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Bishop Muhich ordained for Rapid City Diocese

‘I know he is the right fit for our diocese’

Bishop-elect Michel Mulloy wrote the following for the diocesan newspaper of the Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota, for the ordination of Bishop Peter Muhich, who came from the Diocese of Duluth.

Bishop Peter Muhich
Bishop Peter Muhich

The sede is not vacante any more. In other, English words, the seat is not vacant. Hurray! Sound the trumpets. I have been excited about Bishop Peter Muhich coming to Rapid City since I first heard the good news from our Papal Nuncio. The United States and Vatican City have a diplomatic relationship, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre is the ambassador to the United States from Vatican City. He handles any state matters between our countries, as well as church affairs, including the notification of future bishops and their dioceses.

I was excited, not just because we were receiving a new bishop, but also because I have known Father Muhich for some years. We have attended training seminars together and in January spent a week in Rome during the ad limina visit for our region. I know him to be a man of deep and steady faith. He also has a long history of pastoral experience in a variety of parishes. I know he is the right fit for our diocese.

That was confirmed when I called him. I sensed right away his calm acceptance of this new ministry. His unhesitating response to the statement, “The Holy Father has selected you to be the Bishop of Rapid City,” was reassuring to me. I knew he wanted to come, and I knew he was ready for this challenge. After his announcement, that initial experience was confirmed during further conversation with the administrator of the Duluth Diocese, who was and is a personal friend of our new bishop, as well as other bishops in our region.

It is important to realize that our new bishop is in fact, new. He has never been in this role. Although his years of pastoral experience qualify him for this assignment, he has not managed a diocese before. I only mention this so that all of you — priests, deacons, staff, and laity — will allow him the time he needs to come to know our diocese and the many facets of being a bishop. Allow him to explore. Take the time to share with him all that is wonderful and good about our diocese. Give him time to come to love our way of life and the unique brand of Catholicism that we live and celebrate. Because I have led you for a year and have worked among you for many more years, I know that Bishop Muhich will love and cherish all the people of the diocese. That is just what happens when we take the time to listen, to understand, and to seek unity in our lives together.

Jesus gave us an example of service in washing the feet of the apostles at the Last Supper. Jesus asked us to do the same for each other. I know Bishop Muhich wants to serve you and be attentive to you. Please take his motto and apply it to your response to him. See in him Jesus washing your feet and allow him to do that. Then, offer back to him your service. Wash his feet, too. In this way you will all grow as disciples and my joy at this moment will become your joy, multiplied in each of you throughout the Diocese of Rapid City, joined together with your new shepherd as Christ’s body, the church.

‘I will miss having him around’

By Laurie Hallstrom
West River Catholic

Father Tony Wroblewski has known Bishop Peter Muhich for over 25 years. When Father Wroblewski was first ordained in 1995, he was in a religious community and assigned to work in the Diocese of Duluth. “I actually met him as a transitional deacon in Duluth on New Year’s Day. An older priest that was a friend of his held a party to which I was invited. I ended up being friends with him and a few other priests who were of the same generation and age. We all got along very well. Though after three years I was assigned outside of the diocese, I came back as a pastor in 2001. Our friendship picked up where we left off, and Bishop Muhich, Father Jim Bissonette, and I have been the three from that original group who have remained best of friends,” he said.

Bishop Muhich takes possession of his diocese
Bishop Peter Muhich is seated in the cathedra (chair), which symbolizes the place from which he will lead the Diocese of Rapid City. (Photo by Laurie Hallstrom / West River Catholic)

Bishop Muhich and Father Wroblewski have pastored a couple of the largest parish clusters in the Diocese of Duluth. Those were in a rural area, meaning lots of driving. The two were asked to chair or be on a variety of committees. Most recently, before Bishop Paul Sirba died, they were deans of two of the five deaneries in the diocese, which also meant they served together on the Personnel Board. Both have been on the College of Consultors, too.

“Bishop Muhich is probably the most organized person I know. Since I will be succeeding him at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, I am most grateful for that. He is always well–spoken and respectful in any public setting,” commented Father Wroblewski.

“As friends, he is very enjoyable to be around. He has a great sense of humor. We have had many, many good discussions. He knows what he believes, and he will always defend it, which is great for a bishop!” he added, “His parishioners and others he has worked with him love him, and I will miss having him around.”

Father Wroblewski was asked what gifts the new bishop would bring to the Diocese of Rapid City. “He is a good listener. He is able to take a situation and assess it quickly and correctly. He has an ability to relate well with a variety of different people, from those who have ‘means’ in the Cathedral parish to the poor who find themselves at the downtown parish where he was pastor as well. Finally, he has had some major building projects, and he knows administration. He will be a great asset to your diocese.”

Recalling the many good times the three priests have shared, Father Wroblewski recalled they would get together on Sunday evenings and Mondays. “This would include making a meal together. But as I have said, he is known for order, and he likes cleanliness. Well, he would sometimes inspect our cleaning, like wine glasses. Once, he made us rewash the wine glasses. So, when he left the room, I took them, and pulled the glasses already in the cabinet forward, and put the recently washed ones in back. That way if he inspected them, he would be inspecting the ones in front which he already washed himself some other time. We never told him what we did.”

‘May you be a blessing for each other’

By West River Catholic

Father Jim Bissonette is the diocesan administrator for the Diocese of Duluth. He met Bishop Peter Muhich in the fall of 1978.

“We traveled with our diocesan Vocation Director to St. John Vianney Seminary in St. Paul to take part in a ‘live-in’ weekend so we could see what life was like at the seminary. We were both from small towns in northeastern Minnesota. I was from Babbitt, and he was from Eveleth. We struck up a friendship, and the following year we entered St. John Vianney Seminary together. Our friendship continued through theology studies overseas, Bishop-elect Peter in Leuven, Belgium, and me in Rome, Italy. Both of us were ordained for the Diocese of Duluth. Our friendship has continued to the present day.”

papal mandate
From left, Father James Bissonette, diocesan administrator for the Diocese of Duluth, Bishop Peter Muhich, and Bishop-elect Michel Mulloy, who served as diocesan administrator of the Diocese of Rapid City and will be ordained bishop of the Duluth Diocese Oct. 1, listen to the papal mandate at Bishop Muhich’s ordination in Rapid City. (Photo by Laurie Hallstrom / West River Catholic)

The two priests were associate priests and first time pastors at the same time. “I became involved in church law through the chancery and Tribunal while Bishop Peter assisted in the areas of catechesis, deacon formation, and most importantly, Diocesan Strategic Planning,” said Father Bissonette.

Bishop Peter has always been a man with a strong faith in Jesus Christ and the church, according to Father Bissonette. “He is thoughtful, kind, and a very good friend. He is a fine priest. We have similar interests and enjoy each other’s company, and many a time we have traveled together, visited friends, and shared meals,” he said. “We have enjoyed learning about other cultures and appreciating the lakes, the trees, and the outdoors in our own neck of the woods.”

Among the pastoral gifts Bishop Muhich will bring to his ministry here, Father Bissonette said, “He always tries to put Christ first, front and center. Not in a showy way, but as the source of grace for his and our lives. He is intelligent, logical, straight forward, and consistent. He has a wealth of pastoral experience, and he is a good administrator. He is compassionate and encouraging in the ways of the faith.”

It is hard to see his longtime friend leaving Duluth, “I will miss Bishop Peter as a brother priest and a friend, but I know that this is what God wants him to do, so I am happy for the Diocese of Rapid City. You have a good man for your next bishop, and I also know that he is very much looking forward to getting to know the clergy and people of his new diocese. May you be a blessing for each other.”


Editor’s note: Due to the spread of the coronavirus, schedules are rapidly changing. Please check in advance before attending an event.

Traditional Latin Mass

St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 124 Fifth St. S.E., Cook, is offering the Traditional Latin Mass every first Saturday of the month. St. Mary’s will offer a first Saturday Mass in honor of our Blessed Mother in the extraordinary form at 9 a.m. Saturday. Everyone is welcome.

Magnificat event

Our Lady of the Lakes Magnificat will host Barbara Heil, a Catholic missionary and evangelist, on Saturday, Aug. 22, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Registration begins at 8:30 p.m., followed by breakfast at 9 a.m. The Magnificat meal will be held at Charlie’s Up North restaurant, 6841 Highway 371 N.W. in Walker. Cost is $15. Please call Lorri at 218-507-0953 to make your reservation.

Carmelite community

A third order Carmelite community meets monthly at St. Joseph’s Church, 315 S.W. 21st St., Grand Rapids. Meetings are held the first Saturday of each month. Rosary at 8:30 a.m., followed by Mass at 9 a.m., and morning prayer. Meeting at 10 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. For information on the Carmelite community, please call Deacon Richard Johnston at (218) 966-8251 or Ann Johnston at (218) 966-3052.

Mass on TV

The Diocese of Duluth sponsors a televised Mass at 9:30 a.m. every Sunday from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., on WDIO-Duluth and WIRT-Hibbing. Donations are welcome and can be sent to TV Mass, 2830 E. Fourth St., Duluth, MN 55812. Please make checks payable to TV Mass. For information contact the diocese at (218) 724-9111 or visit click on “Donate.”

Communion and Liberation

The Communion and Liberation School of Community meets every Sunday evening at 5:45 p.m. at St. Benedict Church, 1419 St. Benedict St., Duluth. Prayer, singing, and sharing experiences in light of our friendship in Christ, the group finishes in time to join the congregation in sung vespers at 7 p.m. The community is a companionship that educates. They are currently reading “Generating Traces in the History of the World” by Father Giussani. For more information, please contact William Vouk at (320) 630-8119 or at [email protected]

Living in God’s Divine Will

A group meets Mondays from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at St. Benedict Church, 1419 St. Benedict St., Duluth. Come learn how living in God’s will is so much more than doing God’s will. For information, call Barb Larson at (218) 724-0368.

Grief support

A grief support group meets the first and third Thursday of the month from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Immaculate Heart Church, 35208 County Road 37, Crosslake, in a lower level classroom. For more information call Jean at (218) 839-1958.

Prayer group

A prayer group meets every Thursday at 7 p.m. at St. James Church cafeteria at 721 N. 57th Ave. W., Duluth. Please park in the back parking lot. Coffee and goodies for a social after prayer. Handicapped accessible. Contact Sharon (218) 590-2265 for questions.

Kateri Circle (Duluth)

St. Lawrence Church Kateri Circle meets the second Sunday of each month at St. Lawrence Church, 2410 Morris Thomas Road, Duluth, after the 11 a.m. Mass. Contact Michele at (218) 591-0556 for more information.

Carmelite community

A third order Carmelite community meets monthly at St. Patrick’s Church, 203 Lawler Ave. S., Hinckley, from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of the month. For more information on the Carmelite community, please contact Gail Von Reuden, TOC, at (320) 384-7305.

Charismatic prayer group

Proclaimers of Christ Catholic charismatic prayer group meets the second Thursday of the month at St. Agnes Church, Elm at Division Street, Walker. A potluck supper starts at 6:15 p.m. with praise and worship at 7 p.m. On the fourth Thursday of the month gatherings will be at Sacred Heart Church, 300 First St. N., Hackensack, starting at 7 p.m. For information contact David LaFontaine (651) 503-0168 or Don Rudquist (218) 675-7701.

Father Solanus Casey Fraternity

The Father Solanus Casey Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order meets the third Sunday of each month at 12:30 p.m. at Holy Family Church, 2430 W. Third St., Duluth (lower level). Secular Franciscans are lay Catholics and diocesan priests who commit themselves to living lives of simplicity, prayer, peacemaking, and service to the church and others, especially the poor. Secular Franciscans are part of the worldwide Franciscan family, including friars and religious sisters, who follow in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi. For more information contact Franz Hoefferle, fraternity minister, at (218) 728-4904 or [email protected]

Young adult group

Zenith City Catholic is a Catholic young adult group in the Duluth Area that meets regularly for various events and fellowship opportunities. For details on upcoming events, please join the Zenith City Catholic Facebook group or email [email protected]

Public square rosary

Our Lady of Fatima, Garrison, and Holy Family, Bulldog Lake, holds a Public Square Rosary the fourth Tuesday of each month at 1 p.m. near the big walleye fish at the lookout on Mille Lacs Lake in Garrison (Highway 169). All are invited to join in prayer. The rosary is prayed for the intentions of our Blessed Mother, the conversion of sinners, and to reconcile ourselves, our families, and our nation back to God. For more information contact Jean Fetters at (218) 764-2665.

Log church tours

Tours are being offered of the old log church at Sts. Mary and Joseph Church in Sawyer. The log church is on the National Register of Historic Sites. Narrated tours are led by Deacon Bryan Bassa. Call Deacon Bassa at (218) 879-6933 or call St. Francis Church, Carlton, at (218) 384-4563 to schedule a tour. For more information on the church visit


Do you have a family member or loved one who is experiencing same- sex attraction? Consider joining EnCourage, a support group for Catholics seeking to balance the love of their faith with the love for their family member. The group meets the third Monday of the month at 7 pm at St. John’s Church, 1 W. Chisholm St., Duluth. Please contact Deacon Walt Beier at [email protected] org to confirm the meeting schedule. Are you experiencing same-sex attraction and looking for answers? Contact Deacon Beier at [email protected] for support group information. Also visit

Catholic Singles Group

Catholic Singles Group in the Twin Ports serves singles age 40 and up and hosts weekly and monthly events such as swing dance lessons. Contact Laverne at (218) 491-3241 or visit Call at least one day in advance of event to register.

Chant workshop

Holy Cross Catholic Church in northeast Minneapolis will offer a Gregorian chant course Sept. 3 to Sept. 5, taught by clinician Scott Turkington. The registration fee of $45 covers the cost of all necessary books and materials as well as lunch and refreshments. Please note that registration will be limited to 50 people to ensure the health and safety of all participates. For more information, or to register online, please visit If you have any additional questions, please contact Sam Backman at [email protected] or (612) 930-0864. Masks will be required for participants.

Serra Club

The International Serra Club promotes and fosters vocations to the priesthood and consecrated religious life. The Duluth chapter meets the first and third Monday of each month from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Black Woods on London Road in Duluth. All are welcome to attend! Due to COVID-19, the organization’s next meeting is planned for Sept. 21. Call (218) 343-7782 for up-to-date information or visit

Holy Land pilgrimage

Join Father Brandon Moravitz and Father Drew Braun on an 11-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The pilgrimage will include visiting Mt. Carmel, Nazareth, Caesarea Philippi, the Mount of the Beatitudes, Jordan River, Bethlehem, Dead Sea, and more. Contact Father Moravitz at (218) 741-6344 or contact the tour company at (800) 515-2632 or for more information .

Father Michael Schmitz: What can we do when people don’t love us?

I think that my mom loves me, but I don’t know. She clearly loves my sister more than she loves me; they joke around and have a much easier relationship with each other. She seems more annoyed by me, and I just wish she would love me more. It is really painful for me. What can I do?

Father Mike Schmitz
Father Michael Schmitz
Ask Father Mike

Thank you so much for being so honest in sharing this part of your life. I can imagine that this has affected you in more ways than one. We all have people in our lives who do not love us, or people who do not love us like we want them to. And that can be very painful. But when those are people who ought to love us, the pain can increase a great deal more. So please know that what I will offer here comes from a place of understanding and compassion.

Before anything else, what I hear in your question is the temptation to believe that there is something in you that is “wrong,” something in you that in unlovable. That needs to be addressed. You are not unlovable. Yes, there might be people who do not love you, but that does not mean that you are unlovable. As I noted above, we all have people we want to love us who do not. But that is less a reflection on you and more of a reflection on the world in which we live.

The first thing every one of us needs to acknowledge and accept is the fact that the people around us are afflicted with two distinct attributes: they are human and they are broken.

Here’s what I mean. As humans, we each have different likes and dislikes, personality traits, and interests. This is neither good nor bad, it just is. But because of this, every single one of us will find certain other people a bit easier to like. You know that this is true in your own life. Have you ever had the situation where one person says something to you and you laugh at it, and another person says the exact same thing and you are annoyed by it? What was said (and sometimes even how it was said) could be identical, but because we get along with the first person, we are able to receive it with patience and good humor. This isn’t always because that first person is a “better” human or because the second person is a “bad” human; sometimes it is simply because we naturally get along with the first person better.

Backing up and looking at our relationship with those people we find it difficult to enjoy, we can usually identify certain behaviors or traits that we dislike. But if we examined the relationships with those whom we do enjoy, we would find certain traits in them that we don’t appreciate as well. For whatever reason, we simply find it easier to overlook those behaviors in some people. Again, this is not because one group is good and the other is bad. We (as humans) have our preferences, and that tends to come out in who we choose to spend our time with.

There are some people with whom you will share interests. You might find it incredibly easy to have an animated conversation about those interests because you just “click” with them. This “clicking” is not necessarily based off of character or virtue, it is most often based on personality or temperament. And it isn’t that a person is more lovable or less lovable, or that they are good or bad. It is a “valueless” reality. We are all human in this way.

I have seen this go the other way as well. I’ve seen parents who have tried everything to invite their children into their hobbies and interests (or have asked to be invited into the hobbies and interests of their children) only to have the kids reject the presence of their parents. Sometimes, we can more clearly see the ways our parents have failed to love us than we can see the ways we have failed to actively love them. Which brings us to the second distinct attribute of the people around us.

They (and we) are also broken.

Let’s just assume that your mom and your sister have more in common that you and your mom do. Let’s just assume that your mom finds it naturally easier to share thoughts and have conversations with her. Again, this might solely be based on personality and has nothing to do with your ability to be loved or your worth. But the next thing your mom (and all of us in these situations) is called to is to give of herself. You are right: Your mom probably ought to love you better. And you probably ought to love her better. (And I ought to love the people around me better!) And this is what we are made and called to do as followers of Christ: love our neighbors (and even our enemies). But we fail to love as we ought. Why? Because we are broken.

This is true for every person in our lives who has not loved us as they should. This is true for parents, spouses, siblings, friends, priests, religious, and every other person whose role it is to love us well. We do not love each other as we should. When I don’t give the time or the attention that another person deserves, it isn’t because of them, it is because of my broken and anemic heart. When the people in our lives who do not love us as they should, it isn’t because you and I are unlovable, it is because of their shallow and wounded heart.

In these cases, this affords us the opportunity to do two things: extend grace and receive grace.

Your mom (and you) are broken. She doesn’t love like she should. And you don’t love like you should. So what do we do? We don’t expect others to give what they don’t have. We give them the grace to be broken. We give them the grace to accept the love they do offer without the condition that they have to love us how we would prefer. This takes more than we typically have within us.

Because of that we need to receive grace. The people in our lives do not love us the way they should. But why are we waiting for the broken people around us to give what God our Father already offers? The people in our lives will always struggle and will always fail to love us well. But our Father in heaven loves you perfectly. He is not burdened by “personality” or brokenness. With him, you are not only lovable, you are loved.

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.

Father Richard Kunst: St. Barnabas, the patron saint for a good argument

Is there a patron saint of arguing? No, not officially, but if there was one, St. Barnabas would be in the running. One of the most common things brought to the confessional is the “sin” of arguing: arguing with one’s spouse, kids, co-workers, friends, neighbors, etc.

Father Richard Kunst
Father Richard Kunst

It is important to note that arguing in and of itself is not a sin, but it sure opens us up to the potential of sin. When we argue, we often have inflamed tempers, which can easily make us say or do sinful things. But sometimes arguing can be a good thing. When I have married couples or engaged couples tell me that they never argue, that is a bit of a red flag for me, because often it means there are feelings or opinions that are being stifled, and that is never good. Arguing can happen in which there is a healthy exchange without there being sinful words or actions. That might be difficult to do when emotions are high, but it can be done.

Sometimes an argument can actually have very good consequences, and that is certainly the case when it comes to St. Barnabas. St. Barnabas, whose original name was Joseph, was renamed by the apostles as Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement,” which probably implies that he had a cheerful, outgoing personality. He was a Levite of Cypriot origin and most famously known as St. Paul’s companion on his missionary journeys.

It was Barnabas who went to Tarsus to fetch Paul, who had been there for some time after his conversion, bringing him to Antioch, where according to Acts of the Apostles they spent a year together preaching and teaching the Gospel. In Antioch, a collection was taken up for the Christians in Jerusalem who had been suffering from a drought, and Barnabas and Paul were chosen to deliver the money. It was there that they met John Mark, a young man who then joined them on their missionary journey. John Mark, who many scholars believe is Mark, the author of the Gospel, did not last long on the missionary journey. He left them early and went back to Jerusalem. Though we do not know the reason for sure, the speculation is that in his youth he had become somewhat homesick.

After Paul and Barnabas returned to Jerusalem, there was an argument, and likely a pretty bad argument between the two of them concerning John Mark. John Mark wanted to join the two on another missionary journey, but Paul was having none of it. Paul was apparently very frustrated with John Mark’s early exit from the last missionary journey and did not want him to join the group again, Barnabas, on the other hand, wanted to give John Mark another chance. The argument must have been severe enough, because it caused a split between Paul and Barnabas going their separate ways.

Now there may very well have been some sinful aspects to their fallout, but we know that it bore fruit because two highly successful missionary teams were formed out of the argument. Sometimes an argument can have positive result.

As already mentioned, arguing itself is not sinful, but it can easily become sinful. And the worst sort of outcome from an argument is a permanently severed relationship. If the relationship is permanently severed, you can bet that at least one of the parties refuses to forgive the other. That is sinful, in fact it could be deadly sinful. If we refuse to forgive someone for a past hurt, even if the pain they inflicted was bad, if we refuse to forgive them, then neither will God forgive us. And if God does not forgive us, we are up the proverbial creek.

Jesus makes the importance of reconciliation pretty clear when he says, “If you bring your gift to the altar and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift at the altar, go first to be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).

The oldest non-scriptural Christian text is a document known as The Didache, also known as “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles.” It speaks even more forcefully about the need to reconcile. “If anyone has a quarrel with his neighbor, that person should not join you (at the Eucharist) until he has been reconciled. Your sacrifice must not be defiled.”

So the point is this: arguing is not necessarily always a bad thing — see St. Barnabas. But if there is an argument, then there must be reconciliation. It is a must for Christians. If you are in such a situation, and you reach out to bring forth the reconciliation without the other party willing it, the sin is theirs; unwillingness to forgive is a deadly sin.

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

Father Nicholas Nelson: Once saved, always saved?

Between high school and college, I went down to Texas to play junior hockey. During that time, I lived with a family which was not Catholic. I would always go to Mass on Sunday while they went to their services. But one Saturday, I joined them for a Billy Graham revival meeting at the legendary Texas Stadium. There were thousands of people there, lots of preaching, loud music, and altar calls.

Father Nick Nelson
Handing on the Faith

During one of the intermissions, I was walking through the concourse with my housing family and we ran into some of their Protestant friends. My housing family introduced me, “This is Nick Nelson, he is playing hockey down here, and … he’s Catholic.” Then the friends asked me the question all Catholics dread to hear, “Are you saved?” I don’t remember how I ultimately answered that question, but I can still remember thinking to myself, “One, I don’t think it’s as easy as once saved, always saved, but two, being Catholic I know I’m in a better situation than you are.”

I’ve since learned how as a Catholic we are to answer that question. We should say, “I have been saved, I am being saved, I hope to be saved.” In this response, there is a recognition that something has happened in the past concerning my salvation, but that there is still more to the story. There is no such thing as “once saved, always saved.”

Our particular salvation begins with the first grace of justification. God gives us a free gift of grace moving us to make an act of faith, which justifies us in the sight of God. Through that grace, we are moved from a state of enmity with God to being pleasing to God and in friendship with him. This is where we agree with our non-Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ. The gift of grace whereby we come to repentance and faith in Jesus and receive the Sacrament of Baptism is unearned and unmerited.

Now, once we receive that first grace of justification through baptism or confession, then we must persevere in that state of grace. It is possible to return to a state of enmity with God by committing mortal sins. St. John speaks of “deadly sins” (1 John 5:13). We have to “work out our salvation in fear and trembling,” as St. Paul says (Philippians 2:12).

The idea that salvation is complete and guaranteed with the first grace of justification is totally false and unbiblical. It was made up by Martin Luther who was obsessive compulsive and wanted absolute certainty that he was going to be saved. Unfortunately, we cannot have that certainty. Jesus tells us, “Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13). We can have moral certainty that at a particular time, because of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are in a state of grace, meaning pleasing and in friendship with God, but we have no guarantee that we will persevere in that state.

But in addition to the hope of just remaining in a state of grace, we can grow in that state. We can merit more grace, increase in charity, and reward. The Catholic understanding of salvation is similar to a father promising to reward his son for work. Imagine that the father promised the son that if he mowed the lawn for an entire summer, he would buy him a gently used car for his 16th birthday, and if he did a really good job it would be a better car. First off, it is a free and unearned and unmerited gift that the son was born into that family and had such a gracious father. The son didn’t earn being a part of the family. Second, it was the father’s graciousness that made such a promise, a promise by which the son doesn’t “earn” the car, because cutting the grass for a summer doesn’t strictly add up to a car. Rather, it is a reward, whereby the father promises to reward the son for such good work. So the son “merits” the car by his work.

It is a free and unmerited grace that we were adopted into the family of God. Then, because we are sons and daughters of the God the Father, he promises to reward us for our good works.

When we are in a state of grace, all the penances, joyful acceptance of suffering, acts of charity towards others, prayers, all of it, merits more grace and an increase in charity in our souls. Notice that we have to be in a state of grace, in friendship with God. If you are not in a state of grace, you could be working at the soup kitchen from sun up to sun down, but you won’t merit a thing.

Finally, the more charity we die with in our souls, the greater our capacity to love God in heaven, and therefore the greater our beatitude and happiness in heaven. Everyone will be perfectly happy and content in heaven, but there is a hierarchy in heaven. St. Teresa of Avila used the image of containers. Everyone’s container will be filled, but saints will have various sizes of containers.

It’s an act of justice on God’s part that he rewards some more than others for their goodness on earth. Don’t just slide into heaven. Merit greater glory in heaven!

Father Nick Nelson is pastor of St. Mary, Cook; St. Martin, Tower; and Holy Cross, Orr. He studied at The Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Rome. Reach him at [email protected].

School news in brief

Registration open

Registration at the Catholic Schools in the diocese is now open. Please contact your school for more information.

Brainerd: St. Francis of the Lakes School, 817 Juniper St., 56401; (218) 829-2344;; [email protected]

Cloquet: Queen of Peace School, 102 Fourth St., 55720; (218) 879-8516;; [email protected]

Duluth: Stella Maris Academy,; SMA. [email protected]

  • Holy Rosary Campus, 2802 E. Fourth St., 55812; (218) 724-8565
  • St. James Campus, 715 N. 57th Ave. W., 55807; (218) 624-1511
  • St. John’s Campus, 1 W. Chisholm St., 55803; (218) 724-9392

Grand Rapids: St. Joseph’s School, 315 S.W. 21st St., 55744; (218) 326-6232;; [email protected]

Hibbing: Assumption School, 2310 Seventh Ave. E., 55746; (218) 263-3054;; [email protected]

International Falls: St. Thomas Aquinas School, 810 Fifth St., 56649; (218) 283-3430;; [email protected]

Virginia: Marquette School, 311 S. Third St., 55792; (218) 741-6811;; [email protected]

Schools column: Lead, love, and serve — a Lemon family legacy

By Teresa Kenney
Guest columnist

If life gives you lemons, you might find it to be a very lovely thing indeed if those lemons were actually part of the large, loving, and faithful Catholic family born to Mary Jean and Charles Lemon.

Ali Lemon
Ali Lemon, recipient of this year’s Lead, Love, Serve Award, comes from a family tradition of Catholic education. (Submitted photo)

The faculty, staff, and students at Stella Maris Academy know firsthand just how loving and faithful members of the Lemon family are and have been grateful for the beautiful Catholic foundation Mary Jean and Charles began to build 64 years ago, and most especially their family’s contributions to Catholic education ever since. Most recently SMA recognized one such contributor by awarding the Lead, Love, Serve Award to their granddaughter, Ali Lemon.

As a graduate of Stella Maris Academy this year, Alison (Ali) Lemon represents the last of the third generation of Lemons who have attended Catholic school in Duluth. Ali is the daughter of Charles (Chip) and Rhonda Lemon and is the youngest of five. She is part of a Catholic school legacy that spans 81 years. Her grandmother Mary Jean entered Holy Rosary school in 1940. It seems only fitting that a girl who was born on Valentine’s Day, and a granddaughter of Mary Jean and Charles, would be one of two graduating eighth-grade students to receive the Lead, Love, and Serve Award at Stella Maris Academy.

The Lead, Love, and Serve Award recognizes two eighth-grade students, chosen by Stella Maris faculty, who are committed persons of faith and who consistently exemplify Christ’s teachings. These are students who have demonstrated an appreciation for the Catholic faith and a desire for the truth that guides their lives in virtue. They are commended for their strong character, right judgment, and conscientious moral attitude.

As Catholics we strive to live out our faith, and it is well known that Ali seems to do just that. Ben Fish, a classmate and fellow graduate of Ali’s, believes Ali is very deserving of the award because “she was so kind and nice throughout our time at SMA. And her kindness meant the world to me,” Ben said.

“Ali is the type of friend you want around,” he said. “She was there to listen and help do everything she could to make your day that much better.” Sarah Murray, a faculty member at SMA, echoes Ben’s sentiments: “Ali is kind, fun, welcoming, and will always choose to do the right thing. She quietly puts others first, and her politeness and respect stand out in a generation.” Kristin Larson, another SMA faculty member, would agree. “Ali is unfailingly kind to classmates and staff and looks for ways to be helpful and hospitable, all without ceremony or attention,” she said.

Ali’s quiet contributions represent the importance of faith and education that Mary Jean and Charles sought to instill in their family. Theresa Landgren, granddaughter of Mary Jean and Charles, speaks for the family when she says her grandparents sacrificed to send their eight children to Holy Rosary school. “They never wavered in their conviction that Catholic education was the family’s strong foundation,” she said. “They cut back in other ways to make sure that their children had that component. And then it was passed down to all of us. It means everything to us to be a part of Catholic education.”

Now into adulthood, that family commitment has lived on for decades as many family members continued to actively show support of Catholic education through working and volunteering at the church and school as school teachers, religious education teachers, secretaries, and volunteers. At Stella Maris today, it is well known that if you see a certain SUV pulled up to the doors of the school, it is likely granddaughter Sonya Morris unloading supplies; if you see a lovely piece of art decorating the walls of the Holy Rosary campus, it was created by granddaughter Maria Landgren; and if you want to know the name of any student attending that campus, just ask Theresa Landgren.

Sarah Murray, who is not only a faculty member but the spouse of SMA principal Jesse Murray, continues: “This family represents the backbone of our school community. The Lemon family values education, but most importantly Catholic education, where they knew their family values and practices would be understood and appreciated. They were always leaders, always welcoming. (I strongly remember all of them when Jess and I first moved here, so wonderful!) … Ali encompasses all of what I saw in the many family members I have taught and interacted with.”

Mary Jean passed away in 2018 at the age of 84. Theresa speaks for her grandmother when she says, “She always said that all of us grandkids were the apple of her eyes. She would be so proud of Ali for being a good example of her Catholic faith. That was so important in her life.”

And what does Charles “Papa” Lemon have to say? “Ali has always had such an angelic smile and a severe sense of loyalty. She has such good work habits, and I love to watch her play soccer. She is always smiling.” It’s safe to say that somewhere Mary Jean is smiling, too.

Teresa Kenney is development director for Stella Maris Academy.

Betsy Kneepkens: Son’s COVID-modified wedding focused on what matters

Nearly two years ago, my family was out to dinner when my oldest son informed us of his plans to marry. We were all delighted, because his girlfriend is a wonderful person. After dating for over five years, a two-year engagement seemed long to some, but I knew that the discernment process to marry is one of the most serious journeys they may undertake. My son’s fiance was also in graduate school, and the timing seemed right.

Betsy Kneepkens
Betsy Kneepkens
Faith and Family

The two years ended, and the decision to be married was sealed by sacrament on June 20. I could not have been prouder and more humbled by this thoughtful and loving couple, who made their vows the most critical part of their wedding day. Neither of the two let the pandemic mar this significant occasion.

I often have shared with my children that engagement is a period that one discerns whether they are called to marriage, not a statement that they are getting married. I have tried to impress upon my children that the call to the sacrament of matrimony is most like being called to the priesthood or religious life. In other words, you might think you should get married, but what does God desire for you? The time of engagement should be used to answer that question.

My prayer these two years was that they would hear the Holy Spirit’s voice and keep what was most important, their promise to Christ and each other, the focal point of their wedding day. You can never know what is written on someone’s heart, but COVID-19, although it made the situation difficult, helped keep their priorities straight.

The planning started a couple of months after they decided to be engaged. My daughter-in-law has skills I only dream of having. She is always delightful. She is super organized and does not procrastinate. She is thoughtful and does a marvelous job relationship-building. I let her know early on she would likely get frustrated with me during this planning process. I quickly learned I could be her understudy, because she was strong in areas where I struggle. Sons usually marry someone like their mother, and I can confidently say my son must have been attracted to my opposite. One of the best parts about her is that she is patient with me and did whatever she could to simplify what I needed to do for the planning process. She never appeared frustrated, always grateful, and made me feel like I was helpful in each of the duties I needed to do.

The planning of what was most important seemed to be accomplished first. Since my son’s and his fiance’s lives were in transition, they sought a parish to marry at a location that was easy for family and friends, and they connected with their local priest to help prepare them. They attended the engaged weekend retreat early on. They discussed the parts of the wedding mass and learned what details they needed to plan for the sacramental portion of the day.

The remainder of their reception details were forthcoming and spectacular. It seemed that every aspect was meticulously covered and nothing short of elegant. Since we all came from large and extended families, the invite list was long. In late fall, the Save the Date cards were sent, and almost all the wedding invitations were delivered by mid-winter. The menu, cake, photographer, clothing, flowers, everything was completed with precision. The bridal shower was set for mid-March, and every detail imaginable was covered. We all waited in anticipation for what we knew was going to be a grand affair.

COVID-19 hit Minnesota in March. At first, everything was put on hold. My son called about March 15 and said, “Mom, I am not sure the wedding and reception can happen with all these COVID restrictions.” I said, “Are you serious? Your wedding is almost four months out. You will be fine.”

I was so very wrong. Everyone and everything backed out, a Stay at Home order was put in place with no end in sight, and everything was up in the air. Slowly things did become a little less restrictive in June, but it was not much help in the wedding matters. The critical unknown was whether the church would be opened.

It was with all the COVID-19 limitations that I could see where my son and his fiance’s priorities were. After two years of careful planning and organizing, this couple just wanted to get married. Without even a tear, and I can’t say I would have been the same, they made adjustments so what was on their heart could be accomplished, to become husband and wife. The potential list of 350 had to be pared down to 16. The list included the immediate families and a wonderful priest and the union of two people who vow to “have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.”

The rehearsal dinner was social distancing with pizza in a nearby park. On the day of the wedding, there were no salon visits, and most people wore what they had in their closets. The bride’s dress could not be altered, so she was shopping online for her wedding dress a couple of weeks before the wedding. There were no flowers; rather, masks and hand sanitizers strategically placed as you entered the church. Their wedding party was reduced to each of their older siblings signing off on the marriage certificate. There was no carriage or limo to depart from the church, just a well-cleaned family car where the bride, groom, and little sister shared the back set as his dad chauffeured us to dinner. The reception was reduced to a dinner served family-style, cooked up by a chef who generously opened his place so these newlyweds could at least have dinner with their family. Their two-week honeymoon to Italy was replaced by a drive to the East Coast.

Other than the church and ceremony, nothing was as planned.

What did this couple have? Their day was simple, beautiful, and to the point. The hype that often overshadows the day’s meaning did not exist. There was no ounce of stress, and since they could not expect anything, everything seemed perfect. The day was about the Mass, with the sacrament with their vows. It was a church filled with everyone that had unconditional love for the couple, all those who will be with them to support them during their married lives.

Most people dream of their wedding day their entire young life. I do not wish a significant world crisis on anyone’s wedding day, but in the end, it can often be through difficult situations that we see what is most significant. Words cannot express how proud I am of my son and my daughter-in-law who were able to keep what ought to be the most important on a wedding day the center and focus of what they were doing.

These two showed my other five children an excellent example about the Sacrament of Matrimony and how to order the essential things in life rightly. I can’t say I would have been as mature on my wedding day. In a way I did not expect, my prayers were answered in a manner greater than I could have ever expected, because God is good and always faithful.

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

Life news in brief

FertilityCare introductory sessions

Northland Family Programs, a FertilityCare Center, holds free Creighton Model FertilityCare System introductory sessions. CrMS is based on the knowledge and understanding of the naturally-occurring phases of a woman’s fertility and infertility. A woman can know her cycles and use this information for the maintenance of her health. Further, couples can use this knowledge to plan their family and build their future together. To get started, call (218) 786-2378 or visit

Thomas More Society sues to protect state’s pro-life laws

the Minnesota Court of Appeals was to hear the Thomas More Society’s appeal July 14 in a motion to intervene in a lawsuit brought by an anonymous abortionist against the state. The woman, whose identity is hidden under the moniker of “Dr. Jane Doe,” has teamed up with a transgender health care advocacy group to try and overturn Minnesota’s 24-hour waiting period for abortions, informed consent laws, parental notification standards, and a provision mandating that fetal remains be buried or cremated. The challenge also seeks to strike the requirement that all abortions be performed by a physician. Thomas More Society claims that the case could be easily dismissed if the Attorney General raised the affirmative defense that, absent legislative authorization, one can’t sue the government in Minnesota courts for violating the Minnesota Constitution; instead, one has to be ticketed or charged with a crime before raising constitutional issues. “Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is volunteering the state to participate in what Pro-Life Action Ministries and the Association for Government Accountability have labeled ‘meritless litigation,’” stated Thomas More Society Special Counsel Erick Kaardal. “Two abortion workers who have concealed their identity and a church group that advocates abortion have joined forces with transgender proponents and the Attorney General in this attempt to strip away Minnesota’s legislative protective oversight by court-ordered regulation of abortion. This is something that the Minnesota constitution prohibits them from doing.”

Faith in the Public Arena: The abolition of man and woman

By David Crawford, Michael Hanby, and Margaret Harper McCarthy
Faith in the Public Arena

The commonplace assumption of American liberalism, that courts merely preside over contests of rights, conceals the limitless power of the judiciary to decide questions of truth without thinking deeply or even honestly about them. Bostock v. Clayton County is a case in point. Justice Gorsuch claims, in writing for the majority, that the Court’s decision to include LGBT identity under Title VII’s definition of “sex” is a narrow ruling about “sex discrimination” in employment, leaving concerns like locker rooms and religious liberty for future litigation. But underneath the false modesty of this declaration lies a much more fundamental decision with vast implications. The Court has intervened in the most bitterly contested question of our time — a question of philosophy before it is a question of law — and codified a radical new conception of human nature with a dubious ideological history. It has inscribed the abolition of man and woman into law.

Faith in the Public ArenaThe entire argument of the case, repeated ad nauseam throughout its 30 long pages, is that adverse employment decisions based on LGBT status are necessarily a form of “sex discrimination.” Why? Because it is impossible to make these decisions without treating similarly situated individuals differently, based on their sexes. If a male employee who “identifies” as a woman were in fact a woman instead of a man, he would not have suffered adverse treatment. Hence, Justice Gorsuch confidently tells us, “she” is necessarily the victim of discrimination based on sex.

The argument would be laughable were its implications not so humanly disastrous. Crucial to observe are the argument’s presuppositions. Justice Gorsuch thinks that a man who “identifies” as a woman is similarly situated to a woman who “identifies” as a woman. For him to think this, he must assume that the relationship between our embodiment as male and female and our personal subjectivity (as expressed in “identity”) are essentially arbitrary and that they therefore lack any organic or natural unity. These assumptions then imply that a man who “identifies” as a woman might really be a woman, that to be a woman is a mental state, that we really are Cartesian “ghosts in the machine.” Without such assumptions, Justice Gorsuch could not claim that such a man and woman are similarly situated.

These are metaphysical judgments. Yet Justice Gorsuch naively fails to recognize that the crux of his argument relies on and effectively codifies them. The question of sex discrimination in employment is relatively unimportant compared to the momentous imposition by law of these very questionable philosophical propositions with their vast implications for society.

It is impossible to redefine human nature for just one person. When a fourth-grade girl is required to affirm in thought, word, and deed that a boy in her class is now a girl, this does not simply affirm the classmate’s right to self-expression. It radically calls into question the meaning of “boy” and “girl” as such, thereby also calling into question both her own “identity” and that of everyone in her life, from her mother and father to her brothers and sisters, and all of her friends and relatives. As well it should. If each of us is defined by a sexual or gender “identity” only arbitrarily related to our male and female bodies, now relegated to a meaningless biological substrate, then in fact there is no longer any such thing as man or woman as heretofore understood. We are all transgender now, even if gender and sexual identity accidentally coincide in a great majority of instances.

To settle questions of truth by force of law is a characteristic of totalitarian regimes. And this example shows just how totalizing this ruling really is. It requires everyone to live for all public and practical purposes as if what they know to be true in their pre-ideological experience of reality — an awareness we drink in with our mother’s milk — were officially false, a “stereotype.” Even worse, it requires everyone to live for all public and practical purposes as if what they know to be false were officially true. Ironically, what is now “true” is nothing but stereotypes, that bundle of mannerisms, dress, make-up, and hairstyles by which one imagines what it feels like to be a woman or a man. Worse still, it prefers them especially when they are at odds with one’s actual sex. The war on pronouns, an assault upon the very language by which we recognize a world in common, follows of necessity. What we are dealing with here is nothing less than a war on the very principle of reality itself. And everyone has just been pressed into service.

There is no totalitarianism so total as that which claims authority over the meaning of nature. Increasingly we find the courts assuming this authority, though this power is typically exercised in part unconsciously, or even ignorantly, and in part dishonestly and subversively, all under the pretense of “neutrally” mediating between interests, rights, powers, and authorities. Or in this case, simply parsing “plain English.” But this is bosh, and no one believes it. Not for a second.

The burdens on free speech, free exercise, and perhaps most fundamentally, free thought, are obvious. But the burden on the basic unity of human society is even weightier; for the Court has just abolished the fundamental fact on which every civilization depends, indeed on which the human species depends. We have just been pushed over the edge. It’s breathtaking.

As C.S. Lewis said in “The Abolition of Man,” we will now need the “beneficent obstinacy of real children for preserving the human race in such sanity as it still possesses.” We can only hope that such children will come along to point out the naked truth to our new Emperors.

David Crawford, Michael Hanby, and Margaret Harper McCarthy are professors at the John Paul II Institute. This piece originally ran in the Wall Street Journal.

Action Alert

Sept. 1st: World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

In 2015 Pope Francis established World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation as an opportunity for individuals and communities “to reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation, to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care, and to implore his help for the protection of creation as well as his pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live.”

In stewarding creation, we must recall Pope Francis tells us in Laudato si’ that our bodies place “us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings.” Therefore, we must learn to “accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning” and value our bodies in their femininity and masculinity.

You can learn to become a better steward of all of creation with the “Minnesota, Our Common Home” resources including a six-week study guide and the “Ecological Examen” – a prayer resource. Find these by visiting