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125 years of sharing the story of Jesus

By Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross — Bishop Paul Sirba, diocesan clergy and a group of the faithful gathered for Mass Oct. 5 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary to mark the 125th anniversary of the Diocese of Duluth, kicking off a year of commemoration.

Bishop Sirba had transferred the diocesan patronal feast, Our Lady of the Rosary, from its normal date on Oct. 7 for the occasion. In his homily, the bishop gave a brief view of the earliest history of what became the Diocese of Duluth, with Mass probably first being offered around 1741 in Grand Portage by a Jesuit professor of mathematics. After a few successors, there was no Mass for about a century, he said, until the arrival of Ven. Frederick Baraga.

Bishop Sirba gives homily
Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross
Bishop Paul Sirba preaches at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary at a Mass launching the 125th anniversary of the Duluth Diocese Oct. 5.

After that came great figures like Msgr. Joseph Buh and Mother Scholastica Kerst. The first bishop of Duluth, James McGolrick, was ordained Jan. 12, 1890, at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

Now, the bishop noted, the faithful were gathered at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary to join their line.

“My brothers and sisters, you and I are called to add our names to the rolls of those who have gone before us to tell the story of salvation in Jesus Christ,” he said.

He used the Blessed Virgin Mary as our example and help and also cited the witness of Pope Francis.

“As we know, Mary, our mother, first encountered Jesus through eyes of faith,” he said. “She readily believed the words of the angel Gabriel, and she conceived the Word. Later, at his birth, she was able to embrace the Word in her arms.”

“She experienced joy, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, the inner delight of knowing that she was loved by God. And because she knew that, she was able to love God with her whole heart, her whole mind, her whole soul and her whole strength, and her neighbor as herself. She teaches us in this beautiful dialogue.”

He said Pope Francis’ emphasis on the joy of encounter and embracing those who are poor, outcast and vulnerable is a call for the church.

“It’s not something new, but I think in our age it’s become a little tarnished or forgotten,” Bishop Sirba said. “We would rather deal with smartphones or electronics sometimes than people. People get messy.”

As a result, he said we have a society that disposes of people, taking innocent life and pushing people to the margins of society when they become inconvenient.

He said Catholics in 2014 have a “gift to share” of hope and encouragement and an embrace.

“I encourage all of us to redouble our efforts to pray the rosary daily, to share it, to teach it, to pray it in our families and to introduce others to the mysteries of the rosary,” he said.

With it, the faithful can pray for peace, for the conversion of sinners and in reparation of both our sins and those of the whole world.

“We beg the Lord to teach us to be modern-day missionaries, because our world is so in need of hearing the proclamation of the good news,” he said.

Father James Bissonette, diocesan vicar general, led the faithful in the rosary prior to Mass, and the Mass was followed by a reception and historical presentation.

Additional events commemorating the diocese’s 125th anniversary will be held in each deanery, and next fall there will be a larger diocesan celebration. Watch The Northern Cross and the diocesan website — — for details as they become available.