Psalms, but what distinguishes it is its two rich, long readings, or “lessons,” one from the Bible and another from a spiritual writer. 

For those who want to pray it as a night hour, the church also offers an extended form, called a vigil, with canticles from the Old Testament, a Gospel reading, and an optional homily. 

That’s what we did. 

Around now you may be wondering: Why pray in the middle of the night? What’s the big deal? One answer is that it is in imitation of Jesus, who is recorded in the Gospels as having spent nights in prayer. 

The official instruction for the Liturgy of the Hours suggests it’s good for the spiritual life. “The Fathers and spiritual writers have frequently encouraged the faithful, especially those who practice the contemplative life, to pray at night,” it says. “Such prayer gives expression and stimulus to our hope in the Lord’s return: ‘At midnight the cry went up: See, the bridegroom is coming, go out to meet him’ (Matthew 25:6); ‘Keep watch, then, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether late or at midnight or at cockcrow or in the morning, so that if he comes unexpectedly he may not find you sleeping’ (Mark 13:35-36).” 

Having done it now, one thing I notice is how my conception of it evolved. Initially, I thought in terms of urgent petition, of the need to break out of routine and make a small sacrifice of some sleep as a way of begging God for an outpouring of graces. 

But as I planned and prepared for the liturgy, that changed. After all, in some monasteries this would be routine, and this liturgy has no overt intercessions in the way we have them at Mass or at Lauds and Vespers in the Divine Office. Instead we have verse after verse of Psalms and canticles to pray and long readings to ponder. Many words cross our lips and ears, but it’s a liturgy more about listening than speaking. It’s more quiet presence than big energy. 

Although it was nearly 1 a.m. when we finished, it felt too short. I was simultaneously tired and energized, like I often am after the Easter Vigil, and I struggled to sleep. 

This seems to be a very rare thing to do in a parish, and it’s easy to see why. Even beyond adding another liturgy in the middle of the night, there are, to my knowledge, no ready-made liturgical books a parish can just buy and use for this. There’s a lot to pull together. 

Still, I think there are lessons we can take. A couple of dozen people came out in the dark night for this, and many told me they were moved by it. We didn’t do anything fancy, just simple Psalm tones, but it was beautiful. We took our time, made room for silence, and let the Holy Spirit speak through the liturgy. 

Would it benefit us, from time to time, to pray at night in some form, even individually, or in the form of a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament? Is there bigger thirst for this kind of simple, quiet, reflective liturgical prayer than we might expect? Might these things not be a remedy for us in an age of noise and distraction and glowing screens? 

Those questions seem to me worth pondering. 

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

Ask Father Mike: Before you go to ‘communion’ at another church …

Editor's note: This column is reprinted from the August 2012 issue of The Northern Cross.

I recently attended a wedding in a non-Catholic church. The minister invited everyone there forward to be united at this wedding to receive Communion. I didn’t know what to do, so I went up to receive. Did I do something wrong?  

Father Michael Schmitz
Ask Father Mike

Thanks for the question. It is a very good one. Believe it or not, your situation is common for many people. Since this particular congregation or pastor explicitly invited all visitors up to receive, how could it be wrong? I made an attempt to address the issue of “inter-communion” a number of years ago, but I think you bring up a new context: What do we do when other Christians invite us to Communion? 

I would look at it in at least two ways, personally and communally. 

Personally, we never want to lie. Now, I am not exactly sure of the “formula” that was used when you went up to receive, but chances are pretty good that they said something along the lines of “body of Christ,” to which one is expected to respond, “Amen.” And yet, is that truly the Body of Christ? You and I do not believe that the minister has the same ability as the priest to “confect” the Eucharist. 

I know that I am assuming something here; I am assuming that you profess the teachings of the Catholic Church. I don’t mean to be offensive in that assumption, but it is kind of a prerequisite for receiving the Eucharist in the Catholic Church. 

But if that is the case, in responding “Amen,” I am saying, “I stake my life on the belief that this is the Body of Christ.” But what happens if I actually don’t believe that? I have, in a sense, “told a lie.” Now, keeping in mind that not all falsehoods are lies (lying involves both knowing the truth and a conscious rejection of the truth, and in this case, you weren’t even considering that this would be a misrepresentation of the truth), your culpability is greatly reduced. But does that initial part make sense? 

It seems like they are being hospitable. I am certain that is the intention behind the invitation to come forward. But no one wants to lie in the name of “hospitality.” For good reason, we have to endure the discomfort of the felt division. 

There is also a “communal” dimension to “Communion” (ha!). This communion means that we are united as the original church was described in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. Acts 2:42-47). But if I am not united with this group of Christians because of the divisions that we (as Lutherans or Catholics or whatevers) have chosen, then you see how quickly this external “sign” of unity is also a false sign. We pretend that we are united during this wedding or that funeral, but that isn’t true. 

Isn’t it interesting how painful it can be to be in those situations? In those moments when we most want to be united (weddings, funerals, etc.), it is hard to not be able to extend the offer of Communion to our separated brothers and sisters in the Lord. But I would say that this makes it all the more important that we retain this. 


If we were to be honest with ourselves, I think that most of us see the divisions between Christians and don’t really care all that much. It doesn’t bother many of us – until it is time for Communion in each other’s churches. At that moment it stings a bit, and we don’t like it. Good! We shouldn’t like it! We should actually work to overcome our divisions. In fact, in the great prayer during the Last Supper, Jesus explicitly prayed that “all may be one” (John 17). We can easily overlook how much of an obstacle to Christianity our divisions are for non-Christians. We need to preserve the fact that we cannot receive Communion in each other’s churches at the very least so that we might have a fire lit underneath us and work toward real unity rather than “comfortable and complacent division.” 

Again, let me console any nervous part of you: If there was no intentional disregard for the church’s teaching (which there wasn’t, because it sounds like you hadn’t even heard of that), then you can be at peace. While you may have committed the act, there was no malevolence or intended rebellion. 

Father Michael Schmitz is director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth and chaplain of the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth. 

Memorial Day Mass with Bishop Felton

Memorial Day Mass

Bishop Daniel Felton will celebrate a Mass for Memorial Day at 10 a.m. Monday, May 29, at Calvary Cemetery, 4820 Howard Gnesen Road, Duluth. The Mass is outside and will he held near the columbarium structures. Please bring a chair or blanket to sit on and an umbrella if needed.

Seminarian interview: Isaac Golen 

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

I am in my first year of formation at St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul.   

When is your birthday? 

December 30, 2001  

What’s your home parish? 

Queen of Peace in Cloquet

Isaac Golen

Tell me a little about your family. 

My dad, Robert, is a carpenter, and my mom, Michele, works in assisted living homes. My brother, Jacob, is 30 and my sister, Justine, is 26 and they are both in school pursuing a career.    

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


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

St. Augustine   

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

C.S. Lewis is my favorite author, so I like learning about God and the world through his awesome books. I also love going to the different gun ranges around the Duluth area and shooting. When I am home, I enjoy fixing cars (even though it is often frustrating)!   

What is your favorite devotion (and why)? 

I do not have much experience with devotional prayer. I have a desire to pray the Rosary daily, yet it has been a challenge to do so this year. It is hard to grow close to Jesus without the help of His Mother.   

What’s the best thing about your home town? 

In Mahtowa, we have the best small town grocery store, “TJ’s.” The owners are great, and they make top notch bratwurst and potato sausages. 

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

Fr. Dominic Bouck was my chaplain when I attended the University of Mary in North Dakota, and he brought me into the faith through his RCIA class. He is a wonderful father and loves his students on campus. I heard him preach on the necessity for young men to serve in the role of the priest, and that “priests don’t grow on trees.” This struck me at the right time in my life, and ever since then, Jesus has granted me a desire for the priesthood and drawn my heart to Himself.    

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

What has helped me is listening to the desires of my heart. I desire intimacy and connection. I desire another to take an interest in me, all of me. I desire to bleed out for another. These desires show me who I am made for, as no person on earth can love perfectly, it leaves Jesus to be my only love. Like any earthly relationship, you must give yourself to your lover. You also live for your lover, so your daily life must be centered around them. Saying your prayers as you fall asleep in bed is not sufficient to nurture this relationship. Daily prayer time to tell Jesus about the pains or joys in your life is necessary. He cares about your heart. A lot.    

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

My chaplain once said that Jesus sends out priests “like Navy Seals” into our communities. We need shepherds to lead us through this world of chaos. The priest is the one who leads us to Jesus, our true happiness. The world desperately needs strong men to stand up and guide people to our Savior. Jesus calls men to leave behind the comforts of their lives and feed His sheep. I am very thankful to have wonderful priests in my life who have saved me from the darkest parts of my life.    

Editorial: Spike in STDs supports pope’s call for ‘new sexual revolution’ 

According to recent news reports, Duluth and the surrounding area are seeing outbreaks of HIV, syphilis, and other sexually-transmitted diseases in recent years. Public health officials say rates for some of these diseases have risen statewide. St. Louis County is planning an ad campaign, with the help of a state grant, so you may soon be hearing about it on billboards and social media and the sides of city buses. 

While it is undoubtedly very important to inform people of this situation and let them know where they can get screening and treatment for these diseases, that alone only addresses the symptoms. It’s not a cure for the underlying problem. 

And it becomes ever clearer what the real problem is, for those who have eyes to see. Pope Francis, in an April 28 message to an academic conference on fertility, described ours as “a world dominated by a relativistic and trivialized view of human sexuality.” 

In response, he advocated a new “sexual revolution”: “We need to discover the beauty of human sexuality by once again turning to the great book of nature, learning to respect the value of the body and the generation of life, with a view to authentic experiences of conjugal love.” 

Echoing the teaching of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, Pope Francis said we need to affirm both the unitive and procreative elements of sex. In a news report from OSV, he is quoted as saying that without this, “the experience of sexuality is impoverished, reduced to sensations that soon become self-referential, and its dimensions of humanity and responsibility are lost.” 

The church’s teaching on these things has been consistent, but it has also been controversial. Yet the daily headlines continue to illustrate its wisdom. 

Inviting you to become Men of the Word 

By Father Blake Rozier 
Guest columnist 

In the summer of 2021, I started a program in my parish called “Men of the Word.” In praying for a name for this group, this name came to mind. The Word refers to Christ. The Gospel of John refers to Christ as the Word: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth” (1:14). The Heavenly Father speaks to us perfectly through the Word, through his Son. In the Holy Spirit, we receive the Word and are transformed by the grace and truth of Almighty God. Jesus is the perfect example for us and the source of holiness.

Father Blake Rozier
Guest Columnist

I see a world that is hurting. I see a world that is confused and desiring guidance. Our hope is in the Lord! We need young men to rise up and say “Yes” to the mission of God. 

Our environment is important. Hopefully our environment influences us for the good, for the glory of God. Our environment is formative. Who we listen to and who we spend time with matters significantly. With the Men of the Word program, we strive to place our young men in an environment where they can be influenced by the Word. 

The format is very simple. This year’s program will begin with Mass, where we receive God’s Word in the Scriptures and receive the Word made flesh in the Eucharist. After Mass, we will have a simple meal together, followed by a presentation. The presentation will be about 20 minutes, often given by clergy. Each gathering focuses on a different word, which calls the participants to live a greater life of virtue. The presentation is supplemented with references to Scripture, God’s Word, and the lives of the saints, individuals who gave their lives to the Word of God. After the presentation, we have an activity. Kickball has been popular the past couple of summers! Finally, we conclude in the church, placing ourselves in front of Jesus, to allow the Word to influence us as we end the day. Mass begins at 5:30 p.m., and the night wraps up by 8 p.m. It is a simple format, but it can bear a lot of good fruit. 

Men of the Word is for boys going into sixth grade and older. Their fathers, or their father-figures, are highly encouraged to attend with them. I write this article to invite boys and their fathers from across the diocese to participate this year. Men of the Word will take place on Wednesday evenings: May 24, June 7 and 21, July 5 and 19, and August 9. 

If you are planning to attend, please talk to your pastor and email me so that we can plan accordingly. My email is fr.blake.rozier@duluthcatholic.org. If you can only attend certain nights, that is OK. It is not necessary to attend all the sessions. Come as you are able, but please let us know in advance. 

This year we will be meeting at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Grand Rapids (315 S.W. 21st St.). The road trip itself could be a good experience for the guys. Summers are busy, but I believe this is a program worth prioritizing. 

We are encouraging boys and forming them to be Men of the Word. This formation will help to bring healing, hope, and joy to our world. These men will be inspired to be great fathers, of families and of parishes – as priests, please God! We end our evenings with me posing the question: “Who are we?” The guys respond: “Men of the Word.” 

Please pray for Men of the Word. 

Father Blake Rozier is pastor of St. Joseph, Grand Rapids, and St. Augustine, Cohasset. 

St. James Catholic Church youth and parishioners package 50,000 meals 

By Jen Kinzer 
Guest columnist 

On April 1, 162 volunteers gathered at St. James Catholic Church in Aitkin to package 50,000 meals for the Cross Catholic Outreach Organization for starving people in Central America.

(Submitted photo)

Why Cross Catholic Outreach? In November 2022, a visiting priest from Cross Catholic Outreach spoke about the organization and the great things they do all over the world to help others through their ministry. From that presentation was born an idea: “Could we hold a food packaging event at our parish? What a great way to serve God and teach our youngest parishioners about the poor and starving of the world.” The St. James religious education program took that idea and with the mantra, “We don’t know if we can unless we try” began to make an idea into a reality.

How do you get to the point where you are able to package meals for 50,000? To bring the event to Aitkin, a minimum of $13,200 was needed, which would allow 40,000 meals to be packaged. We formed a committee, sought permission from Father Mike Patullo and the Finance Council, and began planning how to raise funds for this worthy cause. We planned a Christmas concert in December and asked businesses for sponsorships. We also planned a breakfast in late January and a pie sale fundraiser in March. The date of April 1 was chosen because it was an available date during the season of Lent. 

Through the generosity of many businesses, parishioners, and community members, as well as the success of the Christmas concert, we reached our goal on Jan. 9. The decision was made to keep our next two scheduled fundraisers (breakfast and pie sale) as we could add to the number of meals to package. The total raised as of April 1 was $16,914, which allowed us to tack on an additional 10,000 meals for a total of 50,000 meals! 

What is involved in packaging 50,000 meals? Committee members arrived the night before the packing event to set tables and make sure the room was ready for the packing event. Each package contained rice, beans, soy, dried vegetables, and a vitamin packet. A filled package contains enough food for six meals. Twelve tables of eight to ten people packaged 8,316 packets in about two hours! We also spent about an hour afterward packing things away and cleaning up.

(Submitted photo)

Volunteers were not only youth but many parishioners as well. Volunteers ranged in age from age 2 to adults in their 80s and 90s. Everyone had a job and worked together to finish the packing in a short time. On Monday, April 8, five pallets containing 231 boxes were loaded onto a semi to be combined with food from other food packing events to feed the hungry in Central America. (We are unsure exactly where our packaged food will be used but it will probably go to Guatemala or the Dominican Republic.) 

The food packing event accomplished many things for our parish. It taught our parish youth about hungry people throughout the world, helped our parish unite and work together as people of God, gave our parish an extra opportunity to participate in almsgiving during Lent, and most importantly, it was a great way to serve God. We are truly blessed as a parish for the generosity of our parishioners, our community, and our volunteers. 

If you are interested in learning more about a food packing event through Cross Catholic Outreach, contact Melissa Kaufenberg from Cross Catholic Outreach at mkaufenberg@crosscatholic.org

Jen Kinzer is director of religious education for St. James Catholic Church, Aitkin.