Dear Regular Mass-Goers, the Seats at the End of the Pew Aren’t for You

St. Joseph's Catholic Church

St. Joseph’s Catholic Church

St. John’s & St. Joe’s:

I read this interesting column in America Magazine and realized we are guilty of doing this every day!  You’re welcome to read it to  see if it makes sense to you to change our style!  I’d love newcomers to feel welcome!


By Father Jack Bentz, SJ
For America Magazine

My work took me away from home a lot last fall, and so I was at a different Catholic parish every weekend. All the same Catholic Mass—and, depressingly, the same experience of being the unwelcomed stranger in a strangely familiar land.

Many of the parishes had a greeter smiling at the front door with a bulletin in hand. There was often an invitation from the pulpit for all visitors to stand and be welcomed. At one parish, I even received a shiny little gift bag with a ballpoint pen and a coffee cup, both bearing the name of the parish.

That was nice. I was being officially welcomed.

But it was not working. Why? I think it is because I had to climb over people to get into a pew. Seriously. This happened time and again and in churches that were empty except for the ends of the pews firmly held against all newcomers.

I was raised Catholic. I know the strategy. The first-class seats are at the end of the pew.

I was raised Catholic. I know the strategy. The first-class seats are at the end of the pew. To create a warm and inviting parish, it is apparently much easier to put a welcome blurb in the bulletin or even to station greeters at the front of the church than for parishioners to sit in the middle of an empty pew.

The more parishes I attended, the more people I had to crawl over, the more time I had to think: What scares us about sitting in the center? The wooden pew is just as hard, the view is much the same and we won’t suddenly hear an improvement in the music by sitting on the aisle. Perhaps it is because we know we should be at Mass but are unwilling to really commit. We want to be close to an exit so we can make a quick getaway. So we sit with one foot in the pew and the other in the parking lot.

Do we forget that we are at Mass because it is here the community gathers? It is here that we become the people of God, drawn to each other by the work of the Spirit. And yet we try to sit where we can have as little contact with other people as possible—choosing our seats at Mass as we would on a cramped trans-Atlantic flight with unpleasant strangers.

We want to be close to an exit so we can make a quick getaway. So we sit with one foot in the pew and the other in the parking lot.

We do this without thinking about it, on a level that remains hidden to us but is obvious to newcomers. We bemoan our empty churches and then act as though no one is expected to join us in our empty pew. But here is the deal: The end spots on a pew are for those who arrive after us.

Or do we think we are the last ones who will sit in these pews at all? That we are the final generation of faithful churchgoing Catholics? Thus we don’t need to worry about moving toward the middle because the pew will be largely empty anyway.

Every weekend, in every Catholic Church in the United States, new people arrive hungry for a community to call home. Is this parish for them? Is this pew for them? They come from other denominations, from other faiths and from other parishes. If they cannot find a place to sit, they will not be back. And we will never have a chance to speak the saving Word to them, because, in spite of the official welcome, they understood this was not going to be their church. It was already taken by the guardians at the end of the pew.

The end spots on a pew are for those who arrive after us.

This is hard on the newcomers, but it is equally damaging to the oldtimers, the invested, the parishioners. We can go to Mass weekend after weekend, and every weekend we get just a little bit less hopeful. We begin to see the empty pews as abandoned real estate rather than fresh new lots, ready for families to move into our neighborhood.

Now, this might not apply to families with kids. But if we singles and couples chose to scoot over and occupy the middle we would not only create space for the newcomers but we could get into the habit of hope again in our church. We could hold a space open for all our friends and family who wander in lost and alone on a Sunday morning. And we would begin to rub elbows with the Sunday regulars from the other end of the pew as well.

Then, imagine if we all began to move toward the middle in the rest of our lives—in our choice of media, in our ideological camps. Can you imagine moving to the middle? Or is any movement toward the center seen as a betrayal? Are we selfish enough to continue the move apart when what we need desperately is to come together?

Can you imagine arriving at Mass and choosing to sit in the exact middle of a pew? If you sit there, you boldly state that you are expecting more people to join you. There is room on your right; there is room on your left. You sit in the middle because you are welcoming. You are ready to make that first offer to strangers, the offer of space, of community. You help them begin a first step toward a life with Christ where you are St. Paul, John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary rolled into one: an on-fire, evangelizing Catholic.

Save the Date: Theology Uncapped: Registration Opens March 1, 2018

Theology Uncapped

The Virgin Mary

Thursday, April 26th at 6:30 PM

St. Benedict Catholic Church

1419 St. Benedict Street

Duluth, MN  55811




Here is the link to register:

You must  RSVP,  because space is limited, and there is a cost, which includes a catered meal and beverage of wine, beer, or pop.

The cost is $20 per person, and it will fill up.

My hope is that it will fill up with parishioners from our parishes. These are rare opportunities to hear  conversations between a Catholic priest and a Lutheran minister about our different faith traditions.

Our Spring topic  will be the “Virgin Mary.”

—Fr. Rich

Here is some information about the organization, Theology Uncapped:

Theology Uncapped


Theology Uncapped is a Catholic group with a dedicated goal of bringing people closer together through educational discussions centered around faith-based topics.
We hold three events a year that are open to men and women of all faiths.  Each event includes an informative speaker(s) that will discuss a topic of faith from differing points of view. A catered meal is included to help facilitate fellowship and hopefully foster new relationships among those that may have opposing viewpoints.
Seating for each event is limited, so registration is required and can be completed through this site. We look forward to seeing you at a future event.
Further registration is forthcoming and will be confirmed with Deacon John Foucault:



Lenten Activities at St. John’s: Stations of the Cross, Apologetics & Fish Suppers

 Stations of the Cross: Mondays at 6:00

Apologetics: Immediately following the Stations

Apologetics will be held in the Gathering Space and  includes beverages that will make it less painful to listen to me!

FISH SUPPERS:  St. John’s, Fridays, February 16 & 23rd, 4:30-7:00 PM, with thanks to the Knights of Columbus

And don’t forget the gift of daily Mass every morning at 8:00.

I encourage you to come to these events to help make Lent a special opportunity for spiritual enrichment. 

—Father Rich


March 12, 2018: Further Info about Author, George Weigel, Who Will Speak at St. John’s Parish

Father Richard Kunst

Father’s Ramblings

As has been announced a few times (and posters are up), George Weigel (author of Witness to Hope,  the biography of St. John Paul II) will be visiting our parish next month for a talk on the eve of Monday, March 12th.

Like the Gianna Molla event this past fall, this is an event that is being advertised throughout the entire diocese, so there is likely to be a big crowd.

 Weigel will be talking about his latest book, Lessons in Hope, which is the story of his relationship with Pope John Paul. I have read this book already, and I have to say it is very entertaining, because he is telling the stories of all his interactions with the future saint.


I love telling the stories of my handful of encounters with John Paul II, but few people in the world have had the amount of access Mr. Weigel has had.

It is a fascinating book that is hard to put down. The parish has purchased several copies of the book, and they are available for purchase. Please call the parish office if you are interested, and then you can have the opportunity to have them signed by the author.

We hope you will join us for this extraordinary to be held at St. John’s.  —Father Rich

Witness To Hope by George Weigel

Lessons In Hope, My Unexpected Life with St. John Paul II












Past Information about the Upcoming Event

Late last year as you will recall, we had the honor of having Dr. Gianna Molla, the daughter of St. Gianna Molla, visit our parish. It was a big deal to have such a person to visit, and we had a very good crowd that came out to listen to her talk about her “Saint Mom.”

Well, I am equally excited to make another announcement of a guest coming to our parish that is of equal significance.

On Monday, March 12th, St. John’s will have the honor of welcoming author, George Weigel, to our parish.

The unfortunate thing is that many people in the pews might be unfamiliar with his name, but he is regularly on the NY Times’ bestseller’s list, is a leading authority in the English speaking world on the Catholic Church, and is a Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s, Ethics and Public Policy Center.

But most significantly he is the author of the most comprehensive biography written about Pope John Paul II.

His 1998 biography, Witness to Hope (which I have read multiple times) is the most complete book on the life of JP II.   The thing that is really impressive about it is that Pope John Paul II was the one who asked Weigel to write it.

 Weigel is a syndicated columnist who is regularly featured in our diocesan newspaper,  The Northern Cross.

This is a coup to have been able to get Mr. Weigel to come to Duluth, let alone to our parish. He will be speaking about his relationship with St. John Paul II and about the writing of the biography.

Both before his arrival and while he is here, we will also have his latest book, Lessons in Hope, available for purchase.  You will be able to have it autographed.

I am very excited about this visit, and you will hear much more about it in the coming weeks. So please mark your calendar for March 12th to come and enjoy this extraordinary event for our parishes!













SMA-Holy Rosary Campus Kindergarten Round-up on Thursday, Mar. 1, from 12:30 – 2:00

Please enjoy this video from last year, created by Amanda Tessier, one of the Kindergarten teachers, now at the Holy Rosary Campus.  Our name has changed; we are, “Called to Be One,” but the flavor of academic, social and religious guidance hasn’t changed.  We hope to see you at Kindergarten Round-up at Stella Maris Academy, the Holy Rosary Campus, Thursday, March 1, from 12:30 – 2:00.




SMA-Holy Rosary Campus Kindergarten Round-up
Thursday, March 1 at 12:30 – 2 PM

Stella Maris Academy Logo   


Announcing Kindergarten Round-up at the Holy Rosary Campus of Stella Maris

Thursday, March 1 at 12:30 – 2 PM
2802 E 4th St, Duluth, Minnesota 55812
Come explore Stella Maris Academy with your incoming Kindergartner! 
Your child will be able to experience Stella Maris Academy with hand on activities while you learn more about how small class sizes, exceptional teachers, and our focus on growing the whole child can enhance your child’s education.




Stella Maris Kindergarten Teacher, Sue Weber

Special Events
Stella Maris Academy’s Special Campus Events
Please check the Stella Maris Calendar for more events and activities!




Stella Maris Kindergarten
Amanda Tessier

Amanda Tessier, creator of the video, with her present Stella Maris Students












Welcoming Stella Maris Academy & Announcing St. John’s Campus Open House

SMA – St John’s Campus Middle School Open House
Thursday, February 15 at 8:30 AM – 2 PM and 5:30 – 7 PM
St. John’s Campus

1 W Chisholm St, Duluth, Minnesota 55803
Come and explore the middle schools at Stella Maris Academy! 

Spend time walking the hallways, connecting with current middle school families, and talking with our wonderful staff. 
You will be able to see why our middle school students shine above the rest! 
We will have 2 interactive sessions for parents and students during the day – 8:30 to 10 AM, 12:30 to 2 PM, and if you are unable to attend during the day, our open house will continue at 5:30 until 7 PM. 
Please RSVP to [email protected] to sign up for a daytime session! (No RSVP required for the evening)


Aliah, Natalyia, Kendra

Father Rich & Stella Maris Altar Servers









Wednesday Mass with Father Rich


Stella Maris Academy is a coming together of a Catholic community for the educational formation of students to become good citizens of this world, loving God and neighbor, and enriching society with the influence of the gospel. As a community of faith, Stella Maris Academy believes the authentic spirit of Catholicism should permeate the curriculum; with truth, beauty, and goodness imbued in all aspects of learning. Guided by the principles of our values, the mission of our academic community is to prepare lifelong learners who lead, love, and serve as Jesus taught, therefore transforming our world one student at a time.

Below is a link to the Stella Maris website.  We look forward to updates from the St. John’s & Holy Rosary campuses, which house our parish students.  Please visit their site and remember Kindergarten Roundup and Open Enrollment is coming soon.  Dates are included via the link below.


Hilaire Hauer, Interim President


“Together, the families, students, faculty, priests, sisters and all here at Stella Maris Academy create the environment where love, truth, mercy and tradition live. We are guided by the Church and the power of the Holy Spirit to be witnesses of Christ through the community we build and the learning we foster, through the leadership and stewardship we show, the recognition of the innumerable and diverse gifts God has given to each of us and for the respect for each other and the love of our Catholic identity.

Without a doubt Stella Maris Academy will be known in our community and beyond for the exemplary formation of not only our students, but also of our families and for the great work we do together through Stella Maris Academy. We will be second to none for the depth and breadth of our commitment to bettering the world through our intellectual, spiritual, human and stewardship formation focus. Stella Maris Academy students will go out into the world virtuous and wise.” 

-Hilaire Hauer, Interim-President of Stella Maris Academy


Stella Maris Academy Logo



Please enjoy a sample of the love, joy, academic excellence and religious education enjoyed by our students from last year, just prior to our, “Called to Be One,”  Stella Maris Academy affiliation.  We are working on a video for this year and will share it soon!  We thank Terri Jones, IT instructor last year for this beautiful contribution.


Ash Wednesday 2016: A Commentary & A Psalm

Father Richard Kunst

Ashes, of course, but there’s more to get from Lent

Years ago one of my seminary professors cited a study listing the most well-attended Masses of the year. The first two were obvious — Christmas and Easter — but the third and fourth most attended Masses were a bit of a surprise to me at the time. They were Palm Sunday and Ash Wednesday.

I cannot remember the details of the study or who performed it, but after years of experience I must say I concur. My teacher followed up with a cynical comment, saying more people come to those Masses because they get something, namely palms on Palm Sunday and ashes on Ash Wednesday.

Let us take a  look at the use of ashes and their history in our Catholic faith.   Ash Wednesday is not even a “holy day of obligation,” but don’t tell non-readers that!

Certainly our use of ashes comes from the Jewish faith, as so many of our practices do. We can look back at the Old Testament and see many examples of their use, and when they were used it was to signify one of two things, our mortality or penance for sins committed.

The distribution of ashes in our Catholic faith reflects this reality. Consider the two formulas we can choose when applying them to the faithful’s forehead: The person distributing the ashes can say either “repent and  believe in the Gospel,” which has the theme of penance, or “remember, you are dust and to dust you will return,” which represents our mortality.

Mortality has long been a theme in our Catholic tradition and art. As I have mentioned before, some of the most prominent decorative characteristics in old European parishes are skulls, crossbones and full skeletons. Imagine if your pastor were to have a large skeleton painted on the wall of your parish! But that is a very popular decoration in Europe. The purpose is to remind us of what the ashes remind us of today: We are dust.

The ordinary minister of the distribution of ashes is either the priest or a deacon. If necessary, a layperson is also permitted to distribute. The ashes used are either from the previous year’s blessed palms or from an olive tree.

The Catholic Church has used ashes in its liturgy since at least as early as the tenth century, and of all the rich symbols we have in our faith, the ashes we apply on the first day of Lent are among the most powerful. But Ash Wednesday is only the start. This powerful symbol ushers in the holy season of Lent, which gives us a great opportunity to rely more on God and to get closer to him.

During Lent, many if not most of us will “give something up” as a small penance to get into the spirit of the season, and that is completely laudable and even expected of us. But sometimes our energy in that direction can be misguided.

I once knew someone who quit eating all solid foods during the whole of Lent and only drank malts and energy drinks, all along making a big show of it. That is certainly not the purpose of the season or the fast.

Giving up something like sweets or soda can become an issue of pride or even bragging, which becomes counter-productive to what we are about during this time of year. If we are to use Lent to get closer to God, there might be a better way.

Adding things to our life and spirituality might be better than taking them away. It would be far better to have more people go to weekday Mass than to have fewer cookies eaten. It would be better to have more people go to the Stations of the Cross than to have less pop drunk.

We should be looking for extra things to enrich our faith during this time. Certainly our parishes offer more opportunities.

This is the busiest time of the year for us priests. I would challenge you not to have Ash Wednesday Mass be the only extra thing you do all Lent. Easter is the greatest and most beautiful day of the year on the Christian calendar. It becomes even more so when we put a lot into our Lenten observance.

“Without God, all that remains of man’s greatness is that little pile of dust, in a dish, at one side of the altar, on Ash Wednesday. It is what the Church marks us with on our forehead, as though with our own substance.” 

J. Leclercq,A Year with the Liturgy



To the end, a psalm of David.
  when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had sinned with Bathsheba.
1  Have mercy upon me, O God, after thy great goodness: according to the multitude
of thy mercies do away mine offences.
2  Wash me throughly from my wickedness: and cleanse me from my sin.
3  For I acknowledge my faults: and my sin is ever before me.
4  Against thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified
in thy saying, and clear when thou art judged.
5  Behold, I was shapen in wickedness: and in sin hath my mother conceived me.
6  But lo, thou requirest truth in the inward parts: and shalt make me to understand wisdom secretly.
7  Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: thou shalt wash me,
and I shall be whiter than snow.
8  Thou shalt make me hear of joy and gladness: that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
9  Turn thy face from my sins: and put out all my misdeeds.
10  Make me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me.
11  Cast me not away from thy presence: and take not thy holy Spirit from me.
12  O give me the comfort of thy help again: and stablish me with thy free Spirit.
13  Then shall I teach thy ways unto the wicked: and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
14  Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, thou that art the God of my health: and my tongue shall sing of thy righteousness.
15  Thou shalt open my lips, O Lord: and my mouth shall shew thy praise.
16  For thou desirest no sacrifice, else would I give it thee: but thou delightest not in burnt-offerings.
17  The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, shalt thou not despise.
18  O be favourable and gracious unto Sion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
19  Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifice of righteousness, with the burnt-offerings and oblations: then shall they offer young bullocks upon thine altar.


February 13th: Celebrating St. Valentine’s Day Early with a Commentary from Fr. Rich

Father Richard Kunst

  As you know, I generally utilize all my vacation time leading small private tours to Rome.  Although I enjoy it because I love the Eternal City, and because I love to see people bewildered by the beauty of the city, it is indeed work for me.  We have long days with little sleep, and I am on the clock, bringing people around and explaining to them what they are seeing.  When leading these tours I generally stick to the same routes and sites, but from time to time I will venture to places that are less familiar, and I did just that during my most recent tour. 

          Though I had already been there a few times, during this last tour I brought the group to a church called Santa Maria in Cosmedin.  The church is old, dating back to the 6th century, but it’s not its age that draws the crowds; rather it’s an old drain cover people go to see.  The “Bocca della Verita” (Mouth of Truth) is a massive drain cover from the ancient Roman period.  It is in the image of a large face with an open mouth, and according to tradition if you place your hand in the mouth, and if you are guilty of adultery it will bite your hand.  This of course is a silly tradition, but people like it as a photo op, so you generally have to wait in line to have the chance to test your fidelity.

            The group I brought to Rome this last time was in no mood to stand in line to see the old drain cover, so instead we went through the rest of the ancient church.  On one of the side altars was a simple reliquary holding the clearly visible skull of St. Valentine.  It made me wonder just who this saint was.  In western culture St. Valentine has become hugely popular because of February 14th and the celebration of lovers.  But does anyone really know anything about the man who lends his name to such a popular holiday?  No. No one does.  There is just simply speculation, none of which can be confirmed.

           We had one pope by the name of Valentine who reigned for 40 days in 827 AD, but he is not a saint, so the holiday cannot be named for him.  There are three other options in the official list of saints, which is called “Martyrologies.”  One of the early lists of martyologies has three different saints named Valentine; all of them are celebrated on February 14th.  But any information about them is scant at best.  One was a priest who lived in Rome.  Another was a bishop who was in a place called Interamna.  Both of these Saint Valentines died martyrs’ deaths in the third century.  On the same date is another martyred Valentine who was killed for the faith in Africa, also from the third century.  That is all we know about them.  They are examples of saints who have been lost to history and who undoubtedly lived holy lives and sacrificed themselves for the faith to the point of death.  Because of the lack of record keeping we know nothing more of the three St. Valentines who just so happen to all share the same feast day of February 14th.  In other words, I have no idea whose skull I was actually looking at in the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin!

            So why is it that they are the patron saints of lovers?  There are different theories but the one that seems to be the most acceptable really has nothing to do with the saints themselves but with a legend associated with the date of the 14thof February.  According to ancient tradition it was thought that birds began to find their mates on that date during the second and shortest month of the year.  And because there was a time when everything was culturally Catholic it was only natural to see what saint’s feast day fell on an important date.  Because there were three Saint Valentines all on the same date it was only natural to name the day after St. Valentine(s).

            The practice of sending “Valentines” to loved ones and mates is not new.  We have records of the practice going all the way back to the 1300s.  Of course the holy men who share the same date and name would never have had a clue as to what was going to become of their heroic faith and how it would eventually come to mean something very different.  In fact the Church doesn’t even have a liturgical feast day for St. Valentine anymore, and if your go to daily Mass on February 14thyou likely won’t hear a thing about the three St. Valentines.  You will hear a lot about Sts. Cyril and Methodius, two canonized brothers who were missionaries to the Slavic people.  So on February 14th this year instead of sending a card and flowers to your wife or girlfriend, send your Slovenian friends a card and wish them a happy Sts. Cyril and Methodius Day!   —Father Rich

Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Exterior


The Skull of St. Valentine in Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome

“Bocca della Verita” (Mouth of Truth)

Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Inteiror





Monday, October 30, An Update on This Extraordinary Event at St. John’s: Meet the Daughter of a Saint

St. Gianna Molla & Family

On the evening of Monday, October 30, 2017, Saint John’s will welcome Dr. Gianna Emanuella Molla, the youngest daughter of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla.  

St. John’s is one of only two places in Minnesota to have the privilege of her presence.  

 Tentatively we are planning for Mass,  with veneration of 1st & 2nd class relics of  Saint Gianna, followed by a testimony of The Life, Faith & Sanctity of her mother, and an opportunity to meet and greet Dr. Molla. 

Light refreshments will be served.


Daughter of St. Gianna Molla coming to Duluth Oct. 30

Oct 16, 2017

“I like the idea of having a child of a canonized saint here, and having people have as close as they can to a tangible experience of a saint,” said Father Richard Kunst.

His parish, St. John in Duluth, will be offering just that Oct. 30, when it hosts Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, the daughter of St. Gianna Molla, a patron saint of the pro-life movement.

The saint, canonized on May 16, 2004, by Pope St. John Paul II, was herself a pediatrician. While she was pregnant with her fourth child in 1961 — the young Gianna — she discovered she had a life-threatening tumor.

Among the options her doctors gave her were abortion, which would not have been morally licit, and hysterectomy, which would have been licit but would also have led to the death of the child. Instead, she insisted on a course of care that would put saving the life of her child as the priority.

Despite efforts to save both mother and child, the saint died a week after her daughter was born. She was 39 years old.

“She’s the patron saint of unborn children and the pro-life movement,” Father Kunst said, as well as the inspiration for parents who have given the name to their own children.

Father Kunst said the daughter the saint died saving, herself a physician as well, has become a spokesperson for her mother’s mission. For instance, she was present at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in 2015, with Pope Francis in attendance.

She will also be appearing in the Twin Cities in October, which the Catholic Church in the United States observes as Respect Life Month.

Yet Father Kunst said getting Dr. Molla lined up to come to Duluth was difficult despite the fact that she is coming to Minnesota already.

In fact, at one point, she told Father Kunst it would be “absolutely impossible.” But the next day she wrote again to say she could come for a talk in the parish.

“I’m very excited about it, obviously,” he said.

There is a private fundraising dinner the day before, but the main public event is Oct. 30, with Mass at 6:30 p.m. followed by Dr. Molla’s talk.

This, too, will have a fundraising component. Dr. Molla is raising funds to restore the family home and “make it into a shrine,” Father Kunst said.

“She travels all over the place to share her mom’s story and the vision of what she would like to do in regard to her mother’s ministry in the pro-life movement,” he said.

So he will be asking for a generous freewill donation. But the event is free and is a unique opportunity to meet one of the few people in the world who is a living child of a canonized saint.

“St. Gianna Molla died to save this woman’s life,” he added. “… She’s an integral part of the whole story of St. Gianna Molla.”

He said there are no tickets, it’s just first-come, first-served. There will be closed-circuit TV in the parish’s basement in case there is overflow from the church, which itself can seat quite a few people.

“All they have to do is bring their willingness to support the mission of St. Gianna Molla and the pro-life movement,” he said.

— Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross


Here is a link to the work Dr. Molla is accomplishing through the Ponte Nuovo Project to which she is devoting her life.  We are so privileged to have her here at St. John’s and look forward to such a special event.  Here is the link:

OK St. Gianna Ponte Nuovo Project (1)

About Dr. Molla:

About me:
gianna-emanuelaI practiced as a geriatrician at the Geriatric Institute, “Camillo Golgi” in Abbiategrasso, Milan. In 2003, I left my profession to care for my dad Pietro who had serious health problems until he died on April 3, 2010, Holy Saturday, at the age of almost 98.
    Since my dad’s death, I work full time in service of the Saint Gianna Beretta Molla Foundation, which he founded in 1999 in Milan with my uncle Father Giuseppe, my Mom’s brother.
    The Saint Gianna Foundation is a non-profit-making Foundation. Its essential aim is to honor, to perpetuate and to spread out all around the world my Saint Mom’s memory, example, testimony and spirituality. It is a very small Foundation, which has always existed thanks to the Divine Providence’s help. I am the only person who works full time for it, with my siblings’ and my friends’ help.

Pope John Paul II & Dr. Gianna Molla



Built Upon a Rock Fest: Sunday, September 17th – Mark Your Calendars!

Built Upon a Rock Fest: The Thirsting Band

Built Upon a Rock Fest is a free outdoor Catholic concert to be held on the grounds of the Cathedral, in the field adjacent to Holy Rosary School. There will also be adoration and opportunities for confession in the Cathedral for those who are interested. Come enjoy this event that features stunning on stage musical performances from national and local Catholic artists.

Free live entertainment (and free food!) with the backdrop of beautiful Lake Superior: an exhilarating and breathtaking experience, regardless of your faith background!

Gates open

The Aly Aleigha Band

The Thirsting 

Go to for details about the event, including the schedule, the mission, artist bios and answers to frequently asked questions. Help spread the word about this great event that will appeal to youth and adults alike! Help spread the love of Jesus Christ through authentically Catholic music that ROCKS!

Questions? Contact Marie Mullen at 210-563-8859 or [email protected]

Check out the one-minute video below for a glimpse of what to expect from the headlining act, The Thirsting:

Fatima Information for September & October 13

Our Lady of Fatima

The fifth time Our Blessed Mother appeared to the 3 shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal was the 13th of September, 1917.

An estimated 25, 000 people were present for the September 13th apparition, as the imprisonment of the children and the “manifestations” of the presence of Our Lady in August, caused many to want to see for themselves what was occurring in Fatima.

Our Lady gave her usual message, “Continue to pray the Rosary in order to obtain the end of the war”. Then added, “In October Our Lord will come, as well as Our Lady of Dolours (Sorrows) and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. St. Joseph will appear with the Child Jesus to bless the world.” She also spoke of the promised miracle in October, “so all may believe”.

A recap of the events in Fatima since before May, 1917, includes:

  • the appearance of the angel to the children 3 times over 2 years to prepare them to experience the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima
  • the revelations of hell and future world events, including WWII, by Our Lady
  • Our Lady’s consistent request to pray the Rosary to obtain the end of WWI and the conversion of sinners
  • Our Lady’s request for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart; and that we make the Communion of Reparation on the 1st Saturdays of 5 consecutive months with the intention of consoling the Immaculate Heart of Mary, offering reparation for the blasphemies and ingratitude of unrepentant sinners, and for peace in the world
  • Our Lady’s consistent message and pattern of apparitions over 6 months; which generated increasing awareness, curiosity, anticipation, and participation at a time and place in the world with limited access to information
  • Building interest and awareness of the apparitions at Fatima, so as many people as possible, including priests, could experience the miracle in October;  allowing the Church to approve Our Lady’s urgent message for the world

The Centenary of Fatima is a wake-up call for us to help Our Lady of Fatima make her message known in our time, as she did so incredibly one hundred years ago.

On Wednesday, September 13th Veneration of Our Lady of Fatima will be held at:

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary: a led Rosary at 7:30 AM before the 8 AM school Mass and a led Rosary at 5:30 PM

St. James Church: a Holy Hour beginning with a led Rosary from 6PM to 7PM

SAVE the Dates:

October 13th at 6:30 PM Jim Kolar, who is very knowledgeable about Fatima, will speak in the Social Hall in the lower level of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary; refreshments will be served.

October 14th there will be a led “America Needs Fatima” Rosary at noon at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church, outside in Mary’s garden, weather permitting; the Rosary will be held inside if necessary.

October 14th there is a national Rosary Rally at noon-join in prayer with the Faithful, wherever you are, for Our Lady of Fatima’s intentions.


Father Richard Kunst

When I was growing up, my paternal grandmother was the spiritual leader of the extended Kunst family. She had a massive influence over all of us, but especially me. My love and respect for her was almost boundless, because I saw in her what I thought to be a true saint. 

My grand-mother was an active member of what was known as “The Blue Army,” a national group that was dedicated to the spreading of the message of Our Lady of Fatima. I remember many times going with her to various Blue Army gatherings and events. Needless to say, my personal childhood spirituality was heavily tilted towards all things Fatima. 

That has never left me. I still have a deep devotion to Mary under this title, as well as to the important message that was revealed by Our Lady at that time. 

As we all know by now, 2017 marks the centenary of the Fatima event in which the Blessed Virgin appeared to three illiterate shepherd children six times, once a month from May to October. In honor of the 100th anniversary, Pope Francis canonized the two younger children just last month. (I was blessed to have concelebrated at their beatification by St. John Paul II in 2000 in Fatima.) The third seer died just in 2005, so her process of canonization is only in the beginning stages. 

The apparitions of Mary were foreshadowed by an appearance of an angel in 1916, which the children were able to keep secret, but that all changed when Our Lady first appeared to the three children on May 13, 1917. In classic biblical fashion, her first words to the children were, “Do not be afraid, I will do you no harm.” 

St. Jacinta Marto, the youngest of the seers, is the one who spilled the beans to her parents, making the Fatima event a public one from the very beginning, causing much strife for the children, whose families did not believe the children, and causing ever-growing crowds to join the children at each of the successive appearances. 

It was her appearance in July in which Our Lady told the children to add the now famous “Fatima prayer” to the rosary after each mystery: “O my Jesus, forgive us, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.” In all six apparitions, the primary message, which was repeated by Our Lady, was, “Pray the rosary every day, in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war.” 

This message to pray the rosary daily is not something that is relegated to the past. Our Lady wanted that message to be spread for the end of World War I, but it is as pertinent today as it was 100 years ago. World peace is as elusive as ever, with the problems in Syria and North Korea, not to mention terrorism. I suspect if Mary were to appear again, she would ask us to continue to pray the rosary daily for the same cause. Personally, after the Mass it remains my favorite prayer. 

The six months of apparitions that occurred in 1917 had a bit of a detour in August when the three children were arrested and interrogated. The local communist government figured the apparitions were a part of a hoax to discredit their authority. The children were actually thrown in an adult jail and threatened with death if they did not recant, which of course they did not. Instead of the regular appearance on the 13th of that month, Our Lady appeared to them on the 19th. 

The Fatima event is likely most well-known for what happened on October 13, Our Lady’s final appearance, in what is known as “the miracle of the sun.” By the time October rolled around, the word had spread far and wide that some sort of sign would happen to authenticate the apparitions. The crowds had been growing with each successive month, so on the miserably rainy day of Oct. 13, some estimates had the crowd as large as 100,000, including much of the secular media there to cover the event that was supposedly was going to happen.

Photos from that day verify the people’s response to the unique phenomena of the pulsating or dancing of the sun. Not all witnesses explained it the same, but the majority of the people explained it as the sun gyrating or falling to the earth in various different colors. The rain which had been falling all day stopped, and the drenched ground and people were completely dried up in just a few minutes of the sun’s movement. People from many miles away also witnessed the occurrence, which to this day has no satisfactory scientific explanation. What is telling is that the communist newspaper described the whole indescribable event. 

Fatima is as pertinent today as it was 100 years ago, especially with the call to pray the rosary daily. My first international trip as a college student was to go on pilgrimage to Fatima, and I have been back a few times since. From my own observation, of all the shrines I have ever visited, the shrine at Fatima, Portugal, has felt the most spiritual to me, primarily, I suspect, due to the deep faith of the Portuguese and other pilgrims from throughout the world who go to visit and express their love for Our Blessed Mother. 

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us! 


Our Pastor’s Northern Cross Column for May

Father Richard Kunst

We are blessed to share our pastor with our Diocese via the Northern Cross.  Here is Fr. Rich’s column for May.  Enjoy!

Father Richard Kunst: Jesus appeared only to his disciples — for good reasons

May 17, 2017

May 2017 is an important month, because it marks the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s appearance to the three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal. I had every intention to write on the subject of Our Lady’s appearance this month, but as I sit at my computer writing this column, it is Easter Monday, so the resurrection is vivid in my brain right now, and since Mary appeared in Fatima for six months, I will have other opportunities to explore this important occurrence.

It is not possible to improve upon Christ’s resurrection and his appearances on Easter Sunday and the 40 days that followed, but that does not mean that I wouldn’t have done it differently. What do I mean by that? Well, there are two things I would have wanted to do differently had I been the resurrected Christ. (I know this sounds heretical, but bear with me.)

Now let’s dissect this a little. How do you suppose Pontius Pilate would have responded, and how do you suppose the Sanhedrin would have responded? What I offer is pure hypothetical speculation, but it is food for thought.Had I been Jesus after the resurrection, one of the first things I would have done is to go and knock on Pontius Pilate’s door: “Hey, Pontius, remember me? I am that guy you had crucified last Friday. Look at my hands and feet. What do you think of that?” Then I would have gone to the next gathering of the Jewish Sanhedrin as an uninvited guest to scare the bejeebers out of them, since they were the ones who spearheaded the crucifixion.

My guess is that the Sanhedrin would have tried to put Jesus to death again. There are clear indications in the Gospels that the Sanhedrin accepted the fact that Jesus was doing some amazing things. For example, they admitted that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but they still killed Jesus and even wanted to kill Lazarus too, since many people were believing in Jesus because of him!

So the majority of the Sanhedrin were completely closed-minded when it came to Jesus. In fact, Jesus even hints at that at the end of his parable of the rich man and Lazarus, when he says, from the mouth of Abraham, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if one should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). That being said, I do not think there would have been any benefit to Jesus showing up at the meeting of the Jewish leadership.

How about Pilate? How would he have responded had Jesus shown up at his door after his crucifixion and resurrection? Again this is pure, hypothetical speculation. I think Pontius Pilate would have been awestruck at the appearance of Jesus and his crucifixion wounds and glorified body, but I do not think his response would have been very good.

Remember, Pilate was a pagan. He believed in a whole host of unbelievable mythical characters as gods. I suspect that Pilate would have tried to get the emperor and the Roman Empire to accept Jesus as one of the many gods of their pantheon, and were he successful, what do you suppose would have happened? Christianity would have died out when the Roman Empire ended. Christianity would have become one of those strange Roman mythologies we studied in school, just like Venus and Minerva.

God had a better plan.

Between the resurrection and the ascension, Jesus appeared only to those who were his disciples in life. While on one hand we may question why that was the case, and we may think that it would have been more effective if Jesus appeared to some of his enemies, the fact is Jesus knew what he was doing.

Suppose the Christian message would have had the backing of the Roman Empire from the very beginning. Then the spread and growth of Christianity would have been attributed to human power. The fact that Christianity spread at a miraculous rate despite the furor of the political power of the day is just that: a miracle. The hand of God, not the hand of man, caused its growth. The very disciples who cowered in fear of the Jewish authorities, the very disciples who ran away and showed themselves to be hopelessly dumb during the life of Jesus, were the ones who were emboldened after his death to spread the Good News.

God’s ways are not our ways, and although I think it might have been pretty cool to watch Jesus appear to Pontius Pilate and the Sanhedrin, it was not of God. By appearing only to those who were his disciples before he ascended to heaven, Jesus shows clearly that God’s plan is perfect.