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Clergy assignments

Bishop Paul D. Sirba has announced the following clergy assignments, effective Wednesday, July 11.

  • Father James Bissonette, pastor of St. James, Duluth, to pastor of St. Raphael, Duluth, and St. Rose, Proctor.

  • Father Drew Braun, pastor of St. John, Grand Marais, and Holy Rosary, Grand Portage, to pastor of St. John, Duluth, and St. Joseph, Gnesen.

  • Father David Forsman, pastor of St. James, Aitkin; Our Lady of Fatima, Garrison; and Holy Family, Hillman, to pastor of St. James, Aitkin; Holy Family, McGregor; and Our Lady of Fatima, McGrath.

  • Father Elias Gieske, pastor of St. Joseph, Crosby, and St. Joseph, Deerwood, to pastor of St. Joseph, Crosby; St. Joseph, Deerwood; Our Lady of Fatima, Garrison; and Holy Family, Hillman.

  • Father Seth Gogolin, pastor of St. Cecilia, Nashwauk, and Mary Immaculate, Coleraine, to pastor of St. Joseph, Grand Rapids, and St. Augustine, Cohasset.

  • Father Richard Kunst, pastor of St. John, Duluth, and St. Joseph, Gnesen, to pastor of St. James, Duluth.

  • Father Steven Langenbrunner, parochial vicar at St. James, Duluth, to pastor of St. John, Grand Marais, and Holy Rosary, Grand Portage.

  • Father Kuriakose Nediakala MCBS, pastor of Holy Family, McGregor, and Our Lady of Fatima, McGrath, to return to his religious community in India.

  • Father Joseph Sobolik, pastor of St. Raphael, Duluth, and St. Rose, Proctor, to pastor of St. Cecilia, Nashwauk, and Mary Immaculate, Coleraine.

  • Father Jerome Weiss, pastor of St. Joseph, Grand Rapids, and St. Augustine, Cohasset, to retirement.

Bishop Paul Sirba: Priests, too, ‘bear this treasure in earthen vessels,’ so pray for them

Christ Jesus offered himself for us. From his wounded side flowed blood and water, the fountain of life for his people.

This June, not only are the clergy moves announced in the Northern Cross, but the Holy Father has designated June 8, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, as the day of sanctification of the clergy.

Bishop Paul Sirba
Bishop Paul Sirba
Fiat Voluntas Tua

What I appreciate about the message and the timing announcing the sanctification of the clergy is the relational dimension of the announcement. If your parish is one that is directly affected by the transfer of a new pastor, there may be some added incentive for you to pray as well.

Pope Francis calls us all back to our initial encounter with Our Lord. He says, “In fact, all of us ‘have had in our life some encounter with Him’, and each of us can make his own spiritual remembrance and return to the joy of that moment ‘in which I felt that Jesus was looking at me’” (Pope Francis, Homily at Santa Marta, April 24, 2015).

I guess I’d like to state the obvious. Priests are not cut out of any cookie- cutter mold. Each one of us is unique and distinct. We have strengths and weaknesses, we have virtues and vices.

As I mentioned in my Chrism Mass homily this year, Catholics (and non- Catholics) many times expect that because priests preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and administer the sacraments, they should automatically, by the Sacrament of Orders, be perfect themselves — not so much! We are human.

Pope Francis described himself as a sinner, I do too — me, not him. Our priests, please God, frequently or regularly go to the confessional box. We have sins for which we need to be accountable, but accountability does not mean we are fair game for gossip.

Mr. John Sondag wrote a piece for The Catholic Servant on “Criticizing our Priests.” He had, I think, some very important things to say. He said, “Some parishioners want their priests to be heroes, but not every priest can be a hero, because heroes are persons who do great things that are out of the ordinary, and most men are not that extraordinary. Yet, our Lord chooses ordinary men to sanctify, teach, and guide His flock, and that’s the mystery of the sacraments. Our Lord uses ordinary things — bread, wine, oil, water, ordinary men — to manifest His presence and grace in the world. It’s really the same principle as the mystery of the Incarnation: God (Who is spiritual) becoming man (Whom we can see, hear, and touch).”

God shows His power working through our human weakness. He uses vessels of clay to manifest His power — a treasure in earthen vessels.

Quoting from Pope St. John Paul II’s letter to priests in the year 2000, many times the frailty of priests has made it hard for the people of God to see in them the face of Christ. “Here in the Upper Room why should this amaze us? Not only did the betrayal of Judas reach its climax here, but Peter himself had to reckon with his weakness as he heard the bitter prediction of his denial. In choosing men like the Twelve, Christ was certainly under no illusions: it was upon this human weakness that he set the sacramental seal of his presence. And Paul shows us why: ‘We bear this treasure in earthen vessels, so that it might be clear that this extraordinary power comes from God and not from us’” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

During the time of St. Augustine, the Church had to wrestle with the idea of the Donatists in the fourth century. They believed that the sacramental power of the priest was only valid when the priest was in the state of grace. The Church ultimately condemned this position, saying that even a priest who is in the state of mortal sin could validly administer the sacraments — ex opere operato — when he intends to do what the Church intends.

Obviously, we all want to be, along with our priests, in the state of grace. We want to be holy and perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. But God’s hands are not tied even by the lives of offending priests. Infallibility is not dependent on impeccability (being without sin).

I was encouraged by a woman religious in my seminary years that God would use me and my brothers in the seminary in a unique way. We would relate to our people in a way unlike any other. God chooses men to maximize his reach. We are different, unique, strong and weak, saints and sinners. God uses a variety of persons to be instruments of His grace.

My dear people, please continue to pray for our priests. Pray for our seminarians. Let us all resolve to be more united with Jesus and His Sacred Heart, to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God. May the Lord keep us all in his charity and lead all of us, shepherds and flock, to eternal life. Amen.

Bishop Paul Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth.

Handmaids coming to the Diocese of Duluth

Father Ryan Moravitz announced at Holy Family Church in Duluth this weekend that the Handmaids of the Heart of Jesus are coming to the Diocese of Duluth and will be taking up residence at the former Holy Family rectory.

The Handmaids come with the blessing and invitation of Duluth Bishop Paul Sirba.

"With thanks to Almighty God, I am delighted to welcome the Handmaids of the Heart of Jesus to
the Diocese of Duluth!" Bishop Sirba said. "... Please join me in welcoming the Sisters to the Diocese of Duluth."

Father Moravitz said in a live Facebook video Monday that to start with there will be four sisters moving to the diocese, and their official move-in day is Aug. 17. In the video, some of the sisters can be seen working alongside parishioners in preparing the site. It will be made to accommodate up to six sisters.

The charism of the Handmaids is "to live in imitation of Mary as handmaid, virgin, bride, and mother
in the diocesan life of the Church, carrying out the New Evangelization in parishes." They are know for their work in parishes.

For more information about the handmaids, visit

Holiness means being loving, not boring, pope says

God calls all Christians to be saints — not plastic statues of saints, but real people who make time for prayer and who show loving care for others in the simplest gestures, Pope Francis said in his new document on holiness.

"Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality, or joy," the pope wrote in "Gaudete et Exsultate" ("Rejoice and Be Glad"), his apostolic exhortation on "the call to holiness in today's world."

ExhortationPope Francis signed the exhortation March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, and the Vatican released it April 9.

Much of the document was written in the second person, speaking directly to the individual reading it. "With this exhortation I would like to insist primarily on the call to holiness that the Lord addresses to each of us, the call that he also addresses, personally, to you," he wrote near the beginning.

Saying he was not writing a theological treatise on holiness, Pope Francis focused mainly on how the call to holiness is a personal call, something God asks of each Christian and which requires a personal response given one's state in life, talents and circumstances.

"We are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer," he wrote. But "that is not the case."

"We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves," he said.

He wrote about "the saints next door" and said he likes "to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God's people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile."

Pope Francis also noted the challenges to holiness, writing at length and explicitly about the devil just two weeks after an uproar caused by an elderly Italian journalist who claimed the pope told him he did not believe in the existence of hell.

"We should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech, or an idea," the pope wrote in his exhortation. "This mistake would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless, and end up more vulnerable" to the devil's temptations.

"The devil does not need to possess us. He poisons us with the venom of hatred, desolation, envy, and vice," he wrote. "When we let down our guard, he takes advantage of it to destroy our lives, our families, and our communities."

The path to holiness, he wrote, is almost always gradual, made up of small steps in prayer, in sacrifice, and in service to others.

Being part of a parish community and receiving the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and reconciliation, are essential supports for living a holy life, the pope wrote. And so is finding time for silent prayer. "I do not believe in holiness without prayer," he said, "even though that prayer need not be lengthy or involve intense emotion."

"The holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures," he said, before citing the example of a woman who refuses to gossip with a neighbor, returns home and listens patiently to her child even though she is tired, prays the rosary, and later meets a poor person and offers him a kind word.

The title of the document was taken from Matthew 5:12 when Jesus says "rejoice and be glad" to those who are persecuted or humiliated for his sake.

The line concludes the Beatitudes, in which, Pope Francis said, "Jesus explained with great simplicity what it means to be holy": living simply, putting God first, trusting him and not earthly wealth or power, being humble, mourning with and consoling others, being merciful and forgiving, working for justice, and seeking peace with all.

The example of the saints officially recognized by the church can be helpful, he said, but no one else's path can be duplicated exactly.

Each person, he said, needs "to embrace that unique plan that God willed for each of us from eternity."

The exhortation ends with a section on "discernment," which is a gift to be requested of the Holy Spirit and developed through prayer, reflection, reading Scripture, and seeking counsel from a trusted spiritual guide.

"A sincere daily 'examination of conscience'" will help, he said, because holiness involves striving each day for "all that is great, better, and more beautiful, while at the same time being concerned for the little things, for each day's responsibilities and commitments."

Pope Francis also included a list of cautions. For example, he said holiness involves finding balance in prayer time, time spent enjoying others' company, and time dedicated to serving others in ways large or small. And, "needless to say, anything done out of anxiety, pride, or the need to impress others will not lead to holiness."

Being holy is not easy, he said, but if the attempt makes a person judgmental, always frustrated, and surly, something is not right.

"The saints are not odd and aloof, unbearable because of their vanity, negativity, and bitterness," he said. "The apostles of Christ were not like that."

In fact, the pope said, "Christian joy is usually accompanied by a sense of humor."

The exhortation included many of Pope Francis' familiar refrains about attitudes that destroy the Christian community, like gossip, or that proclaim themselves to be Christian, but are really forms of pride, like knowing all the rules and being quick to judge others for not following them.

Holiness "is not about swooning in mystic rapture," he wrote, but it is about recognizing and serving the Lord in the hungry, the stranger, the naked, the poor, and the sick.

Holiness is holistic, he said, and while each person has a special mission, no one should claim that their particular call or path is the only worthy one.

"Our defense of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm, and passionate for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred," the pope wrote. "Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned, and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia ...."

And, he said, one cannot claim that defending the life of a migrant is a "secondary issue" when compared to abortion or other bioethical questions.

"That a politician looking for votes might say such a thing is understandable, but not a Christian," he said.

Pope Francis' exhortation also included warnings about a clear lack of holiness demonstrated by some Catholics on Twitter or other social media, especially when commenting anonymously.

"It is striking at times," he said, that "in claiming to uphold the other commandments, they completely ignore the eighth, which forbids bearing false witness or lying."

Saints, on the other hand, "do not waste energy complaining about the failings of others; they can hold their tongue before the faults of their brothers and sisters, and avoid the verbal violence that demeans and mistreats others."

— By Cindy Wooden / Catholic News Service

Divine Mercy celebrations in the diocese

The Feast of Divine Mercy is Sunday, April 8. The schedule for the Diocese of Duluth for 2018 is:

  • Aitken, St. James Church, 299 Red Oak Drive, (218) 927-6581: 1:30 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.; confession 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., holy hour 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.; Divine Mercy Chaplet; Mass 3:15 p.m.; spaghetti dinner after Mass.

  • Cloquet, Queen of Peace Church, 102 Fourth St., (218) 879- 6793: 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.; Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Divine Mercy Chaplet, prayers, no confessions.

  • Coleraine, Mary Immaculate Church, 10 Corey St., (218) 885-1126: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.; adoration, rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, readings, homilies, confession, Benediction, reception in social hall.

  • Duluth, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, 2801 E. Fourth St., (218) 728-3646: 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.; 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. exposition, confession; 3 p.m. Divine Mercy Chaplet, Benediction.

  • Ely, St. Anthony Church, 231 E. Camp St., (218) 365-4017: 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.; adoration, confession, meditations of Divine Mercy, Stations of the Cross, veneration of St. Faustina relic, prayers, Divine Mercy Chaplet.

— The Northern Cross

An Easter message from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the USCCB

Bishop Paul Sirba: Let the Lord’s Resurrection fill our hearts with grace and mercy

No one can stop the Resurrection of Jesus. No one. The power and grace of the dying and rising of Jesus Christ is explosive!

Christians gather at the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem every year to share the Easter greeting and the light of the new Easter fire. The holy frenzy that accompanies the announcement or Exultet is mirrored in the churches and cathedrals around the world. The holy shroud of Turin, the burial cloth of Jesus, was seared with a blast of energy that left an imprint which cannot be explained but reveals the unharnessed power of the risen Lord and His beautiful image.

Bishop Paul Sirba
Bishop Paul Sirba
Fiat Voluntas Tua

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has risen from the tomb! No one could or can stop Jesus’ victory over sin, suffering, and death. Alleluia! His love for us is eternal. In this month of April we begin the great 50 days of the Easter Season. The Lord’s Resurrection should fill our hearts and lives with His grace and mercy.

As our faith teaches, “We firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives for ever, so after death the righteous will live for ever with the risen Christ and he will raise them up on the last day. Our resurrection, like his own, will be the work of the Most Holy Trinity” (CCC 989).

Brothers and sisters, let us live in the light of the Resurrection of Jesus! Like the first disciples, who doubted the announcement of the Good News initially, we can get stuck in the doubt. We are tempted to believe the doubt. We are impatient that the Lord doesn’t answer our prayers or permits us to share in His creative suffering. There is pressure, subtle pride, which remains in us, that the Lord during this Easter Season wants to heal. Receive the healing power of the risen Lord.

In concert with Holy Mother Church, I encourage the reading of the Acts of the Apostles during the great 50 days. The second volume of St. Luke’s two-volume work describes how salvation history promised in the Old Testament is accomplished by Jesus in the New. St. Luke’s account of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the foundation of the Christian community and the commissioning of its first preachers is being lived anew in the Diocese of Duluth through you and me.

Our Easter joy should reflect the love of Jesus. It should teach us to receive the freedom of God’s merciful love for us personally. It should motivate us to be more merciful to others.

“Therefore, O Lord, we pray you that this candle, hallowed to the honor of your name, may preserve undimmed, to overcome the darkness of this night. Receive it as a pleasing fragrance, and let it mingle with the lights of heaven. May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star: the one Morning Star who never sets, Christ your Son, who, coming back from death’s domain, has shed his peaceful light on humanity, and lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen” (Exultet).

Bishop Paul Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth.

Diocese of Winona renamed with addition of Rochester co-cathedral


The Congregation for Bishops has decreed that the Diocese of Winona will now be called the Diocese of Winona-Rochester and that St. John the Evangelist Church of Rochester will be designated as a co-cathedral, according to a March 27 announcement from the newly renamed diocese.

“This is a significant moment in our diocese’s history,” said Bishop John M. Quinn of the Vatican’s announcement. “My heart is lifted by this news, as I know that the presence of a co-cathedral in Rochester will provide unique ways to share the Gospel in our diocese’s fastest growing city.”

The word “cathedral” is derived from the Latin word cathedra, meaning “chair.” The chair is an ancient symbol of apostolic authority. The cathedral is generally located in the major metropolis of a diocese. At the time the Diocese of Winona was established, Winona was a key location, by the railroad and along the Mississippi River. Now, 128 years later, populations have shifted. Rochester has become the third largest city in Minnesota, and three-quarters of the diocese’s population resides in the region between Rochester and Mankato.

In 2015, an initial inquiry was sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops asking for the designation of a co-cathedral in Rochester. The Congregation for Bishops subsequently sent the diocese requirements for the process and directed the establishment of a diocesan planning committee.

This committee determined that St. John the Evangelist Church should be elevated to the status of a co-cathedral. The co-cathedral committee, and other groups involved, considered the size of the church building, location, architecture, and overall ability to function as a co-cathedral. Other factors included its proximity to the Mayo Clinic, the arts, culture, media, and industry, which provide an opportunity for further evangelization. St. John the Evangelist Church is also considered the “mother church” of Rochester, being the oldest parish in the city.

The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Winona will not change in status. It will continue to be the seat of the diocese and will host diocesan celebrations and Masses and ordinations.

A liturgical ceremony is scheduled for June 24, at which the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Pope Francis’ delegate to the United States, will formally designate St. John the Evangelist Church as the co-cathedral. During this ceremony, a new cathedra, or bishop’s chair, will be blessed, bearing witness to the apostolic ministry of sanctifying, teaching, and shepherding.

Adoption of the new title, “Diocese of Winona-Rochester,” throughout the parishes, schools, and diocesan institutions is expected to be completed by July 1.

— The Northern Cross

Church leaders praise Hawking for contribution to science, dialogue

Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who said he did not believe in God, was still an esteemed member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and fostered a fruitful dialogue between science and faith.

The academy, which Pope Pius IX established in 1847, tweeted, “We are deeply saddened about the passing of our remarkable Academician Stephen #Hawking who was so faithful to our Academy.”

Stephen Hawking and Pope Francis
Pope Francis greets Stephen Hawking during an audience with participants attending a plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican Nov. 28, 2016. Hawking, the British-born theoretical physicist, cosmologist and popular author died March 14 at the age of 76. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)

“He told the 4 Popes he met that he wanted to advance the relationship between Faith and Scientific Reason. We pray the Lord to welcome him in his Glory,” @CasinaPioIV, the academy, tweeted March 14.

The Vatican observatory, @SpecolaVaticana, also expressed its condolences to Hawking’s family.

“We value the enormous scientific contribution he has made to quantum cosmology and the courage he had in facing illness,” the observatory tweeted in Italian.

The British-born theoretical physicist, cosmologist and popular author died March 14 at the age of 76.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster tweeted, “We thank Stephen Hawking for his outstanding contribution to science. As a member of the Pontifical Academy of Science, he will be missed and mourned there, too.”

Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury tweeted, “Professor Stephen Hawking’s contribution to science was as limitless as the universe he devoted his life to understanding. His was a life lived with bravery and passion. As we pray for all those who mourn him, may he rest in peace.”

St. John Paul II named Hawking a member of the papal academy in 1986. The academy’s members are chosen on the basis of their academic credentials and professional expertise — not religious beliefs.

Blessed Paul VI, the first of four popes to meet Hawking, gave the then 33-year-old scientist the prestigious Pius XI gold medal in 1975 after a unanimous vote by the academy in recognition of his great work, exceptional promise, and “important contribution of his research to scientific progress.”

Pictures from the academy’s archives show the pope kneeling before Hawking, who was seated in a motorized wheelchair, to present him with the medal and touch his head.

Hawking had most recently met Pope Francis when he delivered his presentation on “The Origin of the Universe” at the academy’s plenary session on science and sustainability in 2016.

In interviews and his writings, Hawking asserted that God had no role in creating the universe.

Yet his avowed atheism did not keep him from engaging in dialogue and debate with the church as his work and contribution to the papal academy showed.

He also debated on CNN’s “Larry King Live” in 2010 with Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer — a philosopher and educator — over the scientific underpinnings of the beginning of the universe and the theological arguments for the existence of God.

Vatican astronomer, Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, who has studied both physics and philosophy, told Catholic News Service in 2010 that “the ‘god’ that Stephen Hawking doesn’t believe in is one I don’t believe in either.”

“God is not just another force in the universe, alongside gravity or electricity,” he added. “God is the reason why existence itself exists. God is the reason why space and time and the laws of nature can be present for the forces to operate that Stephen Hawking is talking about.”

— By Carol Glatz / Catholic News Service

Bishops urge federal protections for supporters of traditional marriage


The chairmen of two U.S. bishops’ committees March 14 called the First Amendment Defense Act “a modest and important measure” because it protects those who believe marriage is “the union of one man and one woman.”

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, recently reintroduced the measure in the Senate.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops “has been vocal in support of the legislation since its inception,” said a joint statement by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

In welcoming its reintroduction, they said the First Amendment Defense Act “is a modest and important measure that protects the rights of faith-based organizations and people of all faiths and of no faith who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”

People who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman, they said, “are increasingly having their religious freedoms jeopardized and even forfeited.”

“In a pluralistic society,” they continued, “faith-based charitable agencies and schools should not be excluded from participation in public life by loss of licenses, accreditation or tax-exempt status because they hold reasonable views on marriage that differ from the federal government’s view.”

In a 5-4 decision in June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states.

The Catholic Church’s leadership will continue “to promote and protect the natural truth of marriage as foundational to the common good,” they said. “The church will also continue to stand for the ability of all to exercise their religious beliefs and moral convictions in public life without fear of government discrimination.”

“In a climate of increasing intolerance, these protections are urgently needed,” Archbishop Kurtz and Bishop Conley said.

“The teaching of the Catholic Church about marriage is based on both faith and reason. Using right reason, one can know that given the nature of the human person, created as male and female, marriage is the union of one man and one woman,” they said.

Editor’s note: The text of the letter can be found at

— Catholic News Service