Roxane B. Salonen
KINDRED, N.D. — When her daughter Carly started BIO Girls several years ago, Lori Pearson couldn't foresee how transforming it would be. But in one of the weekly sessions, Carly learned about a back-and-forth journaling process — in this case between mother and daughter — that turned a difficult time around.
FARGO — Jemima Heppner finds herself drawn to the simple, whether in food choices, parenting focus, or prayer approach. "My faith is not complicated," the 38-year-old says. "It's something a child could understand, and we'd all do best keeping it at that level, in my opinion." God is real, she says, and made us for a purpose. Though others may let us down, God won't. "I've always felt like he's watching — you can't hide anything from him — and I think you live a different life when you realize this," she says, adding, "That's a good thing."
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On the 24-hour bus ride home from our nation's capital, where she'd participated in the 45th Annual March for Life, Shanley High School junior Michaela Doescher was still processing the personal nature of this year's march theme, "Love Saves Lives." "I'm lucky to be alive," she shared through a microphone at the front of bus three, noting that her parents, teens who were young and fearful at the time of her pregnancy, had considered aborting her.
The column about my father had been submitted, but then something happened that had me changing courses. They're calling it the "Minneapolis Miracle," and I know if Dad, an avid football fan, had still been around, he'd have happily celebrated, too, this moment that had half the country screaming in shocked delight.
FARGO — He'd just returned from a thrilling elk-hunting trip out when Steve Bulat's world began to turn sideways. "I was in great shape and felt great," he says. But at 63, he knew he needed to keep the annual physical appointment his wife, Ella, then a receptionist at Sanford, had made for him. "The bloodwork didn't look right," he recalls. "They thought it might be ulcers or anemia." After some tests at Roger Maris Cancer Center in January 2015, Steve was handed a grave diagnosis — acute myeloid leukemia and an 8 percent survival rate.
FARGO — As a young boy in California, John Klocke remembers heading outside in December with his large, musical family into the grass-speckled neighborhoods to spread some Christmas-caroling cheer. "There was no snow to work around," he says, chuckling. His wife, Jan, originally of Enderlin, N.D., also came from a musical family of nine children. "I started playing organ for Mass in the seventh grade," she says, noting that her mother, a pianist and singer, introduced music to the whole family.
WAHPETON, N.D. — It was only a matter of time, perhaps, before Matthew Campbell would discover the cloister chapel as an acoustically satisfying place to practice his songs. But at some point, he began stealing away from his temporary home on the grounds of the Carmel of Mary Monastery — where the parents of his wife, Therese, work as caretakers — to the nearby chapel to sing a few refrains in a space that seemed ideal.
MOORHEAD, Minn. — God's grace — that's the only way Jason and Lynn Kotrba can sufficiently describe how it all came to be. Seven kids, after multiple miscarriages, followed by an ardent search for the perfect place to raise them — and finding it — has left them in awe. "On a good night, you can see the Northern Lights where the Mary grotto is, and you should see the sunsets in the summertime, setting on top of the trees," Jason says. "It's really every little boy's dream."
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."