Roxane B. Salonen
In his 12 years at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, the Rev. James Ermer got a good grasp of the parish's personality. "They're a fairly blue-collar parish, very hard-working and dedicated, and their faith means a lot to them," says Ermer, who was pastor there from 1997 to 2009. He further categorizes the small, humble church, which sits in a residential area of south Fargo on the busy one-way 10th Street, as "proud but not pretentious."
MINNEAPOLIS — Thani Cullen couldn't believe what she was seeing. But the words, though squished together, were clear. "God is a good giver." They'd been written on an iPad by her 6-year-old son Josiah, born with a severe, non-verbal form of autism. And this, his first independent sentence, blew her away. "It was in that moment that life shifted," Cullen recalls. "Those words took us into a whole new journey, and they became our thesis statement for life."
FARGO — Growing up near Chicago, Richard Henderson delivered newspapers. But before heading out on a delivery, he'd read them, top to bottom. "Back then, in the 1960s, there was so much happening," he says. "I remember when Martin Luther King Jr. came to Chicago and was hit with a brick. For a young person, that really made an impression." Raised Lutheran, Henderson grew unsatisfied with the prominent religions' claims that they were the only true religion. "That didn't seem quite right to me," he says. "I was puzzled how they all fit together."
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Author, speaker and musician Kelly Minter wants to propose a radical idea to women when she's in Fargo next month: suffering doesn't have to be meaningless. "So many women I know are going through hardship, and often we can't make sense of it," she said through email. "Would a loving God really allow pain in our lives?"
FARGO — Many in the Red River Valley connect Austen Schauer with the former television reporter and anchor who, for three decades, gave them their dose of daily, local news. But few know the interior of the veteran media man — that he grew up a preacher's kid in California, found Christ at age 9 and as a teen, discovered a passion to mentor youth. "I've always been actively involved in the church and in ministry to kids — that's always been my heart," Schauer says.
WAHPETON, N.D. — The diamond jubilee for Sister Margaret Mary reflects that "diamonds" are truly rare. The occasion highlighting the Carmelite's 60 years as a cloistered nun point to a simple but extraordinary life of prayer, labor, living with grace in community, and singularly seeking God. Though she entered Carmel of Mary monastery at 18, Ottilia Sticka first heard the invitation in eighth grade. "The Lord gave me an inspiration to be a contemplative nun."
When Peter Mehl checked his blood pressure shortly after arriving in the Ukraine on May 11, something seemed off. "He had me take mine, because he wasn't sure it was reading right," recounts his wife, Jill, co-founder of Russian Harvest Ministries, a Christian outreach the local couple founded 25 years ago. It would be their last conversation. Just as Jill turned away to check her own blood pressure, Peter stood up, and collapsed. An autopsy showed the 61-year-old died instantly.
FARGO — When Billy Graham came to town in June 1987, Wayne Hoglund was already a Christian, but he was intrigued by meeting someone he considered a hero. "It was exciting. There was electricity in the air, and it was a holy moment," Hoglund says. "A lot of people went forward, and all those lives changed in some way." His father was one who went up for the altar call. "That was an answer to prayer," says Hoglund, who was 33 at the time, and one of many trained counselors there to assist those with questions.
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Since hearing that phrase on the playground years ago, I've learned that words can indeed hurt. But I've also discovered a secret to not allowing them to be damaging. I've been called a few zingers in my day, and I don't have to reach back to elementary school to pull them up. In a recent Facebook thread, for instance, I was labeled a "Sidewalk Pharisee."
From an early age, Susan Vitalis began grappling with God's purpose for her life. She was only a sophomore when she gave a student chapel talk at Fargo's Oak Grove High School, where her father was the campus pastor, posing questions about life. On Sunday, May 28, she'll return to her former school to give a commencement address to graduating seniors, sharing what she's learned since her own youthful time there.