Browsing The Northern Cross

Bishop Paul Sirba: Pilgrimage to papal visit brings great graces

As I rode the train from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia, I was texting Betsy Kneepkens, our director of marriage and family life, and Father Anthony Craig, pastor of St. Mary’s in Deer River, St. Joseph’s in Ball Club, Sacred Heart in Federal Dam and St. Anne in Bena, and associate in the office, and was delighting with them in our Holy Father’s visit to the United States and the World Meeting of Families.

The Diocese of Duluth was represented well. Along with Father Steve Daigle and Father Mike Schmitz (a presenter at the World Meeting of Families), we had several families attending: the Spry family, the Morrison family, the Pilon family, the Cazin family and the Toma family, as well as a group of devoted pilgrims from across the diocese.

Bishop Paul Sirba
Bishop Paul Sirba
Fiat Voluntas Tua

Our families weathered the unexpected turns of a pilgrimage always (or nearly always) reflecting the joy of the Gospel. What a wonderful group to come home and share the story of their experiences with all of you!

The bishops began the journey with mid-day prayer with the Holy Father in St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington and the canonization of St. Junipero Serra at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the campus of Catholic University on Wednesday, Sept. 23.

The Holy Father’s challenging but fatherly words have served to inspire and to get us to think and to dialogue with each other and others about the important issues of our day. The hospitality of the people of the city of Philadelphia and the other cities has been remarkable.

Conferences and keynote addresses fill our days, as well as security checkpoints, long bus rides, box lunches and, for me, my first ride using Uber! I send to all of you the greetings of our former bishops, all of whom have been in attendance. Bishops Brom, Schwietz and Schnurr have visited with members of our delegation at the various events and with me. They remember you with great fondness and offer their prayers for all of you.

Our Holy Father is the source of unity. He brings us together in a world which constantly strives to divide and scatter us. He has offered us the Gospel of Jesus and always seems to find the right words and gestures to invite us in to a deeper encounter with Our Lord. I hope you have taken in the events via the media.

He calls us to be missionary disciples of the family as part of God’s plan. It is our great call to teach the world to rediscover the family as God intended. We do so by witnessing to the love of Jesus by lives of faith, hope and joy.

Many have remarked on the grueling schedule he has maintained since he arrived in the United States, especially since he just finished a visit to Cuba. He is 78, approaching 79 years old! No doubt the grace of God and the prayers of the faithful have sustained him. You can tell he gains strength from being with his flock. His love of Jesus is mirrored in him like man he canonized, St. Junipero Serra.

With over a million people, we celebrated Holy Mass with Pope Francis. Like the graces which flowed from our Eucharistic Procession through the city of Duluth at the conclusion of our 125th anniversary celebration as a diocese, the graces of the Meeting of Families and our Holy Father’s first visit to the United States will bless us with an assurance of God with us and an outpouring of his mercy.

Bishop Paul D. Sirba is the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Duluth.