Month: April 2016

April 29, 2015, The Ultimate “Papal Minute” & a Memorable Article about Fr. Rich from John Allen

Father Rich has been featured recently on the new Catholic radio station, WWEN, 88.1, doing a series entitled, Papal Minutes  ( Click here to hear Father’s Papal Minutes  ). (

 They are a series of little known facts, lasting about a minute in length that help us to connect with our Holy  Fathers in ways most of us never would otherwise.

But what happens when you host a tour group to visit the Shroud of Turin in April 2015, and the tour includes spending some days in Rome where you are privileged to meet Pope Francis who is gracious enough to sign your baseball?  That’s just what happened to Father Rich last year.

As you can see by these photos, it was a pretty special moment.  We celebrate the memory of this momentous occasion with you, Fr. Rich.

Father Rich & Pope Francis

Father Rich & Pope Francis

Pope Signing Baseball

Pope Signing Baseball

FR & Francis

April 29, 2015: The Ultimate "Papal Minute"

April 29, 2015: The Ultimate “Papal Minute”







john allen 3

They say actions speak louder than words, but there are times when the gift of words from a leading American journalist bestowed on our own pastor are worth their weight in gold.

New Evangelization Television recently interviewed the Curator of Papal Artifacts

As you can see in the video, Father Rich hands our Holy Father a DVD: It is his EWTN special, The Papacy, A Living History: The Papal Artifacts’ Collection of Father Richard Kunst.

It aired on EWTN within days of Father’s return from Rome and was the 2nd season.  It is available from EWTN.


The Papacy, A Living History: The Papal Artifacts' Collection of Fr. Richard Kunst on EWTN

The Papacy, A Living History: The Papal Artifacts’ Collection of Fr. Richard Kunst on EWTN

FR Handshake 2








April 29th: At the Children’s Mass, the 4th Graders Lead the Prayers


At the Children’s Mass, the 4th Graders Lead the Prayers

  1. Wednesday Mass--Caroline Serving

    Wednesday Mass–Caroline Serving

    Wednesday Mass--Peter & Ben Are the Readers

    Wednesday Mass–Peter & Ben Are the Readers

    Wednesday Mass--Prayers of Petition

    Wednesday Mass–Prayers of Petition

    Wednesday Mass--Offering the Gifts

    Wednesday Mass–Offering the Gifts










One of the blessings of St. John’s School is the privilege of praying Mass together as a school family.  Together with the regular congregants, the children are given all the liturgical responsibilities that are usually carried out by adults.  In this case, every 4th grader had a role to play.  That included singing in the choir, serving, lectoring, reading of the petitions and offering the gifts at the altar.  Not only do 4th graders do this, but also every other grade, including kindergarten, is able to carry out these responsibilities.  Today we are featuring the 4th grade and enjoying this prayerful time together as one school family.

The Prayers of Petition at Wednesday’s Children’s Mass

We pray for our Pope, Francis, that in this Year of Mercy, people of the world will continue to look toward his words and actions, and that they will be inspired to shine in the light, and dispel the darkness in their lives. We pray, to the Lord.

We pray for the leaders in our world. We pray that the Word of God touch their lives, and that they promote peace, tolerance, and understanding in their countries.   We pray, to the Lord.

We pray for our Bishop Paul, and all priests of the Diocese of Duluth, that the Risen Christ continue to open the minds and hearts of those they teach. That their words inspire the spiritually poor. We pray, to the Lord.

We pray for all around the world who are oppressed because of their Christian faith. May God help them in their struggle to remain faithful to God and His Way.  We pray, to the Lord.

We pray for those in the Duluth area that are struggling to make ends meet. That local churches, businesses, and the general public will be inspired to help meet their physical and spiritual needs. We pray, to the Lord.

We pray for our church and school that the Spirit continues to work in the hearts of the faithful. That St. John’s sees an increase of attendance in church, and higher enrollment in the school. We pray, to the Lord.

We pray for all the quiet intentions that we think of now, in our hearts…. We pray, to the Lord.

kevin pilon







Our technology expert, Terri, created these beautiful video, which helps to explain why we all love them so!

God Made Us a Family: A Legacy of Love at St. John’s School

"Take Your Parents to Lunch"

“Take Your Parents to Lunch”

Lukas & Mom

Lukas & Mom

God Made Us a Family

God Made Us a Family








On any given weekday when 11:00 approaches, classroom work is suspended.  Books are closed, papers and pencils are put away, and lunch and recess are about to begin.  Down the halls can be heard the prayer of blessing before meals, and then the clamoring for snow clothes commences.  It’s time to play or eat, and everyone is ready.  Lunch begins.

            Each day the teachers of the little ones escort their classes to lunch and help with trays and silverware.  Father Rich reminds them of the “magic words”—please and thank you.  The ritual is the same every day as the children find their favorite spots to sit and visit, laugh raucously and sometimes start or settle disagreements with friends.  Sometimes they get reprimanded for the noise level breaking our eardrums, or for wasting their food or for refusing to eat ANYTHING.  Sometimes it’s a learning experience concerning hurting a classmate.  They’ve learned that “tattling” is the least favorite solution to a problem (unless it’s really important), and the threat is always the same:  “You handle it, because if we have to, you won’t like it.”

            Another instruction is an atmosphere of unity: “In our lunchroom (classroom, school, etc.), WE don’t call each other names; WE help each other, etc.”

            The lunch room is a cacophony of voices and stories where food is the least of the things going on.  A choreographer could enter and observe the energy and exuberance of our school and create a dance of life spun from the imagination and enthusiasm of our kids.

            And something new has occurred this year that hasn’t happened in the past.  The 5th and 6th graders, who used to eat during a different time slot, now have the same lunch period as the kindergarten and first grade.  They eat in the social hall, separate from the little ones, to give them some privacy.  They are, after all, the “big kids”.

            One day, one of the big kids stopped by the kindergarten table to say, “Hi”.  Instead of joining his classmates, he just hung out with the kindergarten.

            A whole new chapter in St. John’s lunch time was born.  Shining eyes began to turn to the big kids who one by one started joining their little buddies to share a half hour, show them good manners, pay attention to someone having a bad day and just generally to “hang out” with them.

Aliah, Natalyia, Kendra

Aliah, Natalyia, Kendra

            The kindness and generosity of our 5th and 6th graders to our little ones is truly one of the most beautiful experiences to observe in the lunch room.  It is one of our volunteer’s favorite hours of the day.  It rivals, she says, working with individual students or groups of students or helping in the office.

            Where else does a Pastor take time from his busy schedule to supervise the lunch room?  Father Rich appears, and the noise level rises by decibels as all of them clamor for his attention. Soon, at his goading, the food they’re eating takes on a whole new dimension: at his insistence, the spaghetti is angle worms; the chicken fingers become squirrel tails; bacon arrives from his back-yard bacon tree.  (We think Father Rich doesn’t have enough to do…!)  The kids hoot and holler at his imagination, and the little ones fall for the descriptions, wondering what they’re really eating.  Father Rich brings a level of fun to the lunch room the rest of us cannot, and we appreciate this gift that is uniquely his own.

"Father Rich, these are NOT Worms!!

“Father Rich, these are NOT Worms!!


Father Rich filling the kindergartners with stories about their food

Father Rich filling the kindergartners with stories about their food










 Similarly, what principal serves students their lunches every day, and then stays to supervise them, because, like the pastor, she, too, wants to be with them? 

Mrs. Frederickson serving lunch every day

Mrs. Frederickson serving lunch every day

 Before you know it, the half hour ends and grace after meals is recited together.  Even the kindergartners have it memorized.  Lunch is over.  Trays are emptied and stacked; words of thanks to Mrs. Curtis, our exceptional cook, are heard, and the afternoon begins at St. John’s school.

Ann Curtis

Ann Curtis


Lunch is the one place that on a daily basis the students come together every day.  It is such a beautiful slice of life, a place different from their classrooms, where their own gifts are given and received in special ways, where they can witness the love and support of Father Rich and Mrs. Frederickson, and partake of Mrs. Curtis’ tasty lunches.  It truly is a special part of the day!   After all,  God made us  a family: 

We need one another.

We love one another.

We forgive one another.

We work together

We play together.

We worship together.

Together we use God’s word.

Together we grow in Christ.

Together we love all people.

Together we serve our God.

Together we hope for heaven.

These are our hopes and ideals.

Help us to attain them, O God.

Through Jesus Christ, our Lord.



Children's Mass & Fr. Rich

Children’s Mass & Fr. Rich

And a Similar Situation Happens at the Children’s Mass Each Week:

  surplices and cassocks   cruets   FR and altar servers

 It’s ten to eight on any weekday morning when students from St. John’s school rush into the sanctuary and disappear into the sacristy to prepare to serve Mass.  One of the priests is always there, and a quiet, joyful interchange can be heard as priest and servers prepare for the Eucharistic celebration.

Soon, the servers bring cruets containing water and wine to the side table.  They will be used, first at the Offertory of the Mass, and then, of course, at the Consecration when they will become the Body and Blood of our Lord.

After the cruets, the servers bring the lavabo towel and bowl to be used by the celebrant at the Offertory in the symbolic cleansing of his hands.  This ritual represents his role as mediator between the people and God.

Finally, the servers bring the Missal.  Candles have been lit.  Mass is ready to begin.

This year is special, as 4th graders have been accepted as servers for the second time.  So, on any given day, a 5th or 6th grader acts as a mentor to the younger student who is learning the ropes of this service to St. John’s parish.

And this year is different because of the disparity in their sizes.  4th graders have told me they tremble in fear they’ll make a mistake at the altar.  They are so sincere and so aware of the importance of their roles, and they don’t want to make a single mistake.  It is with tenderness that those of us who attend daily Mass observe their earnestness as they each receive instructions on the many duties they are expected to perform in that short half hour.  Here are just a few details they have to learn: when to stand and when to kneel, when and how to hold the missal for Father, and when to bring the Offertory cruets, the lavabo towel and water bowl to the celebrant.  Ask yourselves if you could do this without instruction.  Then imagine being nine years old, and you can understand their trepidation.

And then the biggest duty of all: when and how long and how many times do you ring the bell at the Consecration?

They want so much to do a perfect job!

While they hold a special place in our hearts as we witness their instruction and observe their serious efforts to perform these sacred tasks, the other half of the story, and the real story, is the responsibility and compassion that 5th and  6th grade ‘teachers’ exhibit in their roles.  As the school year progresses and their younger charges continue to shift from one anxious 4th grader to the next, it is remarkable to observe the kindness and patience with which the older students treat the new recruits.  I am reminded in this daily, concrete way of the values St. John’s school instills in our students.  They are reflected in this one area of service that holds such a place in the memory of any adult who was ever a server.  Because of the sacredness of this responsibility it is an extra special area in which to observe the quality of our students.

Not only do the older students help in this way, but also, some of them sing in the choir, and some sit with kindergartners at the children’s Mass, helping the little ones to sit, stand and kneel at the appropriate times.  The little kids love the attention they receive from the older students, and both boys and girls display such a gentle and kindly demeanor in their interactions with the little ones.

They also lead the way in September as lectors and readers at the children’s Masses.  By the time they’re 6th graders, St. John’s students often lector and read petitions as well as any adult in the parish, exuding the confidence and ability gleaned by having done these services since they were in kindergarten.

St. John’s students are given myriad opportunities on their journeys to grow in service to their church and community.  Every effort is made to reach them academically.  That is a given.  And within that framework is this beautiful legacy of spiritual growth that entrusts our youth with the gift of service to others. Clearly, that legacy is that God made us a family, and, together, we strive to operate as one.  We emphasize that reality every chance we have.

And with the quality of our older students, it is a given that legacy will continue.


Our technology expert, Terri Jones, created this very beautiful video.  It features the joy  of our children and is an indication of why we all love them so much! 

st. john's kids march 2


The Most Prestigious Prize in Europe Is Awarded to Pope Francis

Pope Francis Full Text for Charlemagne Prize

Pope Francis Full Text for Charlemagne Prize

Full Text of Pope Francis’ Speech Upon Receiving this Prestigious Award:

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
I offer you a cordial welcome and I thank you for your presence. I am particularly grateful to Messrs Marcel Philipp, Jürgen Linden, Martin Schulz, Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk for their kind words. I would like to reiterate my intention to offer this prestigious award for Europe. For ours is not so much a celebration as a moment to express our shared hope for a new and courageous step forward for this beloved continent. 
Creativity, genius and a capacity for rebirth and renewal are part of the soul of Europe. In the last century, Europe bore witness to humanity that a new beginning was indeed possible. After years of tragic conflicts, culminating in the most horrific war ever known, there emerged, by God’s grace, something completely new in human history. The ashes of the ruins could not extinguish the ardent hope and the quest of solidarity that inspired the founders of the European project. They laid the foundations for a bastion of peace, an edifice made up of states united not by force but by free commitment to the common good and a definitive end to confrontation. Europe, so long divided, finally found its true self and began to build its house. 
This “family of peoples” which has commendably expanded in the meantime, seems of late to feel less at home within the walls of the common home. At times, those walls themselves have been built in a way varying from the insightful plans left by the original builders. Their new and exciting desire to create unity seems to be fading; we, the heirs of their dream, are tempted to yield to our own selfish interests and to consider putting up fences here and there. Nonetheless, I am convinced that resignation and weariness do not belong to the soul of Europe, and that even “our problems can become powerful forces for unity”.
In addressing the European Parliament, I used the image of Europe as a grandmother. I noted that there is a growing impression that Europe is weary, aging, no longer fertile and vital, that the great ideals that inspired Europe seem to have lost their appeal. There is an impression that Europe is declining, that it has lost its ability to be innovative and creative, and that it is more concerned with preserving and dominating spaces than with generating processes of inclusion and change. There is an impression that Europe is tending to become increasingly “entrenched”, rather than open to initiating new social processes capable of engaging all individuals and groups in the search for new and productive solutions to current problems. Europe, rather than protecting spaces, is called to be a mother who generates processes (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 223). 
What has happened to you, the Europe of humanism, the champion of human rights, democracy and freedom? What has happened to you, Europe, the home of poets, philosophers, artists, musicians, and men and women of letters? What has happened to you, Europe, the mother of peoples and nations, the mother of great men and women who upheld, and even sacrificed their lives for, the dignity of their brothers and sisters? 
The writer Elie Wiesel, a survivor of the Nazi death camps, has said that what we need today is a “memory transfusion”. We need to “remember”, to take a step back from the present to listen to the voice of our forebears. Remembering will help us not to repeat our past mistakes (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 108), but also to re-appropriate those experiences that enabled our peoples to surmount the crises of the past. A memory transfusion can free us from today’s temptation to build hastily on the shifting sands of immediate results, which may produce “quick and easy short-term political gains, but do not enhance human fulfilment” (ibid., 224). 
To this end, we would do well to turn to the founding fathers of Europe. They were prepared to pursue alternative and innovative paths in a world scarred by war. Not only did they boldly conceive the idea of Europe, but they dared to change radically the models that had led only to violence and destruction. They dared to seek multilateral solutions to increasingly shared problems. 
Robert Schuman, at the very birth of the first European community, stated that “Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity”.Today, in our own world, marked by so much conflict and suffering, there is a need to return to the same de facto solidarity and concrete generosity that followed the Second World War, because, as Schuman noted, “world peace cannot be safeguarded without making creative efforts proportionate to the dangers threatening it.
The founding fathers were heralds of peace and prophets of the future. Today more than ever, their vision inspires us to build bridges and tear down walls. That vision urges us not to be content with cosmetic retouches or convoluted compromises aimed at correcting this or that treaty, but courageously to lay new and solid foundations. As Alcide De Gasperi stated, “equally inspired by concern for the common good of our European homeland”, all are called to embark fearlessly on a “construction project that demands our full quota of patience and our ongoing cooperation”.
Such a “memory transfusion” can enable us to draw inspiration from the past in order to confront with courage the complex multipolar framework of our own day and to take up with determination the challenge of “updating” the idea of Europe. A Europe capable of giving birth to a new humanism based on three capacities: the capacity to integrate, the capacity for dialogue and the capacity to generate. 
The capacity to integrate 

Erich Przywara, in his splendid work Idee Europa [The Idea of Europe], challenges us to think of the city as a place where various instances and levels coexist. He was familiar with the reductionist tendency inherent in every attempt to rethink the social fabric. Many of our cities are remarkably beautiful precisely because they have managed to preserve over time traces of different ages, nations, styles and visions. We need but look at the inestimable cultural patrimony of Rome to realize that the richness and worth of a people is grounded in its ability to combine all these levels in a healthy coexistence. Forms of reductionism and attempts at uniformity, far from generating value, condemn our peoples to a cruel poverty: the poverty of exclusion. Far from bestowing grandeur, riches and beauty, exclusion leads to vulgarity, narrowness, and cruelty. Far from bestowing nobility of spirit, it brings meanness. 

The roots of our peoples, the roots of Europe, were consolidated down the centuries by the constant need to integrate in new syntheses the most varied and discrete cultures. The identity of Europe is, and always has been, a dynamic and multicultural identity. Political activity cannot fail to see the urgency of this fundamental task. We know that “the whole is greater than the part, but it is also greater than the sum of the parts”, and this requires that we work to “broaden our horizons and see the greater good which will benefit us all” (Evangelii Gaudium, 235). We are asked to promote an integration that finds in solidarity a way of acting, a means of making history. Solidarity should never be confused with charitable assistance, but understood as a means of creating opportunities for all the inhabitants of our cities – and of so many other cities – to live with dignity. Time is teaching us that it is not enough simply to settle individuals geographically: the challenge is that of a profound cultural integration. 
The community of European peoples will thus be able to overcome the temptation of falling back on unilateral paradigms and opting for forms of “ideological colonization”. Instead, it will rediscover the breadth of the European soul, born of the encounter of civilizations and peoples. The soul of Europe is in fact greater than the present borders of the Union and is called to become a model of new syntheses and of dialogue. The true face of Europe is seen not in confrontation, but in the richness of its various cultures and the beauty of its commitment to openness. Without this capacity for integration, the words once spoken by Konrad Adenauer will prove prophetic: “the future of the West is not threatened as much by political tensions as by the danger of conformism, uniformity of thoughts and feelings: in a word, by the whole system of life, by flight from responsibility, with concern only for oneself”.
The capacity for dialogue 
If there is one word that we should never tire of repeating, it is this: dialogue. We are called to promote a culture of dialogue by every possible means and thus to rebuild the fabric of society. The culture of dialogue entails a true apprenticeship and a discipline that enables us to view others as valid dialogue partners, to respect the foreigner, the immigrant and people from different cultures as worthy of being listened to. Today we urgently need to engage all the members of society in building “a culture which privileges dialogue as a form of encounter” and in creating “a means for building consensus and agreement while seeking the goal of a just, responsive and inclusive society” (Evangelii Gaudium, 239). Peace will be lasting in the measure that we arm our children with the weapons of dialogue, that we teach them to fight the good fight of encounter and negotiation. In this way, we will bequeath to them a culture capable of devising strategies of life, not death, and of inclusion, not exclusion. 
This culture of dialogue should be an integral part of the education imparted in our schools, cutting across disciplinary lines and helping to give young people the tools needed to settle conflicts differently than we are accustomed to do. Today we urgently need to build “coalitions” that are not only military and economic, but cultural, educational, philosophical and religious. Coalitions that can make clear that, behind many conflicts, there is often in play the power of economic groups. Coalitions capable of defending people from being exploited for improper ends. Let us arm our people with the culture of dialogue and encounter. 
The capacity to generate 
Dialogue, with all that it entails, reminds us that no one can remain a mere onlooker or bystander. Everyone, from the smallest to the greatest, has an active role to play in the creation of an integrated and reconciled society. This culture of dialogue can come about only if all of us take part in planning and building it. The present situation does not permit anyone to stand by and watch other people’s struggles. On the contrary, it is a forceful summons to personal and social responsibility. 
In this sense, our young people have a critical role. They are not the future of our peoples; they are the present. Even now, with their dreams and their lives they are forging the spirit of Europe. We cannot look to the future without offering them the real possibility to be catalysts of change and transformation. We cannot envision Europe without letting them be participants and protagonists in this dream. 
Lately I have given much thought to this. I ask myself: How we can involve our young people in this building project if we fail to offer them employment, dignified labour that lets them grow and develop through their handiwork, their intelligence and their abilities? How can we tell them that they are protagonists, when the levels of employment and underemployment of millions of young Europeans are continually rising? How can we avoid losing our young people, who end up going elsewhere in search of their dreams and a sense of belonging, because here, in their own countries, we don’t know how to offer them opportunities and values? 
The just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labour is not mere philanthropy. It is a moral obligation. If we want to rethink our society, we need to create dignified and well-paying jobs, especially for our young people. To do so requires coming up with new, more inclusive and equitable economic models, aimed not at serving the few, but at benefiting ordinary people and society as a whole. This calls for moving from a liquid economy to a social economy; I think for example of the social market economy encouraged by my predecessors (cf. JOHN PAUL II, Address to the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, 8 November 1990). It would involve passing from an economy directed at revenue, profiting from speculation and lending at interest, to a social economy that invests in persons by creating jobs and providing training. 
We need to move from a liquid economy prepared to use corruption as a means of obtaining profits to a social economy that guarantees access to land and lodging through labour. Labour is in fact the setting in which individuals and communities bring into play “many aspects of life: creativity, planning for the future, developing talents, living out values, relating to others, giving glory to God. It follows that, in the reality of today’s global society, it is essential that we ‘continue to prioritize the role of access to steady employment for everyone, no matter the limited interests of business and dubious economic reasoning” (Encyclical Laudato Si’, 127).
If we want a dignified future, a future of peace for our societies, we will only be able to achieve it by working for genuine inclusion, “an inclusion which provides worthy, free, creative, participatory and solidary work”. 
This passage (from a liquid economy to a social economy) will not only offer new prospects and concrete opportunities for integration and inclusion, but will makes us once more capable of envisaging that humanism of which Europe has been the cradle and wellspring. 
To the rebirth of a Europe weary, yet still rich in energies and possibilities, the Church can and must play her part. Her task is one with her mission: the proclamation of the Gospel, which today more than ever finds expression in going forth to bind the wounds of humanity with the powerful yet simple presence of Jesus, and his mercy that consoles and encourages. God desires to dwell in our midst, but he can only do so through men and women who, like the great evangelizers of this continent, have been touched by him and live for the Gospel, seeking nothing else. Only a Church rich in witnesses will be able to bring back the pure water of the Gospel to the roots of Europe. In this enterprise, the path of Christians towards full unity is a great sign of the times and a response to the Lord’s prayer “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). 
With mind and heart, with hope and without vain nostalgia, like a son who rediscovers in Mother Europe his roots of life and faith, I dream of a new European humanism, one that involves “a constant work of humanization” and calls for “memory, courage, [and] a sound and humane utopian vision”. I dream of a Europe that is young, still capable of being a mother: a mother who has life because she respects life and offers hope for life. I dream of a Europe that cares for children, that offers fraternal help to the poor and those newcomers seeking acceptance because they have lost everything and need shelter. I dream of a Europe that is attentive to and concerned for the infirm and the elderly, lest they be simply set aside as useless. I dream of a Europe where being a migrant is not a crime but a summons to greater commitment on behalf of the dignity of every human being. I dream of a Europe where young people breathe the pure air of honesty, where they love the beauty of a culture and a simple life undefiled by the insatiable needs of consumerism, where getting married and having children is a responsibility and a great joy, not a problem due to the lack of stable employment. 
I dream of a Europe of families, with truly effective policies concentrated on faces rather than numbers, on birth rates more than rates of consumption. I dream of a Europe that promotes and protects the rights of everyone, without neglecting its duties towards all. I dream of a Europe of which it will not be said that its commitment to human rights was its last utopia.




An Update to John Allen’s Presentation at CSS & His Gift to Father Rich

john allen 3

They say actions speak louder than words, but there are times when the gift of words from a leading American journalist bestowed on our own pastor are worth their weight in gold.




The Baseball

Roman Catholicism is a sprawling, wildly diverse community of 1.2 billion people spread over every nook and cranny of the planet, and sometimes, when its fault lines and internal tensions seem especially sharp, it almost defies belief that the Church has held together as long as it has.Theologically, of course, one would say that the agent of unity is the Holy Spirit. Sociologically and politically, however, there’s no question what keeps the Church from spinning apart: It’s the pope.No other religious group with a global following has such a clear center of authority. (Try asking yourself sometime, for instance, who’s in charge of Islam, or Judaism, or Hinduism, and you’ll get the idea.)One could almost say that to be Catholic – in a very loose, non-catechetical way of putting things – means to take the papacy seriously. That doesn’t imply agreeing with popes on all points, and certainly not believing that absolutely everything in Catholic life does or should pivot on the pope, but rather, at some pre-conscious, gut level, just to be fascinated by the whole thing.Over twenty years of covering the Vatican, I’ve met all kinds of Catholics who exude that instinct.  I’ve dined with “Black Nobility” in Rome, who still believe popes should be ruling over central Italy as secular monarchs. I’ve met liberal theologians from Western Europe who’ve spent their careers making arguments as to why the papacy should be deconstructed — which is, of course, a backhanded tribute to the office.  I’ve met countless ordinary Catholics who weep, who become speechless and almost paralyzed, to be in the physical presence of a pope – even if that means being stuck in the back of a vast crowd, when they would have had a better view of the action staying home and watching it on TV.For enthusiasm, commitment and sheer passion, however, I’ve never met anyone quite so passionate about popes as Fr. Richard Kunst of the Diocese of Duluth in Minnesota.  I was in Duluth this week to speak at the College of St. Scholastica, which afforded me the chance to reconnect with Kunst. Over the years, he’s put together one of the most remarkable collections of papal memorabilia you’ll ever see outside the Vatican museums.  You can find an overview of his collection on-line at, which is maintained by one of Kunst’s parishioners named Mary Sitek.  Kunst has got a little bit of everything. There’s an 1870 letter signed by Pope Pius IX, for instance, thanking Bishop Pierre de Dreux-Breze of Moulin for his support for dogma of papal infallibility at Vatican I, written the day before the dogma was pronounced.Kunst has got all the lead seals that were used to block off portions of the Vatican during the 1978 conclave that elected Pope John Paul II, and he’s also got the vestments St. John Paul wore on his 1993 trip to Denver for World Youth Day.





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The Braegelman Program in Catholic Studies Lecture Series: The Mercy Miracle: The Spiritual Roots of Francis’ Papacy  

Pope Francis is an extraordinarily complex figure, with a wide-ranging pastoral and political agenda.  The heart of it all, however, is mercy, expressed in both his jubilee Holy Year of Merchay and his papal motto, “choosing through mercy.”  

John Allen , associate editor of Crux and the Boston Globe and senior Vatican analyst for CNN, unpacks how Pope Francis’ self-understanding as the “Pope of Mercy” lies underneath the entire scope of his activity as pontiff since his election in March 2013.  Allen is also the author of ten books on the Vatican and the Catholic Church, including The Francis Miracle: Inside the Transformation of the Pope and the Church.

Father Rich:

 On Wednesday, April 27th, one of the foremost experts on the Vatican and modern day papacy will be at the College of St. Scholastica to give a presentation called “The Spiritual Roots of Pope Francis”.

John Allen Jr. is the Senior Vatican Analyst for CNN and appears on every network whenever there is news about the pope. He is also the author of several books some of which we have in our parish library.

There is no one in the English speaking world that knows more about the subject than John Allen.

About five or six years ago, I went to a lecture he gave at St. Scholastica and I have to say that it was very entertaining and informative. The lecture will begin at 7:30

pm in the Mitchell Auditorium. It is really worth going to listen to this guy. For me who is somewhat of a junkie on the subject, I am thrilled that he is back in Duluth.

April 21: An Incredible Scientific Discovery about Life in the Womb

infant feet and mother hands

We are happy to share the news that Saint John’s is going to follow a pregnancy in a series entitled,  “Life in the Womb.”

Each week we will share information about the momentous events happening in utero until, at Christmas, we will welcome a child we have slowly gotten to know over a 9 month period. 

During this time of waiting, may we pray together as a parish family for all  unborn children and for all people desiring a child.  Oh Lord,

You formed my inmost being;

you knit me in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;

wonderful are your works!

My very self you know.

My bones are not hidden from you,

When I was being made in secret,

fashioned in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw me unformed;

in your book all are written down;

my days were shaped, before one came to be.

What We Now Know about the DNA of Our Children: It Remains Forever within the Child’s Mother

First Evidence of Fetal DNA Persisting in Human Brain Tissue

First Evidence of Fetal DNA Persisting in Human Brain Tissue

Although widely known in the scientific community, it’s news to most laypeople that years—even decades—after a mother delivers her baby, some of the fetal cells will remain in her body. These fetal cells, which are some of the developing baby’s cells, while not necessarily stem cells, are adaptable in their ability to grow and repair tissues.

Liz Szabo writing in USA Today, adds additional breadth and depth to our understanding of the ability of these fetal cells to “come to a mother’s rescue” in a story whose sub-headline reads, “New study in mice shows that fetal cells carried by moms after they give birth may actually provide stem cells to help the body repair some damage.”

Szabo’s lead is extremely clever:

“Many moms carry photos of their children in their wallets.

“Yet mothers may be surprised to learn that they’re also carrying some of their children’s cells, years or even decades after the end of a pregnancy. And while a baby photo can melt a mother’s heart, the cells her child leaves behind in her blood may actually heal it, emerging research suggests.”

Or, as she puts it later, “Fetal cells left behind in women’s bodies are more than mementos.”

The story begins with a discussion of a paper delivered last week at the American Heart Association’s International Stroke Conference in San Diego, by Louise McCullough, director of stroke research at the University of Connecticut Health Center.

The crux of the story is that the fetal cells that remain in the mother mouse’s body appear to act like stem cells when they race to repair damage caused by a stroke in the mother’s body, which raises intriguing (but as yet still unclear) possibilities.

McCullough studied how fetal cells operated in the mother mouse who had suffered a stroke. They quickly (within three days) clustered around the area of the stroke, Szabo writes,

“But these fetal cells were more than bystanders, McCullough says. They also began dividing and giving rise to the types of cells that line blood vessel walls, as if trying to form new blood vessels to restore blood flow to the injured brain.

“What scientists don’t yet know, is whether the fetal cells were clustered around the stroke site by coincidence, or if they really were acting like stem cells attempting to regenerate tissue. McCullough presented her research in abstract form. She has not yet published the full paper in a peer-reviewed journal.”

Other scientists, working independently, have seen similar behavior in mice with heart failure. Szabo writes

“The mice who recovered best were ones in which fetal cells integrated into their heart tissue, says [V.K.] Gadi, who wasn’t involved in McCullough’s research. In a study in humans, researchers found maternal cells at work in a diabetic child, apparently trying to repair insulin-producing cells, he says.

Naturally, others are examining what role fetal cells may play in diseases such as cancer.

Szabo raises another fascinating possibility: that, like stem cells, “Fetal cells appear able to change into whatever specific type of cell is needed, McCullough says. So fetal cells in a mother with liver damage could transform into liver cells.”

Amazing stuff. Go to to read Szabo’s full story; and to “The Amazing Interplay between Mother and Unborn Child.”

Our Baby, Week 6
The eyes begin to form and the extremities can be seen in much more detail, including all ten fingers. The embryo is now moving and responds to touch.

Our Baby at 6 Weeks

Our Baby at 6 Weeks


Your baby’s nose, mouth and ears are starting to take shape, and the intestines and brain are beginning to develop.

Your baby is the size of a lentil.
Read about your pregnancy at 6 weeks.

Your Baby, Week 5

It’s only been a week since your embryo, about the size of an apple seed, attached to the wall of your uterus, but already it has made many developmental leaps. The placenta and the umbilical cord are functioning, passing oxygen and nutrients between you and your baby. The cluster of cells that will become your baby’s heart — a mere speck right now — has already formed, and the brain and spinal cord are beginning to take shape.

4-5 weeks pregnant image









"You knit me in my mother's womb." Psalm 139

“You knit me in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139

LORD, you have probed me, you know me:

you know when I sit and stand;

you understand my thoughts from afar.

You sift through my travels and my rest;

with all my ways you are familiar.

Even before a word is on my tongue,

LORD, you know it all.

Behind and before you encircle me

and rest your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

far too lofty for me to reach.

Where can I go from your spirit?

From your presence, where can I flee?

If I ascend to the heavens, you are there;

if I lie down in Sheol, there you are.

If I take the wings of dawn

and dwell beyond the sea,

Even there your hand guides me,

your right hand holds me fast.

If I say, “Surely darkness shall hide me,

and night shall be my light”—

12Darkness is not dark for you,

and night shines as the day.

Darkness and light are but one.


You formed my inmost being;

you knit me in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;

wonderful are your works!

My very self you know.

My bones are not hidden from you,

When I was being made in secret,

fashioned in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw me unformed;

in your book all are written down;

my days were shaped, before one came to be.


How precious to me are your designs, O God;

how vast the sum of them!

Were I to count them, they would outnumber the sands;

when I complete them, still you are with me.

When you would destroy the wicked, O God,

the bloodthirsty depart from me!

Your foes who conspire a plot against you

are exalted in vain.


The Beginning:

We celebrate today one of the twelve major feasts of our Church, the Annunciation–the day the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, announcing that she was to be the Mother of God.

And while  we wait, Father Rich shares his thoughts about the Annunciation, including the privilege of praying the Mass in Nazareth at the Church of the Annunciation.

Annunciation Adds Meaning to Mass in Nazareth


When I go to Rome, my favorite place to say Mass is over the tomb of St. John Paul the Great in St. Peter’s Basilica. Being inspired by him and having had the opportunity to meet him make that altar particularly important to me.

In my years of priesthood I have been blessed to celebrate Mass in many important holy places. I have said Mass near the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul and in the room where St. Catherine of Sienna died. I have prayed Mass at the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem, near the cave where he was born in Bethlehem, not to mention in Fatima, Portugal, Lourdes, France and St. John’s in Duluth!

But no experience of saying Mass in a holy place has quite matched the experience I had of celebrating the Sacred Mysteries in the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth in Israel.

Nazareth, the town where Jesus spent most of his earthly life, was so insignificant that it is not even mentioned in the Old Testament. In fact Scripture scholars say that during the time of Jesus it had a population of only 180 to 220 people, all from the same tribe. The Church of the Annunciation, which is built over the site of ancient Nazareth, actually covers the entire area of the town from the time of Jesus.

Today things are a little different in Nazareth. It is one of the largest towns in northern Israel at over 80,000 inhabitants. Sixty-nine percent of them are Muslim; 30 percent are Christian.

Like many expansive churches, the Church of the Annunciation has many altars on its three different levels, but it is the one in the crypt that is most important. In the lowest level of the church is a simple altar placed in the midst of an archaeological site. Surrounded by ancient, excavated walls that are 2,000 years old, the altar stands at the very site of the Annunciation, standing in the exact location where God leaped down from heaven to earth, the very site of the Incarnation.

Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth. The Crypt

Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth. The Crypt

Year in and year out, my weekday Mass crowd hears me say the same thing every March 25th: If I were pope for a day I would make the feast of the Annunciation a holy day of obligation, because it is the precise moment God became man. Unfortunately, this most important commemoration of our faith tends to get lost because of its close proximity to Holy Week. In fact it often falls right on Good Friday, which is actually poetic, since Jesus came to earth to suffer and die for us.

Second only to the crucifixion, the Annunciation is portrayed more in art than any other historical event in human history, and for good reason. It is the most important historical event in human history. The very moment Mary responded to the angel, “Let it be done to me according to thy word.” Jesus Christ was conceived in her womb.

This is where Mary receives the title “Ark of the Covenant,” since in the Old Testament the Ark of the Covenant was thought to be the very presence of God on Earth. Now Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant, because though the Old Testament version of the ark was lost 600 years prior to Jesus, now God becomes present in a much more wonderful way, not in a fancy gold box but in the human womb of a virgin .

I love reading the Annunciation passage in the Bible (Luke 1:26-39), but it is the last line of the story which sends a shiver down my spine when reading it.

After Mary agrees to this daunting privilege, the text says, “And the angel departed from her.” There is no sadness in the angel’s departure, because now heaven is present in the person of Jesus Christ—God the Son in her very self. She indeed is the new Ark of the Covenant.

This is our Christian faith. This is the faith that we hold to be true as inspired by God in this beautiful and most solemn feast day that we will celebrate this month.

Here also lies one of the more compelling arguments against the atrocity of abortion. The Christian faith has always made the clear profession that Christ’s life on earth began at the moment Mary agreed to receive him. The precise moment of his conception in the womb was the precise moment of the Incarnation. It is a no-brainer to see how this affirms our Catholic understanding of human life’s beginning as well: at the moment of conception.

How can one argue against that? The Annunciation is not only the moment of the Incarnation, it is also the clearest case for human life.

May our faith be that of the Virgin Mary’s in accepting God’s divine will in our lives, accepting God’s will above our own.

–Father Richard Kunst

Note: The feast of the Annunciation fell on  Good Friday, March 25th.  We celebrate it as one of the twelve  major  feasts of our liturgical  year.   Whenever this solemnity occurs during Holy Week, it is transferred to the Monday after the Second Sunday of Easter.   It is thus celebrated on the first available day after Holy Week and the Octave of Easter (which ends on the Second Sunday of Easter).  Thus we celebrate it today, April 4th.


WWEN, 88.1 FM: RPR Is Featuring Father Rich’s “Papal Minutes”

New Catholic radio station promotes new evangelization

 Real Presence Radio Network programming can also be heard at

This map shows the coverage area of WWEN, 88.1 FM Radio – a station of the Real Presence Radio Network serving the Duluth/Superior market since March 4. (Map courtesy of Real Presence Radio Network)

This map shows the coverage area of WWEN, 88.1 FM Radio – a station of the Real Presence Radio Network serving the Duluth/Superior market since March 4. (Map courtesy of Real Presence Radio Network)

Be sure to visit their interactive website, which is filled with information of interest to area Catholics.

Father Rich will be featured on the air in a series called Papal Minutes.  He has already taped the first ten and is headed back to the station to do  additional  minutes. He will also be featured in a live episode in the near future.

(As an aside, we think our pastor could be featured in “Papal Hours” or “Papal Months”–maybe “Papal Years!”)


Enjoy the Papal Minutesa gift from our Pastor, the Curator of Papal Artifacts!

A great job, Father Rich!

Click here to hear Father’s Papal Minutes







And here is a link to Father’s  recent interview with Real Presence Radio:  (go to 43 minutes into the interview to hear the section devoted to the Papal Artifacts’ Collection and our pastor!)


Real Presence Radio Network programming can also be heard at

Here is the coverage map for AM 820 WBKK & WWEN, 88.1 FM Radio.  The areas in yellow indicate which station is available in your area.

The Spread of Christianity Video: An Incredible Visual Reminder

Watch The Spread of Christianity Throughout History in 90 Seconds


According to the Western Conservatory of the Arts and Sciences website

“The Spread of the Gospel Map is a powerful visual depiction of the most important movement in history: the spread of Christianity. Charting the geographic progress of the Gospel over the last 2,000 years, this map shows the missionary journeys of the apostles, the outposts of the early church, the hotbeds of persecution, the staging grounds of the Church’s major theological battles, and more. Be reminded of the power of the Gospel to transform “every nation and tribe and language and people,” and be inspired by the legacies of the brave brothers and sisters who faithfully carried the Gospel of Christ to the farthest ends of the earth.”