Aftermath of 2018: does the Church have a ‘bigger agenda?’

By Sarah Spangenberg/Minnesota Catholic Conference

In the aftermath of this summer’s revelations of sex abuse and cover-up in the Church, there is a tendency for Catholics to slip into an either-or way of thinking about how to respond: either we cannot “get back to work” until we have adequately addressed the crisis, or, we cannot spare the time to respond to the scandals because the Church’s mission is too urgent.

But this is a false dichotomy; what we need is an integrated response, marked by conversion, deeper faithfulness, and increased love of God and neighbor.


“The Pope has a bigger agenda,” Cardinal Blase Cupich recently responded to a reporter’s question about the abuse crisis. “He’s got to get on with other things – of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the Church. We’re not going to go down a rabbit hole on this.”

Some have responded to Cupich’s comment (and others like it) by arguing exactly the opposite: that the Church should not invest its resources in anything else until the abuse is cleaned up. Catholic teaching and missionary credibility has been so undermined, so the argument goes, that it all must be put on hold until we solve this particular problem.

In both cases, something essential is abandoned: on the one hand, the urgent need for reform within the Church; on the other, the equally urgent call of Christ to proclaim the Good News and to serve our neighbor.

Although it seems we must choose one side or the other, this is actually not the case. It is not an either-or scenario. Rather, we need deep renewal in the Church – renewal that can root out sin and corruption, reform broken structures, and restore our relationships with God and our neighbor.


To be clear, there is no task more urgent right now – no bigger agenda – than for the Church to purify itself and restore its credibility; there are practical steps to be taken. Implementing new structures of accountability is necessary. Removing persons from ministry who harm others (or protected those who did) is necessary. Atoning for sin and combating a culture of corruption is essential.

But we are not dispensed from worshipping God and loving our neighbor while doing so. Our standing orders to serve the poor, teach the faith, evangelize, and administer the sacraments are still in effect. What good would it do, for example, if the Church canceled its Sunday liturgies until further notice while we respond to the crisis?

“The work of the Church” must indeed go on. We are still responsible to contribute to the common good by witnessing to the faith, proposing a way of life informed by the Gospel, and serving the most vulnerable in our midst. And that includes engaging our public officials to enact policies that serve human dignity.

Politics is, after all, an important mode of service and one of the highest forms of charity, as Pope Francis outlines in his 2019 World Day of Peace message.


Although “one-stop” solutions to the challenges we face as a Church are often appealing, they rarely bring about lasting change. It would be unwise to go into lockdown mode, sacrificing apostolic work, teaching and preaching, social ministries, and public engagement in the meantime.

In other words, we have to continue to preach the Gospel in word and in deed. With humility, for sure – but still we must bring the Gospel to every periphery and place in the ways that the Church has always done, most notably through the works of mercy.

Civic engagement, in particular, is an important expression of our love and faithfulness to God, his people, and the world in these difficult times. We do, in fact, as Cardinal Cupich noted, need to keep working in the public arena on environmental initiatives, on comprehensive immigration reform, and on passing good laws that protect life and support human flourishing.

This is not ignoring the ecclesial crisis and embracing some “bigger agenda.” Instead, by coupling much needed internal reform with our sustained presence in the public square, we can restore the evangelical credibility of the Church and thereby fulfill the call to be light and salt to the world.

VFTV: January 9, 2019


I hope that each one of you had a truly blessed and joyous celebration of Christmas. The child born in Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago was not just any ordinary human being. He is Jesus, (the name means “God saves”) and, as Gabriel told Mary, “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Jesus is the fulfillment of all the prophecies of old. He is the king foretold, “… his dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over his kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice both now and forever.” (First reading, Christmas Mass During the Night)

Let us be ever mindful and thankful that, in baptism, through water and the Holy Spirit, we have been joined to Jesus and brought into the life of the Kingdom of God. Let us all endeavor to allow Jesus, our king, to rule over our lives more fully remembering that he “gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.”

May our doing good for others help them encounter Jesus, the king of the whole world.


Work continues through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to follow through on the bishops’ discussion at our plenary session last November in Baltimore. The task force appointed by USCCB President Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo continues the work. Consultation is underway with many persons and organizations familiar with the area of sexual abuse. Work continues to finalize “Standards of Accountability for Bishops”, develop a national hotline for reporting complaints involving bishops, and create a process for investigating complaints against bishops.

Preparations and consultation for the February meeting in Rome with the Holy Father and the presidents of the world’s conferences of bishops continues. Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago has been named by Pope Francis as a member of the organizing committee.

Two suggestions from our conference are on the table for that meeting. First, the formation of a single, national, lay commission to deal with complaints made involving bishops to function in a similar way as diocesan review boards do now for dioceses; and second, that cases involving bishops be handled at the metropolitan level by that review board and metropolitan archbishop or, if it is a case of a metropolitan bishop, by the review board of the senior suffragan see and that bishop.

We bishops remain firm in our determination to make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier and to develop a means of holding ourselves accountable that is genuinely independent, duly-authorized, and has substantial lay involvement.

On the local level, we have begun a review and update of the document “Policies and Procedures for the Protection of Children and Young People”. Work continues to slowly move forward dealing with the 17 cases involving the Diocese of Crookston. A mediation session with the judge was scheduled for Monday, December 17, 2018. We completed work in preparation for this session. The depositions of myself, Msgr. Mike Foltz, Msgr. Roger Grundhaus and Father Pat Sullivan were taken. However, due to a conflict in the judges’ schedule, the mediation session was canceled, and we are now waiting for a new date to be set. This is where things stand. I ask you to please continue to pray for a fair and swift resolution of all our cases.


Each year on January 1, we celebrate the great Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. As we gathered to celebrate God’s great gifts to Mary and Mary’s gifts to us, we also celebrated World Day of Peace. We were asked to pray in a special way for peace.

This year, Pope Francis asked that we pray especially for peace in the political arena. He noted that “Peace, in effect, is the fruit of a great political project grounded in the mutual responsibility and interdependence of human beings. But it is also a challenge that demands to be taken up ever anew. It entails a conversion of heart and soul; it is both interior and communal …” He invited us to ask God’s help for peace: peace with self: may we never be inflexible, angry or impatient with others; peace with others: family, friends, strangers, the poor, the suffering, being unafraid to be with them and listen to them; peace with all creation: knowing the grandeur of God’s gift and our responsibility as inhabitants of this world, citizens and builders of the future.

Blessings to you on the New Year. We pray that peace may find firmer footing in our world in 2019.

Where we may see only an instant, God sees an eternity!

By Fr. Don Braukmann/Retired Priest of the Diocese of Crookston

During my time in the seminary, I spent five months in Israel studying scripture and exploring all the settings where the events of the Old and New Testament took place.

I am a Minnesota boy, so the five months were really four months and 28 days too long! It was 1983 meaning no cell phones or email or any other modern conveniences for communication. I was homesick, and Dad had been diagnosed with cancer shortly after I arrived in the Holy Land.

That is just background, not the point of this column.

Once I returned to my own “holy land” (the farm by New York Mills) I developed over 1,000 pictures from my adventure. Of course, it was great to reminisce about all the places I had been and “show off” to the family and friends how much of a well-traveled, well-educated man I was! Although my sister, as usual, was not impressed!

As time went on, I noticed the feelings and emotions (the “lived experience” behind those photos) were not being appreciated or communicated in the pictures. As the years go on, the pictures mean less, partly because it is so easy to find better pictures on the internet, but also because, again, the emotions and feelings I had in those moments while on the ground where Jesus was born, walked, suffered, died, and rose do not lift themselves off the page.

Today, with all the technology at hand, we are able to record precious moments in our lives and in the lives of those we love; yet I fear we are so wrapped up in the technology and wanting the perfect picture to capture the moment that we may, in fact, miss it. Do we sometimes miss the sense of God when we try to capture the uncapturable power of an event?

Every moment is a “God moment,” but pictures of God have never done God justice!

A man I know, filled with the best of intentions, is a photo taking machine. Maybe the word “addict” would be more appropriate! He would take a picture of paint drying or a plane crash while he was on the plane … no exaggeration! I tease him, but, as I said, his intentions are good, and you would not find a more loving, compassionate person on earth! It seems to me, however, whether he realizes it or not, he is trying desperately to “save the moment” and, sadly, sometimes misses it!

I am a “Trekky” (I like anything to do with the Star Trek television/movie series). In one of the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” movies, the captain falls in love with a woman on a faraway planet while he and his crew are on one of their many missions.

There is a scene where the two are sitting in a field of flowers and as a breeze comes up petals from the flowers float into the air. The woman has the power to slow down time, not stop it, but lets the moment linger in its beauty. We can do the same in our hearts…to “linger” in the moment as Mary “treasured all these things in her heart and pondered them.” (Luke 2:19)

Freeze framing such an experience may mute the message. Fumbling with an artificial device may replace real emotion with artificial ones.

For me, it is like a priest who notices cameras in the congregation as he presents the Body and Blood of Christ at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer. My heart sighs at those times. The Eucharist is not a “moment” which can be captured on any device … Christ is alive and vibrant in that moment … and the one taking the picture missed it!

Now, please know I am not the Grinch who would destroy all our gadgets made to record the events of life!

I know parents who go the extra mile for their kids to make sure a treasure-trove of pictures are taken to trigger the warm feelings of an event or day later on.

I just received over a hundred Christmas cards in December with the blessing of a family portrait enclosed. They are beautiful and bring back good memories of time spent with them. Yet, there is so much a picture or the pictures we take of nature, miss.

Each year, Mom would take a “first day of school” picture. We lined up (usually as the bus was coming!) for the mug shot (I didn’t like school, so I considered it a mug shot!) on the way out the door. When I see those pictures now, of course it brings back a chuckle and even a tear or ten as I see my brother who died in 1994 or a dog we had way back then.

My point, one final time, is for us to keep our eyes and hearts open. To live in the moment, as we are. Don’t miss the beauty of God’s face or the touch of God’s reassuring hand in the people and events of our lives. May we learn to linger in God’s presence. Where we may see an instant, God sees an eternity!

Becoming a missionary in your family to shepherd them home

By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./Office of Formation in Discipleship

Have you ever heard a phrase that goes something like this: “If I had $10 every time I heard that I would be rich!”? I am sure the dollar amount and the topic changes, but this is a phrase that we use when we not only hear something again and again, but we expect to hear it in the future as well. So, I wonder if you have ever heard this one: “If I had $10 every time I heard that someone’s family member has left the Church or no longer believes in God I would be rich (and also very sad).” I hear this again and again in my ministry, among friends, and in my own family, that a family member raised as a Catholic no longer believes in the Church or no longer believes in God. I have heard this from you, Catholics in the Diocese of Crookston, and expect I will hear it in the future as well. Your son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, sister, brother, niece, nephew, cousin, friend, neighbor, or other loved one has left the Catholic Church. It is the most common lamentation I hear in the Church today.

We need to send missionaries out to these individuals to bring them the good news of Jesus Christ, the Gospel, and I have a perfect person in mind – YOU. Now if this sentence sounds familiar than congratulations, you actually remember something from my previous column! In that column, I wrote about the great missionary program that about 250 people from the Diocese of Crookston were embarking on following the Convocation of Parish Leaders held just before Advent. In fact, many of those 250 Catholics indicated that they were going to reach out to a family member. I suggested that God is calling you (everyone really) to become a missionary disciple and spread the Gospel to help others form a closer relationship with Jesus. I concluded by inviting everyone with a family member who has left the Church, grown indifferent about God, or just simply drifted away from the Lord to be the Lord’s missionary to that person.

What is keeping you from doing this, from being a missionary? Some think they do not know how to address the person’s questions. Others may think that they do not know how to start the conversation. Still others have tried, and things did not go well, so they stay away from the topic to “keep the peace.” There are all sorts of reasons why people do not reach out to these family members, but let me give you one reason why you should: God is asking you to be his missionary. Pope Francis writes in “The Joy of the Gospel,” paragraph 120: “In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples. All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization.”

Over the next few months I will write about how to be a missionary disciple to those in your family who have drifted away from God and his Church. I will offer ideas regarding how to go about this missionary work, how to prepare yourself for this ministry, what it means to listen and accompany, and even how to begin the actual missionary conversations. For most cases, it is not as simple as asking the person, “Hey, why don’t you go to church anymore?” or what works even less often is, “You better go to church or else ...”. Over the next year, the Diocese of Crookston will also be offering a “Prayershop” (a workshop set within a time of prayer) called “Shepherding Them Home” to prepare people to reach out to family members who have left the Church. We are willing to come to any parish in the diocese and meet with any size group – large or small – to help you prepare to be a family missionary.

Do you have someone in mind? I bet everyone reading this column can think of at least one family member, close or distant, who can grow in their relationship with Jesus. If you think you might be the missionary that Christ is calling to share the Good News with this family member, I end this column as I did the previous one by asking you to pray. Pray about this as you begin the next step on the journey. Also, pray for the person you are thinking about, that they may grow closer to Jesus and his Church. In fact, why don’t you start right now and say a Hail Mary for the person and for yourself – asking Holy Mary’s intercession for your missionary work. Let me help you begin: Hail Mary, full of grace …

VFTV: December 12, 2018


Our Convocation of Parish Leaders, held at Fargo’s Avalon Events Center November 30-December 1, was a tremendous success, thanks be to God.

Our collaborative effort with the Diocese of Fargo filled the center with hundreds of parish leaders all receptive to the Holy Spirit, all eager to pray together, listen, dialogue and plan how to be intentional, evangelizing missionary disciples of Jesus Christ. Our gathering was held in response to Pope Francis’ 2013 Apostolic Exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel” and his direction that, in our day, the Church cannot continue doing things “business as usual.” The “Joy of the Gospel” is the Holy Father’s blueprint for the work of the Church in our day and a new evangelization. Our convocation also flowed out of the national Convocation of Catholic leaders held in Orlando in July of 2017.

At the parish delegation session, the second day – after praying together, after listening to speakers, and studying material on what being a missionary disciple is all about – the delegates were invited to dialogue among themselves and share ideas. I tell you, the room was buzzing with spirited conversation. Each person was invited to put together a Personal Missionary Discipleship Plan identifying a person or group to whom they would reach out to, to facilitate a deeper relationship with Christ Jesus and/or with the Church. Then the delegates engaged in conversation about how others in their parish might be invited to make a commitment to be true missionary disciples and reach out to others. As a parish group, the delegates, pastors, priests, and deacons, put together a Parish Missionary Discipleship Initiative Plan. It’s all about praying for, reaching out to, and accompanying people in their coming to know and respond to Jesus Christ and his family, the Church.

Pope Francis has made us keenly aware that if a parish is to be viable in our day, it must not be self-absorbed or out of touch. A parish must be in constant contact with the homes and lives of people. It must be engaged in training parishioners to be missionary disciples filled with the joy of the Gospel and eager to reach out and invite others to encounter Jesus Christ and be involved in the rich life of the Church. May the experience of the Holy Spirit and the work accomplished at our convocation help us and all of our parishes to be fully engaged in responding to Christ’s command “to the end of the earth,” “to the whole creation” and make disciples “of all nations,” gathering all people into the peace of God’s Kingdom.


At our convocation, I was delighted to announce how our dear Sisters of Saint Benedict, in a most wonderful way, are joining in and supporting the efforts for new evangelization inspired by our Convocation of Parish Leaders. In honor of the 100th anniversary of the sisters’ presence and ministry here in the Diocese of Crookston, the Mount Saint Benedict Foundation is making a grant to the Diocese of Crookston Catholic Community Foundation. The grant involves not just a one-year commitment, but a five-year commitment to support parish evangelization plans and efforts. The grant plan is that each year the Mount Foundation will make available $40,000 so that parish convocation delegates can apply for micro-grants to support evangelization efforts. In addition, $10,000 each year will be made available to help the young people of our diocese grow in leadership and missionary discipleship through the Padre Apla Leadership Program. In their “ora et labora,” (as St. Benedict himself put it) that is their “prayer and work”, what a blessing the Sisters of Mount Saint Benedict have been for the faithful of this local church. What a blessing they continue to give of themselves for God’s work here in the Diocese of Crookston. Thank you Sisters and God bless you always.


Advent is short but it’s sweet and jam-packed with excitement. The Messiah is coming! Jesus is coming!

In Advent, we are like Zacchaeus, who upon hearing that Jesus is coming, runs ahead and climbs a tree so that he can see Jesus when he draws near. And lo and behold, Jesus stays at his house that day.

In Advent, we are like Mary and Joseph, expectant with the joy of pregnancy, filled with wonder and awe and excitement in anticipation of the birth of Jesus. Jesus is coming. God is at work now and nothing can hold him back.

During Advent, we strain to prepare to see the days unfolding before us with eyes open and heads held high. The advice Jesus gives in the Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent this year is clear: be awake, be alert, don’t be perplexed or confused about life and don’t be weighed down by anything, especially the anxieties of daily living.

Advent is the time to make the effort to really improve in our relationship with Jesus, to make him all the more the center of our day, of our life. I pray that your Advent is a grace-filled and exciting experience this year!

Sisters of Saint Benedict celebrate centennial: Part 1 of 13

By Sister Denise Schonhardt, OSB

2019 marks the centennial of the Sisters of Saint Benedict. We would like to introduce to you the prioresses who led the community for the past 100 years.

Mother Eustacia Beyenka, founding prioress of the Sisters of Saint Benedict of Crookston, was born Mary Beyenka of Polish immigrants on November 19, 1876. Mary was a good student who delighted in performing and singing in school programs.

On Saturday, August 12, 1893, Mary entered the Benedictine Sisters in Duluth, and on December 28 she received the habit along with the name Sister Eustacia. Four years later she made her final monastic profession. Sister Eustacia held several positions in the community: treasurer, novice mistress, choir directress and assistant to the prioress.

A fateful day came in May 1919, when Bishop Timothy Corbett went to Duluth seeking volunteers for a new Benedictine Foundation in Crookston. He wanted Sister Eustacia to lead the new community. Sister Eustacia experienced a flood of emotions when she recalled everything that she experienced as a member of her beloved community. The answer came to her in a vision when she saw a sea of faces who would be on her conscience if she refused to go to Crookston.

When she arrived in Crookston, she carried her belongings in a picnic basket and the sister who met her at the door of Saint Vincent Hospital asked her if that was all she had. She replied, “No, I have a heart full of hope.”

To attract new members, Mother Eustacia talked to confirmation classes and spoke of the work to be done in the Crookston Diocese. The building of a monastery began with the purchase of property overlooking the Red Lake River and a house to serve as a temporary monastery. The community broke ground on August 14, 1922. After the blessing of the ground, the young sisters started clearing the land by cutting down the first nine trees. Mount Saint Benedict Convent and Academy were blessed on September 2, 1923.

Mother Eustacia longed for the sisters to pray the Divine Office. Since 1852, when the first Benedictine sisters came to the U.S., they were told that they were Benedictine in name only, though the sisters’ lives were no different than the Benedictine monks. They also were denied the privilege of praying the Divine Office. After Benedictine women were permitted to pray the Divine Office, Mother Eustacia worked diligently to prepare the sisters for it. They began to sing the Office on November 27, 1926.

Mother Eustacia encouraged ministries of education, healthcare, candle-making and gardening. During the first years, the only income in the summertime came from fees earned by the music teachers. Mother Eustacia began selling honey to the surrounding families to cover the expenses of the community. She also asked for support from those same people.

Faced with an overwhelming task of establishing a new, prayerful, monastic community, Mother Eustacia provided the leadership and vision necessary to establish Mount Saint Benedict Monastery.

A Christmas gift to Jesus: Be a missionary disciple in your family

By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./Office of Formation in Discipleship

The month of December is so dominated by the yearly Christmas “shopping frenzy” that many forget about the reason we are in Advent and why we celebrate Christmas. The channels that show non-stop “Christmas” movies do not help with this in most cases. They often contain heart-warming stories, or in some cases really corny ones, of people staging the best Christmas celebration, being reunited with family members, or the female lead and some European prince falling in love in a perfectly decorated Christmas castle. Rarely do they refer to Jesus or include a scene in a church building although, to be fair, some do. At this point you might be thinking I am some kind of scrooge but to be clear, I watch the Hallmark Channel more during December than all other months combined.

I understand why people are attracted to heartwarming stories of love and connection during Advent because of what Christmas is truly all about – Jesus, our God who is Love, entering the world to create a salvation connection with all of humanity. So, by all means, give gifts to each other because God gave us the gift of his Son but let me ask you – what Gift are you going to give Jesus? About 250 people from the Diocese of Crookston recently got together to offer Jesus a wonderful gift that our Lord has asked us to give.

As you may read in this edition of Our Northland Diocese, parish delegates from the Crookston and Fargo Dioceses gathered on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 to consider how God is calling each of them to be missionary disciples. Over the course of the two-day Convocation of Parish Leaders, delegates from nearly every parish in the Diocese of Crookston, along with delegates from the Diocese of Fargo, heard from the two main speakers that God calls each of us to be missionary disciples. They also heard witness talks from Catholics of all ages about how they are called to bring the Good News to the world at their work, in their parish, across their community, etc. The second day focused on delegates making a personal commitment to act as missionary disciples in the world. Each delegate identified a person or a group in their parish or community and committed to connecting with them in order to bring that person or group closer to Christ. What a great gift to give to Jesus – our personal response to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …” (Mt 28:19). As I wrote in my previous column, Pope Francis reminds us that through Baptism we are called to be disciples who teach others about Jesus. The convocation delegates personally committed to respond to their Baptismal call as missionary disciples of Jesus Christ.

If you want to know more about the convocation, ask your pastor for the names of those from your parish who were there. They may be able to help you better understand your missionary discipleship calling. In addition, my colleague in the Office of Formation in Discipleship, Bob Noel, and I are available to come to your parish and guide you through the process. Also, I invite you to read my next series of columns because I am going to focus on one area of missionary work that many of you can enter – your own family.

Probably the most common family concern I hear from the people across the Diocese of Crookston is this: A member of my family has left the Church. It is a common lamentation that is heard across the Catholic Church in this country and around the world. God is calling on the Church to send missionary disciples to reach out to these Catholics and I have a great person in mind to be the missionary to connect with your family member who has left the Church or grown indifferent: YOU. You may think you are not equipped to take this on – to approach a family member who has left the Church. You may believe that you do not want to rock the family boat, that you would not know where to begin, or know that when you have tried to talk with your family member about returning to the Church the conversation did not go well. Over a series of columns, I will help you think and reflect on how to approach that family member. I hope you are saying, “YES, I want to do something to reach out to my family member – what can I do right now?” I have an answer to this question and it is a key thing to do to prepare yourself for your missionary work. PRAY! Pray for the person you have in mind and pray that the Holy Spirit guides you in your missionary work with this member of your family. All good evangelization is rooted in prayer, so start your missionary work by praying for God’s guidance for you and for the member of your family you have in mind right now.

Seek solace in a wounded world by sitting at the feet of wisdom, hope, joy

By Fr. Don Braukmann/Retired Priest of the Diocese of Crookston

If you are a regular reader of this column, you know I now live in an “assisted living” (or whatever the politically correct term is these days) facility in Bemidji. It has been a gift for me to live where I feel safe and help is just a few steps away.

Residents here are offered three meals a day and most of us gather in the community dining room for those meals while some have it delivered to their rooms.

Like in church, we all have our assumed places to sit and eat. Here the men are outnumbered 4-1 so we gather at one table, just a wink and a wheelchair roll away from where the women eat. My table used to have the nickname “The 90’s Table” because of the age of the men sitting at it. The name no longer holds true as I am over 20 years their junior.

Yet, it is a true honor to sit by these seasoned men and to hear (albeit loudly because of hearing loss!) their stories.

Recently our conversation stumbled into the sharing of war stories. A man I shall name Tom, about to turn 95, began to speak about his experiences in World War II in Italy and France.

I know many veterans of our wars struggle to speak of the things they witnessed and had to do in those most life-threatening horrors on the battle field. But Tom, slowly and even with a sense of humor, filled in the details of the battles and incidents of war I had only read about in school.

Tom was in the airborne division of the Air Force (forgive my poor use of technical terms, no disrespect meant). He parachuted into places where war was blazing and hundreds (thousands) of people were being killed.

As I listened, I sat there, in awe, of a man who made it possible for me to sit where I was sitting, with a full stomach, good physical care and, in the end, little to worry about.

Tom told of being wounded more than once; fighting hand to hand against the enemy; crawling up hills trying to overthrow the enemy inch by inch while crawling over dead bodies to do so. He found helmets with the head still inside; body parts strewn everywhere and grown men huddled in the infant position weeping, or running away in terror ripping off their uniforms … overwhelmed by the hell they were in.

Tears came to my eyes as I imagined this 18-year-old (yes 18!) soldier facing death over and over again and now sitting here, among us, wrinkled, frail and practically deaf, still able to speak of such awful events in his life.

I also thought about my own life – too young for Vietnam and too old for Afghanistan or Iraq. My greatest fear growing up was the Cold War with the Soviet Union, where not a shot was fired.

I realized more profoundly how my ALS diagnosis was nothing compared to what Tom, and millions of others over the years, have had to face. I am safe, in no pain, and I have no nightmares of finding heads stuck in helmets. I may stumble and fall because of weakness, but they stumbled and fell onto dead bodies because of their courage.

I also think of all our hand held electronic war games, and those on the big screen, which sanitize the killing and seem to make it routine. Hollywood can show how the “good guys” always win … but I am not convinced there is ever a clear “winner” in war. The war may “end” on the battlefield but so often it rages on in the hearts and minds of losers and winners.

Veterans Day has come and gone this year but that afternoon lunch with Tom and others at the table will stick with me for a long time.

Tom said it was his faith in Jesus Christ that got him through.

Imagine that, seeing what he saw, hearing what he heard, being where he was, and yet his faith in a loving Savior is still intact! Tom did not lose his belief in goodness, laughter, and joy. Such belief astounds me and strengthens my faith in the “war” of sorts that I am fighting … that all of us are fighting.

There is so much evil in the world because of selfishness. The world is broken in so many ways. It is so deeply wounded. Please, take the time over the coming “Holy Days” to sit at the feet of wisdom, hope and joy that can be found in those places and people we too often forget in our care facilities and in the hearts and minds of those who have looked evil in the eye without blinking and thundered back those precious words of faith that no matter what: Jesus Christ is Lord!

As Psalm 100 invites us:

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before God with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”

The evil within: Growing hatred for the ‘other’ is dangerous trend

By Jason Adkins/Minnesota Catholic Conference

In politics today, people have fallen into the habit of condemning the evil in other persons, groups, structures, or oppressor classes, while they themselves embrace the role of victim.

But the true enemy, from a Christian perspective, is never just something “out there.” Rather, as the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reminds us in “Placuit Deo”, “the evil that is most damaging to the human person is that which comes from his or her heart.” 


Who would know better about having ideological enemies than the Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008); he spent seven years in Soviet labor camps and three years in exile before being exonerated.   

Though Solzhenitsyn was steadfast in denouncing the destructive ideology of the Soviet regime, Solzhenitsyn knew he could not succumb to personal hatred of individuals. He wrote: “It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.” Solzhenitsyn reminds us that the struggle for justice in our world is won or lost in the soul of each person.

Despite the evil inflicted upon him by others, he knew that the battle against evil for which he was most responsible was the one within his own heart. The same is true for each one of us.


Our culture views social relations increasingly through a victim/oppressor ideology, and we all have been conditioned to see ourselves as victims of some enemy class that seeks to impose its evil worldview upon us. 

This trend can be seen on both sides of the political spectrum.  One side blames an assortment of alleged bigots and status quo seekers – corporations, Christian nationalists, members of the patriarchy, and white people – for the oppression of pretty much everyone else. 

Meanwhile, the other side demonizes those branded as subversive elites and infiltrators: Marxists, Wall Street, multiculturalists, Hollywood, Muslims, immigrants, and the media. 

Each group’s hatred for its supposed enemies is palpable; even worse, one is guilty by association – all Republicans are misogynist white supremacists and all Democrats are anti-American communist enemies of the people. 

There is, of course, a certain comfort in this approach, as it is certainly far easier to condemn the wicked “out there” than to recognize both our own sinfulness as a cause of social disorder and concurrent need for transformation.

But this growing hatred cannot end well.  Coupled with the lack of civil debate and discourse, it will likely end in more bloodshed – some of which we’ve already begun to see in the Charlottesville violence; the mass shootings in Charleston and Pittsburgh; separate shootings that targeted congressional Republicans and the conservative Family Research Council; and in the clashes caused by the “Antifa” (anti-fascist) groups. 

Plenty of ink has been spilled about how President Trump’s demagoguery has contributed to the growing divide in our country, which is undoubtedly true.  But his 2016 election opponent is no better: 

“You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about,” Hilary Clinton said in a CNN interview. “That’s why I believe, if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and or the Senate, that’s when civility can start again.”

Note the implications of Mrs. Clinton’s comment: our political opponent is evil and out to destroy all good things; we, on the other hand, have chosen the path of righteousness, and are oppressed by the powers-that-be because of it.

This kind of rhetoric is a continued recipe for more divisiveness, hatred, and violence. 


This does not mean we need to accept harmful, violent, and racist ideologies; in fact, we have the responsibility as Christians to confront them.  But we must always see things through the lens of a broken, sinful, and hurting world, recognizing that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), especially and including ourselves.

There is no true justice where God is not worshipped.  There is no order in the state or in society when there is no order in the soul. 

To let the prophet Solzhenitsyn have the final word:

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”

Stepping forward from minor seminary to major

By Mark Miller/Seminarian at St. Meinrad Seminary, St. Meinrad, Indiana

Editor’s Note: In the coming months, seminarians of the Diocese of Crookston will share aspects of their formation and discernment with OND readers.

The step from Minnesota to Indiana, from minor seminary to major seminary, from Immaculate Heart of Mary to Saint Meinrad, was a step of both excitement and nervousness. The step was one of excitement. I was excited to see how the growth I had been given by the Lord in my previous two years of formation would affect the next four years of my formation. I was excited to dive deeper into Theology, and to learn more about the things that I would most likely be teaching in the years to come. I was excited to meet new men, men who are from all over the world and who would hopefully make me a better Catholic man I was excited to see what the Lord would do as I took a step closer to the vocation of priesthood.

The step was one of nervousness. I was nervous about trying to balance the many tasks that being a seminarian involves. I was nervous about how I would respond to the classes I was taking. I was nervous about forming relationships with people I had never met. I was nervous about what the Lord would do with my life in taking this next step. I was nervous about how I would adjust to a larger, and completely new seminary.

Now having been here for over two months, I can say that this step of excitement and nervousness into major seminary has been a beautiful one. Although I do still experience occasional bouts of nervousness and there have been challenges, I can honestly say that my transition into Saint Meinrad has been better than I ever expected. The growth the Lord gifted me during minor seminary has been rapidly progressing. The Lord has given me many great spiritual gifts in prayer and has been ever present to me in this time of transition. The classes I am taking and the people I have met – the seminarians, formation staff, and teachers – are wonderful. They are helping me understand who I am and are constantly inspiring me to become a better Catholic man.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to take this step – to enter into formation at Saint Meinrad in my pursuit of the call to priesthood. This step of transition has been a wonderful one and I am grateful for all those who have made it possible through their support. I am truly blessed to have this opportunity and I look forward to seeing what the Lord does during these next four years of formation.

Click HERE to learn more about diocesan seminarians.

Click HERE for more information about the Office of Vocations.

Through baptism, all of us are called to a mission field

By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./Office of Formation in Discipleship

“You are now entering the mission field” is a message found at the exit of some church parking lots. Pope Francis, in his apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel,” calls on all faithful Catholics to be “missionary disciples” and spread the joy we find in the Gospel (the good news) to others. We are all called to be missionaries in the world!

Growing up, the missionaries were people like Father Jack Davis in Peru or Crookston’s own Father Larry Wieseler who faithfully served in Venezuela. I also think of my fifth grade teacher, Sister Francis Solum, and the four other Benedictine sisters from Crookston who were called to serve in Texas. For many years, I thought of missionary work as something done by other people in distant lands.

But we Catholics need to face this reality: we are all missionaries and the Church of Jesus Christ calls us to take on the missionary role that we accepted through our baptism. Our missionary work will not be in far distant lands, but in our own communities, parishes and families. This is why, in the “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis calls us to open the doors of our churches, not to wait for people to come in, but to go out of the building and meet them where they are at.

A common reaction to this idea goes something like this: “But I am not a preacher, I don’t know how to evangelize.” Growing up Catholic, many of us thought we needed to get ourselves (and our children) to Sunday Mass but it was up to father, or the sisters, or the RE catechists, or a parish outreach committee to bring the Gospel message to others. But Pope Francis and the Catholic Bishops in the United States are teaching that we need to re-think our roles. In the summer of 2017, the U.S. Catholic Bishops held a national gathering of Catholics from every diocese in the U.S. in order to officially launch what is called a “New Evangelization” – a new approach to spreading the Gospel. This gathering did not happen because of a sudden inspiration but was built upon the pontificates of St. John XXIII, St. Paul VI, St. John Paul II, as well as Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

As a follow-up to the national gathering, the Dioceses of Crookston and Fargo are holding a “Convocation of Parish Leaders” at the end of November during which delegates from every parish across the two dioceses will gather to learn about and reflect on how each delegate can be a missionary disciple of Jesus Christ. Delegates will be asked to focus on a specific person or group of people that they could evangelize. It might be a family member who has left the Church, it could be reaching out to three or four parishioners who no longer come to Mass, or perhaps they are going to work to connect with co-workers or some friends who do not have God in their lives. During the Convocation, delegates are going to learn that this work is to be grounded in prayer, focused on listening to the other person, and then sharing the joy, peace, and contentment we experience in our relationship with God.

The point of the Convocation, and this article, is that we can all be missionary disciples. We can all reach out to others for Christ. In the end, while we can be God’s instrument, the conversion of hearts to the Lord is through the grace of the Holy Spirit. In future columns, I will write about how we can each respond to God’s call, with a special focus on the family, but for now I invite you to support the delegates by praying the Convocation Prayer. A shortened version of the Convocation Prayer is below and the full prayer can be found on the diocesan website at

Heavenly Father, pour forth your Holy Spirit to inspire us so that we might be strengthened to go forth and witness to the Gospel in our daily lives through our words and actions. In moments of hesitation, remind us: If not me, then who will proclaim the Gospel? If not now, then when will the Gospel be proclaimed? If not the truth of the Gospel, then what shall I proclaim? O Mary, our Immaculate Mother, pray for us. May the Convocation of Parish Leaders, inspire us to imitate your example as the first disciple of your son, Jesus, who is Lord for ever and ever. Amen.

Creating new life should not be 'Like passing a baton, like it’s a relay race'

By Fr. Don Braukmann/Retired Priest of the Diocese of Crookston

I am writing this the morning after the election. I stayed up until 2:30 a.m. hoping a favorite local candidate for State House would pull off a victory. He lost by 4 votes out of more than 16,000 cast! As they say, every vote counts.

This morning as I gleaned news from the internet, I found an article that sickened me and was yet another reminder of how critical this last election was when it comes to defending not only the right to life but also life’s dignity.

Recently, in Dallas, Texas, two women (Jane and Heather) announced the arrival of their “miracle baby.” The two have been “married” in the eyes of the law for a few years. They had hoped for the impossible and their hope came to be.

Fertility “specialists” offered the women “reciprocal effortless in vitro fertilization” using radical technology.

This is complicated so bear with me … I don’t understand the technical terms myself but I think we will all get the picture.

Instead of their child first being in an incubator in a lab (the usual IVF procedure) this couple went into a chamber with something called an INVOcell device. This happened immediately after Jane’s eggs had been harvested (and combined with the donation needed from an anonymous man). The device was then placed into Jane’s body for five days where early embryo development began.

As usual, several embryos were created and five days later the INVOcell device was removed and the embryo’s frozen.

The specialists then examined Heather’s uterus, gave her estrogen and then progesterone, waited for the right time, and then “transferred” one of Jane’s embryos into Heather. Those involved said it was “Like passing the baton, like it’s a relay race.”

So, to review, Jane and an anonymous man created a human life which was first put into Jane’s body for five days and then into Heather’s for nine months. No word on the male donor who does not know he is a dad; no word on what was done with the remaining babies.

Heather said, “Jane got to carry him for five days and was a big part of the fertilization, and then I carried him for nine months, so that made it really special for the both of us. We were both part of bringing our son into the world.”

The boy is now five months old. What will they tell him when the time comes?

When challenged about the morality of the procedure, the program director said she respectfully disagreed. “I think that family, relationships, children are exactly everything that was meant to be in our world.”

Since the birth of the little boy other same sex couples are now lining up for the procedure.

How many times can I say it? Pope St. Paul VI was a prophet.

The blanket acceptance of contraception has led us, as human beings, to believe we are the creators of life … when we want it, as we want it. No matter if millions of embryos are frozen in time just “in case” they are ever wanted or found worthy. And, our sick reasoning has led us, as Pope St. Paul VI said it would, to the destruction of innocent human life when things go wrong: abortion.

And so, as the endless political commercials fade away for a few days (2020 is coming!) the real work of defending or destroying life continues.

It is a difficult struggle as some who claims to be pro-life supports the death penalty, racism and all the other ism’s which vomit forth from the mouths of those who are to lead us. We must get our pro-life house in order or we will be dismissed as hypocrites in the political and moral arenas. We will deserve that label.

No single person has more dignity than another. We are not the ones to determine who is worthy of living or worthy of dying.

As Dr. Seuss taught us all long ago in Horton Hears a Who: “A person’s a person no matter how small!”

Remember, the devil has no knees. We do. Use them.

The apostolate of civic friendship can help reverse political decay

By Jason Adkins/Minnesota Catholic Conference

When you read this, the 2018 elections will have passed. The anger will continue to boil, and new opportunities for outrage will undoubtedly abound. The demonization of political opponents will persist, and the saddling of the American presidency with criminal investigations and threats of impeachment will likely become a permanent feature of our politics.

It is hard to see a way out of our current predicament, other than a new Great Awakening through a tremendous outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Yet, whatever the designs of Providence for the American republic, we know what Catholics must continue to do to foster moral and civic renewal: participate in the public arena as faithful citizens, embodying Pope Francis’s reminder that politics is one of the highest forms of charity because it serves the common good.

In short, we must be true friends to our elected officials and our fellow citizens.


The idea of politics as friendship seems counterintuitive, given that politics often looks like a power game, in which the primary goal is to defeat our opponents in elections and then impose our will upon them. In this struggle for control, the ends justify the means, and those who do not share our political opinions are not just of a different mind, but of a different kind – they are “one of them,” or “the other.”

But the Church proposes a different idea of politics – one that goes back to the ancients. Politics comes from the Greek word polis, meaning “city.” Some of us live in the polis of Minneapolis, for example.

Politics, the communal process of deliberation within the polis, was not a wrestle for control; it was first and foremost a task of friendship. This friendship shared among citizens was shaped by the pursuit of virtue – and this made it possible for citizens to come together as equals to deliberate how they ought to order their common life in pursuit of the good.

The Church embraced this understanding of politics, identifying its proper purpose as the pursuit of the common good.

To have strong communities (literally, a sharing of gifts), everyone needs to play a role and offer his or her perspective. We each have unique gifts to share in that great conversation about how we ought to bring about the good in our city. We need to learn to see ourselves as all being fundamentally on the same “side.”


Yes, political debates can get heated because important issues are at stake.

Our battle for justice and the common good, however, is not against people, but, as St. Paul reminds us, against the powers and principalities (Eph. 6:12). It is a spiritual battle. That is why Cardinal Robert Sarah could say in a recent speech that “A Christian does not fight anyone. A Christian has no enemy to defeat. Christ asks Peter to put his sword into his scabbard. This is the command of Christ to Peter, and it concerns every Christian worthy of the name.” This is an important lesson: in politics, we may have temporary opponents, but we must never mistake them for permanent enemies.

Our discourse has become so coarse, and so much anger flows through our nation because our horizons have become political rather than eschatological. When there is no ultimate justice meted out by God, we look for politics to bring it about. And it cannot. Hence, when we place our hope in princes, we will always be disappointed. And that is where the cycle of anger and political decay begins and sets in.

Christians must model a different way: a model of friendship. Just as any good apostolate must be rooted in relationship, fostering friendship with others through friendship with Christ, faithful citizenship is no different.

We must reach out to both our elected officials and fellow citizens in friendship, offering ourselves as resources and as friends in the important conversations about how we ought to order our lives together.

Sometimes we will disagree, and that is okay. But disagreements need not lead to division or demonization. Sometimes, people will see us as enemies, and some will even persecute us. But politics lived as true friendship will change hearts, build stronger communities and undo the knots of division and resentment plaguing our communities.

VFTV: November 14, 2018


I hope your Thanksgiving Day is truly relaxing and joyous this year. Of course, the reason for Thanksgiving Day is to give thanks for all we have. The greatest blessing we have is God’s gift of freedom from sin and death in Jesus Christ. This is the thought for the special Preface at the Mass of Thanksgiving Day: “Lord, Holy Father, almighty and eternal God … you have entrusted to us the great gift of freedom … in Jesus, through his death and resurrection, we find our ultimate redemption, freedom from sin and every blessing.”

As we spend time talking with family and reminiscing about family history, let our conversation also include sharing with others what God has done for us. Start Thanksgiving Day with the Church’s greatest prayer of thanksgiving, the Eucharist.

As we gather in warm homes this Thanksgiving Day with family and friends, let us remember that our own destiny is discipleship in Jesus Christ and our mission is to carry the joy of the Good News to all, that God has indeed blessed all people and won true freedom for all in Christ Jesus.


Over Thanksgiving weekend, we will take up the St. Mary’s Mission Appeal collection. This annual collection, supporting the life and ministry of all at St. Mary’s, is especially important this year because of the fire that destroyed St. Mary’s church building.

We thank God that the hard-working Red Lake Fire Department was able to save our school and rectory even as the church building itself was a total loss. All the vestments, artifacts, historical items and handmade sacramental objects in the church were lost. Yet, despite this loss, life at the Mission continues to thrive. St. Mary’s School remains open and all our children there are doing well. This is possible only because of your support.

The fire, of course, is a setback, but, by the grace of God and your continued support, we will maintain our presence within the Red Lake Nation and build a new church.

I invite you to take a few minutes to enjoy a video about the work at St. Mary’s Mission, prepared for this year’s appeal. It will be played in parishes and can be viewed at You’ll see some striking footage of the fire that consumed the 139-year-old church building.

When you receive this year’s mailing, take a moment to read the great story of Roman Beaulieu, the Mission’s 12-year-old “brave”.

Please continue to be generous to St. Mary’s Mission Appeal. Thank you and may God bless you.


Final preparations are being made for the Convocation of Parish Leaders scheduled for November 30-December 1 of this year in Fargo. Pope Francis has made his Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), a blueprint for the mission of the Church in our day.

Pope Francis challenges us all to “be bold and creative in rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization” for our day. It was July of last year when more than 3,000 Catholic leaders from the dioceses of the United States met in Orlando to pray, study, and discern how to implement the vision for the Church presented by Pope Francis. Now, we are partnering with the Diocese of Fargo to hold our own convocation for priests and leaders from all parishes of these two local churches.

How are we – here in this place and in this time – to respond to the call to be missionary disciples? Where are we to go, to whom are we being sent and what are we to do when we get there?

The goal for our two days together is three-fold: (1) that each delegate experience the joy of being Church in the presence of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit as we pray, reflect, and discern together; (2) that the Holy Spirit will help us grow as missionary disciples and in our ability to bring the joy of the Gospel to others; (3) that each parish priest and delegate will become a leaven – leader – fostering the formation and engagement of missionary disciples in their parish families so that each and every parish will be eagerly involved in the mission of evangelization given us by Jesus.

Please join me in asking God’s blessing on our Convocation endeavor. Remember in prayer your parish priest(s) and delegates. May they listen to the voice of Christ our King and be inspired by the Holy Spirit. May they, in turn, enliven all our parish families for the task of the new evangelization for as stated in “Evangelii Gaudium”: “In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples.”

Johnson finds joy, community, growth while at seminary

By Josh Johnson/Seminarian at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Minnesota

Editor’s Note: In the coming months, seminarians of the Diocese of Crookston will share aspects of their formation and discernment with OND readers.

Since I was born, my family has lived in the same blue house in Moorhead and we have been parishioners of St. Joseph’s Church. As many others have, I grew up in a normal, beautiful family. As the youngest of three brothers and one sister, I have had the joy of many different experiences with my family. Now, as the newest seminarian for the Diocese of Crookston, I am again the youngest of my brothers. I am straight out of high school, 19 years old, and ready to try to be formed as a disciple of Christ, listening and discerning his will.

My journey to seminary started with my family and learning the faith in my day-to-day life. Being Catholic was just part of who I was as I attended Catholic school from preschool through high school. A major change in my life began in third grade when my mom, Roberta Johnson, was diagnosed with Leukemia. She passed away about a year and a half later. For a while, I did not truly process her death, but I always had the support of my siblings and dad. Progressing into middle and high school, the faith continued to be a part of my life, but it was not my own. It was something I did because it was expected of me. At a camp the summer before my junior year, I had my first true prayer experience. In the experience, I found the grief and anger about my mom’s death and expressed that to God. Afterwards, I started to open myself up more to God and to friends. I began to see the beauty of God more and more and wanted to make the faith my own. I started to pray regularly on my own and genuinely wanted to know and live the Catholic faith. I examined my life to see what was helpful and harmful to me. I tried to make genuine changes my junior and senior years of high school. I cut out negative things in my life and tried to replace them with living for God.

Amid all of that, the summer before my senior year I was reading an article published in this very paper, Our Northland Diocese, and the main point was living without fear. At that moment, fear and anxiety was gone from me and my next thought was that I was going to go to seminary. The fears and anxieties promptly returned, but I knew that God had blessed me in that moment and I had to consider seminary. I spent the first half of my senior year discerning whether I should go to seminary right away. During discernment, I realized more and more that discipleship is being as generous as one can with the Lord and giving him your whole life in whatever way he wants. I applied and was accepted.

My first quarter at seminary has been the toughest but most joyful part of life I have experienced. I am surrounded by new people and in a different environment from what I have known, but because of that, there are many opportunities for growth. The faculty is always pushing us to grow. We try to direct everything we do towards Christ, which creates purpose for our actions from attending classes, eating, playing basketball, or napping. The community is truly a blessing as there is always somebody to hang out with and support is always found among one’s brothers. The friendships I am starting to develop here are some of the best in my life. While I still have so much to experience and learn, I am seeing how good it is for 50 plus men to strive for holiness together. I ask that continued prayers be said for myself and my fellow seminarians as we strive together to figure out and do God’s will. Thank you for all of the support provided, we truly appreciate it!

Click HERE to learn more about diocesan seminarians.

Click HERE for more information about the Office of Vocations.

'Humanae Vitae’ as a guide for a holy marriage: Conclusion

By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./Office of Formation in Discipleship

Seven installments of this column focused on marriage in light of the 50th anniversary of Pope St. Paul VI’s (he was just canonized on October 14) encyclical “Humanae Vitae.” Previously, I introduced “Colin Catholic” (fictional name) to share an actual conversation about one of the early columns in the series. I am bringing back “Colin” to address a question another person asked: “When are you going to write about birth control?”

Imagine that the conversation went something like this:

Colin Catholic: I read your columns about “Humanae Vitae,” but when are you going to get to what that encyclical is really about?

Deacon Mark: What do you mean?

CC: Everyone knows “Humanae Vitae” was written to tell Catholics they can’t use birth control. Why are you dodging the topic? I guess you don’t want to write about anything controversial.

DM: Well Colin, we cannot understand what Pope St. Paul VI wrote about the gift of new life unless we understand what he wrote about sacramental marriage.

CC: You don’t want to talk about birth control because most Catholics do not follow the teaching, most Catholics use birth control.

DM: Perhaps that is true, but maybe they use artificial birth control because they do not understand the teaching. Plus, more younger Catholics are following God’s natural plan. As the Church does a better job teaching young people about God’s plan, and more online training for natural fertility care is developed, it is easier to follow.

CC: I don’t understand why the Church holds this old-fashioned notion that birth control is wrong.

DM: Colin, do you agree with Pope St. Paul VI concerning what I have written so far in these columns?

CC: You mean what he wrote about marriage?

DM: Yes, that a man and woman should enter marriage in a way that is total (generously sharing everything), faithful (to God’s plan), exclusive (to each other), free (accepting the duty to love) and fruitful (open to life).

CC: That makes sense. A good marriage should contain all of these, but the fruitful part should be when the couple wants it.

DM: By “it,” I assume you mean children?

CC: Precisely.

DM: Let’s explore that. Do you believe life comes from God?

CC: Most certainly.

DM: And is it a gift?

CC: That is what we are told. I believe God gives the gift of life.

DM: Do you believe when a husband and wife have a baby, they bring forth a life that is a gift from God?

CC: I already agreed that life is a gift from God, so I suppose their baby is a gift from God.

DM: If I give you a gift, is it right for you to tell me when I can give it to you?

CC: What do you mean?

DM: Well, should you tell me you are willing to accept a gift from me in November or February, but not in December because you are already receiving many gifts at Christmas?

CC: That is ridiculous. I should not tell you when you can give me a gift, I should be gracious and accept the gift whenever you give it to me.

DM: So you agree that life is a gift from God, and a man and woman who have a baby are receiving a gift from God, and no one should tell the giver when to give the gift. This is what Pope St. Paul VI was getting at in “Humanae Vitae” about the artificial approach to regulating birth. Let me read you something he wrote: “On the other hand, to make use of the gift of conjugal love while respecting the laws of the generative process means to acknowledge oneself not to be the arbiter (the authority) of the sources of human life, ...” (HV 13). You see Colin, life comes from God. We should not use chemicals or devices to prevent or abort life but should follow God’s natural way. This is what Pope St. Paul VI summed up about Church teaching on unnatural methods of birth control.

CC: Does that mean couples will have babies every time they have marital intimacy?

DM: Of course not. God has created a natural cycle for when a woman can and cannot become pregnant. Pope St. Paul VI said it was fine for couples to observe these natural cycles and refrain from intimacy when needed.

CC: But how is this natural method of preventing pregnancy different from using the pill or other methods of birth control?

DM: The natural method follows God’s plan, God’s design, God’s time for the gift. The artificial method says humans decide on the gift of life. Pope St. Paul VI wrote that the Church understands people have valid reasons to “space out” births. By using God’s natural design, a couple recognizes life is God’s gift, not theirs to manipulate.

CC: This is interesting, but isn’t it unrealistic for a couple to trust God’s plan for children?

DM: Colin, a couple following God’s total, faithful, exclusive, free and fruitful plan for marriage can trust God’s plan for the gift of life just as they trust God’s plan for the gift of marriage.

It’s our turn: CCHD and the legacy of Saints Pope Paul VI and Oscar Romero

By Fr. Don Braukmann/Retired Priest of the Diocese of Crookston

I welcome the words of Bob Noel, a diocesan staff member, who reminds us of the consistent ethic of life which is so deeply rooted in our Catholic faith. – Fr. Don Braukmann

When I was 8 years old, I was riding in our forest green Ford Granada with my mom and my Aunt Evelyn along Highway 2 on the way to visit my Grandma Hince in Red Lake Falls. Whenever mom spent time with her sisters, joy and laughter filled the space. That August afternoon was no different. Somewhere past Marcoux Corner, the laughter gave way to seriousness and sadness as news came across the radio that Pope Paul VI died.

I wasn’t terribly familiar with our pope. I could picture him, and obviously knew he was very important, but in that moment, it became clear to me that a great man had just died.

In my adulthood I have come to recognize and appreciate the tremendous influence Pope Paul VI had on the life of the Church. His prophetic encyclical “Humanae Vitae” has breathed truth and life into the chaos and confusion of the culture wars for the past 50 years. This important encyclical has provided a moral compass, as the culture seeks to redefine life, dignity, love, marriage and family.

One year before his death, Pope Paul VI appointed Oscar Romero as Archbishop of San Salvador. At the time, El Salvador was on the brink of civil war. Those who suffered most profoundly during this conflict were El Salvador’s poor. 

To many, Oscar Romero was an odd appointment during this uneasy time. He had a reputation as a conformist and protector of the status quo. As Archbishop, Romero found his voice. The only thing he conformed to was the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through ministry he provided consistent comfort and hope to the oppressed while sharply challenging the injustices of their oppressors. Like Pope Paul VI, Oscar Romero spoke a courageous message of Gospel truth during a time of chaos. On March 24, 1980, Oscar Romero was shot and killed while saying Mass. Like the pope who appointed him, Romero’s prophetic voice was amplified following his death.

On Oct. 14, Pope Francis, wearing the blood-stained cincture of Oscar Romero and holding the staff of Pope Paul VI, celebrated the canonization Mass of these two great saints. Their canonization continues our Church’s emphatic proclamation that “human life is sacred, and the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society”.

My computer screen background is a picture of Pope Paul VI and Oscar Romero taken over 40 years ago. Both men are smiling slightly against a drab, umber backdrop. There’s something about this photo that draws me in; it’s as if each saint is encouraging, with a gentle nod, “now it’s your turn.” I appreciate this reminder every day when I turn on my computer.

Because, it is our turn. As Catholics, each and every day we are called to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world, just as St. Paul VI and St. Oscar Romero did. Like these heroes of virtue, we are called to defend and serve those who get kicked to the curb in our society: the unborn, the poor, the refugee, the single parent, the addict and the oppressed.

One of my roles in the Office of Formation is Diocesan Director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). Over the past few months, it has been a blessing and privilege learning about the incredible impact CCHD has across the nation and especially, right here in our own diocese. Because of the generosity of Catholics, thousands of organizations across the country are able to do the work of the Gospel, serving those who are most in need.

On Sunday, November 25 parishes across the diocese and the nation take up the annual CCHD collection. This collection provides Catholics with a tangible opportunity to take the baton that has been passed to us by great saints like Romero and Paul VI. As the Diocesan Director of CCHD, I want to thank you for your prayers and generosity. I also want to personally assure you that your donations are being put to good use across our diocese and across the United States. Thank you and may God bless you!

Pope St. Paul VI, pray for us!

St. Oscar Romero, pray for us!

VTFV: October 24, 2018


We welcome Father Maschio Mascarenghas to priestly ministry in the Diocese of Crookston. Father Maschio studied for the ministerial priesthood in Rome, attending the Pontifical Gregorian University. He was ordained on Jan. 30, 1994, as a priest of the Diocese of Tuticorin, in India. He is excited to begin his assignment as Parochial Vicar at Sacred Heart Parish, East Grand Forks; Holy Trinity Parish, Tabor; and St. Francis Parish, Fisher. We are delighted to have him with us.


October is Respect Life Month, when Catholics in the United States highlight respect for God’s great gift of life. This year’s theme is adapted from a beautiful reflection found in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians: “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ … If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it.” (1 Cor. 12:12,26) This year’s theme is: “Every Life: Cherished, Chosen, Sent.” We are all brothers and sisters of one human family. Every life is to be cherished. In “Amoris Laetitia,” Pope Francis wrote: “Here I feel it urgent to state that, if the family is the sanctuary of life, the place where life is conceived and cared for, it is a horrendous contradiction when it becomes a place where life is rejected and destroyed. So great is the value of human life … that no alleged right to one’s own body can justify a decision to terminate that life.”

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are one body, sent by one Lord to bring God’s love and care to those who suffer, for when one suffers, all suffer. I urge you to join in the special prayer of Respect Life Month. Reflect on your personal call to defend the sanctity of every person’s life. Visit for materials.

May God help us to work to build a culture that defends life – especially the life of the unborn and the vulnerable – and fosters respect for everyone, at every stage and in every circumstance.


Talk about working to build a culture of respect for life, at the beginning of October, the Catholic bishops of Minnesota gathered for a fall Minnesota Catholic Conference meeting. Work continues on a pastoral statement which is a follow-up to Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si.” We are also finishing work on a Minnesota Catholic Healthcare Directive and a guide for end-of-life decision making. We hope to have these materials to you soon.

We also looked at issues that will be part of the next state legislative session: surrogacy, assisted suicide, homelessness in Minnesota and affordable housing, education choice and non-public pupil aid.

I hope you consider being part of the contingent from the Diocese of Crookston that will attend Catholics at the Capitol on February 19, 2019. It will be a wonderful way for you to be directly involved in fostering a culture of respect for life.

You can also stay involved by frequenting Minnesota Catholic Advocacy Network online. You will find good election-year resources at the MCC website:

‘Humanae Vitae’ as a guide for a holy marriage: Part IV

By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./Office of Formation in Discipleship

We are into fall and have left another summer behind. The harvest is in full swing. It started during the heat of summer and, in our diocese, extends even to when the first dusting of snow coats the corn. When I was a boy, at the end of each summer and into the fall the green beans or tomatoes would come from the garden, the fresh potatoes were brought home by dad straight from the field and the local fruit farm would have strawberries, cantaloupe and watermelon. God has given us the richness of the harvest from crops that grow year after year. They are tended by farmers, to be sure (I’m from a farm family, so I have to thank the farmers), but the fruitfulness of the harvest is given to us by God for our food in this world as we wait to join God in the eternal banquet.

What do my nostalgic memories of the richness of the land have to do with “Humanae Vitae”? At the conclusion of my previous column, I wrote that I would share one more thing Pope Blessed Paul VI tells us about marriage. Up to this point, I reviewed how the Holy Father described the characteristics of marital love; it is meant to be total, faithful, exclusive and free. I also explained how these descriptors are related. If you are totally committed to your marriage, you will be faithful and exclusive, and your love will be a freely given gift. These characteristics belong together. There is one final characteristic: marital love is meant to be fecund. Don’t bother looking up the definition online, I will explain the meaning.

The word fecund is based on the Latin word “fecundus.” I am not referring to the Latin word because it sounds Catholic to do so, and I am not using the Latin to make me sound smart – I had to look it up when I first read it. Fecundus means “fruitful.” What does it mean to be fruitful in marriage? As Pope Blessed Paul VI wrote in “Humanae Vitae:” “And finally this love is fecund for it is not exhausted by the communion between husband and wife, but is destined to continue, raising up new lives.”

A similar idea was presented by Pope St. John Paul II and echoed by Popes Benedict and Francis. Married couples are called to be open to cooperating with God in the creation of a new soul.

Marital love is meant to be fruitful love. The ultimate expression of fruitful love is the marital act, also referred to as the conjugal act, the coming together of the woman’s and man’s bodies into the most intimate act between two humans. An act that has “Two Inseparable Aspects: Union and Procreation,” as the subheading in Chapter 2 of “Humanae Vitae” states. It sounds complicated but only because we typically do not use these words. Unitive refers to the physical intimacy that unites husband and wife in an exclusive way. The sexual act is meant only to be experienced in marriage – the most intimate act reserved for the most intimate union. I am sure somebody is thinking, “Oh, most people do not think that way these days,” but across time and across cultures – and especially as taught by Jesus – the sexual act is meant to be between a husband and a wife. Why?

Remember the section title in the above paragraph? Pope Blessed Paul VI wrote about the “inseparable” elements of union and procreation. For the union deepened by the intimacy of the marital act is meant to be open and life-creating. A new person, created in the “image and likeness of God” comes from the fruitful union of a husband and wife. Children are a blessing from God when a married couple opens themselves to experience the unitive and procreative aspects of the fruitful love they are called to experience in marriage.

In the pages of “Humanae Vitae,” Pope Paul VI shared with the world the long-held teachings of the Church. Marital love is meant to be total, faithful, exclusive, free and fruitful. At the beginning of this column I reflected on the fruitfulness of God’s creation – to bring forth life. God created marriage to be fruitful, bringing the husband and wife into greater intimacy of union and, when blessed by God, meant to cooperate in the creation of human life. All who are reading this column are beneficiaries of God’s fruitful plan for creation: we have life.

Johnson, Walz, Smith, Housely, Klobuchar, Newberger: Election 2018

By Fr. Don Braukmann/Retired Priest of the Diocese of Crookston

Election 2018 is just weeks away. As we hear every two years from those seeking public office, “This is the most important election in our lifetime.” What may seem like an exaggeration is, in fact, true for millions of us, especially the unborn.

I recently saw a poster showing a baby with a tear in her eye and below the picture the words:

If we honored each baby aborted since 1973 with a moment of silence, we would be silent for over 100 years.

Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion on demand, was decided 45 years ago in 1973. Since then, over 56 million children have been put to death. Do the math. A moment of silence for each innocent child means we would be silent for over 103 years!

Regular readers of OND know what is coming in the remainder of this column, but I hope you take the time to read it anyway.

Although this may be old news to some, I still write hoping to catch the hearts of those who ignore the abortion issue thinking it is settled law and to support the many who are out there on the front lines working to demand justice for the little ones.

In previous columns I have tried to make real the number 56 million. To do so, I list the states with populations when, added together, make up 56 million. This means the total population of these states, every man, woman and child, is equal to the number of children sentenced to death.

Read this list slowly…every man, woman and child of: Louisiana, Kentucky, Oregon, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Iowa, Utah, Mississippi, Arkansas, Nevada, Kansas, New Mexico, Nebraska, West Virginia, Idaho, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, Wyoming.

A total of 26 states … 56 million people.

I have never voted for a politician whose moral compass somehow justifies the killing of the most innocent among us. If they believe we can kill our children to live as we wish as a nation, how could I possibly trust their opinion on issues of health, education, defense?

This goes double for those Catholic politicians who receive the Bread of Life on Sunday and, on Monday, vote to let the innocent ones die. I honestly cannot figure that out no matter how hard I try to do the moral gymnastics to get there.

This by no means suggests that because a candidate claims to be pro-life on abortion that they are assured my vote! This year, for me personally, I will be writing in more names than voting for those on the ballot. There are pro-life Democrats and Republicans on the ballot when it comes to abortion, but their views on other life issues are so abhorrent I could never vote for them. “Pro-life” in words only, means little to me.

Earlier in September, Harrison Ford, the actor best known as Indiana Jones and Han Solo, told those gathered for the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, “Stop giving power to people who don’t believe in science, or worse than that, pretend they don’t believe in science, for their own self-interest.” He encouraged the group to use the power of the ballot box saying “They know who they are. We know who they are.”

I simply do not understand the logic! Science has given us facts about a changing climate. The climate is changing. Science has also given us facts about when life begins. It begins at conception. Those are facts.

Science does not say a child in the womb is “less human” the first three months of pregnancy than it is at three months and one day of pregnancy. There is no magic moment after conception when a child becomes fully human instead of a blob of cells. Science is clear.

As I read the list of other speakers and sponsors at the San Francisco Summit, none were pro-life. The truth of science, so clear to them on climate change, is deliberately dismissed when it comes to the most basic scientific truth of all: human life begins at conception.

As Harrison Ford said, “they don’t believe in science for their own self-interest.” That works both ways, Mr. Ford. Sure, climate change may eventually lead to disaster and death. However, abortion leads to disaster and death right here, right now … for 56 million so far since 1973.

During election 2018, I pray we do not vote for “our own self-interest” but for the good of all people, including, not excluding, the most innocent and helpless among us.