Month: November 2018

Mary Elsenrath, the Daughter of Ken & Gen Graves, and Their Journey with Ovarian Cancer

Mary Graves Elsenrath’s Journey

Ken and Gen Graves are long time members of St. John’s church.  Gen taught 3rd grade at St. John’s school.  We are honored to share this beautiful family story. 

Mary Elsenrath’s family is sharing their journey with ovarian cancer, to honor and remember her artistic and gracious soul. | Photo: Graves’ Family

From WDIO News on November 26, 2018

It’s been a year since Mary Elsenrath passed from ovarian cancer. A year of firsts without the Duluth woman who loved art, the outdoors, and her family. Her large and close family continues to grieve her loss. And they have used their tears, to tell a story of awareness.

Mary had gone into the emergency room for severe abdominal pain. She’d had some pain off and on for a few months. But this time, it was extreme. She ended up having surgery, and that’s when the surgeons found the cancer. It was everywhere.

Genevieve Graves remembers her daughter’s diagnosis. “Ken and I had been wintering in Puerto Rico. She was supposed to come visit us for a week. And instead, we came home to visit her.”

That was in February of 2016. Mary, with the help of her care team, including Dr. Sande, fought on with chemotherapy and surgeries. A final chemo was on the table in the summer of 2017. “It has a 15% success rate. And she wanted to go for it,” Genevieve shared. She did, but it wasn’t enough to beat the disease.

By then, Mary had moved back home into her parents’ place on Schultz Lake. She had grown weaker. It was time to stop the fight. She didn’t want to be a burden on her family at the very end, so she decided to go to hospice care. “It was a very, very hard day when she left here,” Genevieve said, speaking about their home.

Slowly and deliberately, Mary took in the sights and sounds of the place she loved, the lake and the land. “It’s something you don’t think ever can be replaced. She gave us a gift,” Genevieve recalled through tears.

Less than two weeks later, on October 1st, 2017, she passed away at Solvay House, at the age of 47. She was surrounded by loved ones. 

Genevieve said things were a bit of a blur after that. But that Christmas, mittens made them smile. Mary had so many sweaters, and Michelle made them into mittens. “All the girls in the family got mittens for Christmas, from Mary,” Michelle said.

During those months following Mary’s death, Genevieve began writing down what happened. “It’s helped me a lot. It helps me remember everything.”

The former teacher hasn’t finished her journaling. The story isn’t over yet. Because now they’re sharing about Mary, to help other women. “She said, ‘I just wish I didn’t have to put you through this.’ And I said to her, if it helps us understand what other people are going through, it may help us to help them sometime,” Genevieve said.

This past fall, Genevieve and another one of Mary’s sisters, Melissa, attended their first Light Duluth Teal event. “I could feel her presence there. It was bittersweet. It was also kind of a reality. That this did happen. And it’s part of the grieving. And it was a shared celebration. Now we have something in common with other families,” Melissa said. MOCA, the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance, hosts the Light Duluth Teal event and other fundraisers in Duluth.

Mary had known about the tribute of teal the first year she was sick. By the second, she couldn’t make it down to see the aerial lift bridge or Enger Tower lit teal. So Melissa went down and took a picture, and brought it back to show her.

After her death, there have been many tough days and nights. But they are finding strength and some laughter, as they live through their memories of Mary. 

“I’ve learned a lot about how to give grace through adversity. How to love people and meet them where they are at. That’s who she was,” shared Melissa.

If you want to learn more about MOCA and to donate to help survivors, visit the Trees of Hope banner on our mainpage:

Click here to view the story.

An Update from Justin Kostecka, Youth Minister

Justin Kostecka

An Intorduction to Justin Kostecka

Hi, my name is Justin Kostecka. I’ve been the youth minister here at St. John’s for the past 2 years and we are into my 3rd year now! I’m originally from the little town of Pequot Lakes, MN, which is in the Brainerd area. I love music, the outdoors, movies, and spending time with friends! 


When I was younger, I went to community college for a few years after high school to get my generals done, and then transferred to UMD here in Duluth to pursue my bachelor’s degree in economics along with a music minor. After becoming very involved at the Catholic Newman Center on campus and going on various retreats and encountering the person of Christ in beautiful ways, my faith and prayer life began to grow and mature. I fell in love with my faith and learning more about Christ, and continued to serve our Newman community through my gift of music and in other ways.

Along with this, I helped at St. Benedict’s as one of their religious ed. teachers and began to learn youth leadership skills.


After graduating from UMD I wasn’t sure what to apply my economics degree to, and was quite lost in what to do. After spending a lot of time in prayer and moving back home for a while to spend some time with my family and younger brothers who were still in high school, I found out from Kevin Pilon and others about the opportunity to be a youth minister at St. John’s. It felt like God provided this as the next step in my faith journey and career journey. It has certainly been a wonderful time the last few years. God has been molding me and has been showing me new things and equipping me in my faith and in reaching the hearts of others for Him!

St. John’s 6th-12th grade Religious Ed is off to a great start! We have about 50 youth in the program. We are so thankful for all the help from parents and teachers this year.
We are also enjoying having Father Drew at classes and are excited to have his priestly guidance.
Keep us all in your prayers as we continue to learn about our faith this year!


Religious Ed at St. John’s

Religious Ed at St. John’s

Faith Formation from the DRE of St. John’s: Morgan McCleary

Morgan McCleary

 Our classes began on Oct 3rd this year at St John’s! Our program serves 20 students on regular class nights and 30 on sacramental prep nights. We have 15 2nd grade students preparing for their First Reconciliation coming up in December! 
 We have been learning about how much God loves us through the sacraments, the Bible, prayer, and what an awesome example of virtue He has given us through the lives of the Saints! Soon we will be talking about Advent and preparing for the arrival of baby Jesus at Christmas.
We are also still in need of a teacher or two to serve the kids on Wednesday evenings. 
 Please keep our program, the teachers, and the students in your prayers!


2017 First Communiton

2017 First Communion


Faith Formation Calendar (K-5)

All classes are held 6 pm-7:15 pm

Please drop off & pick up in St John’s Parish Basement


Oct 3rd (Classes Begin)

Oct 10th

Oct 17th (No Class- MEA)

Oct 24th

Oct 31st (All Hallow’s Eve)


Nov 7th

Nov 14th

Nov 21st (No Class- Thanksgiving)

Nov 28th


Dec 5th

Dec 12th

Dec 19th

Dec 26th (No Class- Christmas Break)




Jan 2nd

Jan 9th

Jan 16th

Jan 23rd

Jan 30th


Feb 6th


Feb 20th (No Class- Winter Break)

Feb 27th


March 6th (No Class- Ash Wednesday)

March 13th

March 20th

March 27th


April 3

April 10th (No Class- Spring Break)

April 17th (No Class- Holy Week)

April 24th


May 1st

May 8th (Last Day of Class)






Faith Formation from the DRE of St. Joseph’s Parish: Pauline Russell

Circle of Grace Logo



We are off to a great start with Sunday Youth Faith Formation!  Thank you very much for being a part of the amazing community at St. Joseph’s.  Our program is growing and our children are fantastic!


There will be no Sunday School this Sunday, Oct. 21st.  There will be a Coffee Sunday on that day.  I’ve attached a calendar so that you can view future classes, and arrange your schedules.  


When we return on Sunday, October 28th we will be teaching the Circle of Grace.  This is the teaching of the Catholic Church which explains “we are meant to respect ourselves and everyone else as persons created and loved by God”.  “God gives each of us a Circle of Grace where He is always “present”.  The goal of Circle of Grace: “to educate and empower children and young people to actively participate in a safe environment for themselves and others”. 


I have attached a PDF for your reference, so that you may better understand this teaching.  Last night I attended a seminar on Circle of Grace at Holy Family Catholic Church with a few of our teachers.  We agreed that this is an excellent program for guiding our children and providing a safe and protective environment.  Please read the attachment.  It explains a great deal.  And please don’t hesitate to call me with any questions. 


Enjoy a beautiful weekend!  God Bless!



Pauline Russell
Religious Ed Director – St Joseph’s Gnesen



Here is a link to all information about Circle of Grace & our calendar for the year

St Joseph’s Sunday School Schedule

October 7, 2018

9:45 – 11:00 a.m. / Meet & Greet, Parents Welcome

October 14, 2018


9:45 – 11:00 a.m./ Regular Classes

October 21, 2018


No Sunday School Classes / Coffee Sunday

October 28, 2018

9:45 – 11:00 a.m./ Circle of Grace Lessons


November 4, 2018

9:45 – 11:00 a.m./ Regular Classes


November 11, 2018

9:45 – 11:00 a.m./Regular Classes


November 18, 2018

9:45 – 11:15 a.m./Regular Classes & Christmas Rehearsal


November 25, 2018

No Sunday School Classes/ Coffee Sunday


December 2, 2018

9:45 – 11:15 a.m./ Regular Classes & Christmas Rehearsal


December 9, 2018

9:45 – 11:15 a.m./ Regular Classes & Christmas Rehearsal


December 16, 2018

10:00 – 11:00 a.m. Sunday School Christmas Program Party to follow in church basement


December 23, 2018

9:45 – 11:00 a.m. / Regular Classes



December 30, 2018

No Sunday School/ Coffee Sunday


January 6, 2019

9:45 – 11:00 a.m. / Regular Classes


January 13, 2019

9:45 – 11:00 a.m./ Regular Classes


January 20, 2019

No Sunday School/ Coffee Sunday


January 27, 2019

9:45 – 11:00 a.m. / Regular Classes


February 3, 2019

9:45 – 11:00 a.m./ Regular Classes

TBD 9:45 –11:00a.m./ Regular Classes – First Reconcikelon) TBD TBD 9:45 – 11:00 a.m./ Regular Classes
( First Reconciliation)


February 10, 2019


February 17, 2019

No Sunday School/Coffee Sunday


February 24, 2019

9:45 – 11:00 a.m./ Regular Classes


March 3, 2019

9:45 – 11:00 a.m. / Regular Classes


March 10, 2019

9:45 – 11:00 a.m./ Regular Classes


March 17, 2019

No Sunday School/ Coffee Sunday


March 24, 2019

9:45 – 11:00 a.m. / Regular Classes


March 31, 2019

9:45 – 11:00 a.m./ Regular Classes


April 7, 2019

9:45 – 11:00 a.m./ Regular Classes


April 14, 2019

9:45 – 11:00 a.m./ Regular Classes


April 21, 2019



April 28, 2019

9:45 – 11:00 a.m. LAST SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASS


May 5, 2019