Little Falls Catholic Community Newsletter — June/July 2022

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Little Falls

Catholic Community

Meet Parishioner

Owen Talberg

Joyfully Embracing a Lifelong Commitment to the Faith


wen Talberg would say there was a time in his life when he took the faith for granted. Now as he prepares for college at St. John’s University, Owen is making an intentional choice to keep his faith. “The faith has a certain power, but at some point as you grow up, you have to decide if you’re going to keep the faith or not,” Owen says. “Going to Catholic elementary and middle school has helped me keep my faith in high school and as I prepare for college.” Owen has been a lifelong member of St. Mary’s, where he was baptized, and he attended Mary of Lourdes through middle school. “It’s easy to stay connected to God when you’re attending Catholic school,” Owen says. “I would like to thank all the teachers from Mary of Lourdes. They did such an amazing job and were major advocates for God and the faith, and I understand more now how that’s a very hard thing to do in today’s world.”

Owen Talberg

When Owen began attending Little Falls Community High School, he did his best to stay in touch with all the things he felt he had left behind at Catholic school. This included being an altar server for Mass, as well as at weddings and funerals.


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

“Stewardship” The


True Meaning of the Word

here is a stigma attached to the word “stewardship” in some Catholic parishes, likely because many pastors and parish leaders mistakenly equate stewardship to money. But a true steward knows that couldn’t be further from the truth. Stewardship is a biblical principle that has nothing to do with money. Nineteen of the main parables of Christ relate directly to stewardship. And, in those parables when Christ speaks of stewardship, He never mentions raising money. Surprised? Stewardship simply means being grateful for all of God’s blessings. Everything we have — each breath we take on earth, the tremendous talents we possess, and our ability to earn income to sustain ourselves — all stem from God. We come into the world with nothing and we leave with nothing. Recognizing this and being grateful for our bountiful blessings is the first step of stewardship. Once these realizations fall into place, we are then eager to find a way to respond to God’s generosity and embark upon a stewardship way of life. And stewardship is just that, a way of life. It is not like a TV show to which you can tune in whenever the mood strikes and shut off when you are no longer interested. It is truly a way of living. Yet, the mere word “stewardship” has gotten a bad rap over the years — and not just by us laypeople. According to the late stewardship pioneer Msgr. Thomas McGread, when a pastor speaks about money during his homily, 75 percent of the congregation immediately stops listening. However, did you know that tithing is mentioned in the Old Testament 39 times and in the New Testament 11 times? Tithing is biblically based, and it simply means to give a portion of our gifts back to God. In 1992, when the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops were forming the Pastoral Letter on Stewardship, they originally didn’t want to title it Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response. “Instead, they wanted to just call it 'A Disciple’s 2

Response,' with the reason being that they felt stewardship meant money,” said Msgr. McGread before his passing in April 2013. “I convinced them at the time that ‘stewardship’ is a biblical term and it is our job to explain what a steward is. Before the Pastoral Letter, most of us didn’t understand the spiritual dimension of stewardship.” So, how do we go about sharing the spiritual dimensions of stewardship with fellow parishioners and lay leaders? First of all, Msgr. McGread cited the importance of being hospitable and discovering the needs of parishioners. He felt that when parishioners were welcomed and their needs were met, they were fulfilled and felt a sense of belonging to their parish. This, in turn, creates ownership. Once parishioners felt like they were part of the parish, they wanted to respond by sharing their time, talent, and treasure to help make it the best parish community possible. And, as parishioners support their parish with all of their resources out of gratitude, the entire parish blossoms. Prayers increase, ministries grow, and yes, the offertory increases. These blessings are natural outcomes of living a stewardship way of life and they are why we must always remember the true meaning of the word “stewardship.”

Stewardship simply means being grateful for all of God’s blessings. Everything we have — each breath we take on earth, the tremendous talents we possess, and our ability to earn income to sustain ourselves — all stem from God. We come into the world with nothing and we leave with nothing.

A Letter From Our Pastor

Our Lives are Filled With

Examples of Good Stewardship My Dear Friends in Christ,


e do not have to look very hard to find examples of stewardship in our lives. It starts right here in our own parish. Think of the people who serve us in so many ways. There is a group of wonderful people who are here at the parish, sometimes every day, helping to make our faith community operate effectively, especially in terms of worship and liturgy. Then, of course, there are those who serve tirelessly and selflessly with our many parish ministries, which reach out to those around us — to those in need. This kind of service — discipleship — is exactly what Christ was saying when He told us to “love your neighbor.” Think of others in our Church, our communities, and our lives who show us what it means to be a good steward. One of the first who comes to mind is our Holy Father, Pope Francis. His very life is a testament to what it means to serve — to be a good steward. In one of his homilies, the pope said, “Real power is service. Jesus reminded us ‘He came not to be served, but to serve,’ and His service was the service of the Cross. For the Christian, getting ahead — progress — means humbling oneself. If we do not learn this Christian rule, we will never, ever be able to understand Jesus’ true message.” That is

my message for both you and me — we must be willing, at times, to put our own comfort and desires aside for the needs of others. That is what true stewardship is all about. Summer is upon us — we are entering that time of year when things slow down a bit, and we tend to live life at a more relaxed pace. Nevertheless, it is not a time to let our faith lives slow down. In fact, it is a great time to enrich and focus on our faith and our God. God’s creation is all around us. As we enjoy the summer season and bask in the sun, I hope you will take time to remember the wonders of His creation and His glorious gifts. We also must strive to renew our efforts to be good stewards every day by continuing to serve others and to be thankful for the many living examples of stewardship we see at our parish and in our daily lives. Sincerely yours in Christ,

Fr. Ben Kociemba, Pastor


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

Youth Ministry


Providing Young Parishioners w


The Youth Ministry offers a safe place for young Catholics to have fun and practice the faith together.

Pizza, bonfire, snacks, outdoor games, ultimate frisbee and a movie — these activities and more were part of the middle and high school youth group kickoff held in late May for students in sixth to 12th grade.

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izza, bonfire, snacks, outdoor games, ultimate frisbee, and a movie — what time should we show up? These activities and more were part of the middle and high school youth group kickoff held in late May for students in sixth to 12th grade. About 70 students attended the event, which was an opportunity to restart the youth group again following a hiatus due to staffing and the pandemic. Dawn and Lance Knopik decided to take over leading the youth group until someone can be hired for the position. “Just the fact that we had 70 attend shows the need for youth group in our parishes,” Dawn says. Lance and Dawn have six children — five are teenagers. They know the importance of this ministry for our parish youth. They both teach CCD, so they know many of the youth already. They restarted this ministry by holding parent meetings to get buy-in and help. They knew they couldn’t do this alone. For now, the Knopiks are working on summer activities, which include a 6 p.m. Wednesday night Bible study, followed by volleyball at Holy Family. Volleyball runs from 7 to 9 p.m. Playing a sport isn’t the first activity that comes to mind to grow in faith, but Lance and Dawn know it’s important in building friendships and creating a safe space. “It’s important as we are starting this up again that we evangelize,” Dawn says. “It’s about getting the youth here and getting them involved.” “By playing a sport together, they get to interact with each other in a Christian setting,” Lance says. Dawn and Lance both know, from raising their children, the importance of surrounding yourself with good people — it’s a bonus if they have the same faith background. As part of youth ministry programming, Deacon


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umes Activities,

with Safe Place to Share in Faith Craig Korver took a group to the Steubenville Youth Conference last summer. Lance and Dawn will take three of their children to the conference in Rochester. Eighteen youth total from our parishes are attending. The Knopiks hope youth will get involved in youth ministry this summer and bring their friends — it’s a safe place to have fun and practice the Catholic faith. “There are so many outside influences,” Dawn says. “I tell kids at CCD and school that Catholic teaching is so counter-cultural. Society says you should do this, but we are here to tell you it’s not okay. This is an environment where they can have fun with their friends and be safe in what we believe, in our faith, and in our morals.”

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Meet Parishioner Owen Talberg “Altar serving was the biggest thing for me,” he says. “I can physically contribute to God’s grace in a simple way by helping our priests and deacons. I still serve and my little brother does too. I hope he continues doing that as I head off to college.” Owen’s stepdad actually attributes his interest in the Catholic faith to Owen’s serving as an altar server. “My stepdad has really been an advocate for my relationship with God,” Owen says. “He used to take me to Mass to serve and would watch and listen. Now he has received his Confirmation and entered the Church.” During this last summer before college begins, Owen has been attending a men’s Bible study on Saturday mornings. The experience has been particularly impactful for him as he hears multiple perspectives from men in the faith community. “I’ve been listening and seeing the ways they’re handling different situations in life and their different points of view,” he says. “I love that group because there is always a sense of being there to help each other make sure we don’t lose sight of God.” Owen would like to thank his grandmother


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for always being there for him and his faith community for helping him keep the faith into his adult life. He encourages young adults to find different opportunities to be involved in the parish. “Commit to something, even if it’s just going and being involved in Sunday Mass,” Owen says. “There is always going to be that fear of judgment and that people don’t understand what believing in God means. Don’t be afraid of that. At some point in the future, you’ll look back and see how your faith life and your relationship with God have changed because you were committed.”

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

Tune in to the New

Haven of Mercy Podcast

Sylvia Erwin Shares Talents on YouTube

“In the world of YouTube, 100 viewers isn’t a lot, but I think even just one view is exciting if it makes a difference in someone’s life. It’s fulfilling to see what it’s doing for others.” — Sylvia Erwin


here’s a common misconception among recently confirmed teens that they are done learning and growing in their Catholic faith. That couldn’t be further from the truth. When Sylvia Erwin received the Sacrament of Confirmation this spring, she did the opposite — she started looking for ways to learn, spread her faith and help the community. “The bishop told us that our faith journey doesn’t end at Confirmation,” Sylvia says. “It’s a new beginning.” Sylvia took that advice to heart and started thinking about how she could use her gifts to impact our Haven of Mercy Catholic community. She has a knack for public speaking and decided on a podcast, appropriately titled "Haven of Mercy" podcast. It’s posted to the Little Falls Catholic YouTube channel. Sylvia, an incoming senior and member of Our Lady of Lourdes, cohosts with Jackie Retka. They plan to regularly bring in guests. “I wanted to use my gifts from the Holy Spirit,” Sylvia says. “I have a clear and firm voice. I literally came up with eB erus ot kceh tuo eht 6

ycreM fo n vaH

this idea at 2 a.m. one morning. I also thought this would be an easy way to grow closer in faith.” The podcasts are about 20 minutes long, and a new one will be posted each Tuesday. So far, they’ve covered adoration — with Sylvia’s grandma, Jan Erwin, as a guest — and the Rosary. “Technology is so convenient nowadays, and there’s so much out there,” Sylvia says. “It can be hard to prioritize your faith.” This is one goal of the podcast — to help listeners grow in faith. “In the world of YouTube, 100 viewers isn’t a lot, but I think even just one view is exciting if it makes a difference in someone’s life,” Sylvia says. “It’s fulfilling to see what it’s doing for others.” Sylvia has many ideas for the tsacdop no eht elt iL sl aF cilohtaC ebuT oY .len ahc

weekly podcast, where she will typically bring in a guest. She wants to discuss stewardship, retreats, conversion stories, religious life, and more. “This is my baby right now,” she says. “It’s impacted my faith already. It’s so inspiring to hear what people are passionate about. This fills my life right now.” Sylvia also credits a past Steubenville retreat for helping her make her faith her own. She attended again with a local group this July. “Steubenville was when I started wanting to take the personal initiative to grow in faith, not just check off boxes,” she says. “I was starting to choose how I wanted my faith to be, and it became way greater than it was before.”

T he Importance


Loving God

More Deeply at Mass W

hen young people see a person that intrigues them, that attraction becomes the topic of conversation at every opportunity. This attraction alters behavior so that we become enthralled with the other and desire to share our enthusiasm. Imagine if we were more enthralled with the presence of Christ in our lives. Imagine if we fully recognized that Christ is truly present to us in His precious Body and Blood, and present as well in the proclamation of His Word and in the gathering of our community, praying and singing (see Sacrosanctum Concilium [Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy], para. 14). Recognizing the living Christ in all these ways would awaken in us the desire to be with the One who is the object of our most fundamental, pure, and holy attraction to our merciful, loving, and gracious Savior. If we were to recognize the presence of Christ in these beautiful ways, wouldn’t our desire to be more completely in His presence increase? Surely our desire to be better stewards of our time with the Lord would grow. Our attention to the readings and other prayers of the Mass would bring about within us deeper communion with the One who suffered and died for us. If I recognized that God is the answer to all my pangs of hunger, that Christ is my way to the Father, and that the Holy Spirit works to convert my heart and soul every day, would I not seek to fill that hunger at the banquet of the Lamb? While active participation in Sunday Mass is an obligation for Catholics, we also will do well to see the lovely, motherly care the Church shows us in establishing that requirement. The Code of Canon Law states clearly in paragraph 1247,

“On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass.” Sometimes, we might hear that as an overbearing rule. But it might more correctly be understood as our Mother, the Church, helping us learn what is best for us. At Mass, we hear the living Word of God proclaimed. He speaks to us. We receive as hungry, needy sinners, the precious Body and Blood of Christ. We encounter Christ’s living presence in our brothers and sisters worshiping God with us. If we truly understood that amazing truth, then how might it affect our lives? How might it affect our relationships? How might it impact our decision to bring our children along to Mass? How might it awaken within us a deeper attraction, fascination, desire for the Lord? Generally, when we find ourselves fascinated with someone, we do not decide to spend as little time as possible with them. We do not ration our time with them. We want to spend time with them, to see them, to listen to them, to get to know them, to develop a healthy, loving relationship with them. Considering our reliance on the Lord of life and love, our fascination with His mercy, His goodness, His willingness to call us to Himself, maybe we should ask ourselves about what happens in us at Mass. As I prepare to come to Church, do I find my mind turning to a receptive welcome of the Lord, just as I’ll be welcomed at the door of Church? Have I dressed for the important weekly (or daily) moment of meeting my King? Do I expect some profound wisdom from God in the readings? Am I open to correction, to challenge, to affirmation in the readings of God’s continued on back cover


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

The Importance of Loving God More Deeply at Mass continued from page 7

Word? Do I intently pray along with the priest presider throughout the Mass? Do I make an offering of my life, along with the bread and wine? Do I genuinely hunger for the Body and Blood of Christ? And do I long for that blessing that sends me on my way with the mission to build the Kingdom? Instead of worrying about what “counts” when it comes to Sunday Mass, maybe we should work hard at fostering our love for the Eucharist, our desire for eternal life, our attraction to the Master who calls us into a life of active discipleship. Instead of a merely heavy-handed requirement, maybe we can see more clearly that being at Mass together helps nourish us for a whole week of building God’s Kingdom. Coming with those expectations, desires, and hopes, leaving early when unnecessary would disappear as a temptation instantly. Coming late because other things have taken priority would not typically happen, other obligations notwithstanding. Christ desires our company at Mass, from beginning to end. Let’s draw near to Him.