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Life news in brief April 2020


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Choose Life

Choose Life Minnesota Inc. is working to bring a Choose Life license plate to Minnesota. The goal is to have funds raised from the sales of the plates support pregnancy resource centers to help expectant mothers who choose to make an adoption plan for their unborn baby. There are currently bills in the both the Senate and House. This plate has been approved in 32
states and the District of Columbia, raising more than $28 million.

The Guiding Star Project to open two new affiliate locations this spring

The Guiding Star Project is opening two new affiliate locations this spring: Guiding Star at the Shores (New Jersey) and Guiding Star Marshalltown (Iowa), adding to a national network of Guiding Star Centers now reaching seven locations. Each Guiding Star Center contributes to a long-needed cultural and healthcare shift that affirms the beauty and dignity of women by supporting rather than suppressing a woman’s natural biological state of health. Services at Guiding Star locations include natural fertility and family planning, pregnancy and childbirth services, breastfeeding and
postpartum services, and family life services.

Bill to ban taxpayer-funded abortion introduced in Minnesota Legislature

A bill to prohibit taxpayer funding of abortion in Minnesota was introduced in the House and Senate last month. The measure, backed by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, aims to stop the government bankrolling of thousands of abortions in the state every year. “Abortion isn’t a public good deserving of public funding,” said MCCL Executive Director Scott Fischbach. “It’s an injustice against both unborn children and their mothers. Taxpayers should not be forced to be part of this.” The legislation, H.F. 4404 / H.F. 4403 and S.F. 4271, is authored by Rep. Marion O’Neill (R-Maple Lake) and Sen. Carrie Ruud (R-Breezy Point). It would challenge a 1995 state Supreme Court decision, Doe v. Gomez, that requires Medicaid funding of abortion for pregnant women who receive state assistance. In 2017, the latest year for which data is available, taxpayers reimbursed abortion practitioners $1.06 million for a record-high total of 4,356 abortions, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services. State-funded abortions have risen each of the last four years — a 28 percent jump since 2013. In 2018, according to a report from the Minnesota Department of Health, a record-high 44.5 percent of abortions occurring in Minnesota were publicly funded. Minnesota law prohibited taxpayer funding of elective abortion prior to the Doe v. Gomez decision.

Tragedy, Contingency, and a Deeper Sense of God

I have lived in Santa Barbara, California for the past four years. In that brief time, my neighbors and I have experienced a number of real tragedies. Just over two years ago, the terrible Thomas Fire broke out in my pastoral region, in the vicinity of Thomas Aquinas College (hence the name). For a frightening month it made its devastating way from Santa Paula through Ventura, Carpenteria, Montecito, and eventually commenced to devour the foliage on the hills just north of my home. As I was standing one Saturday morning on my front lawn, staring uneasily at the flames, a retired fire captain stopped his car and yelled out the window, “Bishop, what are you still doing here? Embers are flying everywhere; this whole neighborhood could go up.” We were all relieved when, just days later, rains finally came and doused the flames. But that welcome rain became, in short…

La tragedia, la contingencia y un sentido más profundo de Dios

He vivido en Santa Bárbara, California, durante los últimos cuatro años. En ese breve tiempo, mis vecinos y yo hemos experimentado una serie de tragedias reales. Hace poco más de dos años, el terrible incendio Thomas estalló en mi región pastoral, en las cercanías del Colegio Santo Tomás de Aquino (en inglés Thomas Aquinas College, de ahí el nombre). Durante un mes espantoso hizo su devastador camino desde Santa Paula a través de Ventura, Carpenteria, Montecito, y finalmente comenzó a devorar el follaje de las colinas justo al norte de mi casa. Un sábado por la mañana, mientras estaba de pie en mi jardín delantero, mirando fijamente las llamas, un capitán de bomberos retirado detuvo su coche y gritó por la ventana: “Monseñor, ¿qué hace todavía aquí? las brasas están volando por todas partes; todo el vecindario podría incendiarse”. Todos nos sentimos aliviados cuando, unos días después, las lluvias finalmente…

Livestream options for Mass

During this time of suspended public Masses, there are a number of places, both within the diocese and outside of it, where Mass is available via livestream.

A prayer of Spiritual Communion may be made at the appropriate time of the Mass, or at any time of the day or multiple times of the day:

My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.

Here are available and planned livestreams known at the moment. An updated list will be available on the diocese’s main Coronavirus page.

Livestreams from within the Diocese of Duluth
  • Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, Duluth: livestreaming a 5 p.m. Saturday Mass and 10:30 a.m. Sunday Mass on the parish Facebook page, possibly adding some number of daily Masses as well.
  • Holy Angels, Moose Lake, livestreams all its Masses on the parish website, and the livestream is always up, so if the faithful would like to do a “virtual Holy Hour” before the Blessed Sacrament, that will be available 24-7. Daily Mass will be at 8 a.m.; Saturday at 5:30 p.m. (also on the local public access channel) and Sunday at 8:30 a.m.
  • Father Joseph Sobolik, of St. Cecilia and Mary Immaculate, is livestreaming his Masses on his Facebook page.
  • St. Andrew, Brainerd, is planning to stream its Masses through Facebook Live Sundays at 10 a.m.
  • Brainerd Lakes Catholic Churches, Brainerd, plans to livestream its Masses through the parish website.
  • St. James and St. Elizabeth, Duluth, will be livestreaming a 10 a.m. Sunday Mass. 
  • St. Benedict Church, Duluth, will be streaming its Masses on its website. Livestreams can also be found on Fr. Joel Hastings' YouTube page. Daily Masses Tuesdays at 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. (Latin), Thursdays at 8 a.m., and Fridays at 8 a.m. (Latin). Sunday Masses at 9 a.m. and noon (Latin).
  • Father Blake Rozier, of Immaculate Heart, Crosslake, is livestreaming his Masses on his Facebook page. Daily Masses will be Tuesday through Friday at 8 a.m. (except on Tuesday, March 24) and Sunday Mass at 10:30 a.m. Masses will be reposted on Immaculate Heart's Facebook page. 
  • Father Mike Schmitz, of the University of Minnesota Duluth Newman Center, will be livestreaming Sunday Mass at 9 a.m. on Ascension Presents' YouTube channel.
  • Father Brandon Moravitz, of Holy Spirit, Virginia, will be livestreaming his Masses on his Facebook page. Sunday Masses are at 10 a.m.
  • St. Joseph, Grand Rapids, will be streaming its Masses on Facebook at 9 a.m. daily, including Sundays.
  • Blessed Sacrament Hibbing, will be streaming its 8 a.m. Sunday Mass on HPAT cable Channel 5 or on the internet channel online. Mass is rebroadcast on Wednesday at Noon and Thursday at 10 a.m.
  • Father Nick Nelson, of Holy Cross, St. Martin, and St. Mary, will be streaming his Sunday Masses on his Facebook page. Masses will be reposted on the parish website
  • St. Anthony Church, Ely, will be streaming its Masses on Facebook. Daily Masses are 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Sunday Masses are at 10 a.m.
  • St. Patrick's, Hinckley, and St. Luke, Sandstone, are streaming their Masses on Facebook. Sunday Masses are at 9:30 a.m.
  • St. John's, Grand Marais, and Holy Rosary, Grand Portage, are streaming their Masses on Facebook. Daily Masses are at 8:15 a.m. and Sunday Masses are at 9 a.m.
Outside the Diocese of Duluth

Duluth Diocese announces additional measures to stem Covid-19 

March 18, 2020 — In a directive today, Father James B. Bissonette, diocesan administrator for the Diocese of Duluth, announced additional temporary measures to help stem the spread of Covid-19.


In the new directive, all public Masses are suspended through April 20, effective Friday, March 20. (Priests may celebrate a private Mass without a congregation.) In addition, the diocese has cancelled all gatherings of more than 10 people and said that even in smaller gatherings, those vulnerable or showing any signs of illness should stay home, and all present should practice good hygiene and “social distancing” policies such as remaining six feet apart.

The document also contains guidance for Holy Week liturgies, as well as questions regarding first Communions, confirmations, and funerals.

Father Bissonette said that confessions and office hours should continue to made available on a regular basis, that churches should be open for an extended period each day so people could come individually and pray, and reiterated guidance for keeping Sundays holy when Mass is not available. He said the clergy and faithful should continue to visit and care for the sick, including through providing the sacraments.

"I do not take these temporary measures lightly and I strongly encourage you, the Faithful and the Clergy, to do the same," Father Bissonette wrote. "Let us pray that I will be able to lift them soon, that we will remain safe and well as we stand with Mary at the foot of the Cross during this crisis time, and that we will be able quickly to resume the public sharing of the Gospel and our Catholic faith."

He noted that the measures could extend beyond April 20, or should conditions improve more rapidly than expected, that they could be lifted at that time.

# # # 

The Coronavirus and Sitting Quietly in a Room Alone

Blaise Pascal said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” The great seventeenth-century philosopher thought that most of us, most of the time, distract ourselves from what truly matters through a series of divertissements (diversions). He was speaking from experience. Though one of the brightest men of his age and one of the pioneers of the modern physical sciences and of computer technology, Pascal frittered away a good deal of his time through gambling and other trivial pursuits. In a way, he knew, such diversions are understandable, since the great questions—Does God exist? Why am I here? Is there life after death?—are indeed overwhelming. But if we are to live in a serious and integrated way, they must be confronted—and this is why, if we want our most fundamental problems to be resolved, we must be willing to spend time in a…

El coronavirus y estar sentado tranquilamente en una habitación a solas

Blaise Pascal dijo: “Todos los problemas de la humanidad provienen de la incapacidad del hombre para sentarse solo y en silencio en una habitación”. El gran filósofo del siglo XVII pensaba que la mayoría de nosotros, la mayor parte del tiempo, nos distraemos de lo que realmente importa a través de una serie de diversiones (desvíos). Hablaba por experiencia. Aunque era uno de los hombres más brillantes de su época y uno de los pioneros de las ciencias físicas modernas y de la tecnología de las computadoras, Pascal malgastó una buena parte de su tiempo en el juego y otras actividades triviales. En cierto modo, él sabía que tales diversiones eran comprensibles, ya que las grandes preguntas — ¿Existe Dios? ¿Por qué estoy aquí? ¿Existe la vida después de la muerte? — son realmente abrumadoras. Pero si queremos vivir de forma seria e integrada, hay que enfrentarse a ellas, y…

Duluth Diocese dispenses Catholics in the region from Sunday Mass obligation

March 13, 2020

In light of the rapid spread of the coronavirus (covid-19) across the world and now to Minnesota, Father James B. Bissonette, diocesan administrator for the Diocese of Duluth, has dispensed Catholics in the diocese from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation for the duration of the crisis.  


For Catholics, attending Mass on Sundays and certain other important holy days is an obligation and a precept of the church. That obligation is not binding in certain circumstances, for instance when it would be impossible or in cases of illness. For just reasons, the church’s pastors can also “dispense” or lift that obligation for the faithful. 

In a letter to the faithful to be read at Masses this weekend, Father Bissonette said that during this time, Masses will continue to be celebrated at the usual times in parishes and institutions. But should a member of the faithful decide that attending a Mass would pose a risk either to themselves or to others, they can in good conscience refrain from attending. 

Father Bissonette made the decision after receiving the advice of the Minnesota Catholic Conference (the public policy arm of the state’s bishops) and a local infectious disease specialist. Other dioceses in the area are taking similar steps. 

At the same time, Father Bissonette advised parishes to cancel any large parish gatherings through the month of March, extending that as necessary. That includes the diocesan Women’s Conference, which had been scheduled for March 28.

The decision to dispense from Mass and cancel large gatherings follows guidance issued a week ago by Father Bissonette advising pastors, at their discretion to: 

  • Suspend the practice of Communion under both kinds and  
  • Suspend the physical exchange of the Sign of Peace.

Both involve options in the liturgy of the Mass that can help reduce the likelihood of disease transmission. 

Father Bissonette also encouraged pastors to tell their faithful to stay home if they feel sick or have flu-like symptoms, to wash their hands frequently, and to check with the Minnesota Department of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control for the latest updates and recommendations. 

The diocese continues to monitor the situation at the local, state, and federal level and will provide updates as needed. 

In his letter to the faithful, Father Bissonette encouraged those unable to attend Mass to “still do what we can to keep holy the Lord’s Day.” He suggested such practices as following Mass on television, the radio, or online; making a Spiritual Communion; and other practices, such as silent prayer, reading Scripture, praying the rosary, or other prayerful devotions. 

“As all of us rise to the challenges presented by the coronavirus, let us remember to pray for one another and to support one another as children of God and brothers and sisters of the Lord, most especially those affected by this virus and those who care for them,” he said.  

Love an Enemy This Lent

The three classical spiritual practices that the Church urges us to embrace during Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I would strongly encourage every one of my readers to follow this recommendation, perhaps intensifying each one of the three during the holy season. But there is another Lenten discipline that I would like to put forward, inspired very much by the Gospel readings this week: forgiving an enemy. There is enough anger in the Catholic community to light up the eastern seaboard for a year. I say this not to pick on Catholics in particular; I would say it of any group of human beings. We are—all of us—sitting on a lot of unresolved rage. Thomas Aquinas defines the deadly sin of anger in his typically pithy manner as an irrational or excessive desire for revenge. Every one of us has been hurt by someone else, aggressed, unjustly harmed, insulted,…

Ama a un enemigo durante esta cuaresma

Las tres prácticas espirituales clásicas que la Iglesia nos insta a abrazar durante la Cuaresma son la oración, el ayuno y la limosna. Animo a todos mis lectores a seguir esta recomendación, quizás intensificando cada una de las tres durante este tiempo santo. Pero hay otra disciplina de Cuaresma que me gustaría proponer, inspirada en las lecturas del Evangelio de esta semana: perdonar a un enemigo. Hay suficiente ira en la comunidad católica para iluminar la costa este durante todo un año. No digo esto contra los católicos en particular; Diría lo mismo de cualquier grupo de seres humanos. Todos nosotros estamos sentados sobre un montón de rabia no resuelta. Tomás de Aquino define el pecado mortal de la ira en su típica manera concisa como un deseo irracional o excesivo de venganza. Cada uno de nosotros ha sido herido por alguien, agredido, injustamente dañado, insultado, tal vez en un…