Multi-faceted approach key for creating safe environments

By Katrina Genereux, Associate Editor, OND

A recent onsite audit of diocesan Safe Environment practices was conducted by Stonebridge Business Partners of Rochester, New York. The firm found that the Diocese of Crookston is compliant with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People for the audit period of July 2017-June 2018. The Charter was drafted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002. Dioceses around the country are audited each year to determine adherence to the Charter.

An onsite audit occurs every three years. Members from the Stonebridge audit team come to the diocese, interview individuals involved with safe environment administration, check records and processes and visit parishes. Between onsite audits, data audits are conducted. During a data audit, the diocese sends required information to auditors for review.


One area scrutinized by auditors is the training offered to students in Catholic schools and religious education programs. The Charter mandates that children be trained for their safety. Since 2015, Catholic schools and religious education programs throughout the diocese have been using a curriculum called Circle of Grace. During the 2018 audit period, 4,389 youth were trained in the Diocese of Crookston.

“We train children and youth on how to recognize and report abuse,” said Renee Tate, Safe Environment Coordinator for the Diocese of Crookston. “This program not only teaches safety and well-being, it also teaches children and young people to understand their own sacredness and the sacredness of others and how to get help through trusted adults.”

The curriculum is based on the idea that the space around a person is their “circle of grace.” It helps children understand – in an age-appropriate way – what does or does not belong in their circle. A variety of lesson plans are provided for kindergarten through 12th grade.

Margaret Rasmussen is the Director of Religious Education at St. Bernard, Thief River Falls, and the parish Safe Environment Coordinator. Coordinators keep records of adult and youth training and report them to the diocese. She also teaches Circle of Grace lessons in the school and religious education program.

“It teaches that God is present in their lives and surrounds them with his grace and wants them to be safe. It also teaches that the Holy Spirit will nudge us and to listen to what he is trying to tell us if it is not a safe situation,” Rasmussen said. “I like how each grade is a little different in the lessons so that as the child grows, they get a little something new each year.”

Kari Rath is a teacher at St. Bernard’s School. Her 9-year-old son, Samuel, has received Circle of Grace training.

He said, “The Circle of Grace training has taught me more about my heart and soul, how to be safe, and who is in my circle – who to trust and who I can tell if something bad happens.”

“I think the Circle of Grace training is important because it gives students a knowledge and plan of what to do in potentially difficult and confusing situations,” Kari said. “It teaches students to respect themselves and others. It is important for students to know what safe and unsafe touch is, be able to identify who the trusted adults are in their lives and how to make good choices.”

Annette Haas appreciates the theme of respect in the curriculum. Haas is the Youth Ministry and Faith Formation Coordinator and Safe Environment Coordinator at St. Peter the Apostle, Park Rapids.

“I think it is important for our students to make the connections that respect for ourselves and others is part of God’s plan. If someone is infringing on our personal boundaries, the program also shares what we need to do,” Haas said.

Diane Heath has taught first grade religious education at St. Peter for nine years. Each year she covers Circle of Grace curriculum in 1.5 to two class periods.

“I think they understand – even the little ones. We explain it to them and I think by the time we are done they understand what we are talking about,” she said. “It’s a pretty good program.”

Her 15-year-old daughter, Alicia, has taken part in Circle of Grace training. She said considering the body as a temple and dwelling place of God was emphasized.

“Some kids might be scared to share if somebody entered their bubble and made them feel uncomfortable they might be scared to tell an adult,” she said.


A second area assessed by the audit is church personnel training and certification in the parishes and schools of the diocese.

The bishop, priests, deacons, employees and volunteers who interact with children are required to complete Safe Environment training each year. Background checks are part of the certification. The first time a person is certified, a background check is conducted; it is renewed every five years, unless there is cause to repeat it sooner.

“When you are safe environment certified, you are saying you will abide by the policy and the Code of Conduct for Church Leaders in the Diocese of Crookston,” Tate said. “Our safe environment program teaches adults how to recognize and report abuse.”

2,521 people completed safe environment certification during the audit period.


Another aspect of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People is providing a Victim’s Assistance Coordinator.

Cindy Hulst, LSW, is the Victim’s Assistance Coordinator for the Diocese of Crookston. She is available to assist victims of sexual misconduct on the part of a priest, deacon, or individual representing the Diocese of Crookston, its parishes or its schools. She can be confidentially reached 24 hours a day by calling 218-281-7895.

For more information about Safe Environment in the Diocese of Crookston, visit

Diocese seeks to build seminarian endowment, fund education

Editor’s note: The following was submitted by the Reathel Giannonatti, JD, Director of the Office of Stewardship and Development. It has been edited for style and clarity.

The Seminarian Education Endowment is a group of 168 burses gifted to the Diocese of Crookston Catholic Community Foundation (CCF) for educating seminarians. Thirty-seven parishes have seminarian education burses, some begun decades ago, 29 parishes do not. Many named burses have been gifted by families, couples or in memory of a loved one. Several burses are major gifts from estates, and many of our retired priests and bishops have burses as well. It’s a wonderful opportunity to create a legacy for a parish, family or individual.

Two years ago, the office of Stewardship and Development and CCF entered into a soft campaign, meeting with potential donors and parishes about building up the Seminarian Education Endowment which currently has $2.5 million invested. It needs to be at $5 million to fully fund projected expenses for our seminarians’ education. Currently much funding for seminarians comes from the Diocesan Annual Appeal and assessments to parishes. Every parish without a burse is encouraged to begin one. Those with burses set up years ago are encouraged to continue adding to their investments.

There are two reasons why this initiative is critical for all of us. First, the thing that threatens the future of many parishes is not the ability to care for itself financially or to keep buildings in good repair. Church buildings have been carefully cared for by pastors, volunteers and professionals keeping them in excellent condition. What threatens the future of our beloved parishes is the availability of a priest. Presently, nearly every priest in the diocese has more than one parish or ministry to attend to. Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner says we need to give every young man who hears the voice of God an opportunity to discern a call to the priesthood. This means being able to support that young man during seminary. Not every call will fully form and express itself in a vocation to the priesthood, but we must be able to provide those opportunities.

Second, building up the seminarian education endowment takes pressure off the diocesan budget, avoiding raises in Diocesan Annual Appeal goals and parish assessments. This takes pressure off parish budgets. Burses are never spent but are invested conservatively in funds that are harmonious with Catholic social principals. Interest from the investments is used exclusively for books, tuition, room and board for seminarians and for the expenses incurred by the Office of Vocations. When the endowment is at $5 million, we should be able to fully fund those expenses with the interest.

It is important to note that when the Holy Spirit moves a young man to enter seminary, we are incredibly joyful! At the same time, it takes careful financial planning and reserves to financially accommodate that call. Major seminary – which is graduate school in theology – for which the diocese assumes full financial responsibility, currently costs $50,000 per year. We contribute a modest $15,000 per year for those students in undergraduate school, also referred to as minor seminary.

I am available to meet with parish finance and pastoral councils to discuss opening or building a burse. Families interested in opening a burse can contact the Chancery for an appointment.

The most gratifying part of the soft campaign is that when a family or a parish opens a burse, they become committed to the mission of educating our seminarians. Many who began a burse are contributing again in the second year, revisiting their gifts and providing additional funding. They have kept the seminarians in their thoughts, prayers and financial plans! It doesn’t get any better than that.

Contact Joe Noel, Executive Director of the Catholic Community Foundation at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.or 218-280-6858 with questions.

Celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week Nov. 4-10

OND Staff Report

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops celebrates National Vocation Awareness Week the first full week of November. Its purpose is to promote vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew prayer and support for those considering one of these vocations.


The Diocese of Crookston has six seminarians discerning the priesthood.

  • Deacon Michael Arey was ordained a transitional deacon June 16. He is in his fourth year of postgraduate theology studies at St. Paul School of Divinity in St. Paul, Minnesota. His home parish is St. Francis de Sales, Moorhead.
  • Mark Miller is in his first year of postgraduate theology studies at St. Meinrad School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Indiana. His home parish is Sacred Heart, Roseau.
  • John Wilebski is in his fourth year of college seminary at St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota. His home parish is Blessed Sacrament, Greenbush.
  • Samuel Hurst is in his third year of college seminary at St. Mary’s University. His home parish is St. Joseph, Moorhead.
  • Solomon Liebl is in his third year of college seminary at St. Mary’s University. His home parish is St. Joseph, Fertile.
  • Joshua Johnson is in his first year of college seminary at St. Mary’s University. His home parish is St. Joseph, Moorhead.


O loving and gracious God, Father of all, you bless your people in every time and season and provide for their needs through your providential care.

Your Church is continually in need of priests, sisters and brothers to offer themselves in the service of the gospel by lives of dedicated love.

Open the hearts of your sons and daughters to listen to your call in their lives. Give them the gift of understanding to discern your invitation to serve you and your Church. Give them the gift of courage to follow your call. May they have the spirit of young Samuel who found fulfillment in his life when he said to you, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Redeemer. Amen.


If you have questions about the seminary or vocational discernment, please contact Father Matt Schmitz, Promoter of Vocations, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 218-773-0877.

Click HERE to learn more about the diocesan Office of Vocations.

Marriage Celebration Day highlights glory, holiness of sacrament

By Katrina Genereux/Associate Editor, OND

Married couples, widows and widowers from across the Diocese of Crookston gathered at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Crookston, for the 23rd annual Marriage Celebration Day.

“We have to recover a posture of enchantment,” Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner said during the homily. “That’s why we’re here today, because you are enchanted in your marriage relationship. It’s exciting, it’s beautiful,” he said. “God is working in your hearts. They’re not hardened, they’re full and they continue to be so.”

Clara and Eugene Manecke of St. Mary, Fosston, who have been married 60 years were the honorary couple and received Bishop’s Medals during the Mass.

Bishop Hoeppner highlighted the Manecke’s reliance on prayer in good times and bad, as well as their involvement and dedication to their parish.

Prayer is something that has been key for the honorary newlywed couple as well. Kasey and Jackie Stevens are both from different towns in the Diocese of St. Cloud, but met during a Moorhead Catholic Campus Ministries event at St. Joseph, Moorhead in 2014. As freshmen at Concordia College, they were in line for a free meal for college students following Mass. They started talking, quickly became friends and began dating a few weeks later.

The couple turned to prayer while discerning the future of their relationship.

“We spent a lot of time in the Adoration chapel together,” Jackie said.

Each of them considered religious life, or priesthood in Kasey’s case, but determined they were called to marriage.

Jackie said they spoke with priests, their parents and other family in addition to prayerfully discerning their vocation.

They were married August 4 at Jackie’s home parish, St. Henry, Perham.

The couple requested half an hour of Eucharistic Adoration before their wedding Mass began.

“It was important for us to spend some time alone and together with our Lord Jesus Christ as individuals before becoming one flesh. We wanted to thank Jesus personally before celebrating with a Mass of Thanksgiving with family and friends,” Jackie said.

Kasey said married life has been different and challenging but good.

“It’s a great vocation. I’m sure a lot of people would agree. It’s really cool to know this is where God wants us, especially because that’s something that I think both of us have struggled with for a long time,” he said. “To know that this is where God wanted us to be the whole time, I find a lot of peace in that.”

“Once we got married and I got to come home to Kasey all the time, it was really nice to know … God has given me this gift to come home to and be blessed with every single day of my life,” Jackie said. “It’s a new adventure.”

Jackie graduated from Concordia in May and teaches junior high science, eighth grade classroom and religion at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Breckenridge, Minnesota. Kasey is in his final semester of studies at Concordia.

They have both been active with MCCM, Catholic Cobbers and ministries at St. Joseph, including teaching Theology of the Body to ninth grade religious education students.

Bishop Hoeppner blessed each of the honorary couples and at the end of Mass, married couples as well as widows and widowers received special blessings and rosaries.

Richard and Lorraine Deschene traveled from Argyle to attend the event, they celebrated their 67th anniversary on Oct. 3.

“We’ve been coming here quite a few years,” Richard said.

“It’s spiritual and you meet different people and learn from different people,” Lorraine said.

They enjoy hearing the stories of the honorary couples and spending time visiting during the meal served after Mass.

“The Lord has blessed us very much over the years and we notice it more as we grow older,” Richard said.

CLICK HERE for additional images from Marriage Celebration Day.

V Encuentro is opportunity to grow in missionary discipleship

By Katrina Genereux/Associate Editor, OND

Five members of the Diocese of Crookston joined nearly 3,500 Hispanic/Latino Catholics for the Fifth National Encuentro, or V Encuentro, Sept. 20-23 in Grapevine, Texas. Cyntia Lopez and Francisco Valenzuela of St. Francis de Sales, Moorhead; and Lucina Mello, Maria Moronez and Jose de Leon of Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Crookston, took part in the event.

Encuentro, meaning gathering or encounter, is a four-year process of reflection across the nation, that will continue through 2020. “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of God’s Love,” is the theme of this Encuentro. The process, an initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is an invitation to intense missionary activity and consultation to guide leadership and ministry development. The goal is to help the Church respond to the Hispanic/Latino presence and strengthen their response to the New Evangelization. Local and regional meetings were held leading up to the national gathering.

“Being part of this event not only allows us to meet other people who are doing the same thing, but it also allows us to open up to new perspectives, to new ideas, to know better approaches. I think this is going to be a very good personal enrichment that later would be beneficial for the ministry we are doing in our parishes,” said Sister Lucy Perez-Calixto. Sister Lucy is the Guadalupe Minister at St. Francis de Sales. She has been involved in the local and regional processes but was not able to attend the national Encuentro.

The scale of the national Encuentro impressed members of the diocesan delegation. Cyntia Lopez was grateful for the chance to speak with several of the more than 100 bishops who attended.

“My favorite part was being able to talk to the bishops face-to-face,” Lopez said. “They were so open to talk to the youth, to talk to us … they were right there with us.”

They had many opportunities to gather for prayer and worship. Delegates heard keynote addresses from: Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre; Bishop Oscar Cantu, Diocese of Las Cruces; Sister Ana Maria Pineda of the Sisters of Mercy; Bishop Daniel Flores, Diocese of Brownsville; Bishop Arturo Cepeda, Archdiocese of Detroit; and Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Archdiocese of Newark.

They also viewed a video message from Pope Francis on Sept. 20.

The pope described the process as a way for the U.S. Church to go beyond comfort, becoming the leaven of hope for young people and families in the peripheries.

“I am also pleased to see that the Fifth Encuentro, in continuity with the previous Encuentros, recognizes and values the specific gifts that Hispanic Catholics offer today, and will continue to offer in the future, to the Church in their country. This experience of Encuentro goes much further, it is part of a much larger process of renewal, of missionary impulse to which all the local churches, the particular churches, are called with their rich human and cultural diversity,” Pope Francis said.

Delegates also participated in break-out sessions and group discussions with members of their region and those working or volunteering in the same type of ministry.

“The discussions were really good,” Lopez said. “It is not only in our church that we are having this kind of trouble, like how to work with the youth … to get them involved in the church.” She said discussions focused on formation of leaders in the parish and young people.

Lopez learned many things that will help her in ministry to the youth of her parish.

She learned that building a foundation with the youngest members of the parish is important, because if they don’t connect with the church, it will be hard to keep them involved as they grow. She said giving special attention to teens was also emphasized.

“We have to pay special attention to kids from 13 to 18 because there is a lot of depression and they need love. They need us to listen to them,” Lopez said. “We have to pay special attention to that age group and make them feel at home.”

Jose de Leon said one of his takeaways was that everyone is part of the Church because they are called by God.

“God called us there because we need to do something, not only to sit … we need action, not only words,” he said.

He said it is important for people to be involved in their parishes.

“Everybody needs to do something in the Church,” he said.

He said another part that stood out was continually asking for things that are needed.

“Too many people only ask one time and no more,” he said. “Some people change to other churches because [they think] father doesn’t give them attention … this is not good.”

Francisco Valenzuela said the experience was amazing.

“My favorite parts were the homilies at Mass … the bishops talked to us from their hearts and we actually learned some good advice on how to live our life and how to be a good missionary disciple,” he said.

Key themes he noted were learning to walk with the Holy Spirit, sharing the Gospel and evangelizing with happiness and love.

“We hope to bring this new energy to our parish and work as one in unity – Hispanics and Anglos – because we are all one church, the universal Church, the Catholic Church founded by God through his beloved son, Jesus Christ,” Valenzuela said.

Lopez hopes to see more formation for leaders in her parish, and she is determined to work for change.

“We came back filled with the Holy Spirit and I know this is going to help our community,” she said. “We can’t let this fire extinguish.”

Faith for Tomorrow fall grant cycle announced

OND Staff Report

The Board of Directors of the Diocese of Crookston Catholic Community Foundation announces the beginning of the Fall 2018 Faith for Tomorrow Grant Cycle. Parishes and Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Crookston may begin submitting grant applications on Sept. 27, 2018.  Grant applications may be submitted through Nov. 2, 2018. Grant applications submitted after Nov. 2 will not be considered.

For more information, go to There you will find information and instructions for preparing a grant application. Pay close attention to the heading for “FFT Funding Priorities” especially priorities 1, 2 and 4. Priority 3 titled “Catholic School Subsidies” is being attended to in this cycle with $5,000 grants awarded to each of the eight Catholic Schools in the Crookston Diocese. These school grants are awarded through the Catholic Education Endowment and the General Endowment. Both endowments are held in the Foundation. Catholic schools may still request grants for specific needs that follow the other three priorities.

Grant requests must be done using the 2018 Grant Application on the website. No grant request will be considered without the “Pastor Endorsement Form” also on the website.

The Foundation has made $51,000 available for grants in the current cycle. For budgeting purposes it is recommended, but not mandatory, that grant requests be for projects in the next fiscal year. Projects in the current fiscal year that you deem important but didn’t include in your budgets are acceptable.

If you have any questions, please contact Joe Noel at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or on his mobile phone 218-280-6858.

East Grand Forks parish hosts Dynamic Catholic event as part of 125th Jubilee

By Rachel Noel/Freelance Writer, OND

E. Grand Forks – On Sept. 22, Sacred Heart, East Grand Forks, hosted Find Your Greatness. It was presented by Dynamic Catholic, a mission founded by Matthew Kelly to re-energize the Catholic Church in America.

More than 200 people attended the event which was part of Sacred Heart’s 125th Jubilee celebration. Jonathan Fanning was the keynote speaker, and musician Kevin Heider provided live entertainment.

Fanning was a successful Fortune 20 company consultant right out of college but felt empty.

“Saint Augustine said: ‘Our hearts are restless until they rest in you’ meaning we don’t find happiness until we find God. I wasn’t looking for God, though. I was raised Catholic, but for years I would get to mass as late as I could get there, and I would leave as early as I could leave,” Fanning said.

A life-altering car accident transformed his outlook, causing him to question his path.

“One game changer from the accident was I started to ask myself, ‘Who are you becoming? A year from now you will either be more patient than you are now, or not. One year from now you will either be better at letting the people in your life know how much they matter to you, or you won’t,’” he said.

Fanning encouraged attendees to examine their daily lives and insert gratitude wherever possible.

“What if you decided today that you are going to pick one person in your life and thank them for making a difference in your life? Imagine if every Sunday during Mass you prayed: ‘God, help me figure out one person in my world that I could be appreciative of this week.’ Would that be a game changer for you? Something so small could make a huge impact in your life, as well as the lives of the people around you,” he said.

Fanning said Dynamic Catholic’s goal is to meet people in their faith journeys and get them where God wants them to be. He shared four practices of highly-engaged Catholics: prayer, study, generosity and evangelization.

“These are four habits that will help you to live out the genius of Catholicism in your everyday life. Don’t get bored doing the things that lead to greatness. So often in our faith journey we get bored. God is extremely interested in having a relationship with you, but when do you give him your time – when everything is perfect, or when you are in despair?” he said.

Fanning also highlighted that more people are leaving the Catholic faith than ever before, and at a heartbreakingly alarming rate.

“There is genius in Catholicism and some people walk away without having any idea what they are walking away from. Reformers have no idea what they are doing, because they have no idea what they are undoing. If you have a topic that you are wrestling over with God, if there are things about our faith that you struggle with, pray about it, and talk to people who understand the depth of our faith,” he said.

Fanning explained that while we all resist at times, God persistently works to strengthen our faith in him.

“Everyone has one big thing that is keeping us from getting closer to God. Maybe you are too impatient, too selfish, or too concerned with money. You know whatever it is, and God is trying to help you through it to get closer to him. Surrender and let God pull you through,” said Fanning.

He stressed the importance of setting aside distractions to spend time in peace with God.

“In today’s world, we do not have enough time in silence. In the silence you will find God, and in the silence, you will find yourself. You will not make two greater discoveries in your life,” said Fanning.

To learn more about Dynamic Catholic, visit

Sacred Heart’s Quasquicentennial Jubilee celebration will continue March 2, 2019, with a Called & Gifted Workshop where Christ’s faithful can discover how to live a life worthy of God’s calling.

For a complete agenda of all upcoming events in celebration of Sacred Heart’s 125th jubilee, visit

Register now for the High School Youth Rally

OND Staff Report

The Diocese of Crookston, in conjunction with Partnership for Youth, is holding the annual High School Youth Rally at Sacred Heart, East Grand Forks, on Oct. 28. The rally is open to youth in grades 9-12.

The youth rally theme, “Anchored,” is based on Hebrews 6:19, “This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil.” The day will explore the ways the Lord is an anchor, and how placing all hope in him gives people the strength to handle every situation.

Doors open at 12:30 p.m., and the rally begins at 1 p.m. The day will include praise and worship, keynote presentations, Eucharistic adoration, reconciliation, basketball tournament and a coffee house with snacks and drinks for purchase. It ends with dinner at 6:45 p.m.

The keynote presenter, Ennie Hickman, is a full time domestic missionary. He has shared Jesus with the people around the world for almost two decades, aiding God in transforming tens of thousands of lives. Hickman and his wife, Cana, serve with Adore Ministries, a community of missionaries expanding the new evangelization to the most vulnerable, marginalized families and young adults throughout the country.

Hickman will be joined by musician Abraham Gross. Gross grew up in St. Paul. He spent a year doing mission work in Detroit before finishing his degree at Benedictine College. He works for Saint Paul’s Outreach. Gross enjoys learning, building relationships, family and music.

To register, contact your youth minister, director of religious education or pastor. For more information, visit Contact Brady Borslien, Youth Events Coordinator, with questions about the rally at 218-847-1393 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Office of Vocations leading seminary Come and See

OND Staff Report

Father Matt Schmitz, Promoter for the Office of Vocations, is leading a trip to Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Minnesota, for a Come and See weekend Nov. 9-12.

The men will join seminarians for Morning and Evening prayer, daily Mass, holy hours, classes, meals and recreation time. They will also tour the college and seminary campuses and meet with diocesan seminarians.

According to a brochure from the seminary, the weekend is “an opportunity to learn more about priesthood and seminary life, to meet the students and faculty of the seminary and to become familiar with St. Mary’s University.”

Men who went on the trip last year said having a clearer picture of what seminary life is like helped with their discernment.

Father Schmitz said space for the trip is limited. Anyone interested in attending should contact him as soon as possible at 218-773-0877 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A second opportunity to attend a Come and See at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary will be available March 15-18, 2019.

To find out more about the Office of Vocations, go to For more information about Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary, visit

Oldest parish in region celebrates 200th anniversary

By Rachel Noel/Freelance Writer, OND

Pembina, N.D. – On Sept. 9, Christ’s faithful – comprised of bishops, priests, nuns, and laypeople – gathered outside Assumption Church in Pembina, North Dakota, to mark its 200th Anniversary as the oldest parish in the region.

Ninety-one years before the Diocese of Crookston was founded, Bishop Octave Plessis of Quebec sent Father Joseph-Norbert Provencher and Father Sévère Dumoulin to establish a mission in the Red River colony for serving the population’s spiritual needs. Seminarian William Edge accompanied the priests from Montreal to the Red River in an expedition that lasted nearly two months. On Sept. 13, 1818, Father Dumoulin and Edge arrived in Pembina and opened a school, enrolling approximately 60 students. Father Dumoulin selected Pembina as his principal place of residence and built a chapel which opened in 1821. He named it after St. Francis Xavier.

Bishop John T. Folda of Fargo, concelebrated Mass with Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of Saint Paul and Minneapolis; Archbishop Albert LeGatt of St. Boniface in Manitoba, Canada; Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner; Bishop David D. Kagan of Bismarck; and Bishop Paul D. Sirba of Duluth.

“Brothers and Sisters, this is a remarkable day for all of us. A day for the history books – not only for Assumption Parish, not only for the Diocese of Fargo, but also, for our entire region,” Bishop Folda said during the homily.

“Two hundred years ago, in September of 1818, Father Dumoulin was sent from Saint Boniface in Canada, to serve the people of this village of Pembina which was already a busy trading post. Father baptized, heard confessions, celebrated Masses, and blessed many marriages. And while they had a priest in their midst, the people of this parish built the first log church a little over a mile north of here. It was named for St. Francis Xavier, one of the greatest missionaries in the history of the church,” Bishop Folda said.

He also discussed the many misfortunes parishioners have faced throughout the past two centuries.

“The church flooded more than once. The trading company pulled out of Pembina soon after everything got started, and the church itself began to fall into decay. And if we think we have problems in our time, we should remember that in 1863 the church was destroyed by cannon fire. I’m pretty sure that isn’t covered in our insurance policy,” he said.

“But just as the people of this parish faced one calamity after another and persevered, so we do today. Christ remains with his church no matter what. He touches us with the grace of the Father, through every joy, and every sorrow,” Bishop Folda continued. “And it was in the year 1848 that the famous missionary Father George Belcourt came to Pembina as pastor and around that time, the parish was renamed for the Assumption of our Blessed Virgin Mary.”

Bishop Folda stressed that the mission which began 200 years ago is far from finished.

“There are very few places that can claim such a spiritual heritage and legacy, but the work isn’t done. Pope Francis has called each of us to be missionary disciples, who are ready to be sent, ready to share with others the beauty and the joy of our faith, ready to live it and to be witness to it wherever we are. There are others who are alone and who are suffering, and they need our compassion and our love. Our children need to know the gospel just as we did. We can teach them by our word and by our example. God has been forgotten or set aside by so many, but our Lord is still here dwelling among His people. He asks us to live the faith and pass it along to a new generation just as it was passed on to us,” he said.

“Into the darkness, came the light, and that light is Jesus Himself. Into this wilderness came the savior who first sent His apostles out into the world and commanded them to preach the Gospel wherever they went and make disciples of all nations. That mission continued right here in Pembina and it carries on to this day 200 years later,” said Bishop Folda.

More than 100 people gathered for the Mass which was held in the outdoor grotto next to the current church building. It was followed by live music and a dinner.

“What a wonderful celebration, 200 years – not only the faith of the people but the presence of Jesus for 200 years,” Bishop Hoeppner said. “How wonderful it is to celebrate God’s goodness with his people in this place.”

The recurring theme throughout the celebration was the call for Catholics to actively spread the word of God and pass the Catholic faith to the next generation with vigor.

Bishop Hoeppner said, “We have to remember that we each get our turn to continue in faith to celebrate God’s goodness and to help the next generations come to know the wonderful presence and action of God in our world.”

Crookston and Fargo Dioceses team together to help parishes evangelize

By Paul Braun/Editor, New Earth

Pope Blessed Paul VI once said that the Church exists to evangelize. Pope Francis has spoken often of how we as Catholics are called to be missionary disciples. We are called to share our faith with others. That call will be discussed on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 in Fargo during the Convocation of Parish Leaders, sponsored jointly by the Dioceses of Fargo and the Diocese of Crookston.

In July of 2017, the United States bishops, along with Catholic leaders from around the country, gathered in a historic meeting called the Convocation of Catholic Leaders, attended by representatives from both the Fargo and Crookston Dioceses. Speakers delved into the social and religious “landscape” of our nation. Breakout sessions highlighted the peripheries and how to identify and reach them. Finally, each delegation had the opportunity to discuss and to ask the question, “What could missionary discipleship look like within our parishes and diocese?”

The upcoming Convocation of Parish Leaders in Fargo will more fully explore that question.  Bishop John T. Folda of Fargo and Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner of Crookston have invited pastors and their delegates to delve into the Church’s teachings on evangelization, missionary discipleship, and how to be a mission-oriented parish that seeks the lost and strives to be Jesus’ mercy and love in a world marred by wounds.

“There will be a lot of similarities between our convocation and what we did in Orlando last year on a national level,” said Ashley Grunhovd, Director of Evangelization and Young Disciples for the Diocese of Fargo and one of the organizers of the convocation. “One of the things we really appreciated from the Orlando event is that it started looking at the landscape; and where we are at as a Church.”

The convocation will touch on several subjects, including current trends and statistics, what is providing hope in the Church today, and the challenges that the Church is facing.

“We also want to look at who is being served in our parishes and who maybe aren’t being served as they should be, as Pope Francis says, reaching out to the peripheries,” said Grunhovd. “For example, we’ll have breakout sessions to examine how we work with young adults who are not practicing their faith anymore or have left the Church, how we should evangelize to family or friends who have left the Church, and what does it look like to evangelize in a rural parish versus in larger cities.”

The convocation is by invitation only and was organized after a meeting between Bishop Folda and Bishop Hoeppner. Local parish priests have formed teams representing their parish communities, who will in turn bring back what they’ve learned to their local parishes.

“I hope delegates receive a sense of awe, wonder, and praise of God from the worship and study of a gathering of faith filled disciples of Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Hoeppner. “I hope it is a faith experience for all who attend, and that they receive a deeper understanding of our call to the New Evangelization and a passion for engaging in it, along with a commitment to be engaged in their parish life and to foster the New Evangelization in their parish.”

Members of local parishes are invited to contact their pastors with ideas on issues that they feel could be discussed at the convocation.

Two Sisters of St. Joseph celebrate 60 years of religious profession

OND Staff Report

The ceremonies and rituals associated with becoming part of a religious congregation vary. In 1956 following a 6-month novitiate, Rose Mary Toenyan and Pat Murphy received the habit of the Sisters of St. Joseph and their religious names: Sister Mary Barbara and Sister Mary Matthew. They pronounced First Vows in 1958 and, on Sept. 8, gathered with members of their community to praise and thank God for the graces and joys of their vocations.

During the 60-plus years that they have been Sisters of St. Joseph, their congregation discerned a call to be part of an American congregation of St. Joseph and separate from the French Motherhouse. The more recent merging with six other American congregations of St. Joseph has resulted in being part of the Congregation of St. Joseph. Without leaving Crookston, they have belonged to three congregations in their lifetimes.

Sister Rose Mary was born in St. Rose, MN, one of six children of the Rose Weber and Robert Toenyan who later moved to Blackduck, MN. Sister Rose Mary entered the novitiate in Crookston in 1955, professed First Vows in 1958 and Final Vows in 1963.

For 18 years, Sister Rose Mary served in community service devoting herself to various aspects of food service. Her recipe for “Bishop’s Bread” is still requested by women who attended St. Joseph’s Academy in Crookston. After being certified as an occupational therapist assistant from St. Mary’s Junior College in Minneapolis, Sister Rose Mary was an activity director and occupational therapist for 23 years, mainly at LakeWood Care Center in Baudette, Minnesota.

Sister Rose Mary retired in 2007 and currently resides at Villa St. Vincent in Crookston, maintaining a ministry of prayer.

Sister Pat was born in Crookston, Minnesota, one of four children of Zelia Charron and John Thomas Murphy of Fisher, Minnesota.

Upon graduation from St. Joseph’s Academy in Crookston in 1955, Sister Pat entered the novitiate in Crookston, professed First Vows in 1958 and Final Vows in 1963. She earned a B.A. in Elementary Education from the College of St. Catherine, an M.S. in Elementary School Administration from the University of Dayton, and an Ed.S. in Elementary School Administration from the University of St. Thomas.

From 1959-1982, Sister Pat taught third through eighth grades at St. Richard’s School in Richfield, Minnesota, St. Joseph’s Academy in Crookston and St. Peter’s School in Mendota, Minnesota. She also served as principal in the three schools. From 1983-1986 she directed RENEW for the Diocese of Crookston. From 1986-2008 she directed the Office of the Word in the roles of School Superintendent and Executive Director of the Pastoral Leadership Program.

Following her retirement from diocesan ministry in 2008, Sister Pat received a certification in Spiritual Direction from Creighton University in Omaha and was engaged in this ministry until the spring of 2018 when she withdrew temporarily for health reasons. She continues to serve the Sisters of St. Joseph in Crookston as the Coordinator of Community Life.

Prayer carries couple through good times and bad

By Katrina Genereux/Associate Editor, OND

Fosston – Clara and Eugene “Gene” Manecke will be honored at the 23rd annual Marriage Celebration Day on Oct. 7. Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner will celebrate Mass at 2:30 p.m. at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Crookston. All are invited to attend the Mass and reception. Please call 218-281-4533 or visit by Sept. 24 to RSVP.

Although the Maneckes have lived in Fosston since 1974, both Clara and Eugene are from Bemidji. The couple has been married for 60 years, but they don’t agree about how they met.

Clara says her story is more romantic than his. She was working at the lunch counter in Bemidji’s Markham Hotel, and a friend introduced her to Gene. It was raining, so they asked Gene for a ride home, but when they arrived, the girls were locked out. He helped them get in through the basement. When he tried to leave, his tire was flat, so Clara visited with him while he changed it.

Gene claims his car was too new to have a flat tire. His version is simpler: his friend was dating her friend, and the four of them went for a drive.

Regardless of how they met, Gene returned to Duluth to work on the ore boats.

“I was gone for three or four months, and she was still there when I got back, so we’ve been together ever since,” Gene said.


Clara was raised Catholic and Gene’s parents belonged to the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. Clara and Gene were married in a civil ceremony on March 8, 1958.

“Three days after we got married, I got a draft notice, so she spent the first couple years alone,” Gene said.

“I didn’t recognize him when he came back, he had lost so much weight at basic training,” Clara said.

Gene spent 13 months serving in Korea. When he returned, he was stationed in Kansas for a few months in 1960. During that time, their marriage was validated by a priest.

When Gene’s military service was complete, the couple returned to Bemidji and had four children: Kerri, Janet, Deborah and Ralph.

“He didn’t go to Church anywhere,” Clara said. She got the children ready and took them to Mass every weekend at St. Philip.

“If they were good in church, they got a penny for the gum machine afterwards,” she said.

The family across the street was also Catholic. Clara said spending time with them was a good way to stay connected to the parish.

Their girls went to public school, but Clara brought them to religion classes taught by sisters at the parish on Saturdays.


In 1974 the family moved to Fosston and became members of St. Mary’s.

Attending a Marriage Encounter retreat with another couple from the parish in 1979 had a big impact on their family.

“I don’t think Gene would have gone if it wouldn’t have been for another guy that he knew,” Clara said. “It was just a marvelous experience and helped you talk through all the different parts of your marriage and that was when Gene shared that he wanted to join the Church, and I was just so excited.”

Gene was confirmed at the same time as their 13-year-old daughter. He said that decision improved their family life.

“We were together more often,” he said. “When I started going to Church, it got me more involved with my kids.”

“Our kids were really proud of him too for coming with us to church,” Clara said.

During Advent and Lent, the family made a point to gather around the table for prayer and discussions about the Catholic faith.

“It’s been a busy life for us and real good. It’s always been Church connected,” she said.

Clara was involved with many ministries, serving as a lector, Eucharistic minister, catechist, visiting nursing homes and shut-ins, and providing transportation to Mass for those who need it.

She had to cut back on ministry work because macular degeneration has blurred her eyesight.

The Maneckes have found great community throughout their time at St. Mary’s. They belonged to a study group for years. Clara said today the group’s ages range from 57-93.

“We have a really good friendship and we have grown so much in our faith because of that,” she said.

Father JohnMelkies Suvakeen is their pastor. He nominated them because he was touched by their spiritual life. He said they are very active in the parish and the community and have deeply committed prayer lives.

Faith has helped get them through the tough times of life – difficulties in raising their children, the loss of their business, the death of a granddaughter and the distancing of their son.

“A lot of the stories in books – the romance stories – all sound like it’s going to be happily ever after … but there are times where it’s not happily ever after,” Clara said. “I think you have to really, really pray a lot in order to get through your years of marriage and pray through the rough times and the good times and give God thanks and ask him for blessings and for courage and strength to stick it out.”

“It was worth going through the ups and downs,” she said. “Raising children is always stressful and hard and you just pray to God that it’s going to work out and keep going.”

Gene and Clara both worked. She had a variety of jobs throughout the marriage, including 15 years as secretary at St. Mary’s.

They moved to Fosston when Gene bought the truck stop in town. He said he worked 15 hours a day, seven days a week to keep his business, but after 20 years, he lost the station. He regrets missing time with his children during their early years.


Kerri lives in White Bear Lake, Janet is in Arizona, Deborah is in Iowa and Ralph is in Boston.

For many years, their relationship with their youngest daughter was strained. She ran away a few times as a teenager, but things improved. Three years ago, when Clara was in the hospital for a few weeks, Deborah was by her side. All three of their daughters helped during that tough time.

“They all step up to the plate when they’re needed,” Clara said.

They are estranged from their son.

“I always pray every single day that he is going to come back,” Clara said. “I always stay hopeful anyway. Even when we lost the station, I kept saying God hasn’t turned us down yet … that’s kind of my attitude; he’s not going to abandon us ever.”

Prayer, especially the rosary, has been very important to her throughout life and marriage.

Clara’s grandmother had a handmade cross on her dresser with a rosary on each side – one for her grandmother, one for her grandfather. It made an impression on Clara. She also attended a rosary rally with her mother in Park Rapids when she was a teenager. Her mom had a grotto with the Blessed Virgin in it and they prayed the rosary as a family.

The habit is something Clara faithfully continues.

“She prays the rosary a lot. Every day. She prays it a couple times at night before she goes to bed,” Gene said.

Clara said there are many ups and downs in both marriage and life, but she tries to stay positive.

“It’s the valleys that make the hills so much better,” she said. “You think everything is going smooth and it goes really good for a while and then pretty soon, God has a plan and then you have to face reality and talk it out or fight it out or whatever you have to do to get back together again.”

Sister Lucy Perez-Calixto receives grant to pursue leadership degree

By Katrina Genereux/Associate Editor, OND

Sister Lucy Perez-Calixto, Director of Guadalupe Ministry at St. Francis de Sales, Moorhead, has received a grant through Catholic Extension Society to pursue a Master of Science in Applied Leadership Studies through Boston College.

Catholic Extension Society invited Sister Lucy to take part in the program, which includes 11 other Hispanic religious sisters.

“I talked to Father Raul, who, seeing the benefits – not only for me, but also for the community – gave me his approval right away,” said Sister Lucy.

Sister Lucy has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Boricua College in New York City and in 1995, graduated from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome with a bachelor’s in philosophy and theology.

“There is a time for everything and this is the moment of God,” Sister Lucy said. “Now is the perfect moment to carry it out.”

The grant covers all the costs associated with the program including tuition, travel, lodging and books.

“Every year I have to write reports to the foundations and the parishes who support Guadalupe ministry and this program will give me the tools that I need to carry out my daily duties. In a changing world, we need to implement better methods, better research and better strategies if we want to see good results,” said Sister Lucy. “I love my ministry here at St. Francis de Sales. I am very connected with the community and I will use all this knowledge to serve the Latinos in a better way.”

According to the St. Francis de Sales website, the Guadalupe Ministry is a program with the mission to reach area Latinos, to welcome and help them keep their identity and Latino values. It offers a place where they can find God and grow and strengthen their Christian faith through the sacraments, Sunday Mass, Bible study, holy hours and spiritual retreats. They also visit families and sick people.

The degree will include courses such as: Leading Hispanic Ministry, Project Management, Managerial Accounting and Financial Analysis, Operational Leadership, Strategic Planning and Communication in a Global Context.

The courses are offered in Spanish, some online and some in person. The sisters will gather in Rome at the Pontifical Lateran University on occasion for coursework. The first trip will be at the end of September.

 “I thank God for all these blessings, our bishop, Michael J. Hoeppner, for allowing me to work for the Diocese of Crookston and my pastor, Father Raul, for giving me the opportunity to continue my personal development,” Sister Lucy said.

Diocesan Office of Catholic Schools names 2018 Teacher of the Year

By Katrina Genereux/Associate Editor, OND

Angela Gross, a middle school teacher at St. Joseph’s School, Moorhead, received a big surprise during a meeting Aug. 27. She was named the 2018 Teacher of the Year by the Diocese of Crookston’s Office of Catholic Schools.

“I had no idea I was even nominated for it, so I was very surprised,” Gross said. “It’s hard to receive an award like that because I know so many other teachers here that deserve it too. I know teachers in the diocese that are amazing.”

Principal Andrew Hilliker nominated Gross for the award.

“She has redefined what learning looks like in her lab. Students are always immersed in hands-on activities, from building robots to kitchen sink science. This all happens with the Catholic faith embedded into daily experiences,” he said.

Hilliker also said her leadership extends beyond the classroom.

“Angela plays an integral role in many functions throughout our parish; from supporting ministries at Mass to working with our Sister Parish. Angela serves with a servant's heart; consistently doing so without expectation of recognition,” he said.

Gross earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio and a secondary education license through Minnesota State University, Moorhead. She has 18 years of teaching experience.

She has been married to her husband, Jason, for 19 years. The couple have two high-school age daughters, Lydia, a junior, and Gail, a freshman.

This is her 11th year teaching at St. Joseph’s School. Gross teaches science to sixth through eighth grade students and is the homeroom mentor teacher for the eighth grade. She also teaches eighth grade language arts and health.

“I feel like the Catholic school develops the entire person. It develops them physically, socially, emotionally and then spiritually, which I think gives our students a boost of confidence as they move forward,” Gross said.

She said it is important for students to know that they are never alone, even if they feel like they are, Jesus is with them and God is with them.

Gross has enjoyed the flexibility to try new things while teaching at St. Joseph’s. One example of this flexibility was integrating a robotics competition into the science curriculum.

Tina Stanger, Director of the Office of Catholic Schools, worked with Gross while she was teaching.

“She was always and continues to be, dedicated to excellence. She really works hard and has learned a lot to make STEM and robotics a high-quality program at St. Joe’s,” Stanger said.

Gross and Hilliker will be sent to the 2019 National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) Convention and Expo in Chicago. It is a three-day event with sessions to empower Catholic school leaders and educators. Grant funding was secured to provide this experience to the diocesan Teacher of the Year and their school’s principal.

This is the second year the diocesan Office of Catholic Schools has chosen a Teacher of the Year. Nominees were sought from those familiar with the Diocese of Crookston’s eight Catholic schools. The award criteria aligns with the framework of the NCEA’s Lead Learn Proclaim Award.

Janelle C. Gergen contributed to this article.

Seminars help guide faithful through end of life planning, decisions

By Katrina Genereux/Associate Editor, OND

Detroit Lakes – A handful of parishes in the Diocese of Crookston have worked with Catholic United Financial to provide opportunities to ask questions about important and pressing end-of-life issues that can be hard to consider.

On Aug. 29, more than 50 people gathered at St. Mary of the Lakes, Detroit Lakes, for Catholic United Financial’s End of Life Decisions Workshop.

“I heard good things about this workshop and when I presented the idea to my pastoral council, they were very interested,” said Father Bob LaPlante. “I believe there are a number of uninformed people in these areas and have had several experiences to support my thoughts.”

The evening began with a presentation from Father LaPlante, Pastor of St. Mary of the Lakes and St. Francis Xavier, Lake Park. He spoke about healthcare directives and provided moral guidance regarding healthcare decisions. He also spoke about Church teaching regarding funeral and burial rites.

Attendees asked him questions about cremation, organ donation and ethical end-of-life care.

John Tetzloff, an Advanced Case Specialist for Catholic United Financial, shared information about the importance of estate planning and key points that should be considered.

Tetzloff stressed the importance of planning to ensure wishes are met, and to avoid the potential for conflict when assets are divided between family members.

“I don’t want my heirs to have to make those tough decisions,” he said. “My job when I work with folks is, ‘let’s try to avoid potential conflict.’”

He said it is a shame when relationships fracture because of disputes surrounding a family member’s death.

Tetzloff advised people who already have plans in place to review them every three to five years to make sure the plan is still accurate.

At the close of the workshop, Director of the Office of Stewardship and Development Reathel Giannonatti, J.D., encouraged those present to remember the Diocese of Crookston’s Seminarian Endowment fund as they work on estate planning.

“John was speaking a lot about taking care of your children and one thing we would like you to start thinking about is considering either your parish or the Diocese of Crookston as another one of your children when you make your estate plan. We have one area that we are especially interested in funding now and that is the Seminarian Education Endowment,” she said.

The diocese currently has six seminarians discerning the priesthood. Interest from the Seminarian Education Endowment helps pay for books, tuition, travel and other expenses.

For more information about making a named gift to the Seminarian Education Endowment, contact Giannonatti at 218-281-4533 or Joe Noel, Executive Director of the Catholic Community Foundation, at 218-280-6858.

Another End of Life Decisions Workshop will be hosted by St. Cecelia, Sabin, on Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. Similar information will be covered during this workshop. All are welcome to attend.

Clay County farm has become beacon of hope for many

By Katrina Genereux/Associate Editor, OND

Jason and Lynn Kotrba are turning their rural Clay County homestead into a multi-faceted beacon of hope.

“Our hope for Harvest Hope Farm is to be able to impact others, to give them hope. Whether it be through playing a part in finding a cure for Huntington’s disease, impacting the development of children who attend our farm camps, or positively impacting the financial situations and health of those who receive our produce boxes, we want to be able to give hope to others,” said Lynn.

Jason grew up in Grand Forks helping his father farm and has fond memories of time spent at his grandparent’s farm.

Lynn grew up in East Grand Forks. When Lynn was 10, her mother, Margaret, was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease – a deadly genetic condition that attacks brain cells. Margaret died from complications a few years later at the age of 49. In 2011, Lynn’s older sister, Lisa, also died of Huntington’s disease.

While attending high school at Sacred Heart School in East Grand Forks, Lynn developed a strong desire to help cure Huntington’s disease. During this time, she met Jason, a fellow Sacred Heart student. They married in 1997, and from the beginning, discussed starting a camp to benefit families.

“We were a young couple with lots of hopes and dreams,” Lynn said. “Then so called ‘real life’ started.”

Throughout their careers in the non-profit sector they have served others. Lynn is currently a treatment foster care coordinator for Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota in Moorhead, and Jason is beginning his 16th year as principal of Holy Spirit Catholic School in Fargo. They have seven children ages 4-14.

Looking back, Lynn realizes that while their aspirations appeared to be on hold, decisions and connections were being made to bring it to life.

“My dream has come full circle over a period of nearly 30 years since my mother’s death,” Lynn said. “This has happened only by the grace of God and by trusting in God’s will for my life and the life of my family.”

Nearly two years after Lynn and Jason were blessed with their farm in June 2015, Lynn was diagnosed with a health condition that continues to cause severe pain. Amid this difficulty, they prayed more intensely about the future and what they were called to do.

“It was during that time that Harvest Hope Farm came to be,” Lynn said. “God showed me the sheep and he showed me the rosary walk. He showed me children and adults experiencing his glory in nature.”


The Kotrbas connected with Shepherd’s Gift: GM1 for HD, an organization promoting a way to fight Huntington’s disease. According to the Shepherd’s Gift website, GM1 ganglioside is a natural molecule all mammals have that protects and heals brain cells. Patients with Huntington’s disease – as well as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases – have GM1 deficiencies.

As one of 18 cooperating farms, Harvest Hope Farm raises sheep with ovine GM1 gangliosidosis. Sheep with this condition lack an enzyme that breaks down and recycles GM1, causing them to accumulate 40 times the normal level of the molecule. GM1 can be extracted from the sheep, purified and potentially used to treat Huntington’s and other diseases. The research shows promise, and Shepherd’s Gift is working to bring ovine GM1 through clinical trials.

Harvest Hope Farm received 10 pregnant ewes from Shepherd’s Gift on March 31, and 14 lambs were born in May. They will continue to breed and raise lambs with GM1 gangliosidosis, with a goal of expanding their flock to 200 or more sheep in the coming years.

Being part of the process of curing Huntington’s disease is an answer to Lynn’s prayers.

“I have lived my entire life fearing that I have Huntington’s disease. Until we established Harvest Hope Farm, there was not a single day that went by that I didn’t wonder if I had HD at least once, if not five to 10 times. I don’t want another generation to experience the fear that HD provides those who are at risk,” she said.

Since receiving their sheep, the Kotrbas have been contacted by others affected by Huntington’s disease.

“These families from the local area to as far away as South Carolina, have shared with us the hope they feel in knowing that there is promising research toward finding a cure for HD,” Lynn said. “Additionally, many of these families have expressed gratitude in being able to talk with someone who truly knows what this disease is about and how it impacts the individuals and families of those with HD.”

The Kotrbas are amazed by the ways others have become a conduit of blessing at their farm and beyond.

“We feel God’s hand on it every day,” Lynn said. “More importantly though, Harvest Hope Farm is the work of so many people coming together for a cause, people who believe in helping others, people who believe in spreading hope for others – not only those who have experienced HD, but others who just need a little thread of hope in their lives.”


“Through working in nature, with the gardens and with the animals, or simply visiting the rosary walk, we believe that the health and wellbeing of others can be improved,” Lynn said.

Beyond supporting GM1 research, Harvest Hope Farm also offers farm camps, produce boxes for those in need, and places for prayer.

“We are fueled by relationships, by being able to connect with others and to teach others,” Lynn said.

In its first year, Harvesting Hope for Others Farm Camp has 17 participants. The children, age 7-15, gather weekly for two hours. Over the course of 15 weeks, they are raising gardens from planting through harvest and learning about sustainable food resources produced by animals. The camp gardens provide weekly produce boxes for five families experiencing hardship or special circumstances.

The Kotrbas hope to have 24 to 30 farm camp participants next summer, with the ability to provide produce for 15 families in need. People request the produce boxes through Harvest Hope Farm’s website and are referred by churches or service agencies in the Fargo/Moorhead area.

In addition to raising animals to fight disease and gardening to fight hunger, Harvest Hope Farm includes a rosary walk and soon-to-be-completed Stations of the Cross.

Matthew Fisher, an Eagle Scout from Moorhead and other members of Boy Scout Troop 222 built a life-size rosary walk at the farm in July 2017.

“This 400-foot rosary walk is located in our forest and allows those who visit it to not only pray the rosary, but also experience the wonders of nature that God has blessed all of us with,” Lynn said.

Hurley’s Religious Goods of Fargo donated Stations of the Cross to the farm.

“The stations will be placed on trees and will also allow those who visit the opportunity to spend time with the Lord in the natural environment of the woods,” Lynn said.


With Harvest Hope Farm’s desire to expand comes the need for additional land and resources. They require donations to support the sheep, expand the farm camp, add pasture and purchase basic farm equipment. In addition to funds, Harvest Hope Farm is open to receiving donations of corn, alfalfa and hay as well as used farm equipment.

They will hold a spaghetti dinner and silent auction fundraiser at the farm on Sept. 21 from 5-8 p.m. Donations can be mailed to Harvest Hope Farm c/o Lynn Kotrba 9695 10th St. NW, Moorhead, MN 56560.

For more information, visit, or follow Harvest Hope Farm on Facebook and Instagram @harvesthopefarm.

Bob Noel begins as Formator for Office of Formation in Discipleship

By Katrina Genereux/Associate Editor, OND

On July 1, Bob Noel became Formator of the recently created Office of Formation in Discipleship.

“As Formator, I will be serving parishes, priests, youth and children’s ministry coordinators and catechists as they do the important work of sharing the Gospel,” Noel said. “Each parish family has gifts, strengths, needs and challenges that are specific to their community. My hope is to collaborate with parishes, according to their needs, with the goal of strengthening the community.”

Noel will also promote Catholic social teaching through coordination with other dioceses and agencies across the state of Minnesota.

Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D. is the Director of the Office of Formation in Discipleship. Deacon Krejci, Noel and Youth Events Coordinator, Brady Borslien, have embraced the motto: “Forming disciples who reach others for Christ.”

“Pope Francis calls on all Catholics to see themselves as Missionary Disciples who will take part in the Church’s mission of spreading the Gospel message to all. The work of this office will be to prepare others to be missionary disciples who live and proclaim the Gospel in their homes, parishes, communities and places of education or employment,” Deacon Krejci said.

“As a Church, we are losing six Catholics for every one Catholic who joins our church. Our Catholic faith is so rich and so beautiful, and yet in many ways, it is a lamp that has found itself under a bushel basket,” said Noel. “What I look forward to most is to encourage Catholics in our diocese that we can indeed do this. We all have the capacity to respond to this call and in fact, God has equipped each and every one of us with unique gifts to do the work of evangelization.”

According to Deacon Krejci, the genesis for this shift of diocesan office structure is the Convocation of Parish Leaders that will be held Nov. 30. Delegations from each parish of the Dioceses of Crookston and Fargo will gather to consider how to respond to the call to be missionary disciples.

“The Curia change was enacted to continue this work beyond the convocation by supporting the parishes in developing their members to engage in the new evangelization and also to reach out to former Catholics and those who do not know God,” Deacon Krejci said.

Before taking on the position of Formator, Noel was a middle and high school teacher for 23 years. He taught Spanish, social studies, and Christian studies. Most recently he was the Director of Service Leadership at Oak Grove Lutheran School in Fargo.

Noel grew up in Halstad, Minnesota and currently lives in Moorhead with his wife Kimberly, and their four children, Isaac, Lizzie, Greg and Josette. They are members of St. Joseph, Moorhead.

Summer vocations events offer time, space to consider priesthood

By Katrina Genereux/Associate Editor, OND

Throughout the summer, the Office of Vocations held events around the diocese for young men open to considering the priesthood.

Seminarian Mark Miller and Father Matt Schmitz led Come and See events at St. Joseph, Moorhead and St. Philip, Bemidji. The events were a chance for Catholic men to hang out, play games, talk about Christian manhood, pray, listen to stories of the seminary and priesthood, and ask questions. Miller made weekend visits to parishes to share about his discernment and attended youth events including St. John Paul II Camp and a Steubenville conference.

Miller grew up in Roseau and graduated from Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Minnesota, with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in May. He will begin graduate-level theology studies at St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Indiana, at the end of August.

One goal of Miller’s travel throughout the diocese was to build relationships with young people and allow them to see the “humanness” of a seminarian.

“I remember being surprised and excited that there were other young guys who were older than I was and who were more informed than I was pursing the priesthood and seeing them as human beings, getting to know them, getting to know what they’re like – that really allowed me to take a look at myself and look at them and say, ‘you know it’s actually possible for me to do this,’” Miller said.

The annual diocesan men’s vocation camp, Esto Vir, was held August 7-9 at Sand Hill Lake Bible Camp near Fosston, Minnesota. The camp allows time for men age 16 and older to gather for fun and fellowship.

 “We have a lot of fun taking part in rigorous physical activity and games and things like that,” Miller said. “It allows both the seminarians and the priests and those coming to the camp to drop their walls throughout, just to get to know each other in a little bit more relaxed environment and allow for an opportunity to share about their life and about what they’re thinking.”

Miller said he had several opportunities during this year’s camp to be present to and share his experience with those who attended.

“I had the opportunity on multiple occasions this year to share some parts of my story that were pertinent to what other guys were going through, and it wasn’t in some sort of structured talk. It was just through casual conversation. It was fun to see all the guys there and it was fun to hopefully help them become more clear and comfortable in whatever their vocation may be,” he said.

Before his senior year of high school, current seminarian Samuel Hurst attended the first Esto Vir in 2011.

“That’s where the Lord spoke to me in a very concrete way, and that’s what led me to seminary,” Hurst said. He returned home and told his parents he would be entering seminary.

“Just being here is a really great opportunity for myself and the other guys to step away, be just in a group of Catholic men, kind of just being a fraternity as brothers,” he said. “That doesn’t happen a lot for a lot of Catholic men.”

He described the camp a chance for “iron to sharpen iron” as the men step away from regular life to spend some time relaxing, praying and focusing on the Lord’s will for them.

“They don’t have to think about other things for a couple of days and can really be open and vulnerable with each other about where the Lord might be calling them in a couple of years,” Hurst said.

Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner celebrated Mass at Esto Vir on August 8. During his homily, Bishop Hoeppner spoke about discernment.

“This is such an exciting time in your life. Jesus is loving you and walking with you as you work out with him what his call is,” said Bishop Hoeppner. “It’s not a crisis or problem to be solved as much as it is a gift to be found.”

He encouraged the men to stay close to Jesus and develop the gifts God has given them as they consider where he is calling them.

“Do not be afraid. See what the Lord has in store for you. It will be right for you and it will be right for the Lord,” Bishop Hoeppner said.

For more information about vocations in the Diocese of Crookston, visit or contact Father Matt Schmitz, Promoter of Vocations at 218-773-0877 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

CLICK HERE for additional images from Esto Vir.

Faithful of Sacred Heart, East Grand Forks, begin jubilee year marking 125 years as parish community

By Janelle C. Gergen/Editor, OND

E. Grand Forks – On Aug. 12, hundreds gathered at Sacred Heart’s A.I. Merth Auditorium in East Grand Forks for Mass to open a series of jubilee year events celebrating the 125th anniversary of the parish. Mass was followed by refreshments in the social hall.

Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner concelebrated Mass with Msgr. Mike Foltz, Pastor of Sacred Heart; Father Matt Schmitz, Parochial Vicar of Sacred Heart; and Bishop Emeritus Victor H. Balke, who resides at Sacred Heart. Deacons Steve Thomas and Mark LeTexier assisted with the liturgy.

“We thank Almighty God for the many, many blessings bestowed on those who have gone before us in the faith and on us here too, in our day,” Bishop Hoeppner said at the beginning of Mass. “You know those who have gone before you here in this place; hold them in your heart, carry them this day. In turn, we ask all the Saints and those who have been here before us to intercede for us, that we might be strengthened for a life of holiness in our turn, in our day, on our journey.”

During his homily, Bishop Hoeppner spoke about the beginning of the parish in 1883, before the Diocese of Crookston was established, quoting the diocesan history book, “Paths of Light”.

“The first recorded service in East Grand Forks was a Mass held by Father Jacob Schirra in the public school house. We have gathered for 125 years and now we celebrate Mass here in this place,” Bishop Hoeppner said. He reminded the congregation that Jesus continues to feed his people for their spiritual journeys.

“A parish is a group of believers who gather together to journey together, to rub shoulders with each other, to exchange the witness of faith and holy life, to help one another on the journey from here to eternity. The Holy Eucharist was the center of life as they [who have gone before us] journeyed from here to eternity, now it is the center of life today,” he said.

In closing, he said, “May our celebration help us to live as good disciples of Jesus. … May God continue to bless Sacred Heart Parish, and help all here to mold their hearts to be like the Sacred Heart of Jesus: poor in spirit, meek, humble, merciful, pure. May holiness shine in all our families, in our relationships with one another and in our young people as they learn how to live this way in the world.”

At the end of Mass, Msgr. Foltz thanked Bishop Hoeppner for presiding, and the Jubilee Committee for planning the celebration. He called for the parish to embrace the opportunity for spiritual renewal through reciting the Jubilee Year prayer, written by staff member Roger Pieper; singing the Jubilee Year hymn, composed by parish Liturgist, Daniel Ewens; and participation at events the parish will host throughout the jubilee year.

On Sept. 22, at 9 a.m., Sacred Heart will host a speaker and musician through Dynamic Catholic. A Called and Gifted Workshop will be held March 2, 2019. On the Feast of the Sacred Heart, June 28, 2019, the parish will lead a Eucharistic procession around the Greater Grand Forks Community. The closing event will be Mass on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 15, 2019. More information regarding events celebrating Sacred Heart Parish’s Jubilee Year and a slideshow of the parish’s history can be found at