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Vatican Unveiled draws more than 4,000 visitors 

By Deacon Kyle Eller 
The Northern Cross 

Vatican Unveiled, the fundraiser showcasing Father Richard Kunst’s massive collection of papal and other historical artifacts, drew more than 4,000 people to the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center Aug. 19-21, organizers said.

A letter relating to the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and a piece of a cassock of Pope Pius VII were a highlight moment at Vatican Unveiled. (Photo by Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)

Father Kunst, the pastor of St. James and St. Elizabeth parishes in Duluth, said he thought Sunday was the busiest and that a “ton of kids” went through to see his collection of papal memorabilia, amassed over many years, which he says is the largest outside of Rome itself. In addition to the numerous artifacts relating to popes — which range from letters and documents to items of clothing, chalices and first class relics — the exhibit also included a relic of the true cross, a relic of the original chair of St. Peter, and items relating to numerous saints and, occasionally, other historical figures such as the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. 

Father Kunst gave presentations throughout the weekend, and even on the last day, he seemed to enjoy greeting the many people pouring through the DECC to get a glimpse of his collection.

A volunteer explains to visitors items relating to St. Gianna Molla and St. Damien of Molokai at the DECC Aug. 21, as a part of the Vatican Unveiled exhibition. (Photo by Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)

“I have come to realize that this exhibit was much more than a fundraiser, that the response from the people, often an emotional one, was worth the effort of the whole thing,” Father Kunst told The Northern Cross in the days after the display. “I know many people were greatly affected by seeing these things so connected to the history of our faith and our church.” 

“My hope is that The Vatican Unveiled becomes an avenue to have something more permanent for Duluth and our diocese,” he added. “These sacred and historical items need to be somewhere other than in a box, but available for people to see and appreciate. It is another form of ministry from my perspective, a form of ministry unique to our diocese.” 

Monica Hendrickson, one of the event organizers, said that in addition to the more than 4,000 people who came through the large exhibition, the event “raised over $350,000, and we are still receiving donations online and in the mail.” 

The event was arranged as a fundraiser, with the proceeds going to benefit Stella Maris Academy — Duluth’s city-wide Catholic school spread across four campuses — and the Star of the North Maternity Home, which has locations in Duluth and on the Iron Range serving mothers in need.

Father Richard Kunst shows visiting bishops from Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota items from his papal artifacts collection in a special showing after Vatican Unveiled took place at the DECC. (Submitted photo) Items from Pope Leo XIII, including an inkwell and a chalice used for Mass, were on display at Vatican Unveiled at the DECC in Duluth in August. (Photo by Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)