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Little Falls

Catholic Community

Living out the Lord's Plan

in Our Area Catholic Community

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By FR. BEN KOCIEMBA

appy New Year! As we approach the Lenten season, God continues to make His dwelling among us! Though admittedly, it can be harder to identify sometimes in our current challenging times, God still follows through! As Catholics, not only do we celebrate and encounter the real dwelling of Jesus through our worship and prayer, but we have also been entrusted with mediating Jesus to others. Therefore, as a Church, we are blessed by God so that others can be blessed through us. In other words, we are stewards of God’s blessings and dwelling! Therefore, stewardship is essential to our Catholic faith and way of life! As we begin this new year, I would like to propose a few focuses for us as a faith community. The first is to practice stewardship as a way of life. I felt strongly through my personal prayer back in the fall of 2019, along with discerning this together with our parish councils, that the stewardship way of life was something we were called to in continued on page 6

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St. Mary’s • Our Lady Of Lourdes • Holy Family

The Patron of Catholic Schools in America St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

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s the first American-born canonized saint, Elizabeth Ann Seton’s entrance into history was guided by Divine Providence. Born on Aug. 28, 1774, just months after the Boston Tea Party, Elizabeth’s childhood witnessed pivotal events in the formation of our country — the Continental Congress, the Declaration of Independence, and the American Revolution. At the time of the foundation of the new Republic, in a society predominately hostile toward Catholicism, a flower blossomed that would forever change the shape of education in the United States. Elizabeth Seton was born into a wealthy Protestant family in New York City. Her life, although materially blessed, was not without suffering. Elizabeth’s biological mother died when she was only 3, and her younger sister, Catherine Josephine, died at the age of 2. A spark of faith, however, was visible even in her early childhood. When questioned about her sadness concerning her sister’s death, Elizabeth simply responded, “Kitty is gone up to heaven. I wish I could go there too.” Elizabeth grew into a beautiful woman, courted lavishly by handsome young men from prominent New York families. At the age of 19, she met a charming New York financier, William Seton, and the couple was wed in 1794. They remained in high society until her father-in-law’s passing, 2

which left them to care for William’s seven younger siblings, along with three children of their own. Consequently, the Seton finances crashed. The couple traveled to Italy — it was here that William’s health failed him, and he died in December 1803. Providentially, Elizabeth was left in the company of a strong Catholic family where she witnessed the practice of the faith. In a letter to her sister, Elizabeth wrote, “My sister dear, how happy would we be, if we believed what these dear souls believe, that they possess God in the Sacrament, and that He remains in their churches...” After an eight-month stay, Elizabeth returned to America, and she began to investigate Catholicism more deeply. She was besought by Protestant friends who hoped to dissuade

her. At this time, Elizabeth prayed repeatedly, “If I am right, Thy grace impart, still in the right to stay. If I am wrong, oh teach my heart to find the better way.” In 1805, after much interior struggle, Elizabeth became Catholic. Abandoned entirely by her family and friends, she resolved her financial difficulties through teaching. In 1807, Elizabeth was invited to establish a Catholic school for girls in Baltimore. The task was daunting, and Elizabeth labored intensely, explaining how “from half past five in the morning until nine at night, every moment is full — no space even to be troubled.” After winters spent in continual hardship and sacrifice, the school flourished and, within years, Mother Seton planted the seed from which sprang the parochial school system — along with hospitals and orphanages. Before her death in January 1821, she was the active mother of five — although two of her daughters died young — and the spiritual mother of a full-fledged religious congregation known as the Sisters of Charity. She was canonized in 1975, and her feast day is celebrated on Jan. 4. Thanks to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the Catholic parochial school system remains vibrant and active. And as we celebrate Catholic Schools Week, we are thankful for the sacrifice of this loving wife, devoted mother, foundress and all-American saint.


A Letter From Our Pastor

Sharing Love in Different Ways My Dear Friends in Christ,

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hat’s the most widely observed saint’s day in February — the one that’s kept even by those who aren’t practicing Catholics? Undoubtedly, it would be St. Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14. The irony is that his feast isn’t even on the General Roman Calendar of feasts to be observed throughout the world. That doesn’t mean that he’s not recognized as a real, historical person, or as a genuine saint, but only that his influence throughout the Church has not been as significant as that of other saints. So who was St. Valentine? There are several St. Valentines, as the name was not a rare one in the ancient Roman Empire, but the saint we celebrate was a priest of Rome martyred in the late third century. Still, that doesn’t explain how his feast came to be celebrated as the day one sends letters, cards and presents as expressions of romantic love. The truth is that the custom of sending tokens of love comes not from any direct connection with St. Valentine, but from the ancient belief that birds begin to pair off on Feb. 14. And if courtship in the natural world occurred then, it must be appropriate for humans, as well. The association between St. Valentine and love notes is a later development. Nevertheless, it’s not wrong to connect the two. Love has many aspects, and our conception of it is richer if we keep more than one of them in mind. Martyrdom is the result of loving God more than our earthly life. St. Valentine was a martyr because of his love — his love for Jesus Christ and His Church. If he had not loved God so much, he could have repudiated his Lord and saved his life. We, in turn, express our love by sending cards and gifts on St. Valentine’s Day. But isn’t that what stewardship as a way of life is — a little martyrdom? Not to push the image too far, but when we are faithful stewards, we give up a little portion of our lives out of our own love for Christ. Most Christians will not be called on to be martyrs, in the sense of forfeiting our physical lives for God. But we are called to give up some of our comforts, indulgences and riches because of our love for Him. So then, as you prepare to celebrate and share your love with your Valentine this month, remember St. Valentine and his love for Christ. As well, keep in mind that God loves us, and return that love with your own toward Him. Loving God will be reflected in how you prioritize your use of the time, talent and treasure God has entrusted to you. As St. John wrote (1 Jn 4:19), “We love because he first loved us.” Happy St. Valentine’s Day! Sincerely yours in Christ,

Fr. Ben Kociemba, Pastor 3


St. Mary’s • Our Lady Of Lourdes • Holy Family

OUR LADY OF LOURDES PARISHIONER

REP. RON KRESH

Minnesota State Representative Keeps Christ

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ere in the United States, January marked the end of one of the most highly charged election cycles in recent history. After more than a year of watching the candidates for president campaign, debate, and spar over various topics, many of us may be experiencing political “fatigue.” However, as Catholics, we are called to engage in the public sphere as responsible citizens formed in the faith. As Pope St. John Paul II reminded us in his 1988 exhortation, Christifideles laici, the Lord asks the lay faithful to go out and bear great fruit by furthering the Church’s mission through active participation in community life. Rep. Ron Kresha — who has served in the Minnesota House of Representatives for State House District 9B since 2012 and won re-election for another term in November — is one member of the Little Falls Catholic Community who is more familiar than most with the intersection of our faith and public service. He, his wife, Wendy, and their five children are longtime parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes. While Ron has been active in local politics for about 20 years, he had never planned to make the leap to the state political arena. However, when the opportunity to run for the House of Representatives presented itself, he began a period of prayerful discernment that ultimately led him to enter the electoral race. “I took the decision to run to my faith group and also spent a lot of time in adoration to see if this was the right path,” Ron says. “I remember many times being in the adoration chapel and I kept thinking about the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus when He was praying. I kept repeating and praying that whatever path He laid out in front of me, I would take. That was my own little agony in the garden, and it wasn’t easy. I knew what that would be like for my family and what the commitment would be, so I resisted a bit, but I kept on my knees.” Today, eight years into his service in state politics, Ron continues to keep prayerful 4

Ron Kresha is familiar with the intersection of our faith and public service. He, his wife, Wendy, and their five children are longtime parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes. Ron has served in the Minnesota House of Representatives since 2012.

discernment at the center of his life in public service. When the House is in session, he typically spends 13-hour days working in the capitol, yet he still makes it a point to begin those days with early morning Mass at the cathedral. These quiet moments of prayer help Ron stay centered throughout the day. “There is so much coming at us from so many different directions, and the decisions that we make are all across the spectrum of policy and morality,” Ron says. “We get so many voices and so many people trying to sway our opinions, so being able to go to confession or to Mass at the cathedral in the morning gives me that singular voice on everything I’m going to be doing that day.” By living and serving as a faithful Catholic, Ron strives to maintain his authenticity. He does not use his faith to sway voters or for his own political gain — rather, he seeks to live his faith


HA REFLECTS ON THE INTERSECTION OF FAITH AND POLITICS and Catholic Identity at Center of His Service out each day with absolute sincerity. Thus far in his career, Ron has been heartened by the positive responses he has received. “When I’m at the capitol, I’m very open about my Catholic faith and how central that is to me,” he says. “I was worried at first that would a liability, but it has turned out to be an asset. When people rely on their faith, they’re viewed as someone who is coming from a strong foundation.” As Catholics, we are blessed with that foundation in the Church established by Christ. Having been given the great gift of faith, we are called to participate in public life in a unique way. Ron would encourage anyone interested in becoming more engaged in the political sphere to begin with something as simple as reaching out by phone or email to one of their elected officials. As a particularly divisive election year comes to a close, it is perhaps more important than ever to remember our call to work together to further the mission of the Church in our world. “I think the social justice side of the Catholic Church is very important,” says Ron. “When you look at people like Mother Teresa or Dorothy Day, our service to the poor and those that really are in difficult situations, we are called to do that. At the same time, there is a very strong calling to keep the family intact, to morality, and to giving

I think it all mixes together when you just take the time to look at it. You can be a faithful conservative who cares about social justice issues and you can also be a faithful liberal who cares about family values. These issues aren’t as disconnected as they appear to be. There is a human and a faithful side to all of us, and I like to remind people that is who we are when we go down to the capitol and make decisions.

our children a good education with the faith in our Catholic schools. “I think it all mixes together when you just take the time to look at it,” he continues. “You can be a faithful conservative who cares about social justice issues and you can also be a faithful liberal who cares about family values. These issues aren’t as disconnected as they appear to be. There is a human and a faithful side to all of us, and I like to remind people that is who we are when we go down to the capitol and make decisions.”

Ron Kresha 5


St. Mary’s • Our Lady Of Lourdes • Holy Family

Living out the Lord's Plan

in Our Area Catholic Community

continued from front cover

Little Falls. We have so many people with great faith and with generous hearts that are ready to make a difference! As stewards, we recognize that God constantly blesses us! In gratitude, we choose to respond generously with our time, talent, and treasure. In doing so, we find our greatest joy and meaning when we make our lives a gift! I was so excited in the last two months how many people came forward to do just that. They offered their time during the Advent and Christmas seasons. People volunteered to put together Christmas cards, care packages, along with personally delivering them to parishioners! People offered to decorate our churches, run our livestream equipment, and welcome guests at Christmas Masses.

Growing in the Stewardship Way of Life In efforts to grow in the stewardship way of life this last year, we did a number of things. We engaged in a comprehensive Tri-Parish survey to receive feedback and know better the needs of our community. We sent out monthly newsletters to celebrate people living the stewardship way of life. continued on page 7

Christ still calls us to live and proclaim the Gospel, and to do so with great joy! We continue to look to the Holy Spirit for wisdom as we plan, generosity as we call forth the gifts of each member, and fortitude that we may persevere in the ordering of our six parishes as one HAVEN OF MERCY Catholic community. 6


Living out the Lord's Plan

in Our Area Catholic Community We conducted a leadership retreat back in September for leaders in our parish to explore more in-depth what the stewardship way of life looks like. We are continuing to explore the stewardship way of life by beginning our parish council meetings and staff meetings with reflecting on the US Bishops Pastoral Letter: Stewardship: A Disciple's Response. We had a successful campaign to take care of the urgent needs of one of our beautiful churches. This year, we will engage in a meaningful commitment process from February into March where we will be challenged to commit time, talent, and treasure together. As an extension of our stewardship way of life, we also are called to a second focus. This involves Area Catholic Communities. Bishop Donald Kettler of the Diocese of St. Cloud has called us to collaborate with our neighboring parishes to make a new six-parish Area Catholic Community. As a Tri-Parish, we are called to collaborate with Sacred Heart in Flensburg, St. Stanislaus in Sobieski, and St. James in Randall.

Collaboration and Transition I would like to recap what has been done so far. Starting in the summer of 2019, two representatives from each of our six parishes were selected to be on an Area Catholic community committee to begin planning for the transition. We met as often as biweekly up to January of 2020 to establish goals with action steps and timelines. Seven areas of goals emerged: - Religious Education - Youth, Young Adults, and Young Families - Worship and Sacraments - Operations - Communication - Stewardship - Welcoming and Hospitality Throughout this process, we asked parishioners in our parishes for their input, including ideas for what we could call our ACC. Eventually, “Haven of Mercy” became the name of

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our Area Catholic Community. We submitted all of our goals to the Diocese of St. Cloud, where they were reviewed and approved. All of these goals are posted on our Tri-Parish website under the heading “ACC.” With the COVID pandemic, our process took a hiatus for several months as we dedicated our efforts to outreach and safety during the pandemic. Currently, we are returning to our planning process. We are adding a year to most of our timelines for our goals and action steps. We are engaging the ACC planning process because we are stewards of the material and spiritual goods of our families and parishes that make up the Haven of Mercy Catholic Community. We entrust our plans to the Lord, with the Holy Spirit to guide us on our way. We realize that our needs and concerns today are drastically different than even 20 or 10 years ago. We continue to see large changes to the demographics of our area including industry, small farms, and traditionally large family sizes. This is true for our entire Diocese of St. Cloud. We’ve also seen changes to the current situation of the number of priests in our diocese. And, while it certainly would be ideal to have one priest for every parish in our diocese, this is not a current reality. In looking forward, the Lord has a plan! We continued on back cover

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St. Mary’s • Our Lady Of Lourdes • Holy Family Parish Office: 208 West Broadway Little Falls, MN 56345 (320) 632-8243 www.littlefallscatholic.org

Living out the Lord's Plan

in Our Area Catholic Community seek to be stewards of that plan. We are reminded in Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews: “Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” What Paul implies is that Christ is no less present to us today than he was many years ago to the first Christians! Christ still calls us to live and proclaim the Gospel, and to do so with great joy! We continue to look to the Holy Spirit for wisdom as we plan, generosity as we call forth the gifts of each member, and fortitude that we may persevere in the ordering of our six parishes as one HAVEN OF MERCY Catholic community. I assure you that there will be much communication in the months ahead as we move forward with the ACC process and coming together as six parishes. As we begin this new year of 2021, we are still greatly blessed by God! Let us move forward with prayer and confidence! May God bless you and your families this new year!

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Profile for Catholic Stewardship Consultants

Little Falls Catholic Community Newsletter — February 2021