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Father Nicholas Nelson: Building the domestic church: What we can influence in life

Recently, I have been considering the distinction between our “Circle of Influence” and our “Circle of our Concern.” Our circle of influence is that which we can influence, control, or change. My circle of concern is that which I am conscious of and concerned about, but really can’t do much about. The closer to myself something is, the higher degree of influence I have over it, while the further away it is, the less influence I have. 

Father Nick Nelson
Handing on the Faith

The important thing is to focus on our circle of influence and not our circle of concern. Everything in the circle of concern is important, but most of it we cannot influence immediately. 

As incompetent as governments can be, as frustrating as the economy and inflation is, as confusing and as scandalous as some of the things are in the church, most of us have very little control over it. 

On the other hand, we all can control our own spiritual growth and formation of virtue. We all can improve our marriages. As parents, we can build our families, and to a lesser extent, we can build our parishes and local communities. It’s important that we focus on these. 

I especially want us to consider the reality of the family as place where we can get the most “bang for our buck,” so to speak. The family is where we can really make a difference! 

Pope St. John Paul II said, “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.” 

Sister Lucia, to whom Our Lady of Fatima appeared, said, “The final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family.” 

The family is considered the domestic church: “From the wedlock of Christians there comes the family, in which new citizens of human society are born, who by the grace of the Holy Spirit received in baptism are made children of God, thus perpetuating the people of God through the centuries. The family is, so to speak, the domestic church” (Lumen Gentium, 11). 

The domestic church is SO important! We can consider the church on earth being made up of three parts: 1) The hierarchy (pope and bishops and priests), 2) the parish (liturgy and communal life), and 3) the domestic church (the family). Family life is essential to the life of the church. Whatever form your home takes, God is present and desires to be a bigger and bigger part of it! 

St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) said, “The best and surest way to learn the love of Jesus is through the family.” 

Pope Benedict said, “Every home is called to become a ‘domestic church’ in which family life is completely centered on the lordship of Christ and the love of husband and wife mirrors the mystery of Christ’s love for the Church, his bride.” 

It begins with every house, every family submitting to the Lordship of Christ. (Here I will make another plug for doing an enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary in your house.) By doing so you are consecrating, you are setting yourselves apart to belong to Christ and to have him as your King and Lord. 

Our Catechism emphasizes the important role of parents: 

“Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment and self-mastery — the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the ‘material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones’” (2223). 

Here are a few ideas for making your home even more the domestic church it is called to be: 

  • Begin praying as a family and reading from Scripture daily, certainly before meals, but also first thing in the morning or before bed. Find a time that works for your family. 
  • Pray a family rosary. Start with just a decade. Allow each member to share an intention. 
  • Have a crucifix in a prominent place in the home, and in every bedroom. Put up other images of saints too. 
  • Make the sacraments a regular celebration – take the whole family to confession and Mass. 
  • Begin family traditions based on the seasons and feast days celebrated in the liturgical calendar. Celebrate baptismal anniversaries and namesake days. 
  • Make your vacation a holy pilgrimage by visiting the shrines and beautiful churches. 
  • Make worshiping God a priority. Never miss Mass, even while traveling. 
  • Teach stewardship and charity to your children, through word and example. 
  • Demonstrate love for your spouse, your children, your neighbors, and the world. Remind the children that they are loved by God and have been given gifts to serve others. 
  • Talk freely about the presence of God in the joys and sorrows of your life. 
  • Welcome into your home and support priests and sisters. 
  • Allow your children to witness you in private prayer. Encourage your children to pray daily on their own. 

It does seem like a high calling, but it’s what you can influence and you and your family deserve it. Just one step at a time! But take the first step! Build the domestic church! 

Father Nick Nelson is pastor of Queen of Peace and Holy Family parishes in Cloquet. He studied at The Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Rome. Reach him at [email protected]. 

Father Richard Kunst: Let the dead bury their dead — really?

In the year 2000, my last two grandparents died, first my paternal grandfather in February and then my maternal grandmother a few months later. In both instances I happened to be in Europe and was unable to see them in their final hours, which I very much regret. When my dad’s dad died, they were able to hold off and delay the funeral for a few days so that I was able to be present, and I actually presided over his funeral. When my mom’s mom died later that year, they buried her the next day, so I was obviously not able to be there for her funeral. 

Father Richard Kunst
Apologetics

The difference in my last two grandparent’s funerals was that my grandpa was Catholic and my grandmother was Jewish. As Catholics we have no problem holding off on funerals, and if the deceased is cremated, delaying funerals becomes even more common. 

But for observant Jews, it is unthinkable to delay a funeral, and for very good reason. It has been a long-held Jewish belief that the soul of the deceased does not start its journey to God until after the person has been buried: that the soul literally stays near the body in a confused state until that body is buried, and even then the journey to God is not complete until the body has decayed. 

In the Old Testament and New Testament alike there is great emphasis put on the burying of the dead. For Catholics, we call it a corporal work of mercy to bury the dead. But for the Jewish people it was of heightened importance, because they did not want to delay their loved one’s journey back to God. 

We can understand why, when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead after four days, there was a slight protest by his sister, who said that by now there would be a stench to open the tomb. In the Jewish mindset, Lazarus was already well on his way back to God, which makes the resuscitation of his body all the more bewildering to the original Jewish audience. 

Another equally well-known Gospel passage takes on a whole new meaning when we understand this Jewish belief. A would-be disciple approaches Jesus and says, “Lord, let me go and bury my father first.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me and let the dead bury their dead” (Matthew 8:21-22). From a Catholic perspective, we might interpret this as Jesus making clear that nothing is more important than following him, not even tending to our recently deceased parents, and that may very well be an accurate and appropriate interpretation. But remember, Jesus was Jewish, and he was talking to people who were Jewish, so we can’t escape the fact that the intent behind these words of Jesus must also be seen through that Jewish lens. 

When Jesus responded to this man wanting to be a disciple, not only did his reply make obvious that discipleship comes second to nothing, but also if one is called to follow Christ there is no room to hem and haw, being indecisive. The first Apostles were the best examples of this: When Peter, Andrew, James, and John were called by Christ to become fishers of men, the Gospel said that they left everything to follow him, and they did it immediately. Their call remains the model of complete Christian discipleship that Jesus is calling for in his “let the dead bury their dead” comment. 

In saying all of this, it is important to note that the call to discipleship is not the same thing as discerning a vocation. As a former vocations director, I can speak to the great importance in taking the time to see: Is it indeed God who is calling, or is it something entirely different? To discern the priesthood or any other lifelong vocation should take years. 

The saying “let the dead bury their dead” did, however, apply to guys who were sitting on the fence about entering the seminary. During the 11 years I was in that position, the diocese lost more than a few potential seminarians who just couldn’t make the leap of faith, and as a result they become tepid and never entered the seminary. They may very well have lost their vocation. 

This famous saying by Jesus about burying the dead is not only about the importance of following Jesus but the immediacy of it, as well. 

Father Richard Kunst is pastor of St. James and St. Elizabeth in Duluth. Reach him at [email protected].

‘Vatican Unveiled’ will showcase largest papal artifacts collection outside of Rome on a grand scale

DECC event will raise funds for Stella Maris Academy and Star of the North Maternity Home 

By Deacon Kyle Eller 
The Northern Cross 

Father Richard Kunst, pastor of St. James and St. Elizabeth parishes in Duluth, has spent years amassing the largest collection of papal artifacts outside of Rome. The collection has garnered not only the attention of Catholics in the Duluth Diocese, through the successful 2004 Vatican Comes to Duluth event held at the College of St. Scholastica, but attention on a global scale, with appearances on TV shows such as “Pawn Stars” and “EWTN Live” and even Father Kunst’s own EWTN miniseries.

But with “Vatican Unveiled,” an event scheduled for the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center Aug. 19-21, Catholics in the diocese will get to encounter the best of that collection in a new way and on a grand scale, with the funds raised going to support Catholic education and maternity homes. 

Father Kunst says that since the 2004 display, the collection has at least doubled and maybe even tripled in size, so when people come to see it now, “it’s going to be a different experience for them.” 

And it’s not just the new parts of the collection that will be different — it’s the way it will be presented. Monica Hendrickson, who is helping to organize and promote the event, describes it as “more of a curated exhibit experience.” 

It will be held in the DECC’s main ballroom and take up 18,000 to 20,000 square feet, allowing people to walk through and experience “aha moments.” The event will take advantage of good lighting, graphic design, some museum-quality displays, and new technology, aided by years of work building up a website dedicated to the collection, much of it by Mary Sitek. 

There will be places to wander. There will be big backdrop banners, such as a 40-foot backdrop of St. Peter’s, offering “lots of selfie opportunities,” Hendrickson said. The flow will be “similar to any other kind of museum experience.” 

Father Kunst says it won’t be the whole collection on display — maybe less than a third of it — “but it’s the most significant pieces.” 

He said it’s hard to pick out highlights, because the collection is so large and full of fascinating things, but one related to St. Teresa of Calcutta and to a former bishop of Duluth, Bishop Robert Brom, who died earlier this year, came to mind.

(Submitted photo)

“That cross that came from Mother Teresa, that was a gift from Bishop Brom to me just months before he died,” Father Kunst said. “So that is pretty critical, because she didn’t own anything.” 

Also on display will be the full set of seals used on the doors at the 1978 conclave that elected Pope St. John Paul II. 

Another highlight is a document from the year 1138, signed by Pope Innocent II. “That’s the … second oldest signature of a pope outside the Vatican,” Father Kunst said. “And that’ll be on display.” 

Supporting good causes 

As was the case in 2004, this event is basically a large fundraiser. In this case, the funds raised will be divided equally between Stella Maris Academy, the diocesan Catholic school in Duluth, and Star of the North Maternity Home, which operates two facilities in the diocese, one in Duluth and one on the Iron Range, helping mothers in need. 

Father Kunst said the support for Stella Maris is “kind of a no-brainer.” “I’ve been involved with them since their inception,” he said. And the maternity home is good cause that both Hendrickson and a deacon at Father Kunst’s parish, Deacon Lyle Johnson, have been involved with. “It’s not a Catholic thing, but it’s very much in line with the Catholic teaching,” he said. 

The 2004 event grossed a little over $120,000 and was very successful, but the goals are much higher this time around. Father Kunst said in just a single day leading up to this event, $117,000 was raised. Organizers estimate they have grossed a little over $300,000 total so far, not counting ticket sales, much of it from sponsorships. 

Father Kunst said the overall goal for the event is to bring in $500,000, and if possible even to net that amount, giving a quarter of a million dollars each to Stella Maris and Star of the North. 

“In my mind, I want as much money to go to the causes as possible,” Father Kunst said. For that reason, the budget has been kept to a relatively small $85,000 so far. Hendrickson and Father Kunst said one of those costs is security for the very valuable collection, which will be extensive. 

Organizers said excitement is building for Vatican Unveiled. A special Friday event with Mark Hall-Patton, a frequent “Pawn Stars” guest and a friend of Father Kunst, is appealing to a different audience, drawn to the popular show. Hendrickson said she knows of Lutherans and Methodists coming, as well as tour groups and pilgrimages. Father Kunst said he’s been hearing about it from people he hasn’t heard from in years. 

But Hendrickson said they’re contending with the same gas prices and inflation everyone else is.

(Submitted photo)

“All the Duluth venues right now are 30% lower than they were in the past,” Father Kunst said, “… so we’re fighting that.” 

Hendrickson said they’re encouraging online ticket sales to cut down on the need for volunteers at that event. 

Future plans 

Father Kunst is also looking to the future with the event. He said he often has people ask what will happen to the collection after he someday “kicks the bucket,” and he’s hoping this event will be a springboard to a permanent display. 

“It’s bigger than me, and I want to have it preserved, and ideally — ideally — it would be in Duluth and permanently displayed,” he said, although there are no concrete plans for that yet. 

Hendrickson said all of that work to make this event great, such as the UV-ray-blocking display cases, can be considered like an investment in that hoped-for future. Father Kunst said even the name of the event was changed from the earlier attempt to put it on that was interrupted by COVID-19 in 2020, to make it sound less like a one-time thing. 

“If the Corn Palace can make it in Mitchell, South Dakota, we can make this work,” he said. 

Attending 

Vatican Unveiled will offer daytime exhibit hours with firsthand stories from Father Kunst at the DECC each day the weekend of Aug. 19-21. The special private event with Mark Hall-Patton of “Pawn Stars” will take place Friday evening. Tickets are available at the event’s website, vaticanunveiled.com. You can also email [email protected] with questions about the event or more information on getting involved.

Second annual family camp draws more than 100

By The Northern Cross 

The Diocese of Duluth Office of Marriage, Family, and Life hosted its second annual family camp July 29-31 at Big Sandy Camp in McGregor, with activities like swimming, games, Mass, bonfires, archery, prayer, laser tag, and more. 

Here are some scenes from the weekend. 

 

 

 
(Submitted photos)

Adventure run fun

By The Northern Cross 

An adventure run sponsored by the diocese’s Office of Marriage, Family, and Life, which served as a fundraiser for Catholic schools took place with beautiful weather July 30 in Hoyt Lakes. Race lengths included marathon, half marathon, and 5K. All of the runners received rosaries, holy cards, and pro-life materials. At least three priests participated in the events. Here are some scenes from the day. 

Betty Soller was the top women’s marathon runner. (Submitted photo)
Father Kris McKusky finishing his half marathon. He carried a rucksack the entire race. (Submitted photo)
Runners from the pro-life group Life Runners. (Submitted photo)
Daniel Triestman took first place in the marathon. (Submitted photo)

 

Deacon Kyle Eller: Serving at the altar is a joy — perhaps for your kids too

It’s a little embarrassing for me to admit this, but one of the things I found most intimidating about deacon formation is something many schoolchildren do expertly on a regular basis: serving at the altar. 

Deacon Kyle Eller
Mere Catholicism

With some deacon candidates it’s the intellectual study or the prospect of speaking in front of a lot of people giving homilies that bother them. Those didn’t scare me. 

But I’m a convert who didn’t practice the Catholic faith until his 30s. I had no childhood service at the altar to draw from. After being received into the church, I knew there were some adult men who were servers, but I found that prospect daunting. I took the Mass very seriously, and I knew I could be clumsy. (For similar reasons, I resisted any thoughts of being an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.) 

So entering formation, I knew nothing of how to serve at the altar. And who wants to be a novice server in front of people who regularly see fifth graders who are experts? Humility is not always my strong suit. 

I think my first time as an altar server was at a Saturday evening Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, alongside a couple of my deacon classmates. That may be the Mass where, unbeknownst at first to me, my cincture slipped off and found a new home resting on the floor in front of the altar (and everyone) for part of the Mass. 

But those days passed quickly. In God’s marvelous way, those fears that seem so misplaced to me now have become signs of his presence in my life. As I said “yes” to God’s call, I soon grew not only to be comfortable serving at the altar and distributing Holy Communion but to find great joy there. Those skills became the foundation for the liturgical part of diaconal ministry, even to Latin Solemn High Masses. 

It’s still amazing to think that I get the privilege to be so close to this place of encounter with God and that I get to serve as an instrument to bring Jesus to his people in the Blessed Sacrament. I like to hope that my reverence for the Mass and my awareness of my own capacity for clumsiness find healthier expression now, not in fear but in care and diligence in service. 

It’s beautiful how, if we humbly cooperate with God in faith, the liturgy takes all of our faltering human efforts and gathers them and harmonizes them and melds them into a cooperation in the work God himself is doing in the Mass. I thought I would be more self-conscious, but when the liturgy goes as it should, I find my mind is instead drawn to God. 

Those fears I’ve overcome, as well as the relative recentness of my own halting first experiences as a server, lead me to really appreciate the altar servers we have and (I hope) to sympathize with them and encourage them and help them grow in confidence and skill when I serve with them. I try always to have a peaceful, confident smile and a clear direction if something goes amiss and a word of thanks and encouragement when Mass is over. 

And it’s hard to fully appreciate how much those servers bring to the church. They are often wonderful young people to begin with, who are a joy to be around. Their eagerness brings energy and life to the liturgy and to the parish. They are a sign of life in the church — a symbol of continuity and the faith being handed on in their families and in the parish. 

Their service, in turn, can be a kind of formation in virtue for them, an experience of being given progressively more important public responsibilities to carry out as they take their rightful place in the parish community. Service at the altar is good training for life, where we must learn not only the carrying out in a detailed way various tasks but doing them in a kind of heirarchical cooperation with others, with attentiveness and listening and understanding and prayerfulness and flexibility and reverence — and often with patience and grace. And this work is ultimately directed to God, something true in all of our work, but much clearer and more manifest in the liturgy. 

As with so many areas of church life, and life in general, I have a sense that the COVID-19 pandemic has left things with altar servers in a twilight state of not being fully restored or recovered. Recall that even after the suspension of public Masses was lifted and we were able to come together again, for many months there were significant safety protocols restricting on how servers could be present. 

How many young people simply have not resumed serving since then, perhaps unsure how much they even remember? How many young people who were coming to the age when they normally would have started serving didn’t get that opportunity in a timely way because of the disruptions? Only a few weeks ago I assisted at a Mass outside my parishes, and the server was returning to service at the altar for the first time since the pandemic. Praise God! What a blessing! But I can think of others who have not returned. 

So please, if you are a young person or a parent of a young person, give real thought and prayer to this. Our young people serving at the altar are such a gift and blessing to our parishes. And the reverse, I believe, is also true. Serving at the altar can be scary, but as I can say from my own experience, you may find it to be far more wonderful and joyful that you can imagine right now, and it may prove to be a great blessing in your life. 

Start with a quick conversation with your pastor after Mass. 

Deacon Kyle Eller is editor of The Northern Cross. Reach him at [email protected].

Ask Father Mike: Fighting the ‘noon-day devil’ of acedia

I sometimes just wish that I could run away from the life that I am living. There is nothing terribly wrong with it, but I get this feeling that I should just leave this behind and try something new. Is this a sign that I should? 

Father Michael Schmitz
Ask Father Mike

Thank you for writing with this great question. Before I offer something I hope is helpful, I want to note that you stated nothing is wrong with your current situation. I highlight that because there are some people who are certainly in the wrong situation. They may be living with someone who is not their spouse and their conscience is bothered by that. That is a good sign that things should change! A person might be in a situation where they are being victimized at home or at work. Those kinds of cases could involve a very different set of “next steps” that I will not be looking at here. Since you indicate that you are in a reasonable position, I will assume that those elements are not involved here. 

What you are describing is one of the seven deadly sins. That may be alarming, but let me clarify what a deadly sin is. A deadly sin is not always, in and of itself, grave matter. The deadly sins can also be those sins that lead a person into areas of deeper and darker sin. You might think of them as “gateway sins,” in the same sense as “gateway drugs”; on their own, they might not destroy one’s life, but they often lead to harder and harsher drug use. 

The particular sin (or, more accurately, temptation) you described is called “acedia.” Most people know this temptation by another name, “sloth.” I prefer the first word, and I will say why in a moment. 

In the early church, there were a number of men and women who went to live in the desert to seek the Lord in silence and solitude, penance and prayer. While these hermits were living and praying in the desert, they had the clarity to notice the various temptations that assailed them while they were pursuing Jesus with everything they had. From this experience, a list of “deadly sins” was compiled. The sins on this list are pride, wrath, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, and acedia. 

Now, if you were living out in the desert, you might not be confronted with every one of these temptations. For example, a person might be of the temperament to battle with greed but not with lust. Another person might wrestle with pride but be free from wrath. But the one temptation that these hermits said assailed everyone was acedia. 

When we translate “acedia” to the term “sloth,” a couple of things happen. First, we think we know what the word “sloth” means. Second, what we think “sloth” means is not, in fact, what it means here. Most people associate sloth/acedia with laziness, but true acedia is far more sneaky than simple avoidance of work. In fact, those who are tremendously busy can often suffer from acedia. There are workaholics who are guilty of acedia. 

Acedia is not the avoidance of work; it is the avoidance of the work that I am called to do at this moment. 

The desert fathers called acedia “the noon-day devil.” They called it this for a very simple reason: it struck at noon-day. Imagine you were living in a sparse hut out in the desert. From 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. the sun would seem like it was suspended in the sky, unmoving and inescapable. The freshness of morning has already passed, and the cool and calm of evening had not yet arrived. All one could do was sit in one’s hut and pray (or weave baskets or do whatever task to which the hermit had been committed). The profound feeling of discontent would begin beating on the door of the person’s mind, arguing that they ought to get up and do something else. It didn’t matter what: Sometimes it was the temptation to rejoin society and spread the Gospel or serve the poor, sometimes it was the temptation to visit another hermit for a spiritual conversation. Good things! Regardless of what the temptation was, it was the draw to “leave one’s hut” and do something else — anything else. 

We have all been there. We have said “yes” to our state in life (married life, religious life, priesthood, or consecrated single life) and then we get to that moment when we want to just “leave our hut” and do anything other than what we are called to do at that moment. This is not the time to flee! This is the time to enter into the moment and the mission even more deeply. 

Is there a time to discern another way of life? Maybe (but not if we have made a permanent promise). But the time of temptation and desolation is not the time to make this move. The time to move is when we are moving towards, not when we are running away from, the call of God. 

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. 

Bishop Daniel Felton: Roots and wings as we mobilize to mission

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, 

On the occasion of my episcopal ordination, I spoke of the rich history of our diocese and that we need to grab onto the wings of the Holy Spirit so that with divine inspiration we can create our own history for our time. History reveals how God’s purpose and mission for our diocese has been fulfilled and how that same God mission and purpose is unfolding even now. We are called to be a people of both roots and wings. 

Bishop Daniel Felton
Bishop Daniel Felton
Believe in the Good News

To that end, I read a paper edited by Father Patrick H. Ahern on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee Observance of the Diocese of Duluth. I was surprised (and so were many others when I told them) to learn that in September 1956, Msgr. Laurence A. Glenn, pastor of St. James Parish in Duluth, was consecrated an auxiliary bishop of our diocese! Bishop Thomas A. Welch was the ordinary of the diocese at that time. I asked our diocesan archivist to provide me with any information that we might have on our one and only auxiliary bishop. 

Bishop Laurence Glenn was born in August 1900. He was ordained in 1927 and served as an assistant pastor in Brainerd (1927) and at St. John the Evangelist in Duluth (1928-1947). Imagine back in those days, he was an assistant priest for 19 years before he became a pastor. Today, our newly ordained priests are appointed a pastor after only two to three years of serving as a parochial vicar (assistant pastor). 

Msgr. Glenn was named the pastor at St. James Parish in Duluth (1947-1958) and at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary (1958-1960). He was consecrated an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Duluth in 1957. However, in 1960, just three years later, he was in installed as the bishop of the Diocese of Crookston. There was an open see in Crookston, because Bishop Schenk, who was their ordinary, was named the bishop of Duluth. It was an episcopal swap of sorts between the two dioceses. Bishop Glenn retired as the Bishop of Crookston in 1970. 

Recently, I was with Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who is the nuncio (ambassador) of Pope Francis in the United States. With enthusiasm, I told him that I recently discovered that the Diocese of Duluth used to have an auxiliary bishop! To be honest, he didn’t look as excited as I am to discover this historical golden nugget. I think that Bishop Glenn will remain the one and ONLY auxiliary bishop to serve our diocese! You can’t say that I didn’t try! 

The point is, that as we begin to mobilize to mission, it is important to know our roots — the roots of faith that have been planted not only in our diocese, but also in our families and parishes. Take some time to discover the God purpose and mission that is revealed in the history of your family and parish, so that grabbing on to the wings of the Holy Spirit, we may be a people of both roots and wings. 

Bishop Daniel Felton is the tenth bishop of Duluth 

Protecting our children’s right to be safe at school 

By The Minnesota Catholic Conference 
Inside the Capitol 

Guns are claiming the lives of U.S. children at alarming rates. It is the second leading cause of death for our kids. We’re just halfway through 2022, and already firearms have claimed the lives of over 700 children under age 19, including the 19 who were recently killed by an 18-year-old in a mass shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas. 

The Church takes an all-of-the-above approach to combating gun violence, as there is no ultimate solution to the complex problem, so long as evil persists in the human heart and guns are readily available as they will be in the U.S. due to our constitutionally protected right to own guns. But because rights come with responsibilities there are common-sense safety reforms that need to be part of the solution. 

At the state level, there are various gun safety proposals which the Minnesota Catholic Conference supports, such as red flag laws, but there is no political will to find common ground to pass them. 

Therefore, to take steps to protect students now, MCC has urged Governor Walz to call a special session and pass Safe Schools legislation. This need is urgent! There were 22 shooting incidents in K-12 schools so far in 2022 and 119 since 2018. We need to act now before one more child gets on their bus uncertain whether they will return home. 

The Safe Schools legislation, H.F. 4005/S.F. 3380, has bipartisan support. It creates a funding stream for all schools that can be used for security personnel, building enhancement, violence prevention programs, and mental health initiatives. Passing such legislation would be a concrete step toward protecting our children’s right to be safe from gun violence at least in the classroom. 

While it is true that virtuous people need fewer laws, our reality is a permissive society that has become an incubator for alienation, mental illness, spiritual poverty, and other pathologies. It breeds nihilistic killers. 

Undoubtedly, we must minister to people before they reach such a dark place! So, in conjunction with the long-term project of creating a virtuous society in which families and thereby individuals flourish, we need more immediate safety reforms such as Safe Schools legislation. 

Go to MNCatholic.org/ActionCenter today to tell your legislators we must pass Safe Schools legislation before even one more child is injured. 

Diocese takes first step toward possible cause for former FOCUS missionary 

By Catholic News Service 

Bishop David D. Kagan of Bismarck announced June 16 the diocese will open an investigation into “the holiness of life and love for God” of North Dakota native Michelle Christine Duppong, who died of cancer Dec. 25, 2015. She was 31. 

At the time of her death, Duppong was the director of adult faith formation for the Diocese of Bismarck. Before that, she was a missionary for six years with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, or FOCUS.

Michelle Christine Duppong is seen in this undated photo. She died from cancer Dec. 25, 2015, at age 31 while serving as the director of adult faith formation for the Diocese of Bismarck, N.D. Before that she was a missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students for six years. On June 16, Bismarck Bishop David D. Kagan announced the opening of a diocesan investigation into Duppong’s “holiness of life and love for God” for her possible canonization. (CNS photo/courtesy University of Mary)

She mentored hundreds of students on college campuses and her final assignment with FOCUS was on its inaugural team at the University of Mary in Bismarck. 

“Michelle’s holiness of life and love for God certainly touched us here in the Diocese of Bismarck, at the University of Mary and throughout FOCUS, but hers is also a witness which should also be shared with the universal church,” Bishop Kagan said. 

He announced the diocesan investigation into her life and faith at the FOCUS new staff training at the University of Mary. The investigation could lead to her beatification and canonization. 

“Michelle was a radiant, joyful woman with the heart of a true servant,” said Msgr. James Shea, president of the Benedictine university. “For the students on our campus, she was an inspiration and a treasured mentor, teaching them by her example the transformative power of friendship with God.” 

Duppong grew up in Haymarsh, North Dakota, and earned a degree in horticulture at North Dakota State University in 2006. While there, she encountered FOCUS, and the Catholic apostolate inspired her to serve as a FOCUS missionary after graduation. 

In 2012, Duppong became Bismarck’s diocesan director of adult faith formation, “using her missionary zeal to bring others closer to Christ,” said a news release. On Dec. 29, 2014, Duppong was diagnosed with cancer “and battled the disease with perseverance and a patient, cheerful spirit” until her death. 

The diocesan investigation, which involves the gathering of evidence about Duppong’s life and deeds, will include witness testimonies and the compilation of private and public writings. When this is completed, the next stage toward her canonization cause is for the diocese to present the evidence to the Dicastery for Saints’ Causes at the Vatican. 

If the documentation is accepted for consideration and her cause is officially opened, Duppong would then be considered a “Servant of God.” 

“From there, the cause could proceed at a steady pace, especially if there are no theological objections and Duppong enjoys what the church calls ‘the fame of sanctity’ — that she is venerated as a holy person.” 

In general, a verified miracle attributed to her intercession would be needed for he beatification and a second such miracle would be required for canonization. 

A documentary titled “Thirst for Souls: the Michelle Duppong Story” is in the works. Its worldwide premiere would take place at SEEK23, FOCUS’ national conference, to be held Jan. 2-6 in St. Louis. 

The mission of FOCUS is “to share the hope and joy of the Gospel” on campuses and in parishes through Bible studies, outreach events, mission trips, and discipleship. 

For the 2021–22 academic year, nearly 800 FOCUS missionaries are serving at 205 locations, which includes 22 parish venues across the U.S. and seven international campuses. 

FOCUS alumni, now numbering nearly 40,000, live and serve in parishes and communities across the country.