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Father Michael Schmitz: Sin isn’t a necessary evil; aim to know goodness well

Question: Do you really believe that sins are the measurement of your passes to heaven? I don’t think so. Sins are necessary to life. How would you know that good is good if you do not experience sin? It gives balance to life.

Answer: That’s an interesting question. It reminds me of a magazine for kids that I used to read. Do you remember “Highlights for Children”? It was usually in doctor and dentist waiting rooms and had any number of short stories and games for kids to play.

Father Michael Schmitz
Father Michael Schmitz
Ask Father Mike

My favorite thing in “Highlights” was a little comic strip called “Goofus and Gallant.” They were two young boys, and one was the embodiment of bad manners and selfishness (Goofus) while the other was an example of good manners and noble behavior.

There would always be something like, “Goofus makes his dad clean up after supper, while Gallant says, ‘I’ll do the dishes, mom!’ ” The idea is that children are learning the difference between good and bad behavior through comparing and contrasting the behavior of these two boys.

This is clearly one way that we learn things in life. There are plenty of lessons that we learn as we go through this world by way of comparison and contrast.

We say things like, “This lemonade is sour.” In comparison to what? Well, possibly in comparison to something that is not sour (like water) or something that is sweet (like orange juice). We can know things like color based on the light spectrum. This variety adds zest to life and helps us distinguish one thing from another.

But difference in taste or color is not the same thing as difference between good and evil. In fact, this goes back to ancient Christian theology. In Catholic theology, evil is not a “thing” in the same sense that good is a “thing.” In fact, it is more accurate to say that evil is either a distortion of or the lack (privation) of a good. We have evil when something good in itself is either distorted, misused or taken away.

Therefore, something like blindness isn’t a “thing”; it is the lack of a good (sight). One doesn’t need to know blindness in order to know seeing. Or take the case of someone using the truth to hurt another person. Here, one would be misusing a good thing (truth) for an evil purpose, but a person wouldn’t need to experience this in order to know the goodness of truth.

‘Necessary’ doesn’t mean ‘good’

We recognize that evil is a “necessary” part of life in the same sense that we recognize that sickness is a part of life. These things don’t add anything to living. In fact, they mostly serve to take away from our experience of life. They are “necessary” in that we experience them, but sin and evil are not necessary for us to understand the good.

Consider a couple of brief examples.

When it comes to beauty, a person could be raised (in theory) completely surrounded by beauty. Imagine if all of the music and art and entertainment they were exposed to was consistently in accord with the nature of real beauty. They would not have to be simultaneously exposed to ugliness in order to know beauty.

A person exclusively engaged with those things which reflect beauty would actually come to know beauty in a way that someone who was also exposed to ugliness could not. They would certainly be able to recognize ugliness when presented with it, but they wouldn’t need to know ugliness in order to know beauty.

This is the motivation behind the U.S. Treasury Department’s work to train people to be able to spot counterfeit bills. One might imagine that, when training people to recognize counterfeits, they would study all of the different ways a bill could be forged. But this is not how the government does it.

They have found that the single most effective way to train people to know when they are looking at a counterfeit bill is to study genuine bills. They know what “real money” looks and feels like to such a degree that they are able to instantly recognize a fake. They did not, in this sense, need to experience the bad in order to know the good. They just needed to thoroughly know the good.

Or consider parenting. A good parent would certainly vary in the kind of love they gave to their child. At times, their love might be gentle and soothing. At other times, it could be more demanding and less flexible. There would be a great variety of expressions of love that the child would come to know. But the parent would not also have to abuse and use the child in order to “give balance” to their parenting. In a similar way, sin does not “give balance” to life.

Sin adds negatives

It seems shortsighted to say that we wouldn’t know that good is good if we didn’t experience the opposite.

There are virtually an infinite number of goods in this world. The more fully we are exposed to, experience, and come to know these goods, the more full life becomes. Sin merely adds pain and dullness to life, not color.

Lastly, sin isn’t necessarily the measurement of one’s “pass into heaven.” On the contrary, love is the measure.

First, the love God has for us in creating us and redeeming us. Second, in the love we have for him by choosing to obey him. We choose to love God when we choose to respond to his grace with faithfulness.

In the end, sin isn’t the test; love is.

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.

Pope says he will canonize Blessed Junipero Serra in Washington

By Francis X. Rocca / Catholic News Service — Pope Francis said his September trip to the U.S. will take him to Philadelphia, New York and Washington — where he intends to canonize Blessed Junipero Serra — but probably no other stops.

Pope Francis made his remarks Jan. 19, in an hourlong news conference with reporters accompanying him back to Rome from a weeklong trip to Asia.

Pope answers question
Pope Francis responds to questions about the September U.S. papal visit during a news conference aboard his flight from Manila, Philippines, to Rome Jan. 19. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Four days after announcing he would canonize Blessed Junipero in the U.S. in September, the pope said he wished he could do so in California, the 18th-century Franciscan’s mission field, but would not have time to travel there.

The pope said he planned instead to perform the canonization ceremony at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, saying Washington would be a fitting location because a statue of Blessed Junipero stands in the U.S. Capitol.

The pope also confirmed he would visit the United Nations in New York. He had already announced his participation in the late-September World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

Asked about widespread speculation that he would visit the U.S.-Mexico border on the same trip, Pope Francis said “entering the United States by crossing the border from Mexico would be a beautiful thing, as a sign of brotherhood and of help to the immigrants.” But he said making such a visit would raise expectations that he would visit Mexico’s shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and he joked that “war could break out” if he failed to do so.

“There will be time to go to Mexico later on,” he said.

Catholic News Agency reported on a proposed schedule that U.S. and U.N. church leaders have submitted to the Vatican. That schedule, which has not yet been approved, would have the pope arriving in Washington the evening of Sept. 22; visiting the White House and celebrating Mass at the shrine Sept. 23; addressing a joint sessions of Congress Sept. 24 before traveling to New York City to address U.N. General Assembly Sept. 25.

As previously announced, he would spend Sept. 26 and 27 in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families.

However, sources familiar with the trip planning have noted that plans submitted to the Vatican are not always approved, and Pope Francis’ comments about the canonization of Blessed Junipero indicated not all plans are finalized.

His Jan. 15 announcement on the plane from Sri Lanka to the Philippines surprised even the people who have been promoting the sainthood cause of Blessed Junipero. The CNA interview with Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Vatican nuncio to the United Nations, said the Mass at the shrine “would be primarily for bishops, consecrated and religious men and women, seminarians and representatives from humanitarian and Catholic charitable organizations,” while Pope Francis said that is when he would canonize Blessed Junipero.

Pope Francis would be the first pope to address a joint session of Congress.

Helen Osman, secretary for communications at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said it was “exciting that the Holy Father has confirmed that he is visiting Washington, New York and Philadelphia. Plans are already underway to enable as many people as possible to participate, including through mass media. We are anticipating that the Vatican will be providing more details toward the end of February and are hoping that a final schedule can be announced soon afterward.”

She said media credentialing would open after the Vatican releases the schedule and would be coordinated through the USCCB Communications Department. In 2008, almost 6,000 media applications were processed for Pope Benedict XVI’s visit.

During his pontificate, St. John Paul II visited the United States seven times — two of which were fuel stopovers — making the country his most frequent foreign destination after his native Poland. He addressed the United Nations in 1979 and 1995; Blessed Paul VI did so in 1965, and Pope Benedict addressed the assembly in 2008, during his one visit as pope.

Pope Francis said he hoped to visit three Latin American countries in 2015 — Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay — and three more — Argentina, Chile and Uruguay — the following year. He said he planned to visit two African countries — the Central African Republic and Uganda — in late 2015. He emphasized that all of those trips were still in the “hypothetical” planning stages.

9 Days for Life Novena, Day 4


May children awaiting adoption be welcomed into loving families.


Our Father, 3 Hail Marys, Glory Be


Let us reflect on today’s reading from Hebrews (6:10-20), which reminds us to “hold fast to the hope that lies before us. This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm” (Heb 6:18-19). We pray that children awaiting adoption would be filled with the hope of Christ and “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding” (Phil 4:7). We also remember that, we too, can cling fast to this anchor of hope, for we have received “a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Rom 8:15). May our loving Father envelop each of us in His love today and open our eyes in faith, that we may see and rejoice in it.

Acts of Reparation (choose one)
  • Make an act of faith, hope or love. (
  • Today, ignore your sweet tooth. Make healthy eating choices.
  • Make a “quiet hour” today, turning off all electronic devices (cell phone, iPod, computer, television, radio, video game system), and retreat to your room. Spend some time in prayer or prayerful reading.
One Step Further

In “An Adoption Love Story,” Jenny* shares her and her husband’s story of adopting their son, Andrew. Read about some of the challenges, concerns, and joys on their journey at

*Names changed for privacy

Find a printable version of this document at

Supreme Court agrees to take up same-sex marriage cases this term

By Catholic News Service — The Supreme Court Jan. 16 agreed to hear four cases over the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, tackling the questions of whether the 14th Amendment requires states to allow such marriages and whether it requires them to recognize same-sex marriages licensed in other states.

In brief orders, the court accepted petitions from Tennessee, Michigan, Kentucky and Ohio, consolidating them into one hearing that will be held probably in late April, meaning a decision would likely come before the end of the term in late June. The court allotted an unusually lengthy period of time for oral arguments, two and a half hours, compared to a typical 60-minute period.

As of Jan. 16, 36 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriages, either under court rulings or state laws. In the other 14 states, they are prohibited, but those bans are all under legal challenge.

The Catholic Church upholds marriage as a union between one man and one woman and teaches that any sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful. The church also teaches that homosexual attraction itself is not sinful and that homosexual people “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.”

The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage said that a decision by the Supreme Court on whether a state may define marriage as the union of one man and one woman “may be the most significant court decision since the court’s tragic 1973 Roe v. Wade decision making abortion a constitutional right.”

“It’s hard to imagine how the essential meaning of marriage as between the two sexes, understood in our nation for over 200 years, and consistent with every society throughout all of human history, could be declared illegal,” Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco said in a Jan. 16 statement.

Upholding traditional marriage “is not a judgment on anyone,” he said. “It is a matter of justice and truth. The central issue at stake is: what is marriage? The answer is: a bond which unites a man and a woman to each other and to any children who come from their union.”

After the court announced it would take the marriage cases, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Obama administration would file an amicus, or “friend of the court,” brief calling for a decision by the justices that would “make marriage equality a reality for all Americans.”

James Esseks, director of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & HIV Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement the ACLU was “thrilled the court will finally decide this issue. ... The country is ready for a national solution that treats lesbian and gay couples fairly.” The ACLU is a co-counsel in the Kentucky case.

In 2013 the Supreme Court — in separate 5-4 rulings — struck down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, defining marriage as between one man and one woman, and also refused to rule on the merits of a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, the voter-approved initiative barring same-sex marriage.

In the June 26 ruling on DOMA, the court said the federal government could not deny benefits to same-sex couples that were legally married in states that allow such unions based on the Equal Protection Clause. The justices the same day sent back to lower courts a challenge to Prop 8, saying the individuals who defended the law in court lacked the legal standing to do so. On June 28, 2013, a stay on allowing same-sex marriage in California was lifted and such marriages were able to resume.

During his trip to the Philippines, Pope Francis made one of his strongest calls as pope against movements to recognize same-sex unions as marriage.

“The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage,” the pope said Jan. 16, hours after warning that Philippine society was “tempted by confusing presentations of sexuality, marriage and the family.”

9 Days for Life Novena, Day 3


May those who long for a child of their own be filled with trust in God’s loving plan.


Our Father, 3 Hail Marys, Glory Be


logoIt can be very difficult and painful when the Lord doesn’t answer our prayers the way we hope. We may have many doubts and questions, wondering why we face the challenges that we do. Yet even though our suffering is often shrouded in a sense of mystery, we believe that the Lord loves us with great tenderness and compassion that is beyond our imagination. Knowing this, we can trust that “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28).

Acts of Reparation (choose one)
  • Smile. Ask God today for the grace to be extra joyful and share your love for Christ with those who need that encouragement the most today.
  • Pray the Rosary, or even just a decade, today for someone who has hurt or disappointed you, and ask for the grace to forgive that person.
  • We can sometimes forget how blessed we are to have many of our daily comforts. Give up sleeping with your pillow tonight.
One Step Further

Learn how some methods of conceiving a child pose serious concerns in “Life Matters: Reproductive Technologies.” Visit to read the article.

Find a printable version of this document at

Pope, at Mass with millions, tells Filipinos to protect the family

By Francis X. Rocca / Catholic News Service — Pope Francis told a crowd of an estimated 6 million gathered in a Manila park to protect the family “against insidious attacks and programs contrary to all that we hold true and sacred, all that is most beautiful and noble in our culture.” The pope’s homily at the Jan. 18 Mass also reprised several other themes he had sounded during the four-day visit, including environmental problems, poverty and corruption.

Despite continuous rain, the congregation in Rizal Park began to assemble the night before the afternoon celebration. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila canceled other Masses throughout the archdiocese to enhance turnout. The crowd was so dense in spots that people passed hosts to fellow worshippers unable to reach priests distributing Communion.

Millions at Mass
An aerial view shows pilgrims gathering to hear a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Rizal Park in Manila, Philippines, Jan. 18. The view shows only a portion of the Mass site, which a local church official said was more than a mile long. (CNS photo/Philippine Air Force/Handout via Reuters)

The government estimated total crowd size at 6 million-7 million people. According to the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, that would be the largest number of people ever to gather to see a pope. A Mass with St. John Paul II in the same place 20 years earlier is believed to have drawn 4 million to 5 million people, often described as the largest live crowd in history.

The Mass was celebrated on Santo Nino Day, or the feast of the Holy Child Jesus, one of the most popular feast days in the Philippines. Many of those who walked great distances down closed roads to get to Rizal Park held statues of Santo Nino.

For his final scheduled public talk in the country, Pope Francis stuck to his prepared English text and did not improvise in Spanish, as he had done at several emotional points during the visit. Yet his voice rose with emphasis during the passage about protecting the family.

Those words echoed his warning, during a Jan. 16 meeting with Filipino families, against “ideological colonization that tries to destroy the family” through such practices as same-sex marriage and contraception.

In his homily, Pope Francis said Christians “need to see each child as a gift to be welcomed, cherished and protected. And we need to care for our young people, not allowing them to be robbed of hope and condemned to life on the streets.”

The pope praised the Philippines, whose population is more than 80 percent Catholic, as the “foremost Catholic country in Asia,” and said its people, millions of whom work abroad, are “called to be outstanding missionaries of the faith in Asia.”

Yet he warned the developing nation, one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies, against temptations of materialism, saying the devil “hides his snares behind the appearance of sophistication, the allure of being modern, like everyone else. He distracts us with the promise of ephemeral pleasures, superficial pastimes. And so we squander our God-given gifts by tinkering with gadgets; we squander our money on gambling and drink.”

Pope Francis, who had urged a group of young people earlier in the day to address the challenge of climate change through dedication to the environment, told Mass-goers human sinfulness had “disfigured (the) natural beauty” of creation.

Other consequences of sin, the pope said, were “social structures which perpetuate poverty, ignorance and corruption,” problems he had emphasized in his Jan. 16 speech at Manila’s presidential palace.

9 Days for Life Novena, Day 2


May those near the end of their lives receive medical care that respects their dignity and protects their lives.


Our Father, 3 Hail Marys, Glory Be


logoIn today’s Gospel reading (Jn 1:35-42), John the Baptist testifies that Jesus is “the Lamb of God.” How often do we meditate on Jesus as the Lamb and our salvation? There is nothing we could ever accomplish on our own that could make up for our daily failures to love others with the merciful and sacrificial love of Christ. But in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, he forgives our faults, wipes the stain of sin from our souls and gives us the strength to begin anew with the help of his grace. Let us live each day in gratitude for the mercy God shows us!

Acts of Reparation (choose one)
  • Take time to write a handwritten note to someone who is lonely or needing encouragement.
  • Read about the life of a modern (19th or 20th century) saint. You might be surprised by how much you have in common with them.
  • Go to bed a little early tonight, and spend some time talking and listening to God.
One Step Further

Various types of advance medical directives raise some concerns you should be aware of as you consider your health care options. Find out what they are in “Advance Medical Directives: Planning for Your Future.” (Visit to access the full article).

Find a printable version of this document at

9 Days for Life Novena, Day 1


logoFor the conversion of all hearts and the end to abortion.


Our Father, 3 Hail Marys, Glory Be


Today’s Gospel reading from Mark (Mk 2:13-17) recounts Jesus dining with tax collectors and sinners. When the Pharisees question Jesus about this, he responds, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”* In a society where millions of people have fallen prey to the false promises of the culture of death, let us witness to the mercy of Jesus and invite all who’ve been wounded to experience his abundant love and healing.

Acts of Reparation (choose one)
  • Go to an abortion clinic and pray, or set aside an hour today to pray for those who are struggling with a decision of life or death for their unborn child.
  • Spend some time reflecting upon today’s Gospel passage.
  • Use Facebook or another form of social media to post something that builds up the culture of life.
One Step Further

Women’s health, women’s equality, and women’s marriage prospects have suffered from over 40 years of nationally legal abortion throughout all 9 months of pregnancy. Learn how in “Life Matters: Roe Plus 40.” (Visit to access the full article).

A printable version of this document is available at

Pope’s canonization announcement surprises even Serra’s promoters

By Patricia Zapor / Catholic News Service — Surprising even the people who have been promoting the sainthood cause of Blessed Junipero Serra, Pope Francis announced Jan. 15 that in September, he hopes to canonize the 18th-century Spanish Franciscan who founded a string of missions across Mexico and California.

Blessed Serra is credited with directly founding nine missions in California, one in Baja California in Mexico and with reinvigorating established missions in Mexico. Friars under his tutelage founded many others across California, in territory that was then part of New Spain.

Blessed Junipero Serra
Blessed Junipero Serra, a Spanish Franciscan who ministered in U.S. and Mexico, is pictured in an undated painting. During his flight from Sri Lanka to Manila, Philippines, Jan. 15, Pope Francis said he would canonize Blessed Junipero in September. (CNS photo)

The vice postulator for Blessed Serra’s sainthood cause, Franciscan Father John Vaughn, told Catholic News Service he was taken completely by surprise by the pope’s announcement. Even among the friars at Mission Santa Barbara, where he lives, “I was the last to know,” he said.

The announcement came when Pope Francis, aboard a flight from Sri Lanka to the Philippines, explained to reporters his decision to canonize St. Joseph Vaz, a 17th- and 18th-century missionary to Sri Lanka, bypassing the usual process, including verification of a second miracle attributed to the saint’s intercession. Pope Francis said St. Joseph was among great evangelists whom he planned to canonize without such preliminaries, in an effort to celebrate the practice of evangelization.

“Now in September, God willing, I will canonize Junipero Serra in the United States. He was the evangelizer of the West in the United States,” the pope said. He did not specify when or where the canonization might take place.

Father Vaughn said he had heard that Pope Francis considered Blessed Serra to have already met the sainthood criteria because of the way he brought the Catholic faith to California and the native populations. But that the pope was ready to move on canonizing the friar came as a total surprise, he said.

The announcement is “a great honor for the province,” Father Vaughn said. “We’ve always looked to Serra as the ideal for how to preach the Gospel, as he said ‘always go forward, never back.’”

Blessed Serra was born in the village of Petra on the Spanish island Mallorca Nov. 24, 1713. After entering the Franciscans, he obtained a doctorate in sacred theology at the National University of Blessed Ramon Lull and developed a career as an academic and acclaimed preacher in Spain. At the age of 36, he volunteered to go to the New World, to Mexico.

As noted in a biography of Blessed Serra on the website of the California-based Santa Barbara Province of the Franciscans, the friar first was assigned to the remote Sierra Gorda region, in what is now the state of Queretaro, where he worked among the Pame Indians, some of whom had already been converted to Catholicism. He then spent another decade crisscrossing central Mexico, preaching.

In 1758, he was appointed to head up a group of Spanish Franciscans sent to evangelize and colonize “Baja” and “Alta” California. He personally established nine missions in what is now the state of California, beginning with Mission San Diego de Alcala in present-day San Diego. He supervised the Franciscans who founded 12 more California missions.

He died at age 70 Aug. 28, 1784, and is buried at Mission San Carlos Borromeo in Carmel, California. He was beatified in Rome Sept. 25, 1988, by St. John Paul II.

Steven Hackel, a history professor at University of California at Riverside who has written a biography, “Junipero Serra: California’s Founding Father,” told CNS he thinks of Blessed Serra as one of the little-heralded “founding fathers” of the United States. Though he was a contemporary of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, the priest and other missionaries who settled areas beyond the East Coast were crucial to the development of the nation as well.

“Every region had its missionaries who were founding fathers of another sort,” Hackel said.

Although California fourth-graders study Blessed Serra’s accomplishments in social studies classes, Hackel said he and the other missionary founding fathers are often ignored in history textbooks. He said he hopes new attention to Blessed Serra will change that.

As to where the canonization might take place, Pope Francis gave no indication.

The pope is scheduled to visit the United States in September to participate in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, which runs Sept. 22-27.

The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said in early January that he expects the pope also will visit Washington, where he has been invited to address a joint session of Congress, and New York, where he has been invited to address the United Nations. The cardinal provided no dates for the pope’s travel and did not mention where else, if anywhere in the U.S., he would visit.

Pope Francis also has been invited to other parts of the United States, and he has said he wants to go to the U.S.-Mexico border. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said last June when they met that Pope Francis told him he would accept the invitation to visit Mexico, though he did not say when. In a pastoral trip to Nuevo Laredo Jan. 10, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, remarked that there was “joy and hope” that the pope would visit Mexico, but that he had no information about dates.

At the time of Blessed Serra’s beatification, protesters demonstrated against the action and spray-painted graffiti on the walls of a San Diego museum named for the friar. Critics, including representatives of Native Americans, said Blessed Serra brutalized Native Americans and suppressed Indian culture. A 1986 report by the Diocese of Monterey, California, defended Blessed Serra, saying his reputation had been attacked “without proof or documentation.”

The National Assembly of Religious Women, a now defunct grassroots organization, said at the time that the Vatican “failed to consult adequately” with Native Americans before beatifying Blessed Serra, and that he “was guilty, along with many others, of extreme brutality toward California Indians.”

Hackel said he expects some of those controversies to surface again, but he thinks this time the debate about Blessed Serra could be a constructive conversation.

“He was uncompromising,” Hackel said of the priest. “Without a doubt some Indians will oppose this. But others are rejoicing.”

Working through the controversies “will be a good thing,” he said. “It can lead to reconciliation and mutual understanding.”

Diocesan conferences set for both men and women

By Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross — The diocesan men’s conference is on its fourth year and the women’s conference on its third, and both are moving to Marshall School in Duluth this year.

The Duluth Catholic Men’s Conference is set for Feb. 21 and will feature two speakers, Deacon Ralph Poyo and, for a session in the afternoon, youth minster Nic Davidson.

Deacon Poyo, a national speaker who founded New Evangelization Ministries and is sought for Steubenville Youth Conferences, will give sessions on Jesus, discipleship and pornography. He is coming from North Carolina.

“He is passionate about helping others to make Catholicism more a way of life, rather than just a religious identity,” said Deacon John Weiske, one of the conference organizers.

Davidson, a Duluthian now living in New York, will give a talk on Theology of the Body, a subject on which he speaks nationally.

Deacon Weiske said there will be one change in format.

“Having enough time for confessions has been a challenge,” he said. So in the morning Deacon Poyo will be repeating one of his sessions, allowing organizers to invite half of the men to go confession the first time and the other half the second.

“We’re hoping this will allow all the men who want to go to confession to go to confession,” he said.

He said the facilities at Marshall seem excellent for the expected 400 to 450 attendees, including more accessibility, with no stairs needed to get to the auditorium.

As usual, the conference will include lunch and Mass with Bishop Paul Sirba.

Women’s turn in March

The women’s conference on March 7 will be focused on the “Joy of the Gospel,” a major theme of Pope Francis, and the first 400 guests registered will receive of copy of Pope Francis’ document on the subject, said Betsy Kneepkens, director of marriage and family life for the Duluth Diocese.

This year the conference features two speakers: Hallie Lord, author, editor and founder of the Edel Gathering, speaking on the beauty of the church’s teaching on the vocations of marriage and authentic womanhood, and Kelly Wahlquist, assistant director of the Catechetical Institute for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Lord is from South Carolina. “Hallie is a wife, mother of six children, and she’s a convert to Cathlicism,” Kneepkens said.

Wahlquist, she said, weaves personal stories and gives practical advice to live the joy of the Gospel with missionary zeal. She is also founder of WINE: Women In the New Evangelization, and a contributing writer for and The Integrated Catholic Life.

As in years past, there will be Mass, confession, adoration and the opportunity to pray the rosary, with a welcome by Bishop Sirba. Benedictine Sister Lisa Maurer of St. Scholastica Monastery will be the emcee. Kneepkens said the conference has also expanded the vendors to include items like jewelry.

“We anticipate well over 400 participants,” she said.

Both conferences have early registration dates coming up. For the men’s conference, priority registration ends Feb. 9. After that date, the fee rises from $25 to $35.

For the women’s conference, the cost is $30, and registration closes Feb. 20. Lunch and materials are not guaranteed after that date.

More registration information about both conference is available at the diocesan website,

For the men’s conference, registration forms are also available from parish offices.