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Diocese extends COVID-19 measures through May 4

Diocesan Administrator Father James B. Bissonette, in an April 14 letter, extended the measures the Diocese of Duluth has taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic through May 4.

In the letter, addressed to the clergy and faithful of the diocese, Father Bissonette said public celebration of Mass will continue to be suspended, the obligation to attend Mass continues to be dispensed, and gatherings of more than 10 people are canceled. However, priests will continue to celebrate private Masses, churches will be open at times for individual prayer, confession is to remain available, and pastoral care of the sick will continue as much as possible. Parishes will also keep office hours in a manner consistent with the state’s stay at home order.

One important implication of the extension is its effect on First Communions and Confirmations. Parishes typically have those celebrations in the spring. Those that were scheduled for the affected time period will have to be postponed, the letter said.

Father Bissonette said the challenging days and the limitations they have imposed have given Catholics a deeper appreciation for the gifts of being able to gather with loved ones, to come together for worship, and to receive Holy Communion.

At the same time, he commended the response of Catholics in the diocese. “The spiritual communions, daily prayers, sacrifices, and works of charity offered up by you, the Catholic faithful, and the creativity and zeal with which our priests have brought us online Masses, podcasts, and the like, to keep us together in worship of the Lord and service of his people, is a graced moment and truly inspiring,” he said.

He asked continued prayers for the victims of the pandemic, their loved ones, and their caregivers. The measures are temporary and could be lifted if the situation should improve more quickly.

For more detailed information, visit the Coronavirus page on the diocesan website.

Schools, parishes, families, and the needy all coping with coronavirus

By Deacon Kyle Eller
The Northern Cross

Catholics are praying for those afflicted with COVID-19, their loved ones and caregivers, those who have died from it, civil leaders trying to control it, and all those afraid of it.

But its effects are rippling out in a variety of other ways, too, among families and schools and parishes and the vulnerable in our communities.

Schools

Cynthia Zook, director of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Duluth, said the past weeks have “been challenging days” with a lot of hard work at each of the diocese’s schools.

As Gov. Tim Walz closed schools across the state and moved to remote learning, Catholic schools have made the same transitions. Zook said one of the challenges is that communities and schools — and the families of students — may have very different levels of access to the technology and infrastructure needed for remote learning, an issue she’d like to see the Legislature address in the future.

“They’re figuring it out in each individual site,” she said.

That has meant creativity and an acceptance that glitches may pop up at times. The schools in our diocese are sharing ideas among themselves and gleaning wisdom from what other schools around the country are doing, but Zook said the speed with which everything happened left little time for collaborating.

“We just had to jump in with both feet and trust in the Lord,” she said.

She said the teachers are working hard with a “spirit of can-do,” and getting patience and support from their communities, where parents are learning from the experience too.

Zook see a potential silver lining in that the whole thing may end up expanding opportunities to use this kind of technology in new ways in the future, a kind of “pilot project for what could be.” So there is hope and excitement too.

Still, Zook said the situation is hard on families and on students. Some families are experiencing disrupted schedules, challenges arranging childcare, and financial difficulties, even just from kids eating more meals at home.

For students, Zook said they are missing in-person connection with their friends and the experiences outside the classroom, like music lessons, sports, or drama, that may give them a real sense of joy and progress.

“I feel very compassionate toward them,” she said.

At the same time, she said some school families are bonding through these experiences too, in old fashioned ways like board games and picnics on the living room floor.

“Many of them are also, during this holy season of Lent, taking advantage of the churches and going to say their prayers in the church as a family, spending time in the Lord’s house,” she said.

Families
The Hacker family is spiritually coping by remaining grateful and sharing what they’re grateful for with neighbors. (Submitted Photo)

Families are coping too. Clergy are reaching out in various ways and encouraging people to find ways to pray together, especially on Sundays.

Some, like the Hacker family from St. Anthony’s in Ely, are coming up with little practices of their own, trying to “do small things with great love.”

Michelle Hacker said the family shares one thing it’s thankful for on a sheet of paper each morning and hangs it in the window. “We then ask the Holy Spirit to inspire us to reach out to someone outside of our home,” she wrote in an email. Those have included notes to neighbors, making snowmen outside the windows of loved ones, sending letters to friends and family and even a mini reception in their home to honor a cousin whose marriage in Texas had to be canceled.

“We also capture each day on Facebook to encourage and uplift others,” she said.

Reaching those in need

For the agencies caring for the most needy in our communities, there are a variety of challenges depending on where you are in the diocese, said Patrice Critchley-Menor, director of social apostolate for the Duluth Diocese.

One such agency is simply closing down for two weeks as a result of state emergency orders.

“So I’m sure that’s going to seriously impact the people in that area,” she said.

She said that many agencies are being creative and adapting to the difficult circumstances, caring for people who are among the least likely to seek out medical help.

“The agencies I’m working with are really rising to the occasion,” she said.

But with people working from home and even some county offices closed down, money is running short for many agencies. And the anticipation is that the need will increase.

Critchley-Menor said that in addition to praying and staying informed through the diocesan Office of Social Apostolate and the Minnesota Catholic Conference, financial contributions to the diocese for these efforts would also be a way to help, especially given that needs are going to be different in different communities across the diocese and in the rapidly evolving situation.

“We want to have more money in that pot so we can respond and that our response can be flexible enough that it doesn’t exclude some weird case” in a particular city, she said.

She added that it’s also an opportunity for all Catholics to grow in how they see current events through the lens of Catholic social teaching.

“It’s a really interesting opportunity to practice our faith in a way we have not before,” she said.

Parishes

Also facing challenges are parishes, where, with no congregation on Sunday, there is no passing of the collection plate, even as bills continue to come in.

“Our parishes are on a spectrum of how much emergency reserves they have,” said Franz Hoefferle, chief financial officer of the diocese. Some have enough to weather months, while others don’t.

That could mean potentially reducing staff hours or furloughing people, essentially temporarily laying them off, although Hoefferle said parishes are trying to maintain staffing to the best of their ability and continuing to try to employ people, even if they are temporarily “re-purposed” to different tasks than they normally do.

“I think the parishes are doing everything they can to work with what they have,” he said.

Many parishes that do not already have online giving options are working on that, Hoefferle said. Parishioners can also mail in their offering.

He encouraged parishioners to be aware of the needs of their parish, even as he acknowledged that parishioners are facing their own financial difficulties in the situation, sometimes including job loss.

“You just have to look at what you can do,” he said.

Joe Lichty, director of development for the diocese, says Catholics should think of it first and foremost in terms of their faith.

“All of us have a need and desire to give,” he said. “We give to the church as part of the sacred offering, as an act of worship, joining the whole of our lives, and yes all our gifts, with the ultimate gift offered on the altar — Jesus Christ!”

“Just because activities at churches are suspended doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still offer God our first fruits,” he added. “Making a financial sacrificial offering isn’t a fee for service but an act of worship.”

No public Masses? Pastors takes liturgies and more online

By Deacon Kyle Eller
The Northern Cross

The faithful being temporarily unable to receive Holy Communion has been a matter of tears both for some of the faithful and for some of the clergy.

In the attempt to stay connected in a time of “social distancing,” technology has become a real boon, as many pastors from across the diocese have begun broadcasting Masses, rosaries, Divine Mercy Chaplets, the Liturgy of the Hours, parish updates, and more on Facebook, YouTube, or parish websites.

Nothing can substitute for being present at Mass, but at least 16 priests from Brainerd to International Falls are or have livestreamed Masses for the faithful to have some sense of participation in the liturgical life of the parish, joining a host of remote options that already included the televised Sunday Mass on WDIO/WIRT-TV sponsored by the Diocese of Duluth and other broadcast Masses, such as those from EWTN.

Father Paul Strommer celebrates a private Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Duluth March 29. The Mass was livestreamed for parishioners on the Cathedral’s Facebook page.

One priest of the diocese who has drawn attention even from the local secular media is Father Brandon Moravitz, pastor of Holy Spirit in Virginia. He has been an eager adopter, using his Facebook page and parish website and YouTube page to broadcast Masses and prayers as well as doing frequent live updates and coordinating initiatives with parishioners, such as choosing a local small business to support each day.

“It’s been a great light into our community,” he said.

One thing he’s been doing is leading night prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. He said the couple of hundred views on the videos, when translated into the families that accounts for, means there are 500 or 600 people a night praying along. “There’s families of eight that are there praying at night,” he said.

Getting people to pray in their homes has always been a goal, and through recent events he sees it “happening in ways I could never have imagined.”

“We literally have homes all over this town with altars,” he said.

Father Moravitz said he’s getting half a dozen messages every day from people telling him they are experiencing God at home like they never have before. The experience is even reaching non-Catholics and people who have been away from the church and discover they’re missing Mass.

“There’s people in this community that have never set foot in a church that are praying every night,” he said.

“I’ve never felt more like a priest in my 10 years as a priest,” he added.

Father Ben Hadrich, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas in International Falls, said he been expanding his online presence in recent years, for instance posting his homilies and other talks on a blog and podcast, and had recently come back to Facebook, inspired by Bishop Robert Barron.

He’s found Facebook to offer ways to connect beyond the written word.

“It’s a new opportunity and kind of the connection of speaking,” he said, in the days before his first livestreamed Sunday Mass.

He said he likes that people can hear his voice and get what he’s trying to say better than with just text. The challenge is that not everyone uses Facebook, and some don’t have a computer or smart phone at all.

He said he’s been assisted in that endeavor by his ordination classmate, Father Moravitz. “The stuff he’s doing is just unreal,” Father Hadrich said. He added that there is a lot of sharing behind the scenes among the priests to learn to use these technologies.

Father Moravitz said the technology actually doesn’t come so naturally to him.

“I had never heard of a YouTube channel in my life until a couple of weeks ago,” he said.

He said he surrounds himself with people who know how to do things and has three or four people he can call to help him record things, put together videos and podcasts, and use social media site.

“If this was just me, none of this would be happening,” he said.

Coming back to Mass

One possible concern with using this technology is that people might get too used to it — to the point that after they get the all clear to return to Mass, they will mistakenly think watching it on TV or online is the same thing.

Father Hadrich said he thinks most of the faithful Catholics will be back in the physical church and that with the those reached by the technology, parishes may pick up some new people.

Father Moravitz says as long as the focus is on inviting people to a deep relationship with the Lord, churches will be packed when the “all clear” is given.

“If we are evangelizing people and leading people to conversion, we have nothing to fear,” he said.

He has hope that it’s going to be a bridge and an avenue to greater things.

“I just sense the stirring of the Spirit in all of this,” he said.

Finding a local livestream of Mass

Following is the list of parishes and priests in the diocese who are known as of this writing to be livestreaming some or all of their Masses. See www.dioceseduluth.org/coronavirus or the individual sites for additional details. Please share updates to [email protected] org so that the list can be kept current on the diocesan website.

• Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, Duluth (on its Facebook page)
• Holy Angels, Moose Lake (on the parish website)
• Father Joseph Sobolik, of St. Cecilia and Mary Immaculate (on his Facebook page)
• St. Andrew, Brainerd (through Facebook Live)
• Brainerd Lakes Catholic Churches, Brainerd (through its parish website)
• St. James and St. Elizabeth, Duluth (on its Facebook page)
• St. Benedict Church, Duluth (on the parish website, via father Joel Hastings’ YouTube page)
• Father Blake Rozier, of Immaculate Heart, Crosslake (through his Facebook page and Immaculate Heart’s Facebook page)
• Father Mike Schmitz, of the University of Minnesota Duluth Newman Center (on the Ascension Presents YouTube channel)
• Father Brandon Moravitz, of Holy Spirit, Virginia (on his Facebook page)
• St. Joseph, Grand Rapids (on its Facebook page)
• Blessed Sacrament, Hibbing (on HPAT cable Channel 5 or on the Hpat.org internet channel online)
• Father Nick Nelson, of Holy Cross, St. Martin, and St. Mary (on his Facebook page)
• St. Anthony Church, Ely (on its Facebook page)
• St. Patrick’s, Hinckley, and St. Luke, Sandstone (on their Facebook page)
• St. John’s, Grand Marais, and Holy Rosary, Grand Portage (on their Facebook page)

Public Masses suspended, Holy Week liturgies to be celebrated without congregations

The Northern Cross

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded in the United States and Minnesota in March, with civil leaders eventually closing schools and many businesses and issuing “shelter in place” orders, all the dioceses in the country and across the region had to react, sometimes with extraordinary and unprecedented steps, and the Diocese of Duluth was no exception.

With advice from the Minnesota Catholic Conference and local health experts, Diocesan Administrator Father James Bissonette took the first steps on March 13, reaffirming liturgical options already in place for flu season, urging good sanitary practices and staying home when sick, asking the faithful to stay informed, and dispensing Catholics in the diocese from the Sunday Mass obligation.

In this initial 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.

A few days later, in the rapidly changing circumstances, additional steps had to be taken. In a March 17 decree, Father Bissonette suspended public Masses from March 20 through April 20 and canceling all events of more than 10 people, including the annual Women’s Conference. He noted that priests should continue celebrating private Masses (Masses without a congregation) and should continue to offer confession and keep hours for the church to be open for private prayer, as well as caring for the sick in need of the sacraments.

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

In a communication to clergy, these directives were further elaborated and clarified in the wake of Gov. Tim Walz’s Emergency Executive Order 20-20 ordering Minnesotans to stay at home in most circumstances.

Among other things, this means that the Triduum liturgy of Holy Week, as well as Easter Sunday, will be celebrated without congregations, although Father Bissonette asked that churches be open for a period of time for people to come and pray individually. Baptisms, receptions into the church and confirmations set for the Easter vigil are to be postponed to a later date.

The Chrism Mass will still be celebrated as scheduled during Holy Week but with only Bishop James Powers, of Superior, Wis., along with Father Bissonette, Father Joel Hastings and the priests who are consultors, representing each of the dioceses deaneries, in attendance.

Although the current guidance from the diocese covers through April 20, from the outset diocesan officials have emphasized that it’s an evolving situation that could continue beyond that date, potentially affecting first Communions and confirmations.

“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 in his March 17 directive. “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 time of crisis, and that we will be able quickly to resume the public sharing of the Gospel and our Catholic faith.”

Prayer of Spiritual Communion

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.

No public Masses? Pastors takes liturgies and more online

By Deacon Kyle Eller
The Northern Cross

The faithful being temporarily unable to receive Holy Communion has been a matter of tears both for some of the faithful and for some of the clergy.

In the attempt to stay connected in a time of “social distancing,” technology has become a real boon, as many pastors from across the diocese have begun broadcasting Masses, rosaries, Divine Mercy Chaplets, the Liturgy of the Hours, parish updates, and more on Facebook, YouTube, or parish websites.

Nothing can substitute for being present at Mass, but at least 16 priests from Brainerd to International Falls are or have livestreamed Masses for the faithful to have some sense of participation in the liturgical life of the parish, joining a host of remote options that already included the televised Sunday Mass on WDIO/WIRT-TV sponsored by the Diocese of Duluth and other broadcast Masses, such as those from EWTN.

Father Paul Strommer celebrates a private Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Duluth March 29. The Mass was livestreamed for parishioners on the Cathedral’s Facebook page.

One priest of the diocese who has drawn attention even from the local secular media is Father Brandon Moravitz, pastor of Holy Spirit in Virginia. He has been an eager adopter, using his Facebook page and parish website and YouTube page to broadcast Masses and prayers as well as doing frequent live updates and coordinating initiatives with parishioners, such as choosing a local small business to support each day.

“It’s been a great light into our community,” he said.

One thing he’s been doing is leading night prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. He said the couple of hundred views on the videos, when translated into the families that accounts for, means there are 500 or 600 people a night praying along. “There’s families of eight that are there praying at night,” he said.

Getting people to pray in their homes has always been a goal, and through recent events he sees it “happening in ways I could never have imagined.”

“We literally have homes all over this town with altars,” he said.

Father Moravitz said he’s getting half a dozen messages every day from people telling him they are experiencing God at home like they never have before. The experience is even reaching non-Catholics and people who have been away from the church and discover they’re missing Mass.

“There’s people in this community that have never set foot in a church that are praying every night,” he said.

“I’ve never felt more like a priest in my 10 years as a priest,” he added.

Father Ben Hadrich, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas in International Falls, said he been expanding his online presence in recent years, for instance posting his homilies and other talks on a blog and podcast, and had recently come back to Facebook, inspired by Bishop Robert Barron.

He’s found Facebook to offer ways to connect beyond the written word.

“It’s a new opportunity and kind of the connection of speaking,” he said, in the days before his first livestreamed Sunday Mass.

He said he likes that people can hear his voice and get what he’s trying to say better than with just text. The challenge is that not everyone uses Facebook, and some don’t have a computer or smart phone at all.

He said he’s been assisted in that endeavor by his ordination classmate, Father Moravitz. “The stuff he’s doing is just unreal,” Father Hadrich said. He added that there is a lot of sharing behind the scenes among the priests to learn to use these technologies.

Father Moravitz said the technology actually doesn’t come so naturally to him.

“I had never heard of a YouTube channel in my life until a couple of weeks ago,” he said.

He said he surrounds himself with people who know how to do things and has three or four people he can call to help him record things, put together videos and podcasts, and use social media site.

“If this was just me, none of this would be happening,” he said.

Coming back to Mass

One possible concern with using this technology is that people might get too used to it — to the point that after they get the all clear to return to Mass, they will mistakenly think watching it on TV or online is the same thing.

Father Hadrich said he thinks most of the faithful Catholics will be back in the physical church and that with the those reached by the technology, parishes may pick up some new people.

Father Moravitz says as long as the focus is on inviting people to a deep relationship with the Lord, churches will be packed when the “all clear” is given.

“If we are evangelizing people and leading people to conversion, we have nothing to fear,” he said.

He has hope that it’s going to be a bridge and an avenue to greater things.

“I just sense the stirring of the Spirit in all of this,” he said.

Finding a local livestream of Mass

Following is the list of parishes and priests in the diocese who are known as of this writing to be livestreaming some or all of their Masses. See www.dioceseduluth.org/coronavirus or the individual sites for additional details. Please share updates to [email protected] org so that the list can be kept current on the diocesan website.

• Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, Duluth (on its Facebook page)
• Holy Angels, Moose Lake (on the parish website)
• Father Joseph Sobolik, of St. Cecilia and Mary Immaculate (on his Facebook page)
• St. Andrew, Brainerd (through Facebook Live)
• Brainerd Lakes Catholic Churches, Brainerd (through its parish website)
• St. James and St. Elizabeth, Duluth (on its Facebook page)
• St. Benedict Church, Duluth (on the parish website, via father Joel Hastings’ YouTube page)
• Father Blake Rozier, of Immaculate Heart, Crosslake (through his Facebook page and Immaculate Heart’s Facebook page)
• Father Mike Schmitz, of the University of Minnesota Duluth Newman Center (on the Ascension Presents YouTube channel)
• Father Brandon Moravitz, of Holy Spirit, Virginia (on his Facebook page)
• St. Joseph, Grand Rapids (on its Facebook page)
• Blessed Sacrament, Hibbing (on HPAT cable Channel 5 or on the Hpat.org internet channel online)
• Father Nick Nelson, of Holy Cross, St. Martin, and St. Mary (on his Facebook page)
• St. Anthony Church, Ely (on its Facebook page)
• St. Patrick’s, Hinckley, and St. Luke, Sandstone (on their Facebook page)
• St. John’s, Grand Marais, and Holy Rosary, Grand Portage (on their Facebook page)

Schools, parishes, families, and the needy all coping with coronavirus

By Deacon Kyle Eller
The Northern Cross

Catholics are praying for those afflicted with COVID-19, their loved ones and caregivers, those who have died from it, civil leaders trying to control it, and all those afraid of it.

But its effects are rippling out in a variety of other ways, too, among families and schools and parishes and the vulnerable in our communities.

Schools

Cynthia Zook, director of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Duluth, said the past weeks have “been challenging days” with a lot of hard work at each of the diocese’s schools.

As Gov. Tim Walz closed schools across the state and moved to remote learning, Catholic schools have made the same transitions. Zook said one of the challenges is that communities and schools — and the families of students — may have very different levels of access to the technology and infrastructure needed for remote learning, an issue she’d like to see the Legislature address in the future.

“They’re figuring it out in each individual site,” she said.

That has meant creativity and an acceptance that glitches may pop up at times. The schools in our diocese are sharing ideas among themselves and gleaning wisdom from what other schools around the country are doing, but Zook said the speed with which everything happened left little time for collaborating.

“We just had to jump in with both feet and trust in the Lord,” she said.

She said the teachers are working hard with a “spirit of can-do,” and getting patience and support from their communities, where parents are learning from the experience too.

Zook see a potential silver lining in that the whole thing may end up expanding opportunities to use this kind of technology in new ways in the future, a kind of “pilot project for what could be.” So there is hope and excitement too.

Still, Zook said the situation is hard on families and on students. Some families are experiencing disrupted schedules, challenges arranging childcare, and financial difficulties, even just from kids eating more meals at home.

For students, Zook said they are missing in-person connection with their friends and the experiences outside the classroom, like music lessons, sports, or drama, that may give them a real sense of joy and progress.

“I feel very compassionate toward them,” she said.

At the same time, she said some school families are bonding through these experiences too, in old fashioned ways like board games and picnics on the living room floor.

“Many of them are also, during this holy season of Lent, taking advantage of the churches and going to say their prayers in the church as a family, spending time in the Lord’s house,” she said.

Families
The Hacker family is spiritually coping by remaining grateful and sharing what they’re grateful for with neighbors. (Submitted Photo)

Families are coping too. Clergy are reaching out in various ways and encouraging people to find ways to pray together, especially on Sundays.

Some, like the Hacker family from St. Anthony’s in Ely, are coming up with little practices of their own, trying to “do small things with great love.”

Michelle Hacker said the family shares one thing it’s thankful for on a sheet of paper each morning and hangs it in the window. “We then ask the Holy Spirit to inspire us to reach out to someone outside of our home,” she wrote in an email. Those have included notes to neighbors, making snowmen outside the windows of loved ones, sending letters to friends and family and even a mini reception in their home to honor a cousin whose marriage in Texas had to be canceled.

“We also capture each day on Facebook to encourage and uplift others,” she said.

Reaching those in need

For the agencies caring for the most needy in our communities, there are a variety of challenges depending on where you are in the diocese, said Patrice Critchley-Menor, director of social apostolate for the Duluth Diocese.

One such agency is simply closing down for two weeks as a result of state emergency orders.

“So I’m sure that’s going to seriously impact the people in that area,” she said.

She said that many agencies are being creative and adapting to the difficult circumstances, caring for people who are among the least likely to seek out medical help.

“The agencies I’m working with are really rising to the occasion,” she said.

But with people working from home and even some county offices closed down, money is running short for many agencies. And the anticipation is that the need will increase.

Critchley-Menor said that in addition to praying and staying informed through the diocesan Office of Social Apostolate and the Minnesota Catholic Conference, financial contributions to the diocese for these efforts would also be a way to help, especially given that needs are going to be different in different communities across the diocese and in the rapidly evolving situation.

“We want to have more money in that pot so we can respond and that our response can be flexible enough that it doesn’t exclude some weird case” in a particular city, she said.

She added that it’s also an opportunity for all Catholics to grow in how they see current events through the lens of Catholic social teaching.

“It’s a really interesting opportunity to practice our faith in a way we have not before,” she said.

Parishes

Also facing challenges are parishes, where, with no congregation on Sunday, there is no passing of the collection plate, even as bills continue to come in.

“Our parishes are on a spectrum of how much emergency reserves they have,” said Franz Hoefferle, chief financial officer of the diocese. Some have enough to weather months, while others don’t.

That could mean potentially reducing staff hours or furloughing people, essentially temporarily laying them off, although Hoefferle said parishes are trying to maintain staffing to the best of their ability and continuing to try to employ people, even if they are temporarily “re-purposed” to different tasks than they normally do.

“I think the parishes are doing everything they can to work with what they have,” he said.

Many parishes that do not already have online giving options are working on that, Hoefferle said. Parishioners can also mail in their offering.

He encouraged parishioners to be aware of the needs of their parish, even as he acknowledged that parishioners are facing their own financial difficulties in the situation, sometimes including job loss.

“You just have to look at what you can do,” he said.

Joe Lichty, director of development for the diocese, says Catholics should think of it first and foremost in terms of their faith.

“All of us have a need and desire to give,” he said. “We give to the church as part of the sacred offering, as an act of worship, joining the whole of our lives, and yes all our gifts, with the ultimate gift offered on the altar — Jesus Christ!”

“Just because activities at churches are suspended doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still offer God our first fruits,” he added. “Making a financial sacrificial offering isn’t a fee for service but an act of worship.”

News in brief April 2020

Ministry of acolyte

On Feb. 23, the Most Reverend J. Augustine DiNoia, OP, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of faith, conferred the ministry of acolyte during Mass in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at the Pontifical North American College to several seminarian students, including Daniel Richard Hammer of the Diocese of Duluth. During his homily, Archbishop DiNoia reflected on the commands of “be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy” and “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” He exhorted that the newly instituted acolytes ponder these commands, as well. As part of the rite, the bishop placed the paten, which contains the hosts for the celebration of Mass, into the hands of each candidate. He then said, “Take this vessel with bread for the celebration of the Eucharist. Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of his church.” The seminarians will have two additional years of theological studies before being ordained to the priesthood in their home dioceses.

School fundraiser

A fundraiser was held for Assumption Catholic School at Mike’s Pub in Hibbing. For every meal purchased by participants, a portion of the bill was contributed to the school.

Magnificat breakfast

Our Lady of the Lakes Magnificat will be holding a breakfast on Saturday, June 27, at St. Agnes Parish, 210 Division St., Walker. Father Michael Arey from Holy Rosary Catholic church, Detroit Lakes, will be sharing his testimony. Come hear the story of how he gave up a six-figure income, a luxury condo, and a girlfriend to become a Catholic priest. Registration is at 8:30 a.m. with breakfast at 9 a.m. Cost is $15. To register, call Lorri at (218) 507-0953.

Funspiel

Blessed Sacrament parish held its annual Funspiel at the Hibbing Curling Club. The event brings family and friends together for an afternoon of curling, competition and conversation. All are welcomed regardless of skill on the ice. Lunch was served between sessions.

Men’s conference thanks CREED Fund

The Diocese of Duluth received $4,000.00 from the CREED Fund to help fund the “Men of Faith: Men on Fire” Catholic men’s conference Feb. 29 in Duluth. This fund – The Catholic Religious Education Endowment Fund – provides for the financial support of educational opportunities for the enrichment of faith and the spreading of the Gospel by the laity, deacons, priests, and Catholic schools in the Diocese of Duluth. The fund is supported in part by the Evangelization Through Education capital campaign. Thank you to all CREED Fund donors and representatives.

Ash Wednesday

Deacon Ray Sampson went to residential facilities on Ash Wednesday to distribute ashes to the homebound.

Knights service projects

St. Raphael’s Knights of Columbus held a “Keep Christ in Christmas” poster contest and awarded the four winning K-5th grade students each $10 for their winning entry. The council also prepped and painted the stair rails the go to the basement in the parish entry, held its annual bowling outing in January, and helped out at the parish Winter Carnival doing games and cooking hotdogs.

Divine Mercy celebrations

Several parishes had planned to
host Divine Mercy Sunday celebrations April 19, but these events are now likely canceled in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions by civil and church authorities.
Queen of Peace, 102 Fourth Street, Cloquet: exposition of the Blessed Sacrament 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. with the Divine Mercy Chaplet and prayers.
Mary Immaculate, 10 Corey St., Coleraine: adoration and confessions from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Talks will be given and rosary and chaplet will be prayed. Reception to follow.
Immaculate Heart, 35208 County Road 37, Crosslake: Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament from 1:30 p.m. to 3:20 p.m., speaker Katie Jacobson at 2 p.m., Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 p.m., Mass at 3:30 p.m. and dinner at 4:30 p.m. in the social hall.
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, 2801 E. Fourth St., Duluth: Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. with a Divine Mercy Chaplet and Benediction beginning at 3 p.m. Confessions available throughout.
St. Anthony, 231 E. Camp St., Ely: Adoration from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. with confession, meditations of Divine Mercy, Stations of the Cross, Divine Mercy Chaplet, and veneration of a St. Faustina Relic.

Grandparent ministry

Father Samson Kigorwe M’rinkanya joined the Blessed Sacrament parish
Grandparent Ministry for story hour for children in grades Kindergarten through third at Assumption School. The story time includes a project related to the book that is read.

Editorial: Unplanned ‘fast’ from Mass should make us hunger for the Eucharist

The coronavirus pandemic has caused illness, death, grief, panic, and disruption. It has also taken a spiritual toll on Catholics
in many places, including across the Diocese of Duluth, as many Catholics have found themselves unable to participate in the Mass.

First, out of caution, the Sunday obligation was dispensed. Then, as it became clear that the disease was spreading, the extraordinary step was taken to temporarily suspend public celebration of the Mass, meaning priests are praying Mass privately but for the most part, the faithful cannot attend or receive Holy Communion.

This is the starkest contrast to the lived experience of most American Catholics, where Mass is readily available and the biggest challenge is getting people to come.

For many Catholics dedicated to their faith, this inability to attend Mass has been a painful spiritual hardship, as evidenced by the number of them seeking out livestream and broadcast Masses.

God can bring good out of everything, even the terrible things. Let’s pray that for others and for ourselves this odd time when we find ourselves longing for the Eucharist can feed our devotion to what is and remains the source and summit of the Christian life. And when, please God soon, we are able to return to Mass, let’s do so with a deepened spirit of gratitude.

Deacon Kyle Eller: ‘Imagine’ the kingdom of God among us

For some reason, a couple of doctors from Mayo, at a time when people were dying from COVID-19 or grieving them, and many others were living in fear of a similar fate, decided the most inspirational thing they could do is sing a song with this opening line: “Imagine there’s no heaven.”

Deacon Kyle Eller
Deacon Kyle Eller
Mere Catholicism

The song famously goes on to talk about imagining no religion, nothing worth dying for, no countries, no possessions — just “living for today.”

To put it gently, if you actually listen to the words, that it not only a false message but a profoundly inappropriate one in the circumstances.

My initial reaction was not so gentle. After I saw seemingly every mainstream media outlet in America run a piece about how wonderful and unifying the video was, I have to admit I let my annoyance get the better of me. I mocked the media that fawned over this rendition of what I called “John Lennon’s revolting little atheist camp song.”

Although my annoyance is under better control now, it still bothers me. As we ought to, let’s assume the best of all concerned. Let’s suppose the doctors didn’t intend to spread anti-religious propaganda but just picked a song they liked for its theme of universal brotherhood. Suppose the same about the people sharing it online — without putting a lot of thought into it, most people just like the song, the theme, and the way the guys sang it. Suppose that the media picked up the story because the video had gone viral, not because they were trying to advance the viewpoint of the song’s lyrics.

Still, objectively, the song takes a strong and disputed point of view, including the view that God, religion, and concern for a life beyond this world are obstacles to human unity.

To put it bluntly, that is a direct contradiction of the Catholic Christian view of the path of human unity. No doubt many other Christians, Jews, Muslims, and people of other religions could say the same.

We hold, in fact, that the cause of humanity’s disunity is sin — living out of harmony with the natural law God has instilled in the human heart, which corresponds to human flourishing. The path to unity lies precisely in the cure for sin, in being reconciled with God through his Son, Jesus Christ, who believed there was something worth dying for — you and me. In being reconciled with God we become reconciled with ourselves and with each other.

We believe that human brotherhood itself is rooted precisely in being sons and daughters of the living God.

And what of heaven, which the song bids us to imagine does not exist? Does that take us away from human unity? Again, it is just the opposite. Heaven is perfect union with God who is in himself pure love, truth, goodness, beauty. That is the goal of every human life, the goal which conditions everything else we do. It is this broader horizon, living for far beyond today, that allows us to be meaningfully detached from the things of this world, including our possessions.

This vision and the vision presented by “Imagine” both hold out human unity as an ideal, but apart from that they diverge so dramatically that what one calls the cure for human disunity the other must call the cause of human disunity.

G.K. Chesterton once said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” That’s all too true even among us Christians, and goes some way toward explaining why a culture that has lost its faith can no longer see the beauty of the Christian vision for human brotherhood.

But one thing that’s crystal clear is that when you banish God and what he has revealed for our good and abandon all thought of any transcendent meaning to life in favor of “living for today,” the last thing you get is peaceful unity.

It’s long past time for us to re-propose our vision of unity in Jesus Christ, of his church as the universal sacrament of salvation and a sign of the unity of the human race, and of his kingdom as the place where all are to be gathered, from every race and culture on Earth.

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

Betsy Kneepkens: Hectic spring schedule takes a dramatic turn

My April column has taken a dramatic twist. Not too long ago I was overwhelmed by family and work scheduling obligations that were planned for this spring. I was anxious over prioritizing and trying as hard as possible to fit everything in. A part of my article was going to be about how wrong I was that life’s scheduling demands would get easier as my children got older.

Betsy Kneepkens
Betsy Kneepkens
Faith and Family

My thoughts were that although parenting younger children requires more day-to-day local obligations, parenting adult children creates
“desired scheduling,” meaning that as a parent you try to take advantage of as many opportunities you can to interact with your adult children when they are no longer at home with you.

I was going to write about the challenges of fitting in all the significant family functions. I was going to share some ideas on how best to accomplish those life memories alongside some special work events I had planned for this time of year. I wanted you to know that I was going to take each day at a time, because being stressed about being overly busy would destroy the main purpose of why life was hectic.

On the docket, I had multiple opportunities from college graduation, confirmations, my son’s wedding, and work-related items, like the women’s conference. I anticipated my schedule would be crazy, but I was excited that most of these events involved my children and other special life moments. I knew I couldn’t do everything; I knew that the time was limited and precious and I did not know what to leave out. These sorts of decisions were bringing me angst.

I knew the pandemic was concerning, but I did not realize how troubling the situation was until I received a phone call from my college senior son. Very distraught, he informed me that his in-person classes were moved online for the remainder of the year. He was most worried about his college graduation being canceled. He can sometimes be overly dramatic, so I told him to settle down, that he was overreacting. Because “educators” told my son a college degree was unrealistic for him, walking across the stage with honors was extremely important to him. I had to de-escalate his concern, because it sure seemed absurd at the time that his graduation two months from now would be canceled.

Shortly after getting off that phone call, my phone rang again. When I answered the phone this time, my daughter who was on the other end of the call was sobbing. Initially it was difficult to understand her. We realized that she was telling us that the state girls basketball tournament she was playing in just got canceled. Like my son’s goal, playing in the state tournament was one of her dreams and something she worked for every day. She was distraught because that moment was taken from her at no fault of her own. Telling her at that moment that this will be a great life lesson wasn’t going to cheer her up. I simply listened and tried to share in the pain with her. There just were no words to minimize the situation at that moment.

Finally getting my daughter to the point where I could hang up the phone, the dang thing rang again. When I answered the phone this time, it was our diocesan administrator, who shared that the Women’s Conference needs to be canceled — a conference that glories in having over 550 women from around our diocese come together in faith, an event that requires planning for nearly a year with a dozen dedicated volunteers, an event I look forward to all year, and a particular privilege because I work alongside some of the holiest women I know. In a matter of moments, the conference was canceled.

In the next subsequent 24 hours a trip to Philadelphia, a dream vacation to the NCAA Division I Women’s Final Four, an address at a Relay for Life in St. Louis, and my future daughter-in-law’s bridal shower were all wiped from my calendar. Shortly after that, my freshman son who attends St. Louis University told me he had to be out of the dorms now, and my son in medical school said his in-person classes were canceled, so he was coming home to study for his boards.

At this point, no one is going anywhere. Three of my adult children are living at home, and a fourth will be here soon. My husband and I have been encouraged to work from home, and homemade meals have now become a priority again. Laundry is piling up. The house is getting messy, and we are dusting off board games. We are filling up time telling stories, baking cookies, and doing some exercising.

Our first streamed Mass together will be this Sunday. So, we are otherwise laughing, contemplating what this all means for the economy, and staying on top of the news together. As a family, we are resolved that we have no control over this matter, and so we say enjoy it anyways.

This pandemic will end, so I must wisely use this time to be present with my family. Certainly, I hope and pray that this horrible virus is driven from our planet, but I can’t help but hope that in this horror there are blessings. I am convicted to remain in touch with the gift of time God has given me to be with my family and free myself of any stress this situation could cause me. Stay at home, and stay well.

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