Diocese of Duluth, Minn.

Anita Draper
Catholic Herald staff

Catholics from the Diocese of Superior are invited to cross the bridge into Duluth on Thursday, Sept. 28, for a fresh look at their faith.

A new event, Theology Uncapped, will feature a discussion between a Catholic priest and a Lutheran pastor, a catered dinner and a question-and-answer period.

The Sept. 28 topic is “The Papacy: Necessary or Unnecessary?” The event is at 6:30 p.m. at St. Benedict Catholic Church, Duluth.

Deacon John Foucault, who serves St. Benedict, Duluth, and Deacon Carl Provost, of St. Rose, Proctor, (also located in the Duluth area) are among those organizing the event. While in formation, the men learned about the Argument of the Month Club, an apologetics debate that attracts 400 men to St. Augustine, in St. Paul, each month.

“Carl and I always wanted to bring this to Duluth, but we didn’t have any luck with it,” Deacon Foucault said.

In January, they launched their first attempt at a men’s group. Thirty-two men met at Dubh Linn’s Irish Pub in downtown Duluth to watch a live stream Argument of the Month debate, but poor-quality streaming compelled them to rethink the event.

At the following meeting in May, 32 men showed up to hear Fr. Steven Laflamme, a diocesan priest, give a talk on annulments.

It “kind of went okay,” Deacon Foucault said, but they were getting a lot of requests from wives and single women who wanted to participate. The organizers also hoped to grow the events into a larger, more community-wide discussion – attract people from outside their parishes – and Diocese of Duluth Bishop Paul Sirba asked them to focus on cultivating unity, rather than featuring the more divisive topics of the Argument of the Month Club.

After a bit of brainstorming, the organizers developed a new strategy for the Sept. 28 event. They elected to cover topics of interest – the September topic, the papacy, will be followed by January and April events on priestly celibacy and the role of the Virgin Mary – through a friendly armchair discussion.

They invited Fr. Richard Kunst, a Diocese of Duluth priest and the owner of the world’s largest private collection of papal artifacts, to discuss the papacy with Pastor Peter Kowitz, pastor of United Lutheran Church, Proctor, who has befriended people at the local Catholic church through ecumenical events.

“They’ve got this Christian community mindset in Proctor of working together,” said the deacon.

In addition to choosing an ecumenical topic and inviting a Lutheran presenter, the coordinators also opened the event up to women and the general public. For $20, anyone can reserve a spot – Famous Dave’s will be catering, and the cost includes beer, wine or soda and dessert – and priests are being sponsored, so they can attend for free. There will be a question-and-answer period following the discussion.

“We’d love to see multiple priests there,” Deacon Foucault said. He’s already stopped by to visit Fr. Andrew Ricci, rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior, to extend the invitation to Wisconsin Catholics.

The new format is attracting a lot of interest. So far, 120 people have registered, and Deacon Foucault said they’ll cap registrations at 150 or 175 people, depending on how many they can comfortably accommodate at St. Benedict.

They’re also building a Theology Uncapped website, and viewers who can’t make the event will be able to watch the discussion online.

Ultimately, the deacons hope the events will grow too big for St. Ben’s. They’d like to see several hundred people meet a few times a year for a discussion between a Catholic priest and a Methodist minister, for example, or between a Catholic priest and a Jewish rabbi. They want to build rapport among people of faith.

Deacon Foucault doesn’t believe that is unrealistic. The diocese’s annual men’s conference attracts 400 men, and about 250 women attend the annual women’s conference. He also sees a high level of engagement at the men’s group he runs at St. Benedict, so he’s aware there’s a desire for spiritual enrichment.

Although they have Bishop Sirba’s blessing, the event is not affiliated with the Diocese of Duluth, the deacon noted, so they aren’t drawing on diocesan time, resources or funding.

Space is filling up fast; Deacon Foucault encourages anyone interested to register soon. To reserve a spot, call Deacon Carl Provost a 218-624-4400 or email .