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Bishop-elect Michel J. Mulloy appointed for Diocese of Duluth

Pope Francis has appointed Father Michel J. Mulloy, from the Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota, to be the 10th bishop of the Diocese of Duluth, it was announced today.

Bishop-elect Michel Mulloy
Bishop-elect Michel Mulloy

Bishop-elect Mulloy was born May 20, 1953, in Mobridge, South Dakota, and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in 1979. He served parishes in both the Sioux Falls and Rapid City dioceses before being incardinated formally in the Rapid City diocese in 1986. He has spent most of his priestly ministry serving in parishes until his appointment full-time as vicar general of the Rapid City Diocese in 2017 and his subsequent election in 2019 as diocesan administrator after Rapid City’s bishop was transfered to another diocese.

Among other roles in the Diocese of Rapid City, Bishop-elect Mulloy has served as vocations director and director of the Office of Worship, as well as serving on the presbyteral council, the College of Consultors, the diocesan finance and pastoral councils, and the Sioux Spiritual Center Board of Directors.

His episcopal ordination and installation have been set for Thursday, Oct. 1.

Bishop-elect Mulloy will succeed the late Bishop Paul Sirba, who died unexpectedly on Dec. 1, 2019.


Clergy assigments

Father James Bissonette, diocesan administrator, has announced the following clergy assignments, effective (unless otherwise noted) July 15, 2020.

Father Peter Muhich, rector of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, St. Mary Star of the Sea, and Our Lady of Mercy, Duluth, has been named bishop-elect of the Diocese of Rapid City. He will be installed July 9.

Father Paul Strommer, parochial vicar of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, St. Mary Star of the Sea, and Our Lady of Mercy, Duluth, to administrator of St. Joseph, Chisholm, and Sacred Heart, Buhl.

Father Anthony Wroblewski, pastor of St. Francis, Brainerd; All Saints, Baxter; and St. Thomas of the Pines, Brainerd, to administrator of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, St. Mary Star of the Sea, and Our Lady of Mercy, Duluth.

Father Ryan Moravitz. pastor of St. Lawrence, Holy Family, and St. Joseph, Duluth, to administrator of St. Francis, Brainerd; All Saints, Baxter; and St. Thomas of the Pines, Brainerd. He remains vocation director.

Father Elias Gieske, pastor of St. Joseph, Crosby; St. Joseph, Deerwood; Holy Family, Hillman; and Our Lady of Fatima, Garrison, to administrator of St. Lawrence, Holy Family, and St. Joseph, Duluth.

Father Anthony Craig, pastor of St. Joseph, Chisholm, and Sacred Heart, Buhl, administrator of St. Joseph, Crosby; St. Joseph, Deerwood; Holy Family, Hillman; and Our Lady of Fatima, Garrison. He remains assistant to the Marriage, Family, and Life Office.

Father Blake Rozier, pastor of Immaculate Heart, Crosslake, and St. Emily, Emily, to administrator of St. Joseph, Grand Rapids, and St. Augustine, Cohasset.

Father Drew Braun, pastor of St. John, Duluth, and St. Joseph, Gnesen, to administrator of Immaculate Heart, Crosslake, and St. Emily, Emily.

Father Seth Gogolin, pastor of St. Joseph, Grand Rapids, and St. Augustine, Cohasset, to administrator of St. John, Duluth, and St. Joseph, Gnesen.

Father Matthew Miller to parochial vicar of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, St. Mary Star of the Sea, and Our Lady of Mercy, Duluth.

Update from Father Bissonette in light of new executive order

Announcement of a New Executive Order
May 23, 2020

Saturday of the Sixth Sunday of Easter

Dear Faithful and Clergy of the Diocese of Duluth,

I wish to let you know of an important breakthrough in our state that will allow for greater worship opportunities for all people of faith. This breakthrough is consistent with our need, as Catholics, to both protect public health and to gather together to pray. Concern for the common good and concern for the faith lives of believers are concerns that we share.

In a few days, Governor Walz will issue a new executive order that allows faith communities to publicly worship inside using 25% of their church up to 250 people. Public worship outside the church is allowed up to 250 people, as well. This order will take effect beginning Wednesday, May 27.

Governor Walz and his administration hope that when faith communities gather, they will do so consistent with public health guidance. We will endeavor to do this by being mindful of the state’s recommendations as we dovetail them with our own Diocese of Duluth COVID-19 Protocols.

The Catholic bishops of Minnesota believe that the prior rules limiting faith-based gatherings to ten people unreasonably burdened the liberty of the Church to bring Mass and the sacraments to the faithful. Because we believe that the Eucharist is the bread of everlasting life and the source and summit of our faith, we were prepared to move ahead and allow larger Masses without support from public officials. The life of faith was receiving unequal treatment, as allowances were made for other, less essential activities. The new executive order removes that unreasonable burden on the Church and allows us to celebrate and receive the Eucharist.

I would like to express my gratitude to Governor Walz, Lieutenant Governor Flanagan, and the other members of the governor’s administration. I am thankful we could come to a consensus about a reasonable and safe path forward that allows greater numbers of people of faith to safely return to public worship.

The bishops of Minnesota are also grateful for the help of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty which provided sound legal counsel in defense of the liberty of the Church to offer the sacraments, especially in our conversations with the Walz Administration. Thank you also to the law firm Sidley Austin for its work on this matter.

Although we had previously announced that a broader participation in public Mass could begin May 26, we need to move that back one day to May 27. This is to allow the executive order raising the allowed capacity for gatherings to go into effect. We will also make small adjustments to our protocols consistent with the guidance that will be issued by the Minnesota Department of Health. We can be thankful that the removal of the limitations will allow us to have Mass in the Easter season and come together on Sunday, May 31 for the celebration of Pentecost.

Going forward, as a reminder, the bishops of Minnesota have told our pastors and faithful that they should only return to public Mass when they are able to follow the protocols. Parishes should only open when they are able to implement the protocols. Again, if the faithful feel safer at home, the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains lifted. We also strongly encourage those over the age of 65 or who are especially vulnerable not to attend for now.

Let me express my gratitude to our priests, their parish staffs and our Diocesan Pastoral Center staff. Our priests have been on the front lines of the pandemic — ministering to the sick in their homes, hospitals, and care facilities.

Finally, let me express my thanks to you, the faithful of the Diocese of Duluth. While unable to receive the Eucharist — the real presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus — for the past two months, you have creatively and patiently found ways to attend Mass online and to learn about and live your faith. You have made spiritual communions, supported your sisters and brothers in need, supported your parish, and stepped-up to help others. I encourage you to continue these efforts on behalf of those who must remain at home while desiring to be with us in church. Their prayers are special graces for us.

Please remember to pray for all those who have lost their lives in this pandemic, for those who grieve them, and for those who are sick and care for them. Also pray for the women and men in the health care field who daily risk their health to take care of our sisters and brothers who are sick. May our prayers also bring a swift end to this pandemic.

May God bless you and your families as we look forward to a return to broader worship until that day when all our people can return to Mass in our churches.

Yours in Christ,

Very Reverend James B. Bissonette
Diocesan Administrator

Statement from Father James Bissonette regarding broader public celebration of Mass


Father James Bissonette, diocesan administrator, issues the following statement in conjunction with a letter he and the bishops of Minnesota released today regarding broader public celebration of Mass:

It is the teaching of our Catholic faith that we follow just laws and, whenever possible, work in harmony with civil leaders. Out of love of God and love of neighbor, as a church we have supported and responsibly carried out the reasonable restrictions Governor Walz has put in place over these past few months. At the same time, our highest allegiance is to God (Acts 5:29, Mark 12:17). We hold that the Church has a fundamental right according to our teachings and according to the Constitution to offer the worship we owe to God. We believe the worship of God is essential to a fully human and spiritual life. For Catholics, this worship is centered above all in the celebration of the Mass. For the common good, in consultation with experts and public officials, we will take cautious and gradual steps to safely reopen the public celebration of the Mass. As we do this, I ask everyone to continue to pray for and care for all affected by the pandemic. I also ask that we pray for the civil authorities tasked with difficult decisions in these challenging days.


Father Mike Schmitz: How open can I be with people?

I am wondering how much I can be vulnerable with people. I have been able to tell some key people in my life about struggles of mine, but when can I tell others?

Thank you very much for writing. As I see it, based on the rest of your letter, there are two issues at work here.

Father Michael Schmitz
Father Michael Schmitz
Ask Father Mike

The first is your very good question about when to be vulnerable with others. In my years of working with young people, I find this is a lesson that is often learned the hard way. It usually goes something like this: A young person makes a connection with another young person and they become “instant friends.” Because this might be the first new friend they have ever had (all other friends are either family members or people they have known for their entire life), this relationship has a lot of new elements that those other relationships don’t. For example, those other relationships are close because of the very nature of the relationship. A situation in which a group of cousins who have been raised together doesn’t require that each cousin “bare their soul” to the others in order to have a solid friendship. What is more, when they do reach a point in their lives where they share deeper things, there is a history and a knowledge to guide that process.

And this is the missing piece. In a relationship that has just started, it is necessary to reveal things about yourself to the other. That is one of the key ways two people get to know each other. And yet, since they are still getting to know each other, they do not know the degree to which they can trust each other. And herein lies the problem: In order to be known, I have to reveal myself. But in order to know the depth to which self-revelation is wise, I need to know if I can trust the other person.

The solution? Patience.

Every one of us has had to learn that just because we have bonded with another person over sports, comic books, or even God, that doesn’t mean that we can trust another person with our heart. We want to be known. We want to know the other person. And there can be, at the start of a friendship, a certain urgency to share. But if we have ever made that mistake, we know that real wisdom in this situation demands slowing down and being wise. We have learned that trust has to be earned.

I want to repeat that: Trust must be earned.

How can you be vulnerable with people? By naturally sharing some things and seeing how the others respond. Do they honor those things you have shared? Do they fail to respond well to them? Over time, do they demonstrate that the are a “friend for a moment” and “friend for a season,” or a “friend for a lifetime”? That can only be known over the course of time. They truly have to prove themselves. And you will have to prove yourself as well.

Some might think that this is incorrect. They might claim that friendship ought to be freely given. I disagree. Love can be freely given. A person might not have to prove themselves in order to be loved. But we are not talking about whether or not someone is “worth loving.” We are talking about whether or not someone is worth trusting. The fact is, many people do not deserve your trust and being vulnerable. They have to prove themselves.

Now, onto the second part of your question.

You mentioned in your letter that the issues you are talking about are things that you struggle with. You further clarified that you’ve brought these things to confession and have shared these with close family members and a couple of select friends.

My question to your question is: Why does anyone else need to know?

I would imagine that this primarily comes from the (good) desire to be known. We all have this. It is the recognition that we are made for relationship. And in real relationship, there is a certain depth of self-revelation and “knowing” the other person. So it makes sense that you would want to share these things in order to be known more deeply.

But the issue as I see it is that you have “identified with” these actions or with the shame attached to these actions to such a degree that they are what you want to share, as if they are your true self.

But that is not true. You are not your sin. You are not your shame.

Of course, you might want to share these with others so that you can be reassured that you can share your shame and still be loved, but you have already done that with important people and with God. And they still love you. God still loves you. Why are you still carrying your shame? Jesus has already forgiven you, he does not want you to torture yourself over what he has already suffered in order to forgive you and set you free.

You are not disqualified from God’s love. You are not your shame. You can share it with those who have proven themselves worthy, but you can also leave it at the foot of the cross.

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: Does the pandemic make these the end times?

I almost always write my columns a couple of months in advance of their being printed. As I sit at my computer writing this column for the May edition of The Northern Cross, it happens to be late March, and although it is spring, it feels like we are in the depths of the cold winter, not because of the weather but because of COVID-19.

Father Richard Kunst

Everybody is in their houses, the streets are quiet, businesses are shut down, and there is a lot of anxiety and fear in the United States and the world. I am hoping by the time you are reading this that things are much improved and that we have this virus contained, but right now, even in secular media I am hearing about stories of the end times. I have had more than a few people ask me about this subject in light of the pandemic, and how the world is reacting to it, so although by May we hope this is all contained, it seems there’s no better time to look at what the church teaches about the end of the world.

First we have to set one important thing straight when it comes to the “end times”: It is not a bad thing. In fact it is a great thing!

Right now we live in a world of pain, suffering, fear, loss, and sadness, so if we are afraid of the “end times” or what we might call the second coming of Christ, then we must like to suffer.

Every part of the Christian message is a message of hope and joy. Towards the end of the book of Revelation, we get a glimpse of just how great things will be at the end of the world as we know it: “Then I saw a new heavens and a new earth. The former heavens and the former earth had passed away …. This is God’s dwelling among men. He shall dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and he shall be their God who is always with them. He shall wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain, for the former world has passed away. The one who sat on the throne said to me, ‘See, I make all things new!’” (Rev. 21:1,3-5a). Does that sound like something we should be afraid of? No, we should greatly anticipate it!

Now to be fair, fear comes as a result of the unknown, and although Scripture gives us every reason to be filled with hope and joy, it does not give us great details about how the end will come about, and that is where fear can creep in. Another thing that might cause some to fear is what Jesus says in the 24th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, where he warns about signs that will accompany the start of the end times, such as wars, famines, earthquakes, persecutions, and great tribulations.

Although all of those things sound very scary, they happen all the time! Turn on the evening news and you will see that all those things Jesus warns about are happening on a regular basis in various parts of the world. The point, then, is not to look for signs, but just to be prepared.

So is COVID-19 or the coronavirus one of the signs of the end? Who knows? Jesus says something rather surprising in the Gospel of Mark as to when it will happen, “As to the exact day or hour, no one knows it, neither the angels in heaven nor even the Son, but only the Father. Be constantly on the watch! Stay awake! You do not know when the appointed time will come” (Mark 13: 32-33). God the Son said in his human nature, not even he knows (he is of course omniscient in his divine nature), so why would anyone think they know or even guess that the current pandemic is a sign of the end times?

If we read the earliest writings in the New Testament, such as some of Paul’s letters, in particular First Thessalonians, we see that there was an unhealthy preoccupation on the second coming of Christ and the end of the world. The earliest Christians expected it to happen at any moment, and certainly in their lifetime. As a result, many of them stopped their livelihood and changed everything to be prepared for the end.

We might say that was a bit unbalanced and unhealthy, but we live in a world that is equally unhealthy. Before this pandemic (and even now) people live as if the second coming or the end of the world will never come. That is maybe even more problematic than thinking the end is right upon us.

The current pandemic is nothing like anyone alive has ever seen, and we hope the next one will be many centuries from now, but that does not mean it is a sign of the end of the world. Jesus gives the best advice when he said, “Be constantly on the watch.” We should always be ready to meet our maker, whether it is our own personal end or the end of the world.

And if we are always prepared, then we should greatly anticipate it, because God himself said there would be no pain or suffering in the world he makes new. So bring it on!

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

Father Nick Nelson: Parents are the primary educators of their children

Now that Lent is over, I started to listen to sports talk again here and there. One morning they were doing “Shutdown Shoutouts.” People were to call in to affirm and compliment and recognize those who have been handling the current situation well.

Father Nick Nelson
Father Nicholas Nelson
Handing on the Faith

The producer of the show gave his own “shout-out.” He said, “To those parents out there. Moms and dads. You are teaching your children, doing distance learning while still trying to work from home. You bring home the bacon, you put food on the table, and now you are tasked with teaching your children, juggling limited attention spans and seeing to the education of your children …. Bless you moms and dads for being heroic!”

I agree that many parents are indeed heroic during this time. They are doing so much. But his comment belies a common fallacy today. He may not have meant it, but his comment expresses the common attitude that ordinarily I am not responsible for my children’s education. It says that this COVID-19 situation is a little inconvenient for me because I have to concern myself with educating my children.

And while this idea is common, it is not right. It is not Catholic. The church’s Declaration on Christian Education says this: “Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators. This role in education is so important that only with difficulty can it be supplied where it is lacking” (Gravissimum Educationis, 3).

I think many parents, even many Catholic parents, have outsourced and delegated their responsibility for educating their children elsewhere. This is especially troublesome when we consider the state of public schooling. The public school system has become an institution of secular and atheistic indoctrination. There are many good teachers, many good Catholic teachers in public schools, but they are hamstrung by curriculum, rules, and regulations. These teachers are heroic missionaries seeking to bring truth, goodness, and beauty to these children.

But even with great teachers, public schools are inadequate for our children. Our children are taught atheistic evolution. They are taught sex education which says, “If it feels good, do it. Just make sure it’s consensual and safe.” Public schools tell us that our kids have a right to privacy and that there are things that parents are kept in the dark about. Our kids are around other kids who come from families that don’t have the same values and expose our children to things that are spiritually and physically harmful. And if Jesus isn’t allowed in the school, it simply isn’t good enough for our children.

Some will argue that our children can be missionaries, just like the good teachers. But that isn’t the purpose of school for a child. They don’t go to school to be a missionary. They go to learn the truth and to be formed in virtue. They are simply not mature or well-formed enough at 12 or even 17 years to be a missionary.

Whatever model it is, we as pastors, parents, and Catholics at large must work to provide Catholic education from first grade to 12th grade. Whether that be an actual school, homeschool or co-op, or a one room school house. All of these have been done before successfully. They can be done again. There are more and more great examples of this throughout our diocese. Two lesser known examples are Mater Dei Apostolate for ninth through 12th grade in Duluth and the homeschool co-op in Crosby. Models such as this are possible where there aren’t enough numbers for your typical school.

I used to think, just 10 years ago, that if the family is strong, then they can overcome any deficiencies in the public school. I don’t believe that anymore. When your child is immersed for seven hours a day in a culture that is diametrically opposed to us, the battle is almost impossible.

Call me “opportunistic,” or not “allowing a crisis to go to waste,” but many of you are currently doing distance learning at home. And yet, you have yet to go to the loony hospital. You are not duct taped to the ceiling by your children who have staged a mutiny. It is challenging, but you are doing it!

So even if there is no Catholic school option near you, you can homeschool or do some sort of hybrid. Why not never return your kids to the public school? This is a perfect time to transition. It may mean adjusting the budget, sacrificing the annual cruise, or driving the old van for a few more years. But this is that important.

Parishes need to offer resources to support parents in this endeavor. Because it’s the entire church’s responsibility in passing on the faith. But it’s ultimately up to the parents. It’s the parents who got Mater Dei Apostolate and other Catholic education options going.

I think too often we don’t think big. We aren’t magnanimous. We say, “I’m powerless. This is the way it is. We just got to go along with it.”

Baloney! We are the church. You are your children’s parents. You have the responsibility to see to their proper education in truth and you have the power to make it happen. Be not afraid!

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]

Duluth priest named bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota

Pope Francis has named the Rev. Peter M. Muhich, a priest of the Diocese of Duluth who currently serves as rector of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary and pastor of St. Mary Star of the Sea and Our Lady of Mercy in Duluth, to be the next bishop of the Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota.

Bishop-elect Peter Muhich
Bishop-elect Peter Muhich

Bishop-elect Muhich was born on May 13, 1961, in Eveleth to Louis and Sally Muhich, the second of seven children. Raised in Eveleth, he graduated from Eveleth Public High School in 1979 and entered St. John Vianney College Seminary at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. He graduated from St. Thomas with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1983 and continued his studies at the American College of The Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium completing a S.T.L. in sacred theology in 1989.

He was ordained a priest Sept. 29, 1989, for the Duluth Diocese and has served parishes in Brainerd, Grand Rapids, Bigfork, Effie, Aurora, Hoyt Lakes, Proctor, Saginaw, and Hibbing, in addition to Duluth.

Bishop-elect Muhich has also served on the Presbyteral Council, the Diocesan Personnel Board, and as a dean and consultor. He has worked with the permanent diaconate formation program, on the Stella Maris Catholic School Board, was spiritual director of the local chapter of the Catholic Medical Association, and was diocesan Finance Officer. In 2012, he led a Strategic Planning Process for the Diocese of Duluth.

In a statement announcing the news to the faithful of the Duluth Diocese, Father James B. Bissonette, diocesan administrator, said: “It is an honor for Father Muhich and for our Diocese that Pope Francis has named him to become the next bishop of Rapid City. I have known Bishop-elect Muhich since we began seminary together in 1979. Throughout college and graduate seminary and more than 30 years of priestly service, we have remained close friends. I know him to be a very good person, an exemplary priest, and a fine friend. He has many gifts that will help him as a bishop. He is kind and considerate, with a keen mind, leadership qualities, and a strong, steady faith. Above all, he has shown himself to be a caring pastor who leads by example, concerned for his people and the mission of the Church. I am happy for him and for the people of the Diocese of Rapid City. I have no doubt he will be a shepherd for them after the example of the Good Shepherd. My prayers and the prayers of all the faithful of the Duluth Diocese go with him as he takes up this new responsibility. May Mary, our Mother, watch over him as he journeys from our Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Rapid City and throughout the days ahead.”

Bishop-elect Muhich is only the third priest of the Duluth Diocese to be appointed a bishop. The others were Bishop Timothy Corbett and Bishop Laurence A. Glenn, the first and fourth bishops of the Diocese of Crookston.

The date of Bishop-elect Muhich’s episcopal ordination and installation as the ninth bishop of Rapid City has not yet been set. He succeeds Bishop Robert Gruss, who was appointed to the Diocese of Saginaw last May.

Diocese extends suspension of public Mass through May 18

In a May 1 letter to the clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Duluth, Father James B. Bissonette, diocesan administrator, announced that the temporary measures the diocese had already adopted to protect against the spread of COVID-19 have been extended through May 18. The measures, which include suspension of public Mass and cancellation of gatherings of more than 10 people, had previously been extended through May 4.

Under these measures, priests continue to celebrate Masses without a congregation, confession and pastoral care of the sick continue to be provided in ways that accommodate social distancing, and churches remain open for periods of time for individual prayer. Funerals and weddings are also permitted, but with major restrictions. Catholics in the diocese continue to be dispensed from the Sunday Mass obligation until it is safe for all to return to church.

In the letter, Father Bissonette, in concert with the bishops of the other dioceses in Minnesota, also outlined a “phased approach back into having public Masses.” While detailed protocols have not yet been published, the letter noted that the first public Masses on May 18 will be limited to smaller groups no more than a third of the capacity of a church building.

“I ask your continued prayers for this effort and your patience as we move through the phases together,” Father Bissonette wrote. “Hopefully, we will soon be able to gather publicly to celebrate the Mass, our greatest spiritual work.”

Betsy Kneepkens: Pay attention to the graces poured out during the pandemic

The world is now different, and hopefully, someday soon, we will return to normal. But for now, we must realize our lives will be challenging. For example, I briefly parked my car in a church parking lot, and incidentally left my car doors unlocked. There were several somewhat valuable items in plain view and a little bit of cash between the seats. When I returned to the car, I found the money, the moderately valuable items, and a backpack untouched. However, on the front seat, I left a partial container of disinfecting wipes, and when I returned, I discovered the tube was taken.

Betsy Kneepkens
Betsy Kneepkens
Faith and Family

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every person in this country and nearly every individual in the world. The newspapers are filled with stories of devastation and hardship. Almost every aspect of our lives has been impacted. Although this sort of situation feels awful and horrendous, we need to discover the hope and blessings richly available within our more substantial experience.

This public health crisis pales in comparison to nearly every other major pandemic in history. For those that have lost love ones, or who have experienced what seem to be horrific symptoms associated with this disease, history means nothing. I know. If we focus on the numbers, we will remain overwhelmed. If we digest every story that is pushed out by media sites, we will feel defeated. The truth is, our society and the world are much more prepared and equipped to deal with this kind of emergency. So we need to feel empowered to live boldly and squeeze every unique opportunity that this granted us throughout this experience.

I am not trying to understate the hardship others are experiencing. And I would be disingenuous if I said my family has enjoyed the government restrictions, financial difficulties, and constant uncertainty brought about by this ongoing health emergency. What I am saying is that there is an abundance of grace being poured out, and if we ignore it, we will have missed one of the holiest moments of our generation.

If we are attentive, we will see that scientists and pharmaceuticals from around the globe are working collaboratively and not competing to find therapies and cures. If we carefully observe, we can be inspired by corporations that have turned their work away from their business model and onto developing items to help the ill, needy, and those providing care. If you listen, you will hear the story of restaurants offering food for the hungry or youth clubs raising money to provide for those most in need. The list of kindnesses to each other goes on and on, and this is holiness in action.

I am encouraged by our church’s attempts to reach out differently. Young priests and staff are using their social media skills to bring the Good News to the faithful. Even more reassuring is when I see older priests, religious, and staff willing to be led by these recently ordained and young professionals. How impressed I am to see our seasoned clerics adapting to these new ways of doing things. When we get back to normal, the church will have even more extensive skills to reach out and impact the lives of the faithful! We are going to be a better, healthier church, and that is the Holy Spirit at work.

This crisis has affirmed my belief that there is nothing better than going to Mass in person. However, there has been much learned from my experience of watching Mass virtually. I can now appreciate how very unified and diverse this church of ours is. I don’t think I am alone when I get moved to see that 157 people viewed a daily Mass or 151,000 participated in an online eucharistic celebration. It is impressive reading in the comments section that I just celebrated Mass alongside someone residing in Kenya. We are one Holy Apostolic Church, and the Internet connection helps us Catholics realize part of God’s plan in all of this.

We have spent generations explaining to our Protestant brothers and sisters the benefit of all the devotionals we enjoy to grow closer to Christ. Whether it is saying the Rosary, lighting candles, praying our holy cards, venerate religious statues, reflecting on the Stations of the Cross, or engaging in lectio divina, the church has given us multiple tools to help us connect with our Creator. This point is particularly true when we can’t rely on the tangible experience of gathering as a community. There is a deep richness to our tradition of devotionals. During this time of separation, we realize how masterful the Holy Spirit was when he inspired the church to give us other tangible means to vary the ways we connect with the Holy Trinity. During this challenging time, we don’t have to rely solely on a Sunday service.

Personally, when give myself time to look at all the goodness God has shown during this pandemic, I am humbled. I have connected with family members whom I have not spoken to in years. Mealtime has become an actual family time with conversations and laughter that goes beyond cleaning the table. I have quickly figured out the difference between wants and needs, and there are not nearly as many needs as I thought. I have enjoyed brief stops at church when I can sit in silence, and noontime Angelus prayed daily with a dear friend over the phone. Although stress has come in different ways, this unexpected time with my husband and children has been unparalleled in goodness. And although three of my children remain a distance away, we are connecting daily in ways that are thoughtful, funny, and loving. If the fruits are signs of holiness, this pandemic has provided an orchard full.

I think we are at the point in this crisis where we all know someone or know of someone that has been affected by COVID-19, and that can be worrisome. We have little control over this disease and its process. We do have control over our willingness to see how God’s graces have been poured out on us as a response to the suffering our world is enduring. The answer in love back to him is the way we respond to those graces. And when those containers of disinfectant wipes become available again, perhaps we can all purposely leave them on our front car seat with the doors open wide.

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