Browsing News Entries

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Betsy Kneepkens: Healing the family is essential to stopping the violence

It was about 92 degrees outside, gas prices were nearing $5 a gallon, I needed groceries, and the store was about one mile from my home. I was frustrated, and I can get stubborn sometimes. I grabbed a water bottle, put on my walking shoes, and headed out that door. No way would I fill up my gas tank at that price. 

Betsy Kneepkens
Betsy Kneepkens
Faith and Family

t was undoubtedly warm on the walk downhill to the store, but I managed the trip with determined vigor. The trip back, uphill with groceries, was a different story. Perhaps I am a bit headstrong, and my protest was backfiring in the heat, but I had no plans to give up. When I was nearing the top of the hill, about three-quarters of the way home, three separate individuals stopped their cars and asked if I needed a ride home. One very kind gentleman passed me, turned around, and came back to ask me if I needed a lift. Maybe I wasn’t looking well, and I don’t know, it was hot outside. 

I thanked these good people and explained that I had intentionally chosen to walk and was grateful for the offer. My decision to walk wasn’t going to budge. In hindsight, even if I was unwell, getting in a car with a stranger is considered unsafe. Unfortunately, safety is a bigger issue than allowing unknown individuals to help each other? What a shame! 

My regular column readers know that I am a native Chicagoan. I was horrified when the mass shooting in Chicago’s Highland Park happened on July 4. I was not raised in that part of the city, but I certainly was familiar with the area. I can say that if a mass shooting can happen in that neighborhood, we all need to realize this sort of situation can happen everywhere. 

The last few times I traveled back home, I can sadly say the Chicago I remember is not the Chicago of today. Shootings happen regularly in this region, and reporters share the violent news like they list scores for professional sporting competitions. The Highland Park area was one of the parts of the city that I would consider the last to be infected by such unspeakable violence. I was deeply disheartened to learn about the senseless carnage on the day citizens are willing to come together to enjoy a Fourth of July parade. We need to be honest about making changes in this country. 

Again, after one of these mass shootings, we hear pundits and politicians proclaim the solution to this problem is to restrict gun access. I am not an expert on guns. I can see both sides of the argument, and I fall right into the middle. 

I am, however, convinced that the best solution to this horrible violence and all other societal messes is not the laser strike legislation we usually do. It seems passing legislation gets at the symptoms and not the cause. The honest answer to these problems is not the federal government and new laws. Moving toward a resolution is attainable, and it rests with the collective will to live and sacrifice for the sake of others. No country in the world has more potential for overall greatness than the United States. At some point in our history, we decided to put the burden of peace and prosperity on the government and not ourselves. 

The government now seems to be involved in nearly every aspect of our lives. When I point this out to my children, who think the government should solve these problems, I say, “how is this working for us.” We must stop expecting the government to solve our individual bad choices. There is no question that the government plays an essential role in our country. However, much of this brokenness must be repaired by individuals and our way of life. 

Catholics teach a concept called subsidiarity, which means nothing should be done at a higher level than can be done well or better at a lower level. These mass shootings are unacceptable. Not being able to accept a ride from someone you don’t know because it could be unsafe is dispiriting, and taking your life in your hands when you attend a parade is unspeakable. We can’t allow this evil to get much worse, or every one of us will be imprisoned by the dysfunction caused by our sins. 

I believe the real problem is we won’t admit we all have an individual part in correcting this mass waywardness. When Catholics talk about subsidiarity, they usually mean neighborhoods or local governments. However, the root of our wretchedness comes from a place much smaller than our neighborhoods. The place is our families. 

We can no longer tolerate our society being in so much pain and blaming others. The solution must be bold actions, willing to accept and understand that everyone carries some cross or difference in this world and even with this cross move forward. 

We must realize that the lack of emphasis on intact families is the heart of this upheaval. We must be able to speak compassionately yet openly that it matters if children have the benefit of their mom and dad in their home. We must proclaim the good news that the unconditional love a mother and father pour out to their children mimics, in an earthly way, the love that awaits us in our heavenly life in an endless and unlimited way. 

God’s plan for the family is purposeful, intentional, and valuable. A family gives a child the security of roots, knowing they’re loved, and teaching them how to love others. God wants his children to know they are never alone and that we can and should depend on and care for others. All relationship formation is attained most successfully in a family and is critical. Without the vast majority of our population formed this way, ending violence and maltreatment of others seems impossible. 

Men must hold other men accountable if they are not parenting their children, and couples must acknowledge that marriage is difficult. All measures must be taken to keep mothers and fathers together (unless there is abuse or death) to raise their children. Our churches in every neighborhood need to make supporting marriage and family life central to their ministries. As a society, we must admit that the vast majority of extreme violence can be linked back to family situations that are dysfunctional and fractured. As Pope St. John Paul II said, “as the family goes, so goes society.” The alarm bells are blaring. 

When you are walking home, even if you are bullheaded, you should feel safe accepting help from a kind person who offers you a ride. When you go to a parade, you should not feel like your life is in danger. An individual should not be so alone and unconnected that they find the only way to be seen and significant is by taking unsuspecting, innocent lives. 

God’s design to give individuals the formation to live peacefully together, on earth, is the family. Our decision to minimize and reduce the significance of intact families is the cause of the extreme violence we are experiencing. Looking to make the change by laws that adjust the symptoms prolongs a solution. The way our society is living is not working for us. 

God’s family design was not happenstance, its intention was a cooperative effort between him and humankind, to well form his children to love, care, and teach us to live in harmony with each other. As a church, we must start speaking loudly for intact families and providing the tools to help married couples raise their children in homes filled with love. 

Betsy Kneepkens is director of the Office of Marriage, Family, and Life for the Diocese of Duluth and a mother of six. 

Editorial: The extraordinary attack on pro-life pregnancy centers

In the aftermath of the June 24 Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, perhaps nothing has so perfectly encapsulated the inarticulate rage against America’s pro-life community as the targeting of pro-life pregnancy centers. 

Not only have they been the target, across more than 20 states, of vandalism, firebombing, or threats of violence, they have also been denounced by governors and U.S. senators. In some places, laws have been proposed targeting these facilities. Members of Congress have pressured Internet search giant Google to doctor its search results and ads to suppress them. And of course there has been plenty of biased media coverage joining in the pile-on. 

What makes it all of this so extraordinary and bizarre is simply what these facilities do. Consider, for example, the Lake Superior Life Care Center in Duluth and Superior. Their website lists client services like these: classes on pregnancy, birth and delivery, infant care, toddlers, and parenting; free pregnancy tests; free OB ultrasounds; two clinic days a month offering free medical services, including physicals, prenatal exams, labs, X-rays, and mammograms; and material assistance to help with baby needs, including items like diapers, wipes, formula, clothing, strollers, and high chairs. 

The world would be a better place with more such places rather than fewer and if their budgets were multiplied rather than drained by vandals and hostile politicians and if more mothers in need knew about them rather than fewer. By any objective standard, these facilities are the sort of thing people of a broad spectrum of views about abortion should be able to come together and support. 

So it beggars the imagination how even the most vehement advocate of legal abortion could look at the landscape of American pro-life activism, with all its many facets, and choose crisis pregnancy centers — the places that exist to help women in difficult circumstances get the resources they need to choose life for their children — as the focal point of hatred and intimidation. 

For decades the lie has persisted that the pro-life community only cares about children before they’re born. How extraordinary, then, that so much anger has been directed toward the very people in the pro-life community for whom that is most plainly untrue. 

Please do your part to support pro-life pregnancy centers, with your prayers and with your donations. They deserve it. 

Bishop Barron installed as bishop of Winona-Rochester

By Edie Heipel 
Catholic News Agency 

Bishop Robert Barron, the founder of the Catholic media apostolate Word on Fire, was installed as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester at St. John the Evangelist Co-Cathedral in Rochester on Friday. 

Appointed by Pope Francis earlier this summer, Bishop Barron is returning to the Midwest after almost seven years as auxiliary bishop in the Santa Barbara region of Los Angeles, California.

As a young priest serving in Chicago, Barron broadcast h

Bishop Robert Barron shares the document appointing him bishop of the Diocese of Winona Rochester at his installation Mass July 29. The Mass took place at the diocese’s co-cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Rochester. (Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester) 

is homilies on a local radio station, attracting the attention of Cardinal Francis George, who urged him to share his talents with the wider world. 

With George’s support, then-Father Barron founded the nonprofit Word on Fire media apostolate that shares the traditions of the Catholic faith through a multimedia platform that includes artwork, theology, and philosophy. In the form of daily blog posts, articles, videos, and an archive of hundreds of online homilies, Bishop Barron’s ministry has reached millions across the globe. 

In an installation Mass which took place at the Co-Cathedral on Friday, apostolic nuncio to the United States Archbishop Christophe Pierre recognized Bishop Barron’s dedication to spreading the Gospel around the world, adding that he hoped his commitment to evangelization would “continue to be of great fruit.” 

It is no surprise that evangelization featured prominently in Bishop Barron’s homily during the Mass, a theme that has defined the pursuit of his vocation. 

Noting his delight that the Mass took place on the Feast Day of Sts. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, the bishop explained that the lives of the three “friends of Jesus” reflected the model he desired to bring to the diocese. 

Drawing on a quote from Pope Benedict XVI, the bishop explained that the three tasks of the church are to worship God as Mary did, serve the poor with the commitment of Martha, and evangelize by exemplifying the life of Lazarus, who was one of Jesus’ most effective witnesses. 

Like Lazarus, the bishop said, “those whom Jesus has liberated and untied will most powerfully convey the truth of [him] to others.” 

Bishop Barron called on parishioners to strengthen their devotion to corporal and spiritual acts of mercy, noting that he couldn’t help but see a correlation between the diocese’s location near the Mayo Clinic and the need for the church to be a place of “spiritual healing.” 

In particular, the bishop noted the urgent need to draw young people back to the Church, citing that the disaffiliation rate is at least 50% among young Catholics. 

The Winona-Rochester Diocese serves over 136,000 Catholics, including 23 Catholic schools and St. Mary’s University. 

Bishop Barron was ordained to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1986. In his new appointment, he succeeds Bishop John M. Quinn, whose resignation and title “emeritus” became effective at the Mass on Friday. 

One of the goals of Word on Fire is to reinvigorate Catholicism in the modern world by highlighting the “truth, beauty, and goodness of our ancient faith,” a mission that has attracted many to the faith. 

In a statement regarding his new appointment, Bishop Barron assured followers that Word on Fire’s work would continue, reflecting that “it is a blessing for me to work with you to introduce people to Jesus Christ and invite them to share all the gifts he wants his people to enjoy.” 

Father Mike Schmitz and Jeff Cavins win Cardinal John P. Foley Award

By Chaz Muth 
Catholic News Service 

Father Mike Schmitz and Jeff Cavins of Ascension Press are the recipients of the 2022 Cardinal John P. Foley Award from the Catholic Media Association. 

The Foley award recognizes demonstrated excellence and innovation in Catholic storytelling in the preceding year, with work presented on various media platforms, including — but not limited to — video, podcasts, photo spreads, blogs, or a multimedia melding of platforms. It’s one of the highest honors given by the CMA.

Jeff Cavins, left, and Father Mike Schmitz of Ascension Press, seen in this 2022 photo, are the winners of the 2022 Cardinal John P. Foley Award from the Catholic Media Association. The award, one of the highest honors given by the CMA, was announced July 6 at the Catholic Media Conference in Portland, Ore. (CNS photo/courtesy Ascension Press) 

The announcement was made July 6 during the 2022 Catholic Media Conference in Portland. 

Father Schmitz and Cavins won the award for their joint project, “The Bible in a Year” podcast, which boasted an audience of about 450,000 daily listeners in 2021. 

Father Schmitz and Cavins were not in attendance to accept the award in person. 

“If you ask Father Mike and Jeff, they will say that the Holy Spirit deserves all of the credit; it is God’s story, after all,” said Lauren Joyce, Ascension’s communications and public relations specialist, in her nomination letter. “But we humbly submit that God’s story is most powerful when spirit-filled storytellers bring it to life and tell it anew in their own time and place.” 

The late Cardinal Foley, who died in 2011, was admired for his media expertise, serving as an editor of Philadelphia’s archdiocesan newspaper, a host and producer of the “Philadelphia Catholic Hour” on WFIL radio, head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Also, for many he was known as the Vatican’s “Voice of Christmas” in his role as English-language commentator for the pope’s midnight Mass for 25 years. 

Greg Erlandson, director and editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service, has called Foley an “indefatigable supporter of the Catholic press” who always “remained a journalist at heart, and he believed strongly in the importance of this professional vocation for the life of the church.” 

Father Schmitz and Cavins were two of 10 finalists for the 2020 Foley award. 

The other eight finalists were Tony Ganzer of the “Faith Full Podcast”; Gabrielle Gleason, communications specialist for the Diocese of Syracuse, New York; Jonah McKeown, staff writer and podcast producer for Catholic News Agency; Bridget O’Boyle, social media marketing consultant for Aleteia; Kate O’Hare, editor for Family Theater Productions; Joseph Pelletier, video producer for the Archdiocese of Detroit; Matt Riedl, director of media production for the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia; and Carol Zimmermann, Washington correspondent for Catholic News Service. 

“The Second Vatican Council invited all Catholics to read the Bible, and yet many still struggle with understanding this ancient text and connecting it to their daily lives. In 2021, Father Mike Schmitz and Jeff Cavins vaulted this hurdle with excellence, captivating hundreds of thousands of listeners with their innovative ‘The Bible in a Year’ podcast,” said Ed Langlois, managing editor of the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, when he announced the Foley award winners. 

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

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. 


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, 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]org.