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Clergy assignments

Bishop Daniel Felton has made the following clergy assignments. 

Effective May 16, the Rev. Keith Bertram, from pastor of St. Edward, Longville, and St. Paul, Remer, to pastor of St. Paul, Remer, and priest sacramental minister of St. Edward, Longville. 

Effective May 16, Deacon Richard Paine, from deacon of Our Lady of the Lakes, Pequot Lakes, to deacon of Our Lady of the Lakes, Pequot Lakes, and administrator of St. Edward, Longville. 

Effective May 28, the Rev. William Skarich, from pastor of St. Anthony, Ely, and St. Pius X, Babbitt, to priest sacramental minister at Blessed Sacrament, Hibbing. 

Effective July 1, the Rev. Charles Friebohle, from parochial vicar of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Mary Star of the Sea, Duluth, to pastor of St. Anthony, Ely, and St. Pius X, Babbitt. 

Effective July 1, Deacon Gregory Hutar, administrator of St. Anthony, Ely, and St. Pius X, Babbitt, to retirement. 

Effective July 13, the Rev. David Forsman, from pastor of St. James, Aitkin; Holy Family, McGregor; and Our Lady of Fatima, McGrath, to pastor of Immaculate Heart, Crosslake, and St. Emily, Emily. 

Effective July 13, the Rev. Dale Nau, from administrator to Immaculate Heart, Crosslake, and St. Emily, Emily, to retirement. 

Effective July 13, the Rev. Michael Patullo, from pastor of Our Lady of the Lakes Parish, Pequot Lakes, to pastor of St. James, Aitkin; Holy Family, McGregor; and Our Lady of Fatima, McGrath. 

Effective July 13, the Rev. Michael Garry, from pastor of St. Francis, Brainerd; All Saints, Baxter; and St. Thomas of the Pines, Brainerd, to pastor of St. Francis, Brainerd; All Saints, Baxter; and St. Thomas of the Pines, Brainerd, and administrator of Our Lady of the Lakes, Pequot Lakes. 

Effective July 13, the Rev. Matthew Miller, from parochial vicar of St. Francis, Brainerd; All Saints, Baxter; and St. Thomas of the Pines, Brainerd, to parochial vicar of St. Francis, Brainerd; All Saints, Baxter; and St. Thomas of the Pines, Brainerd, and priest sacramental minister of Our Lady of the Lakes, Pequot Lakes. 

Effective July 1, the Rev. Trevor Peterson from in residence at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, Duluth, to parochial vicar of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Mary Star of the Sea, Duluth. 

Effective July 13, Deacon Scott Padrnos, from seminary studies at St. Paul Seminary, St. Paul, to parochial vicar of St. Francis, Brainerd; All Saints, Baxter; and St. Thomas of the Pines, Brainerd. 

Effective July 13, Deacon Daniel Hammer from seminary studies at North American College, Rome, to graduate studies in canon law at the Gregorian University, Rome. He will assist at Holy Spirit in Virginia from July 5 to September 18 prior to his studies. 

The Rev. Seth Gogolin is appointed vicar general and moderator of mission integration effective Jan. 1, 2023. Father Gogolin will continue to serve as pastor of St. John Church, Duluth, and as pastor of St. Benedict Church, Duluth. 

The Rev. James Bissonette is appointed director of canonical services effective Jan. 1, 2023. Until that date, Father Bissonette will serve as vicar general. He will continue to serve as pastor of St. Raphael Church, Duluth, and as pastor of St. Rose Church, Proctor. 

The Rev. Anthony Wroblewski is appointed director of ministry to priests effective July 1. Father Wroblewski will continue to serve as rector of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary and as pastor of St. Mary Star of the Sea Church, Duluth. 

Two priorities that will support the ‘preferential option for the poor’

By the Minnesota Catholic Conference 
Inside the Capitol 

Politics — the great conversation about how we order our life together — should focus first on meeting the needs of the most vulnerable among us (cf. Matthew 25). Thousands of well-meaning proposals have been introduced by legislators. Limitations on time and resources mean priorities must be set. As House and Senate committees held hearings to decide those priorities, Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC) advocated for two important proposals that would show a “preferential option for the poor and vulnerable.” 

Expanding MinnesotaCare for children of undocumented immigrants 

Like any basic element of life, health care sustains us, is necessary for development, and should be accessible to everyone. Unfortunately, undocumented immigrants in Minnesota are unable to obtain any health insurance, including MinnesotaCare, a state-subsidized health plan designed for low-income people above the poverty line. MCC offered testimony in support of legislation (H.F 4307/S.F. 4013) that would make eligibility for MinnesotaCare available to undocumented, noncitizen children under the age of 19. 

Among other reasons, expanding MinnesotaCare to this population makes practical sense as a matter of prudent stewardship of resources. Currently, the undocumented population is only able to receive care in emergency rooms, where it is legally required — the most expensive settings of our health care system. This eligibility expansion would allow undocumented children to receive care in a less costly primary care setting, as well as access preventative health care. 

Supporting the Catholic tradition of ministry to the homeless 

Minnesota’s Emergency Services Grant Program helps shelter providers to better respond to the homelessness crisis. The grants assist those serving the homeless, such as Catholic Charities, as they guide their clients to the services they need to overcome chronic homelessness, such as employment counseling, medical care, substance abuse and psychological help, and transitional housing. 

State funding of the program was minimal in the past, so that even with the significant investments made last year, the need is still far greater than the available resources. Therefore, MCC is advocating for a supplemental appropriation for the program (H.F. 3294/S.F. 3143). In many instances, those who suffer from chronic homelessness find themselves in that situation because of a nexus with substance abuse, mental health, and a lack of connection with friends or family — not to mention unstable employment. Shelters, nonprofits, and charitable organizations cannot meet the financial need only through their philanthropic resources. They must be assisted by state dollars to continue their efforts to find creative ways to combat chronic homelessness. Ongoing homelessness in a state with such fiscal abundance remains a scandal. 

Action Alert 

Lawmakers are attempting to make Minnesota the land of anytime, anywhere gambling by allowing sports betting to be available through mobile apps. We must not unleash a new source of addiction and deprivation just so a privileged few can have a bit more fun watching a ballgame. Call your state legislators and ask them to oppose H.F. 778/S.F. 574, the sports betting bill. You can also visit our Action Center to find ways to get engaged on this important issue: https://www.mncatholic.org/actioncenter

Bishop Brom dies at age 83

Today, Duluth Bishop Daniel Felton made the following announcement:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The following statement was released yesterday by San Diego Catholic Bishop Robert McElroy announcing the death of Bishop-Emeritus Robert Brom. He was 83 years old.

It is with great sadness that I announce the death of Bishop Robert Brom at his home this morning. Bishop Brom was a pastor, teacher and servant leader of the Catholic community in San Diego and Imperial Counties for 23 years. He oversaw the building of many beautiful churches in our Diocese, as well as the establishment of two magnificent high school campuses. He was a natural teacher who constantly labored to bring the ecclesiology of the second Vatican council into the heart of the Diocese of San Diego. This dedication to the Council also framed his life-long service in forming men for the priesthood.

Bishop Brom’s deep love for our parishes and pastoral vision were complemented by a keen administrative capability in guiding San Diego through years of joy and hardship. In his retirement years Bishop Brom intensified the prison ministry that he began as Bishop and his service to the Missionaries of Charity.

Bishop Robert Brom was born in Arcadia, Wis., on Sept.18, 1938. He was ordained a priest of the Winona, Minn., diocese on Dec. 18, 1963. In 1983 Saint John Paul appointed him to be the bishop of Duluth, and then to be Coadjutor Bishop of San Diego on April 22, 1989. Bishop Brom became Bishop of San Diego on July 10, 1990 and retired on Sept. 18, 2013.

The funeral for Bishop Brom will be held Tuesday, May 17, at 11 a.m., at Saint Thérèse of Carmel Church in Del Mar Heights. Burial will be at Holy Cross Cemetery.

As a diocese, we are grateful for the years that Bishop Brom served as our bishop. I have asked Fr. Jim Bissonette and Fr. Rich Kunst to represent our diocese at his funeral in San Diego.

Additionally, I will preside at a Cathedral Memorial Mass for Bishop Brom at 12:00 noon, on Monday, May 23, 2022. This is also the anniversary date of his consecration and installation as the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Duluth in 1983.

Please join me for this Memorial Mass as we lift up our prayers for Bishop Brom and the repose of his soul. May he rest in peace, amen.

May God's blessings be upon you and those you serve.

+ Bishop Daniel

Father Richard Kunst: Jesus appeared only to his disciples — for good reasons

Editor’s note: This column first appeared in the May 2017 issue of The Northern Cross. 

It is not possible to improve upon Christ’s resurrection and his appearances on Easter Sunday and the 40 days that followed, but that does not mean that I wouldn’t have done it differently. What do I mean by that? Well, there are two things I would have wanted to do differently had I been the resurrected Christ. (I know this sounds heretical, but bear with me.) 

Father Richard Kunst
Apologetics

Had I been Jesus after the resurrection, one of the first things I would have done is to go and knock on Pontius Pilate’s door: “Hey, Pontius, remember me? I am that guy you had crucified last Friday. Look at my hands and feet. What do you think of that?” Then I would have gone to the next gathering of the Jewish Sanhedrin as an uninvited guest to scare the bejeebers out of them, since they were the ones who spearheaded the crucifixion. 

Now let’s dissect this a little. How do you suppose Pontius Pilate would have responded, and how do you suppose the Sanhedrin would have responded? What I offer is pure hypothetical speculation, but it is food for thought. 

My guess is that the Sanhedrin would have tried to put Jesus to death again. There are clear indications in the Gospels that the Sanhedrin accepted the fact that Jesus was doing some amazing things. For example, they admitted that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but they still killed Jesus and even wanted to kill Lazarus too, since many people were believing in Jesus because of him! 

So the majority of the Sanhedrin were completely closed-minded when it came to Jesus. In fact, Jesus even hints at that at the end of his parable of the rich man and Lazarus, when he says, from the mouth of Abraham, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if one should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). That being said, I do not think there would have been any benefit to Jesus showing up at the meeting of the Jewish leadership. 

How about Pilate? How would he have responded had Jesus shown up at his door after his crucifixion and resurrection? Again this is pure, hypothetical speculation. I think Pontius Pilate would have been awestruck at the appearance of Jesus and his crucifixion wounds and glorified body, but I do not think his response would have been very good. 

Remember, Pilate was a pagan. He believed in a whole host of unbelievable mythical characters as gods. I suspect that Pilate would have tried to get the emperor and the Roman Empire to accept Jesus as one of the many gods of their pantheon, and were he successful, what do you suppose would have happened? Christianity would have died out when the Roman Empire ended. Christianity would have become one of those strange Roman mythologies we studied in school, just like Venus and Minerva. 

God had a better plan. 

Between the resurrection and the ascension, Jesus appeared only to those who were his disciples in life. While on one hand we may question why that was the case, and we may think that it would have been more effective if Jesus appeared to some of his enemies, the fact is Jesus knew what he was doing. 

Suppose the Christian message would have had the backing of the Roman Empire from the very beginning. Then the spread and growth of Christianity would have been attributed to human power. The fact that Christianity spread at a miraculous rate despite the furor of the political power of the day is just that: a miracle. The hand of God, not the hand of man, caused its growth. The very disciples who cowered in fear of the Jewish authorities, the very disciples who ran away and showed themselves to be hopelessly dumb during the life of Jesus, were the ones who were emboldened after his death to spread the Good News. 

God’s ways are not our ways, and although I think it might have been pretty cool to watch Jesus appear to Pontius Pilate and the Sanhedrin, it was not of God. By appearing only to those who were his disciples before he ascended to heaven, Jesus shows clearly that God’s plan is perfect. 

Father Richard Kunst is pastor of St. James and St. Elizabeth in Duluth. Reach him at [email protected].

Father Nicholas Nelson: The ‘already, but not yet’

During the Easter season, we are confronted with this fact: namely, “Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has won the definitive victory, but we don’t experience that victory in all of its glory.” We can call this shared experience “the already, but not yet.” 

Father Nick Nelson
Handing on the Faith

This is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “Though already present in his Church, Christ’s reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled ‘with power and great glory’ by the King’s return to earth. This reign is still under attack by the evil powers, even though they have been defeated definitively by Christ’s Passover. Until everything is subject to him, ‘until there be realized new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells, the pilgrim Church, in her sacraments and institutions, which belong to this present age, carries the mark of this world which will pass, and she herself takes her place among the creatures which groan and travail yet and await the revelation of the sons of God’” (671). 

This reality is like a team winning the game before the game is even over. We know who has won and does win in the end. It is God, it is Jesus Christ who wins. 

So what does that mean for us? 

First, we need to run up the score. Saints don’t run out the clock. They run up the score. In most sports, there are two strategies when the outcome of the game is no longer in question and your team is going to win. You can run out the clock, such as in football. You put in your back-up players and you keep handing the ball off to your running back and have the quarterback take a knee when there are just a few minutes left. Or you can run up the score. So when you are winning by a large margin, you keep your best players in and you continue to press and try to score touchdowns. The saints have always ran up the score. 

Consider the disciples of Jesus after they saw him risen from the dead. They could have just celebrated the fact that Jesus is alive! God has won! They could have said, “Yes, time continues, but we know that at the end of time the victory and the Kingdom of God would be fully realized, and therefore we can just sit around and take it easy until he returns.” 

But that isn’t what they did. They waited for the promised Holy Spirit to come upon them, and then they went to the ends of the world proclaiming the good news that Jesus is alive, that God has vindicated his Son. In a word, they ran up the score. The victory was won and is guaranteed, but they wanted it to be as definitive as possible. They wanted everyone to be on the winning side and celebrate the victory for all eternity. They called people to repentance and into his church so that they could live the good life God was calling them to. 

And this is what all the saints have done since that time forward. It’s the mystery of God’s providence and our free will cooperating with grace. It’s the fact that we have a part to play in God’s Kingdom. We have a role to play in the outcome of the story. It’s what motivated the martyr St. Isaac Jogues to leave the comfort of France and live among the native peoples of North America. It’s what moved St. Therese of Lisieux, although living in a cloistered Carmel, and while perfecting her “little way,” to say, “I’d give a thousand lives to save a single soul!” 

Second, we must learn to love the Mass. All the saints loved and appreciated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Why? Because the Mass is where the “already, but not yet” is most real. There is only one Jesus, and he becomes present on our altars under the appearance of bread and wine, and because Jesus is in heaven, therefore, heaven comes to our altar. 

Or better yet, we are brought into heaven. Speaking of the Mass, the letter to the Hebrews says, “You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22-24). 

In the first Eucharistic Prayer, we pray, “In humble prayer we ask you, almighty God: command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy angel to your altar on high in the sight of your divine majesty.” There are some beautiful paintings of this reality. Maybe you have seen them. In the middle is a priest with people offering the Mass, then above him the ceiling is open and you see the Blessed Trinity, the angels, and all the saints. And that’s the reality of the Mass. We only need the eyes of faith to see it! 

Live the already but not yet. And don’t run out the clock! Rather, run up the score! 

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]. 

Bishop Felton celebrates first Chrism Mass as Duluth bishop

By Deacon Kyle Eller 
The Northern Cross 

Bishop Daniel Felton kicked off his first Holy Week as bishop of the Diocese of Duluth with the annual Chrism Mass Monday, April 11, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, joined by most of the priests of the diocese, many of its deacons, representatives from parishes across the diocese, and many people who were preparing for initiation in the Catholic faith at the Easter Vigil a few evenings later, along with women religious and many of the lay faithful.

Bishop Daniel Felton blows on the Chrism Oil, part of the ritual of consecrating it, at the annual Chrism Mass April 11 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary. (Photo by Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)

Each year at the Chrism Mass, the oils used in the sacraments throughout the year are blessed and distributed to parish representatives, and the priests of the diocese renew their ordination promises. 

Bishop Felton, in his homily, described the Jewish roots of using oil, noting that for Jewish people it was at the center of their life and faith, being used to make bread, light lamps, treat wounds, rub into their skin, bury the dead, anoint kings, prepare altars, and even prepare for battle. 

“So we should not be surprised that when Jesus instituted the sacraments, that he would choose to use oil as one of the sacramental signs that always meant [that] in that oil was the very presence of God himself and in that oil is also the graces of God himself, and that as we celebrate this Chrism Mass, we should not be surprised that we are going to bless the oils.” 

He went on to describe the three oils being blessed — the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of the Sick, and sacred Chrism — and how they are used in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, anointing of the sick, and holy orders. He said that “each one of these oils is absolutely at the heart and the core of who we are in the Catholic Christian people as we celebrate our sacraments.”

Bishop Daniel Felton blessed the congregation with the book of the Gospels at the annual Chrism Mass April 11, his first as bishop of Duluth. (Photo by Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)

As for the renewal of ordination promises for the priests, the bishop said he has learned how grateful the faithful are for the priests. 

“… I know for each one of us that are gathered here today, I know how much you appreciate our priests,” he said. “We’ve had over 60 listening sessions in our Diocese of Duluth, and in every one of those sessions, people stood up to say: ‘I care about our priests.’ ‘I’m so thankful for our priests.’ ‘I worry about our priests.’”

Turning to the priests of the diocese, who were seated behind him, he continued: 

“We are gathered here tonight, in a very special way, as the People of God. And as we are here tonight as the People of God, we are here to tell you we are so thankful for your priesthood. We are so thankful that the day you were ordained, the bishop anointed your hands. And stop to think about it, my brothers, how many times through your hands you have shared the oils and the sacraments that were instituted and given to us by Jesus Christ himself, as you sought to conform your life to Jesus and to be the presence of God in that moment, bestowing upon that person graces. It is no wonder we are here tonight to say ‘thank you.’ it is no wonder that we are here tonight to say that we love you and that we care for you, and we stand one with you.

Fathers Justin Fish, left, and Joseph Sirba distribute boxes containing sacramental oils to representives of parish who came to the Chrism Mass April 11. (Photo by Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)

“I stand before you as your bishop tonight. A year ago I was at St. Edward’s in Mackville, Wisconsin, getting ready for the great Holy Week. Who could’ve thunk that a year from then I would be here with you,” he continued. “I don’t want to be anywhere else. I’m so thankful to be here with you as your bishop. You know how much I love you, how much I care for you. It’s genuine. I think it’s just part of the sacrament of Holy Orders to be a bishop, but it’s more than that. You really have touched my heart deeply, and I pray that I can walk with you and be one with you in your hearts as well.”

After the celebration of the Eucharist, the oils were distributed in small bottles for each of the parishes, where they will be used in the sacraments throughout the year.

Last year, Bishop James Powers of the Diocese of Superior, Wisconsin, came to the diocese to offer it for the second year in a row, as the diocese awaited a new bishop. Less than two weeks later, Bishop Felton’s appointment as the next bishop of Duluth was announced. 

Deacon Kyle Eller: Take St. Joseph as our guide in the Great Resignation

Last summer, we went on a long-overdue family vacation out to the Black Hills in South Dakota, and one of the most noticeable changes in the world since the COVID-19 pandemic hit was in businesses, especially in the number of people working across both states we traveled. 

Deacon Kyle Eller
Mere Catholicism

There were the “help wanted” signs everywhere, of course. Some were simple, but some promised specific wages, significantly higher than before the pandemic, and even signing bonuses. Others had signs asking for patience on the part of customers because, the business being short staffed, service would be slower. One of those even had a political argument on whom to blame. 

The effects were obvious enough. You’d go into a restaurant and it was clear one or two people were covering the entire room. 

All this has a name — the Great Resignation. And it has only continued. According to CNN, a record 4.5 million American workers quit their jobs in March. 

I confess I’ve had a hard time wrapping my head around all of it, especially how people can afford it in these precarious times. On the other hand, it’s easy enough to understand the reasons for it. Among the causes usually cited are job dissatisfaction and burnout, concerns over wages, ongoing fears over COVID-19, and a desire for remote work options. Having a lot of employers competing for workers may have also given people a feeling of having more choices and therefore the ability to be selective. 

Two years of pandemic strains and stresses have affected everyone in some way. Many lost jobs involuntarily. (Many lost their businesses too.) Some had to work in stressful situations even while most people were locked down — often the very people who work low-wage jobs with a lot of contact with a frustrated public. On the other hand, many who spent a year or more working from home have discovered that they liked the arrangement and stayed productive, and they’d like to keep doing it. 

I suspect the pandemic and all that came with it has shifted people’s priorities, too, and often in a good way. Many spent more time with their families, cooked more meals at home, and rediscovered some of those simple joys that our normal “rat race” obscured. It wouldn’t surprise me if many people, while wanting to work, no longer have that rat race mentality that treats work as the be all, end all. 

I don’t have any idea how this is all going to shake out, but I do have a suggestion on how to think it through: take inspiration from St. Joseph the Worker, whose feast day was May 1, and from Catholic social doctrine’s treatment of work. 

Scripture makes clear that St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, was a carpenter, and although little detail is recorded in Scripture about it, the church has long upheld him as a model for workers. The reason is simple: Here is a just, holy, prayerful man who quietly went about his work supporting his family, passing on the trade to his son. 

In all this he is a model of the biblical ideal of work, which begins in the Garden of Eden, before the fall, when Adam is given the task of tending that garden. In Catholic social doctrine, we see work as part of the essential original vocation of the human person and, in a sense, as a cooperation with God the creator, developing the gifts given in creation in a harmonious way to support oneself and one’s family and one’s community, not only through the wage one earns but through the actual work one does. And while the fall of the human race has made that work more toilsome, it remains something good and necessary for us. 

At the same time, Scripture makes clear that workers have inherent dignity and must be treated that way. For instance, withholding a just wage from a worker is one of the Bible’s sins that “cry out to heaven” (James 5:4). Catholic social doctrine strongly upholds this dignity, which should be reflected not just in wages but in working conditions and in the work itself and more. It teaches that the contribution of labor to the creation of wealth ought to be clearly recognized. 

And it places work in the context of an integrated life, too. Work should not be incompatible with our duties before God, nor should it be something that works against our family life and leisure. Rather, all of these should be a balanced, harmonious whole. Our economic system ought to reflect that. 

If we, as a society, are “rethinking work,” I would argue this is the best starting place. Work is a good: good for us as individuals in the various ways we live it out (not all work is paid), good for our families and communities, good for the world. It ought to be done in harmony with creation and with the common good and with the other human goods of life, and should contribute something of value to the community. It ought to be justly rewarded. And workers are right to seek to be treated with the dignity that is justly theirs. 

Deacon Kyle Eller is editor of The Northern Cross. Reach him at [email protected].

Betsy Kneepkens: Dobbs case is just the start when it comes to pro-life work

Probably one of the more impactful pieces of modern-day abortion legislation is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The expectation is that the high court will render a decision on Dobbs v. Jackson in June of this year. This case questions the constitutionality of a 15-week and beyond abortion ban signed into law in Mississippi in 2018. Many pro-abortion advocates believe the court’s decision will weaken or overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 court ruling that struck down states’ restrictions on abortion. The Roe v. Wade decision made abortion laws a federal and not a state issue. 

Betsy Kneepkens
Betsy Kneepkens
Faith and Family

For pro-life advocates, a favorable result of Dobbs v. Jackson would be to allow states to govern abortion restrictions. Unfortunately, this change will not end abortion in this country. Still, it will give each state the right to regulate abortion according to what the state populace considers socially and morally acceptable. 

As Catholics, this matter is of premier importance because the outcome allows varying states to make laws that have the potential to respect and dignify the most precious gift God created, the human person. This high court decision can allow states to extend dignity to individuals no matter the person’s size, circumstance, or condition. This ruling has the potential to better achieve what the Declaration of Independence sought from the beginning: “that all men (persons) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” The Dobbs v. Jackson ruling can, in many ways, not all ways, be a game-changer that has the possibility to correct an inconceivable wrong, a brutal period in our country’s history when an unborn life’s survival is dependent on the cooperation of its mother. 

Suppose the decision is favorable and reflects the hope of pro-life individuals. In that case, it will be essential to gear up for the not-too-surprising media barrage poisoning the electorate to believe the court’s decision is evil. Media around the country have already started sending messages. If and when Roe v. Wade is overturned, we can expect a journalistic narrative that suggests an impending societal collapse. 

For instance, Newsweek was already at it with the headline “Texas Abortion Law Prompts Taliban Comparisons” or USA Today proclaiming “Oklahoma’s Abortion Law would be the Most ‘Cruel’ yet for Women.” An MSNBC contributor said, “Texas’s new pro-life law makes women into escaped slaves.” Recent journalism history would suggest the current media warfare is a mild reaction compared to what we can expect after the Dobbs v. Jackson decision. The individual testimonies of the absolute worst-case scenario will likely come next. I surmise those citizens who believe life has a right to exist, thrive, and survive from conception to natural death will be portrayed as selfish, misogynist, and uncompassionate. 

As Catholics, the response to Dobbs v. Jackson should be the same whether this decision is favorable or not. A more significant problem and equally serious is that we live in a society where a woman believes the best course of action in a difficult situation is to end the life in her womb. The notion that this is even a solution is beyond disheartening. We can rejoice if the decision is favorable and be highly disappointed if the ruling is unfavorable. However, we have lots of work to do as a faith community. Catholics must create a culture where no mother, father, friend, or relative would even conceive of having a life in a mother’s womb ended intentionally, even if we are called horrible adjectives. 

A Supreme Court decision will not solve the end of abortion. I believe society needs to learn to recognize personhood as the apex of creation and treat it as such. Women must begin claiming and proclaiming the logical reality that our Creator specifically chose females to be the vessel under which his generative master plan is fulfilled. When we acknowledge that the female species was formed bodily and, in their nature, to value his master plan, we can easily appreciate God’s hope that we would accept our co-creative role. God’s all-powerful wisdom entrusted women to be the greater caretaker and, therefore, collectively, we ought to be the most ardent preservers of his children in the womb. 

Sadly, using our free will, females have largely failed God’s initiative. If we genuinely comprehended the gift God entrusted to us, all women would be saying, “not on my watch” will I allow abortion to exist. As Catholics, we need to work tirelessly to create a culture where the concept of abortion becomes the most despicable deed. Mothers’ needs should not be dependent on our current system of volunteer organizations like crisis pregnancy centers and maternity homes. 

Instead, all government, commercial, and faith institutions must be called out to support life. Marriage must again be the institution by which children are conceived and reared. And until we have the family restored, fathers need to be connected to their offspring from the time of conception and accountable for their child’s protection, stability, and needs until their children reach adulthood. Adoption must become every parent’s reasonable and loving act in an unsolvable situation and call out that act of love as heroic. 

The Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson may be the last legal chance this century to move the abortion ruling back to the states. If that happens, we should all be glad that those decisions are now going to be made closer to home. We need to remember we are nowhere near done with the abortion issue. 

As a society seeking the rightful dignity of the human person, we must work so that eventually, the law to preserve the rights of the unborn is not necessary because respecting life in the womb would be expected. This principle is a lofty goal for us Catholics but a responsibility we owe to our Creator. We might have a boost from the Supreme Court next month, but we still have our work cut out for ourselves. Pray for the favorable outcome of Dobbs v. Jackson. 

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

Editorial: If Roe goes, we need to engage and expand the abortion debate

As this issue of The Northern Cross goes to press, news is breaking of a leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court decision indicating that the court is poised to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. While this is not a certainty, it is another hopeful sign that the court may reverse a historic injustice, something that Catholics and others of good will — including people of other faiths and no faith at all — have been working to overcome for nearly 50 years. 

We should have a clear head about what such a decision would mean, since most Americans (including Americans in opinion polls about Roe) don’t. Overturning Roe would (unfortunately) not result in a nationwide ban on abortion, it would simply free states to regulate and pass their own laws on abortion. Some states are already taking steps to limit abortion, while others are going in the opposite direction, actually expanding abortion even beyond what Roe demanded, which was already one of the most permissive abortion licenses in the world. (Minnesota’s state Supreme Court has had in place a decision even more extreme than Roe since 1995.) 

The likely outcome is different states taking very different approaches and having real, consequential debates in the democratic process over what those approaches should be, in a way we haven’t seen in decades. Pro-life Americans should welcome those debates and join them eagerly. The pro-life position simply recognizes what basic biology settled long ago — and what ubiquitous ultrasounds make personal — that human life begins at conception, combined with the principle that no innocent human being should be killed. This is not “imposing our religion” on anyone, it’s simple human decency based on sound science. We have nothing to fear from that debate. 

At the same time, as Catholics we should be eager to expand the debate. Many millions of our fellow Americans and fellow Minnesotans vehemently disagree with us, and their central concern — women who become pregnant and for a variety of reasons feel they can’t keep the child conceived in their womb — is a legitimate one, and one we share. Preventing the injustice of abortion does not, by itself, alleviate that concern. 

We must have meaningful answers for it, and those answers, in turn, can form the basis for common ground even with those who disagree with us about abortion and will lend credibility to our efforts to promote just laws protecting life. It’s a common misconception that the pro-life movement “only cares about babies before they’re born,” but that’s false. The pro-life community already works on the front lines of helping pregnant mothers facing economic and social hardships through things like crisis pregnancy outreach and maternity homes. Here in Minnesota, it’s the pro-life community that has historically advocated for and defended governmental efforts like the Positive Alternatives program that provides state funding to initiatives that help mothers to choose life. As Catholics, we bring our “preferential option for the poor” — seeking to protect the “least of these” — in public policy at all levels. And of course we uphold the corporal works of mercy of supporting those in need through charitable giving. 

All of these efforts — and more — need to be expanded and to occupy an important place in these debates. We are against killing because we are for life and for human dignity at all stages. Overcoming our culture of death necessarily means passing just laws, but it also means building, as St. John Paul II called it, a civilization of love, one where the family, as the cradle of life, is supported and strengthened and where those in need are met with compassion and care. 

Diaconal, priesthood ordinations coming in May, June

By The Northern Cross 

Four men are to be ordained permanent deacons May 6, and two men are to be ordained priests June 24, with both ordinations taking place at 5 p.m. at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Duluth.

Four men are to be ordained deacons May 6. They are, from left, Ronald Guertin, Dan O’Reilly, John Kroll, and William Hafdahl. (Photo by Peter Lande)

The men being ordained deacons are Ronald Guertin, William Hafdahl, John Kroll, and Daniel O’Reilly. 

Guertin is from St. Augustine Church in Cohasset. He and his wife Rachael have three children, Maria, Robin, and Joseph. Hafdahl comes from Holy Spirit Church in Virginia. He and his wife Judy have seven children, Claire, Anna, Margaret, Catherine, Emma, Christine, and Joseph. Kroll is from St. Andrew Church in Brainerd and married to Mary. They have two sons, Kyle and Neil. O’Reilly also comes from St. Andrew’s. He and his wife Theresa have eight children, Dominic, Timothy, Matthew, Luke, Lillianna, Emily, Benjamin, and Joseph. 

The men being ordained to the priesthood are Deacon Daniel Hammer, 28, the son of Dr. William and Teresa Hammer, from St. Andrew’s in Brainerd, and Deacon Scott Padrnos, 32, the son of Daniel and Susan Padrnos, from St. Christopher’s Church in Nisswa. Deacon Padrnos completed his seminary training at St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, and Deacon Hammer completed his at the North American College in Rome.

Deacon Scott Padrnos Deacon Daniel Hammer

Each of the two new priests will also be offering a Mass of Thanksgiving in his home parish following ordination. Father Hammer’s will be at St. Andrew’s Saturday, June 25, at 11 a.m., and Father Padrnos will have his at St. Christopher’s Sunday, June 26, at 2 p.m. 

Assignments for the new priests have already be announced. Father Padrnos will begin his duties as parochial vicar of St. Francis in Brainerd, All Saints in Baxter, and St. Thomas of the Pines in Brainerd July 13. Father Hammer will assist at Holy Spirit in Virginia prior to beginning graduate studies in canon law at the Gregorian University in Rome. 

Correction: In the print version of this story, an incorrect photo was used for Deacon Hammer. The Northern Cross regrets the error.