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Minnesota’s bishops meet with lawmakers to advocate for policies that put families first 

Inside the Capitol 

It is no question that the family plays an irreplaceable role as the first economic unit, the first classroom, and the first community that each of us experiences. And parents perform the irreplaceable work of nurturing the next generation of thinkers, artisans, and caregivers. So, as the Minnesota legislature is now crafting the next biennial state budget and deciding what to do with a $17 billion surplus, Minnesota’s bishops are urging our lawmakers to place families first in their considerations. 

Bishops advocate at the Capitol 

On Thursday, March 23, the bishops in Minnesota came together to advocate at the state capitol – a yearly tradition for the Minnesota bishops. While Minnesota Catholic Conference staff are typically deployed to be their voice on legislative issues, the bishops make it a priority to advocate in person on key issues and to get to know legislators. 

This year, the bishops all met with Governor Tim Walz and legislative leadership, including Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, president of the Senate; Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson; Rep. Liz Olson, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee; and House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, joined by Rep. Jim Nash, House Minority Whip. 

The bishops also met with Catholic legislators from their individual dioceses, which was a new feature of the day this year. In the spirit of faithful citizenship, it was a rewarding experience for the bishops to get to know or strengthen their relationships with many of the Catholics serving our state at the Capitol. As Pope Francis has said, “politics is the highest form of charity,” so to have Catholic leaders step up in this way is a blessing. 

In total, the bishops had nearly 40 meetings and conversations with legislators throughout the day. They brought to each of these meetings a positive vision of the family. 

Focus on Families 

Our bishops highlighted the need to support Minnesota families who are struggling to try and keep up with the costs of inflation, and to combat the social difficulties families are encountering through addiction, gender ideology, and social media. To that end, our bishops boldly advocated for a robust, ongoing Child Tax Credit. This is a top priority for the Minnesota Catholic Conference. This session, there is bipartisan support for the idea of a Child Tax Credit amongst legislators and the governor. The bishops are asking for the Child Tax Credit proposal to reach more families who are facing financial stressors in today’s economy. That means, amongst other factors, that the income threshold should reach into the middle class and that there should be no cap on the number of children covered in a family. 

In their process of raising children, parents today are bombarded with the often-negative impact that social media is creating. One step towards combating this impact, as the bishops advocated throughout the day, would be to prohibit the use of social media algorithms on children under 18 (H.F. 1503 / S.F. 2101). The bishops shared firsthand stories from their pastoral experiences of helping families navigate the psychological strain that social media is having on the youth in their dioceses. And they also pointed out, that it is often through social media that seeds of gender theory are planted, fertilized, and start to grow. 

By embracing gender ideology, today’s culture aims to blur the line between man and woman by ignoring the union between body and soul, and between our Creator and his creation. This ideology leads to viewing humans as plastic, something that can be molded and reimagined at ease. Inundating youth with such gender ideology implants in them a confusion, on which some act and mutilate their bodies, causing irreversible damage. The bishops asked Gov. Walz and legislative leaders to re-think their push to make Minnesota a sanctuary state for “gender-affirming care” and to slow down the legislation that is being fast-tracked through the Legislature. 

The bishops also expressed their opposition to and concerns over the push for legalizing recreational marijuana and sports gambling because of the clear negative impacts these vices will have on those who are vulnerable to addiction, children, and families. 

During their meetings, the bishops also gave their support to the Earned Sick and Safe Time proposal which would provide workers the ability to earn one hour of time off for every 30 hours worked. This is vital to family life, because illness in one’s life or family is inevitable. Caring for newborns, children, the sick, and the elderly (and being cared for ourselves) is an integral part of family life that must be respected and promoted. Unfortunately, many working people are forced to make impossible financial choices between caring for themselves or a loved one and missing a paycheck or even getting fired. This program is one more way we can put families first in Minnesota. 

Also, in line with keeping families together, lawmakers provided positive feedback to the bishops for their strong support over the years for providing an immigrant driver’s license. With access to a driver’s license not only can our immigrant brothers and sisters now access vehicle insurance, but it also most importantly helps ensure families will not be separated through deportation due to driving without a license. 

Modeling faithful citizenship 

During all of their meetings, the bishops modeled faithful citizenship. Even in areas of disagreement, the bishops stood for the truth that the church teaches while recognizing that these are difficult issues on which there are an array of considerations. They showcased the principled, not partisan advocacy that the church can provide, which allows for collaborative work on both sides of the aisle. 

You can also live out the call to faithful citizenship by taking action on these important issues that will impact families across Minnesota. Visit the to easily send a message, video, or phone call to your legislators urging their support for policies that put families first. 

For more ways to advocate for policies that put families first, check out the Families First Project at where you can find draft legislation to propose to your legislators and lots of information and resources for a variety of policy proposals. 

Deacon Kyle Eller: Jesus — and his church — are for sinners

I saw an Internet post the other day that moved my heart. A woman who was unmarried and eight months pregnant said she felt called to be baptized and received into the Catholic faith. She had reached out to Catholic strangers on the Internet because she was afraid, not knowing “how it would look.” 

Deacon Kyle Eller
Mere Catholicism

So many things welled up in me when I read this. 

I imagine nearly every reader of this newspaper will get the basic question right, about how Jesus looks at this woman, and therefore how every disciple of his ought to do so. If we open up our Bibles and start looking through the Gospels, it wouldn’t be a passage or two that would tell us, it’s on almost every page. 

This is Jesus, who said the angels in heaven rejoice at every sinner who repents. This is Jesus, who treated the woman caught in adultery and the Samaritan woman at the well so tenderly. This is the Good Shepherd, who leaves the 99 sheep to bring the lost one home on his shoulders. This is Jesus, who was not ashamed to eat with tax collectors and sinners but sought them out, and who, when challenged by the self-righteous, said, “I have not come to call the just; I have come to call sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). 

This is literally the point of our faith; it’s why Jesus came. Beautiful churches, stained glass and statues, liturgies, the sacraments, the clergy and religious, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s — all of it exists for this mission in Jesus Christ of reconciling us sinners to God, then walking in friendship with him, loving and worshiping him until we come to share the fullness of life and joy with him in heaven. 

I wished so much this person would set aside her fear and begin to grasp the fullness of that. God isn’t saying to her — or to me or to you, whether our sins are visible to the rest of the world or not — that he halfheartedly tolerates us and “against his better judgment” lets us back in his good graces with a skeptical eye. No. He seeks us. He calls us. He embraces us. He completely washes away our sins and our shame. It’s a deep, personal, profound love and mercy that goes all the way to the cross. 

Again, I think if this woman were at Easter Vigil in one of our parishes, we’d get it basically right. We’d embrace her with love and joy and not judgment. 

But I’m not sure we fully grasp how deep this goes even for ourselves. And I’m not sure we fully get it when we walk out of the church building into mission territory. 

After all, if this is what our faith is, why was this woman so afraid? Why did she think she might be judged or cause offense? How could she not know we’d be thrilled? 

Years ago, praying at 40 Days for Life with a friend, I encountered an angry young woman and her boyfriend. She had had an abortion, and she thought we were there to condemn or judge her. We had just been praying for women who had had abortions, for their healing and peace, and when it became clear we had no interest at all in condemning or judging her but instead genuinely wanted good for her, the whole dynamic changed. 

There’s a whole world of people out there like this, people who believe Christianity is about shaming and excluding, about making people feel never quite good enough. No wonder the world is also full of people who think their sins are so bad they can never be forgiven, their wounds are so deep they can never be healed, their lives so broken they can never be made whole, their circumstances so miserable they can never have joy. 

When I think of why this might be, I think there are a number of reasons. Some of them are spiritual. As we come closer to the light of the all-holy God, the ways we are not holy become clearer to us. That’s a good thing, because it enables us to receive mercy and to grow in authentic love. But especially during those first steps, as we’re just coming to experience God’s love and mercy, the evil one, who wants to keep us from God, tries to thwart us with the lie that our sins are too great. 

There is also, of course, the spirit of our age, which constantly tells everyone that judgment and moralizing are what Christianity is all about. Anyone who knows even the basics of Christianity would know that isn’t true, but in such a deeply post-Christian society, many people don’t. 

But how much of it is our fault, as Christians? We have an obligation to bear witness to the truth, including to difficult moral truths the world doesn’t want to hear. We are often drawn into arguments about these things, both from the unbelieving world and from misguided souls within the church who think laxity or moral relativism are the way to show mercy. In fact, telling people that their sins are not sins denies them God’s mercy just as surely as condemnation and harsh judgment do, and in a more deceptive way. 

But if we allow ourselves to be drawn into shouting those moral truths so loudly that it’s all people hear, what then? It’s a good examination of conscience, a good question to take to prayer. If a person in my life is struggling and looking for healing and hope, seeking God in the twists and turns of the human heart and the trials of this life, what does my life as a disciple of Jesus Christ say to them? Does it tell them they are loved, and that God is for them, and that there is healing and hope for them, beyond anything they can imagine? Or does it say something else? 

I think one of the greatest lasting gifts that will come from the papacy of Pope Francis is his emphasis on the church as a field hospital and his teaching on accompanying people, meeting them and loving them where they’re at and walking with them in spiritual friendship as they grow in faith, even if it’s a long, gradual process. 

If we are going to successfully evangelize, if we’re going to bring people the Good News that heals these deep wounds we all carry, I suggest it’s going to mean learning to accompany people in this way more and more deeply. 

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

Father Richard Kunst: Christ’s own ‘non-negotiable’

In Catholicism there are certain non-negotiables, things you have to adhere to in order to be a faithful Catholic. Here are just a few examples: As Catholics we have to recognize the authority of the pope; no matter who the pope is, whether you like him or not, to be Catholic is to recognize in some way or another that the pope has authority over the Catholic Church. Another non-negotiable is the abortion issue. “Catholics for choice” is an oxymoron. As Catholics we cannot be in favor of abortion any more than a triangle can have four sides; once it has four sides it is no longer a triangle. And finally the Eucharist: The Eucharist is the key to everything Catholic, so you cannot reject the church’s teaching on the Eucharist and then think you can still be a Catholic. 

Father Richard Kunst

There are other non-negotiables that we would call dogma, but these three give us a good sense that there are certain things that a person needs to adhere to in order to be considered Catholic. 

Christianity in the broader sense also has some non-negotiables. Even though there are literally thousands of different Christian religions, there are certain things that they all hold in common. Let’s just look at one of these. You cannot read too far into the New Testament before getting to the clear message of the necessity of forgiving our neighbor. 

Heck, it’s in the most prayed prayer in all human history, the one that Jesus himself wrote, “… forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In other words, every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are asking God to forgive us only insofar as we are willing to forgive. Think of that next time you say the Our Father! 

In the Gospel of Matthew, after Peter asks Jesus how often must he forgive his neighbor, Jesus tells the parable of the man who owed a huge amount to his master and was about to be sold into slavery along with his wife and children in order to pay the debt. He pleads for patience, and the master, moved with pity, forgives the whole thing. Then that servant, in turn, refuses to show mercy and patience with a fellow servant who owed a much smaller amount. In the end, the master throws the first servant to the torturers until he pays the last penny. Then Jesus offers a sobering moral to the story: “My heavenly Father will treat you in exactly the same way unless each of you forgives his neighbor from his heart” (Matthew 18:35). 

OK, we are all familiar with the parable, and the moral Jesus gives at the end of the parable seems pretty straightforward, but there is a component to his parable that might be easily missed. Jesus says we have to forgive our neighbor “from the heart.” So what does that mean, exactly? 

Words are cheap. We can say that we forgive someone but then continue to harbor bad feelings or even disgust towards the people who hurt us. That is not forgiveness from the heart. True forgiveness is not only forgiving but also letting go of the ill will towards the person who hurt us. Until we give up our harsh feeling towards that person who hurt us, even if the hurt is really bad, then we have not done what Christ commanded at the end of the parable. Forgiving someone from the heart, as Christ charges us, is more than simply saying “I forgive you,” because many times, even after we say those words, our ill will can and often does still remain. 

Mother Teresa said to her sisters, “Non-forgiving can destroy your life.” Having contempt towards a person who hurt us and being disgusted by them or even hating them does nothing to the person who hurt us. Those types of feelings only hurt us! Mother Teresa was right; not forgiving someone can truly destroy our lives. 

Though there are many denominations of Christianity, one thing all of them hold as a non-negotiable is certainly the gravity of forgiving people who hurt us. We all hold this in common because there is no way to interpret the Gospels any other way. So if you are holding a grudge, you need to fix that. 

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

Father Nicholas Nelson: The state of priestly vocations in the United States and in the Duluth Diocese

Every Sunday, our parishes pray the Diocese of Duluth Vocations Prayer. All of us are familiar with the need for more good and faithful priests. We know that we are not unique in our need for priests. 

Father Nick Nelson
Handing on the Faith

On the other hand, we may not know the extent of the challenge within our diocese and without. “Vocation Ministry” is an organization dedicated to the promotion of vocations. Recently, they completed the most extensive report on the state of priestly vocations within the United States. I wish to share some of their more significant findings. I believe this will help us better grasp the current state of affairs and, more importantly, spur us on to mission. 

From 2014 to 2021, the number of active diocesan priests in the United States has decreased 9%. And contrary to what you may think, there doesn’t seem to be much help immediately on the way, as the number of priestly ordinations each year has decreased 24% and the total number of seminarians has decreased 22% since 2014. 

In this report, they separated the dioceses into four tiers according to their Catholic population. Tier 1 has a Catholic population of more than 750,000. Tier 2 Catholic has population between 300,000 and 750,000. Tier 3 has a Catholic population between 100,000 and 300,000. And Tier 4 has Catholic population up to 100,000. The Diocese of Duluth has a little less than 42,000 Catholics and therefore is in Tier 4. 

Separating the dioceses according to their Catholic population reveals some interesting information. One interesting ratio is the ratio of active priests to number of Catholics. In the Tier 1 dioceses, there is one active priest per 7,099 Catholics; in Tier 2, one active priest per 3,683 Catholics; in Tier 3, one per 2,232 Catholics; and in Tier 4, one priest per 1,139 Catholics. In Duluth, we are less than 1,000 Catholics per priest. 

As a diocese, we are doing relatively well compared with other dioceses. But just getting by and not being the worst isn’t our standard. For instance, it is still difficult for a priest to find coverage when he is away. I have a school, and the students go to Mass every day. However, when I am away visiting seminaries, we have to cancel Mass, because there isn’t a priest to cover. Bishop is working hard to find a few foreign priests to come for a few years to offer coverage, but this isn’t a long-term solution, as we all know. 

On the other hand, imagine having enough priests so priests could be principals of schools or at least be full-time chaplains teaching catechism and theology. For a long time, we have benefited from sending our seminarians to other diocese’s seminaries for formation. It would be nice to return the favor and be able to send a priest to serve on the formation staff of a seminary. Imagine having a priest who could dedicate his ministry to serving the American Indian population of our diocese or more priests to serve as chaplains at our hospitals. There are many more ministries we could offer if we had more priests. 

It’s important that we build a culture of holy vocations, but especially priestly vocations, as the priest is the only one who can literally forgive our sins and offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by which we are sanctified and made holy. 

At the conclusion of their report, “Vocation Ministry” offers a number of recommendations. Here are a few of them: 

Priests beget priests: 71% of priests report that they when they were younger, they were encouraged to consider the priesthood by another priest. On the other hand, only 30% of priests reported that they have encouraged other young men to consider the priesthood. Priests need to intentionally encourage young men individually to consider the priesthood. 

Holy parishes: Is the goal of a parish for each member to grow in sanctity or to just keep the lights on? If the goal is to grow in sanctity, a higher rate of vocations will be a natural outcome. 

Healthy priests: Parish priests continually report being overworked by being too consumed with managerial duties, administrative tasks, endless meetings, and facilities maintenance. This reduces their ability to foster vocations. 

Holy and focused priests: When a priest takes vocation cultivation seriously throughout parish life, young men receive a consistent and encouraging message to discern their future vocations. The priest understands the urgent need to replace himself. Creative solutions need to be found to free up priests to be priests, able to cultivate holy relationships with their parishioners. Parishioners need to see their priest praying in church or praying before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration. 

Holy and healthy laity and families: Vocations come from families. One cannot expect a healthy crop of new vocations without the intentionality of planting seeds that can be nurtured over time. Being actively involved in a parish-based vocation ministry will not only teach a layperson how to foster vocations but also give them tools and opportunities to do so. 

I am the vocations director of the diocese, but every priest needs to take his role of vocations director of his parish seriously. Every father and mother need to be the vocations directors of their families. Consider the above recommendations and how you can promote vocations within your sphere of influence. 

Father Nick Nelson is pastor of Queen of Peace and Holy Family parishes in Cloquet and vocations director for the Diocese of Duluth. He studied at The Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Rome. Reach him at [email protected]

Critchley-Menor awarded by Duluth magazine 

By Deacon Kyle Eller 
The Northern Cross 

Patrice Critchley-Menor, director of social apostolate for the Diocese of Duluth, was given the Rosie Award, named for Rosie the Riveter, by The Woman Today magazine, in a gala event at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center in Duluth March 8. 

Each year the magazine gives out six awards as part of its “Rosie awards.” The awards recognize women with titles of “most engaged volunteer,” “silent advocate,” “leadership,” “trailblazer,” and “mentor.” 

And then there’s the namesake award, which combines those superlatives, which the magazine describes as “that woman who simply gets stuff done — she’s a volunteer, a silent advocate, a leader, a trailblazer, and a mentor.”

Patrice Critchley-Menor

This year, that was Critchley-Menor, who has worked for the Diocese of Duluth for 25 years. 

She learned she was one of 40 women nominated in an email from the magazine but not who had nominated her or for which award. 

“I was fairly certain that I wasn’t nominated for the silent advocate, because nobody ever accuses me of silence,” she joked in an interview with The Northern Cross. 

It wasn’t until the event at the DECC, when she saw a photo of herself on screen, that she learned she it was the Rosie Award. 

She had been nominated by three friends, she said, two of whom have also been coworkers. 

She said she had been sitting with her husband Dan in the back, not expecting to win. 

“I was completely surprised,” she said. She said Dan cried. 

Part of the surprise, she said, came from the fact that her work is part-time and isn’t always the most visible, and often takes place across many different organizations. 

“I never expected that anybody even saw the work that I did,” she said, noting that the award brings a sense of validation and “helps me to feel otherwise.” 

She said that the nominations and award ceremony mentioned many aspects of her life, including her children, taking care of her parents, her professional work, and her prayer life and “deep Catholic faith.” It mentioned her work several years ago in flood relief, collaborating with counties and municipalities and agencies, her work on nonprofit boards, her ability to listen to people with differing opinions and bring them together, and her work in the church. Some of the things mentioned were ones she’s forgotten she did in her 25 years on the job. 

She said after the awards were announced, the response from others was remarkable. “It was Trice Day,” she said. (That’s her nickname.) It came from coworkers and family and social media and people she hadn’t heard from in a long time. 

“I’m a communicator, but I don’t know how to communicate what this means to me,” she said. 

Critchley-Menor said her work is often “more about planting seeds than harvesting trees.” 

“I don’t know what the long-term benefit of what I do is going to be,” she said, adding that you do it because you believe in the mission. 

She said she considers the award to be about “how I live my faith in an active way. … As Catholics, it’s important that people can tell we’re Catholic, not because of the jewelry we wear or the T-shirts that we’re wearing but because of what we reveal about ourselves in our conversations and how we interpret current events and what we choose to get involved in and spend our money on. 

“Calendars and checkbooks are moral documents,” she said, “and how do we use those in moral and ethical and thoughtful, intentional ways?” 

Diocesan ‘mission fields’ being defined

By Deacon Kyle Eller 
The Northern Cross 

When Bishop Daniel Felton promulgated the pastoral letter “The Dawn from on High Shall Break Upon Us: Healing, hope, and joy in Jesus” last Christmas, one of its core concepts was what the bishop called “mission fields.” 

Those mission fields are where initiatives of evangelization, beginning with healing, are to be carried out, and identifying exactly what those mission fields would be was step one. 

While the term “mission field” is broad and has many meanings, the pastoral letter explained that for purposes of our work as a diocese, the term refers to “pastoral regions” where mission work is carried out at a local or regional level. 

These mission fields would usually be bigger than a parish’s boundaries but smaller than a deanery, and they don’t represent a reorganization of the structure of parishes or deaneries in the church but rather are more places of collaborative ministry, with parishes working together to reach out to shared communities. 

The work of identifying those is now nearing completion. One is a single parish, and some are a parish cluster, but many involving groupings of parishes. For instance, the parishes in the eastern part of Duluth have been identified by their pastors as a mission field. Sometimes they even cut across the boundaries of a parish cluster. 

Another mission field that has been identified is the parish cluster of St. Anthony in Ely and St. Pius X in Babbitt. Father Charles Friebohle, pastor of the cluster, said that having the cluster be the mission field made sense. “Ely is more out on its own little island, kind of,” he said, too far to be part of another mission field, although some collaboration is still possible with nearby mission fields involving communities like Virginia. 

He said their mission field is still in the early stages of beginning that work of healing. 

“I’ve only been here since July, so it’s hard to get a deep sense of where some of those core things are that people need to be healed,” Father Friebohle said. But he noted that there is an older population with many kids having moved away. 

Father Friebohle said he hopes additional discernment on how to move forward will begin in earnest during the Easter season. 

Another mission field that has been marked as an early leader is in the Hibbing deanery, where Blessed Sacrament in Hibbing, St. Cecilia in Nashwauk, St. Joseph in Chisholm, and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Buhl have formed a mission field. 

Father Daniel Weiske, pastor of Blessed Sacrament, said that he, along with Father Paul Strommer, pastor of St. Joseph and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, and Father Joe Sobolik, pastor of St. Cecilia, already had a natural place to discuss things.

(Submitted photo)

“Quite often this group will get together for prayer and supper, two, three, four times a month, just to sort of stay connected,” he said. 

It became clear as they discussed things that their communities were already naturally connected with networks of families and civic activities and common life. 

The three pastors told The Northern Cross that they informally discussed the grouping with the leadership groups of their parishes but that the grouping was very natural and clear and really a matter of just something to be confirmed. 

The discernment, Father Weiske said, was where it was wise to work together. 

“It’s clear in our own age that many times we’re stronger together, so we just want to be strategic and discern where the Lord’s asking us to collaborate so we can reach out better to our community,” he said. 

Their mission field has already started working on addressing the healing needed in its communities. Father Weiske had already been planning a retreat on healing and hope in the Holy Spirit last September at Blessed Sacrament, but that became a collaborative event, and has led to other events in February, March, and April. 

Father Strommer said the call from the pastoral letter to find those places in need of healing is not a totally new one. 

“It’s not rocket science, or this isn’t really like an entirely new way to be pastors,” he said. “… We don’t need to go mining for it. We, as pastors, like the Holy Father [says], we are already among the sheep, smelling like the sheep. We know the hurts. And this is just really helping all of us to be strategically working together.” 

Father Sobolik, who has parishes in two separate mission fields, said it’s also not a sort of one-and-done process of discernment but an ongoing one. 

“It’s going to be a prayerful discernment of the needs of our parishioners and how we can work with that and work together or collaborate,” he said. 

Father Weiske added that in addition to what they hear in their own prayer lives and in ordinary conversations, they had also been present for many Let’s Listen sessions and heard the results the bishop has presented and what the bishop has mentioned himself, such as the sense of grief felt across the diocese. 

“Throughout the entire diocese you see grief,” he said. “There’s so much grief to work through.” 

One of those places where healing is needed is the grief of having loved ones, such as children, who have left the Catholic faith, and some events have been directed at that. 

The three pastors said that the Pastoral Letter and the events being held are helping to keep the call for healing, hope, and joy on the minds of parishioners and helping them to find healing. In turn, they hope it will unlock gifts in those parishioners and bring a new zeal for mission to bring those things to their broader communities. 

“Maybe someone who would have never signed up last month will be just eager to sign up next March, because they have this new strength,” Father Weiske said. 

Focusing the idea of evangelization is also a help for people who are intimidated by the idea. 

“People are nervous, or they feel unqualified, or they feel afraid, or they feel bogged down,” Father Weiske said. “So how do we unlock that energy and that mercy that’s kind of bound up within us right now? And it’s those griefs that we have to process together and pray through into peace, and it’s those fears and wounds of rejection or thinking ahead to the feeling of rejection when you try to share the faith, and how do I deal with that? How can I be confident, rooted in God’s love, so I’m ready to face that, as Jesus and the Apostles were?” 

Bishop celebrates Chrism Mass 


Photo by Liz Gjovik / For The Northern Cross 

Clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Duluth gathered with Bishop Daniel Felton for the annual Chrism Mass Monday, April 3, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Duluth.

The liturgy, celebrated during Holy Week before the Holy Triduum, is one of the main diocesan liturgies of the year, drawing nearly all the priests of the diocese and many of the deacons, as well as lay representatives from many of the diocese’s parishes. At the Mass, the bishop blesses the holy oils that are used in the celebration of the sacraments throughout the coming year, and those oils are distributed to the parish representatives to bring back to their parishes. 

At the Mass, the priests also renew the promises made at their ordinations. 

Easter greetings from Bishop Daniel 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, 

Jesus Christ is Risen, Alleluia!

Bishop Daniel Felton
Bishop Daniel Felton
Believe in the Good News

That one proclamation summarizes all that we believe and practice as Christians. It is the one proclamation that changes everything. It is the one proclamation which guarantees that in the Risen Lord, our hurts will be healed, our despair will give way to hope, and our tribulations will be turned into joy. 

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! 

As the season of winter gives way to spring, all creation is shouting new life and resurrection. As we celebrate the fifty days of the Easter season, I pray that God the Father who raised Jesus from the dead through the Holy Spirit will bless you, your families and parishes, and the communities in which you dwell. 

Easter blessings, 

Bishop Daniel J. Felton 
Bishop of Duluth 


Bishop Daniel Felton: Meeting with our state government 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Duluth Bishop Daniel Felton and the other bishops of Minnesota met with state officials March 23 at the State Capitol in St. Paul. (Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Catholic Conference) 

Last month, the Minnesota bishops caucused at our State Capitol to meet with the state representatives and senators of each of our respective dioceses. As I met with various legislators from our diocese, I addressed and advocated for our Catholic perspectives and positions on pro-life issues, child tax credit, gambling, legalization of marijuana, sexual identity matters, along with other pieces of legislation before the chambers. As bishops, we also had a chance to meet with Governor Tim Walz and his staff to discuss many of the issues mentioned above. 

All in all, it was a good day to have face-to-face conversations with members of our state government who are having a tremendous impact on our families, schools, and communities. 

May the Holy Spirit guide those who lead to the healing, hope, and joy in Jesus, 

+ Daniel Felton 

Bishop Daniel Felton is the tenth bishop of Duluth. 

Duluth Bishop Daniel Felton meets with state Rep. Roger Skraba and state Sen. Jason Rarick. (Photos courtesy of the Minnesota Catholic Conference)


Ask Father Mike: Am I a good person?

I am writing because I keep coming back to the same question, “Am I a good person?” I am taking care of my husband who suffers from Alzheimer’s, as well as my parents who need a lot of attention. I can’t always find the time to pray the rosary every day (like St. John Paul II or St. Mother Teresa did), and I just can’t escape the Catholic guilt that I feel all of the time.   

Father Michael Schmitz
Ask Father Mike

Thank you for such a heartfelt question. I want to get to a clear and helpful answer to your primary question of “Am I a good person?” But before that, it might be helpful to note three things. 

First, when it comes to “Catholic guilt,” it might be helpful to cut through this right away. I’m sure that all of us have heard of “Catholic guilt.” But is that really a thing? My mom used to say, “There is nothing ‘Catholic’ about guilt … it’s just guilt. If I’ve done something wrong, then I ought to feel guilty; there is nothing specifically ‘Catholic’ about it!” That always made sense to me. 

Think about it: Guilt is a good and necessary thing. Try to imagine a person who never felt guilty. This would not be a healthy or emotionally balanced person. They might experience what psychologists would call antisocial personality disorder. A sociopath is someone who doesn’t feel remorse when having done something wrong or when they choose to not do the right thing. I have the sense that we would not want that. 

Guilt is good. Guilt is a sign that our conscience is working. 

At the same time, there is “false guilt.” False guilt is when I feel guilty for no real reason. This is not a virtue, and it is not at all helpful. It does not honor God, nor does it benefit anybody in the least. Therefore, one of the challenges of maturing in our emotional and spiritual development is discerning between true guilt and false guilt. What is God asking of me, and what is he not asking of me? Just because one person is called to pray a certain way or to live a certain way does not mean that God is asking that same thing of you. Mother Teresa was called to run a religious community of sisters who cared for the poorest of the poor; you are called to care for the people in your own family. One practice that might help a person in figuring out the difference between false guilt and real guilt might be to give yourself an honest assessment of what you are able to do and what you are not able to do. God does not expect us to do something we are incapable of. 

Second, I wonder if a more accurate phrasing of your question is not “Am I a good person?” but rather “Am I good enough?” As a being made in God’s image, it is good that you exist. Your very existence is a blessing. Beyond that, we hopefully all can recognize that there is both good and evil in us. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn stated, “The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” If we give ourselves even a cursory examination of conscience, I think that we will all quickly discover that we choose both good and evil regularly. 

Because of this, I think that the question we all want answered is, “Am I good enough?” I already know that I’m not as good as I could be. Even more, I already know that I am not as good as the Lord himself. So all I am left with is the hope, “Is there enough good in me that I can go to heaven?” 

The answer is yes and no. Yes, you are made in God’s image. If you are baptized, you are also an adopted child of God. Because of this, you are good. You also choose many good things: you serve, you pray, you love, you forgive. Therefore, you could be described as a good person. And yet, none of us is good enough. I could serve better, I could pray more, I could love more truly, I could forgive more fully. We are not “good enough.” And we never will be. 

Now, I know that some people will read this and condemn themselves. Some will read this and throw up their hands and say, “Then what’s the point?” And that discouragement and despair would be valid, except for one significant reality: Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus Christ (the only truly good person who ever walked the earth), we always have hope. Even when we are not good enough, even when we do not love enough, even when we fail to be the people God has created us to be, we still have hope. Our problem is that we think that our hope lies in our goodness. It does not! Our hope is in Jesus and in what Jesus has done for us. 

Because the Second Person of the Trinity took on our human nature and lived, suffered, died, and rose from the dead in our human nature, we have the possibility of experiencing new life. Because of what he has done, we can have eternal life. Because the good God has met us in our misery, we do not have to worry about being “good enough.” 

And this leads us to the third thing to remember: you are loved. 

Your call is not to be good enough. Your call is to allow God to love you, and to respond to that love with love. 

This might sound too “fluffy” or too basic. This might sound too easy! But I have discovered something in almost 20 years of being a priest and of trying to remind people about God’s love for them. Most people I meet have heard that God loves them. But most people do not believe that God loves them, they believe that God tolerates them. 

Most people have never given God permission to do the one thing that the entire Bible is building towards: to allow God to love you as you are. 

When we allow God to love us as we are, we no longer ask the question “Am I good enough?” because we know that we are not. We simply keep coming back to the better question (truly, it is the only question): “Does God have my permission to love me as I am right now?” Because if he does, then everything changes. When we are succeeding, we do not become prideful because God is the one who loves us. When we are failing, we do not despair because God is the one who loves us. When we sin, we come back to him because God is the one who loves us. And when we are not good enough, we cast all of our weaknesses on him because God is the one who loves us. 

Father Michael Schmitz is director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth and chaplain of the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth.