Local effort leads to new clinic in Haiti

[sub]Spires of Faith Cluster and St. Jude, C.R. share medical mission[/sub]

The following is an update from the Haiti Committee of St. Francis Xavier Basilica, part of the Spires of Faith Cluster, in Dyersville.

Boy saving coinsVisiting our sister parish in Fond Verrettes, Haiti in February 2013, the St. Francis Xavier Haiti Team from Dyersville was told that Sister Evena was leaving Fond Verrettes after 17 years of staffing a small medical clinic for the people of the area. Sister delivered babies, and held weekly clinics for expectant mothers, new mothers and babies. She distributed food to help counteract malnutrition which is a major health issue in Haiti.

In her small clinic, with a limited supply of medications, Sister cared for patients seven days a week. She was their Mother Teresa. Our Xavier Parish was very concerned about how the departure of Sister Evena would impact the health of the people.

Seeing a great medical need

In July 2013, a medical team, organized through St. Jude’s Parish in Cedar Rapids held a three-day clinic in Fond Verrettes. The severity of the illnesses they saw those three days was shocking. Their leader, Tony Bedard, reported that in his many years of taking medical teams to El Salvador, he had never encountered so many extremely ill patients. Then in February 2014 Xavier’s Haiti Team held an eye clinic during their week’s visit and also witnessed the dire need for medical treatment for hundreds. Returning to Iowa, the 12 team members from the Spires of Faith Cluster wrote their personal reflections on the trip.

Given the report from Tony and hearing what our team encountered in their visit, gave the Xavier Haiti Committee the determination to make a new clinic a reality. We knew we had to try and when our parishioners read the reflections team members shared, their hearts were touched and donations began to pour in even before there were organized efforts at raising money.

Creative ways of raising funds

A Care and Share collection in September 2013 served as a good jump start when it netted $4,533. Our fundraising continued with Deacon Jim Steger from our cluster running in the Des Moines Marathon in October 2013. That marathon raised $17,000 which was a fantastic start.

Then in January 2014 the archdiocese offered the Harvest of Blessings Matching Funds Grant. St. Francis Xavier wrote their request for medical supplies and medications for the clinic and St. Joseph’s in Earlville wrote theirs for equipment for the clinic. Both parishes received the $500 matching grant. With matching funds, that gave our cluster another $2,000. The next big boost came when our pastor, Father Dennis Quint, suggested that the Spires of Faith Cluster Parishes choose the clinic as their Lenten almsgiving project.

What began as 1,700 empty milk cartoons donated by Prairie Farms Dairy in Dubuque, ended with members of the five parishes filling those cartons with money to the tune of over $26,000 by the time Easter arrived.

The final effort was on May 31, 2014, when our committee sponsored the first Annual 5K Run 4 Haiti Medical Clinic. There were 112 people registered and the profits, including donations, totaled $4,528. All of these dollars along with a few other significant contributions, meant our dream of a medical clinic was becoming a reality!

With help from the Harvest of Blessing Grant, an exam bed, a baby crib, and 12 boxes of supplies for the clinic were sent to our sister parish on the Parish Twinning Sea Container in March. Medications will be taken to the clinic by four parishioners when they attend the dedication of St. Clare Center of Holy Cross Parish on Sept. 14, 2014, which is the feast of the Holy Cross, our parish’s feast day. Plans are to purchase, in Haiti, a generator, a locked medicine cabinet, and other equipment for the new clinic. Those grant dollars, combined with the generosity of our cluster parishioners who gave their financial support to the marathon, the 5K run, and the Lenten milk carton project helped us reach an unbelievable total of $60,000. God is good!

With the clinic now established, the next hurdle we faced was that of finding qualified personnel to staff it. Fortunately, Father Lubermann, the pastor at Holy Cross, knew of two Haitian nurses from the area who have their nursing certificates and are willing to share the nursing responsibilities on a 24/7 basis. They will be ready to start following the dedication in September. Two houseboys will help with the labor details and provide security for the nurse on duty. Plans are to hire a doctor and a dentist to hold clinics there 2-3 days each month also.

An ongoing connection

We have felt God’s helping hand and the overwhelming generosity of the five parishes in our Spires of Faith Cluster in this challenging endeavor. Father Lubermann and the people he serves at several parishes are so excited and see a more hopeful future now that medical care will be available. Just hours before writing this article, we received word that a young pregnant mother and her baby both died as Father was trying to get them to a clinic hours away for help with a difficult delivery. We are hoping that with the new clinic, no other mother and baby will have to die because of lack of medical care. Together we can make a difference!! Merci! Merci! Merci!

Paying Tribute to Your Parents

Are you looking for a unique way to celebrate your parents this Mother’s or Father’s Day? Certainly there are many ways to do this, but have you considered writing a tribute that thanks and honors them for what they did well in raising you?

It gives you pause to think seriously about the ways you owe them your gratitude and it will certainly surprise and celebrate them! Even if you have issues with your parents, there are surely things you learned from them or ways they made you the person you are today.

Don’t wait until it is too late to show them what they mean and how you are grateful. It has the potential to change your entire family’s life! Encourage everyone in  your family to participate.

Wherever you are in your relationship with your parents, I encourage you to write a tribute.

When it is finished, have it framed and present it personally so that you can see your parent’s reaction. It may be one of the most profound, mysterious, and incredible experiences of your entire life.

A Christian

Several years ago, a pastor from out of state accepted a call in Texas. Some weeks after he arrived, he had an occasion to ride the bus from his home to the downtown area. When he sat down, he discovered that the driver had accidentally given him a quarter too much change. As he considered what to do, he thought to himself, ‘You better give the quarter back. It would be wrong to keep it.’ Then he thought, ‘Oh, forget it, it’s only a quarter. Who would worry about this little among? Accept it as a gift from God and keep quiet.’


When his stop came, he paused momentarily at the door, and then he handed the quarter to the driver and said, ‘Here, you gave me too much change…’


The driver, with a smile, replied, ‘Aren’t you the new pastor in town?’


‘Yes’ he replied.


‘Well, I have been thinking a lot lately about going somewhere to worship I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change. I’ll see you at church on Sunday.’


When the pastor stepped off of the bus, he literally grabbed the nearest light pole, held on, and said, ‘Oh God, I almost sold your Son for a quarter.’


Our lives are the only Bible some people will ever read. This is a really scary example of how much people watch us as Christians, and will put us to the test! Always be on guard – and remember – you carry the name of Christ on your shoulders when you call yourself ‘Christian.’

Getting to know Mark Murphy

[sub]Marion Navy vet’s new mission is to be a priest[/sub]

By Dan Russo | Witness Staff Writer

Mark Murphy is pictured near Alaska on Arctic Ocean ice during his Navy service on a submarine. The top of the sub is in the background. (Contributed photo.)
Mark Murphy is pictured near Alaska on Arctic Ocean
ice during his Navy service on a submarine. The top of the sub is in the background. (Contributed photo.)

Even when he was a busy Naval officer on a nuclear sub, Mark Murphy found time to contemplate the divine.

“At times on the submarine, I was able to drive on the surface at night,” he recalled. “Sometimes I would think of God, especially if the weather was nice,

allowing me to soak in the beauty of my surroundings. One could see the vastness of the ocean and the immensity of the star-filled sky. Creation was powerful, and God had created this all. And He had particularly created me, and I had a role to play.”

After a long spiritual voyage, the 34-year-old native of Marion will be one of three men ordained to the priesthood in the Dubuque Archdiocese June 28.

Murphy is the youngest of Mary and the late Michael Murphy’s three children. He and his older siblings, Sandra and John, grew up as members of St. Joseph’s Parish in his hometown. He first felt gently drawn to be a priest in high school after a friend invited him to a rosary prayer group. That interest didn’t become strong until he was a student at Iowa State University in Ames, where he became involved in the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Student Center.

“I got to know priests, campus ministers, and other students who made their faith a fundamental part of their lives,” said Murphy. “And also, by getting to know the priests, I saw a more human side of them. One of the priests there liked the band Pearl Jam and so did I. One of the priests was a Cardinals fan while I like the Cubs …. I could see myself doing what they do.”

During his time in college, he was introduced to spiritual direction, a priest discernment group and more meditative prayer, which helped deepen his relationship with God. He was also involved in the Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and had an obligation after he graduated. Murphy joined the military because he wanted to serve his country, be part of something bigger than himself and see the world.

“So many in the past had sacrificed for me, so I felt an obligation to be willing to sacrifice for others if need be,”said Murphy.

He found what he was looking for in the Navy, spending five years there. As a junior officer on submarines for about three- and-a-half years, his jobs varied from assisting the engineer with chemistry and radiological controls to being in charge of the radio room and external communications.

Although he kept in touch with the archdiocesan vocations director, becoming a priest wasn’t at the forefront of his mind at that point. Towards the end of his time in the military, he again encountered people whose faith was vital to them and resumed his practice of regular prayer.

“Although I’m proud I served in the Navy, I don’t think I was made to be a submariner,” said Murphy. “I cherished the opportunities when we were at port and I could go to midday Mass at the chapel on the submarine base. It was a world away. For a few moments, I left the busyness of thein-port submarine and entered the transcendence of God coming to us in Mass. The contrast had an attractiveness to it which drew me to the Mass and to God.”

By the time, he returned to civilian life, his desire to be a priest was stronger than ever. He saw many parallels between his ideal of sacrifice for his country and the role of a priest serving God and his people.

“I hope to honor God by sacrificing out of imitation of Jesus and love of Him,” reflected Murphy.He spent two years at St. Pius X Seminary at Loras

College in Dubuque before spending an additional four years at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.  Witnessing the election of Pope Francis up close from St. Peter’s Square had a profound impact.


‘“Pope Francis asked us to pray for him,” wrote Murphy of the experience. “He bowed down. The square and the surrounding neighborhood, which only minutes ago was very loud with joy, was now silent. I was (so) touched by this silence … I had to remind myself to pray for him. Being present at this moment in history is probably what I’ll remember most about my priestly formation.”

Being ordained a transitional deacon last year was also a significant event for Murphy. When he later had the chance to baptize the baby of his friends over Christmas break, it further re-enforced the joy in his vocation. “It was an intimate moment for me to actually baptize the daughter of my friends, though we were in front of a large crowd. I was focused on them and their daughter, and, in a sense, by performing the baptism, I participated in their lives in a different way.”

Murphy recommends anyone considering the priesthood or religious life to pray, talk to people with the same vocation being considered and also learn about the saints. No stranger to the sea, he is excited to begin casting his net as a fisherman for Christ.

“I think a great gift of being a priest is the vocation of helping people to encounter God,” he said. “I look forwardmost to helping people meet our loving Lord in their own lives.”



What they’re saying about Mark

Mary Murphy, Mark’s mother:

When Mark was baptized as an infant by Father Keith Birch (back in 1979), Father Birch laid our little son on the altar of St. Joseph’s Church in Marion and asked God to protect him and provide for Mark a life filled with blessings. At that time, Mark’s maternal grandmother looked at me and said, “Perhaps

this child will be a priest.” I feel Mark’s desire to serve Christ was fostered by many friends (young and not so young), relatives, and the good people he met at St. Joseph’s, the former Regis High School, and Iowa State University. Mark’s best qualities are kindness, caring, generosity, a rare sense of humor, and confidentiality. Now Mark will be placed once again at the altar. He will prostrate himself before God, his archbishop, and those in attendance at St. Raphael’s Cathedral. As I was moved by Father Birch’s prayer for one-month-old Mark, I too will be moved on ordination day, knowing with all certainty the Holy Spirit will descend down upon Mark, blessing him to walk in the way of the Gospel and to share Christ’s light.

Pat Murphy, Mark’s aunt:

I remember when Mark was young he was very disciplined. In fact, he wouldn’t even eat a hamburger if the ketchup was cold. Mark’s ketchup had to be at room temperature. Being a dietitian, I liked things kept under refrigeration, but for Mark a bottle ketchup was kept on the counter. When Mark was in high school, I knew things had changed. I stayed with the family when Mary O. (Mark’s mom) had surgery. One morning Mark and a friend were doing homework. It wasn’t science or chemistry or math, it was their religion assignment. As I was listening to the boys discuss the history of religion, I knew it wasn’t “homework” they were doing; it was discovering Christ and how it had affected and would affect their lives. That’s when I really knew what Mark wanted to do with his life. In the Navy, Mark traveled around the world, but Iowa, including the Archdiocese of Dubuque, is where he wants to spend his life.

Tom Murphy, Mark’s uncle:

We are so proud of Mark and what he has accomplished. He has been through so much in the last few years. We believe Mark will be a tremendous priest and I will mention just one of his many fine traits. Mark is blessed with the quality of being an excellent listener. When you speak with Mark, you know you have his full attention and interest. He hears you and asks questions so he knows that he understands what you are saying. He is so full of empathy and compassion. I am reminded of the passage in the Prayer of St. Francis when I think of Mark; ”Grant that I may seek not so much to be understood as to understand.” Congratulations, Mark, on your ordination! We wish you a long and blessed life in the priesthood.

Tom & Sue O’Leary, Mark’s uncle and aunt:

Mark we are so proud of you on your very special day. You will be a wonderful priest. God bless you!

Tara Gibney, friend:

Since I’ve known him, Mark has grown, gone through career changes, been around the world – but the core to who he is as a person has never changed. Mark has been the most authentic and selfless person I’ve ever met. He has a deep understanding of Church doctrine and history, but has a way of translating it to everyday life and helping others relate to it. Mark has a sense of humor – subtle in nature, but intelligently side-splitting funny. I hope he can weave that into his homilies from time to time!



Personal preferences

Favorite meal: Pizza

Favorite pro sport and team: MLB, Chicago Cubs, but follows Iowa and Iowa State sports more than the pros.

Favorite saint: St. Mark

Favorite quote: “Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)

Favorite book: Histories

Favorite movie: Rocky IV & The Karate Kid

Favorite subject in school: History


Getting to know Jeffrey Dole

[sub]Pella native sensed call while attending ISU[/sub]

By Steve McMahon | Witness Staff Writer

Over Christmas break in 2011, Jeff Dole traveled to the Holy Land with a group of priests and seminarians. The group spent time on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and then in the holy city of Jerusalem. They stopped along the banks of the Jordan River, with Jeff touching the river's waters, above. “It was amazing to be in the places where Jesus was and actually touch the surroundings in which so much of the history of our salvation took place,” he stated. (Contributed photo)
Over Christmas break in 2011, Jeff Dole traveled to the Holy Land with a group of
priests and seminarians. The group spent time on the shores of the Sea of Galilee
and then in the holy city of Jerusalem. They stopped along the banks of the Jordan
River, with Jeff touching the river’s waters, above. “It was amazing to be in the
places where Jesus was and actually touch the surroundings in which so much of
the history of our salvation took place,” he stated. (Contributed photo)

DUBUQUE — Jeffrey A. Dole, 29, a fourth-year theologian at North American College in Rome, is one of three Dubuque Archdiocesan seminarians who will be ordained to the priesthood on Saturday, June 28, 2014, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Raphael Cathedral, 231 Bluff St., Dubuque.


Following ordination he will celebrate his first Mass in Christ the King Chapel at Loras College before returning to his home parish of St. Mary’s in Pella the following weekend.


A graduate of Pella High School (2003) and Iowa State University (2008), Jeff attended Loras College before heading to Rome. He is the son of Alan and Patty Dole of Pella.


Jeff has two siblings, who are both married: a younger brother, Jason and Michelle, and an older sister, Jenn and Eric Thompson. His degree from Iowa State is in civil engineering.


While in Ames, he was a member of St. Thomas Aquinas Church and Catholic Student Center. There he became increasingly active in the Catholic Student


“Through prayer, at Mass, from books, or even in conversations over coffee, the idea of coming to know my vocation — that unique call from the Lord — became my heart’s greatest desire,” he stated. “At first, I was determined to hear a vocation in marriage, but prayer and discernment increasingly revealed a great peace and joy about the prospect of being called to be a priest.”


As graduation approached, he began to discern his vocation, wanting more and more to become who the Lord was calling him to be.


“With the help of friends and family and the priests at STA, I entered into the seminary in the fall of 2008 and began my formation at St. Pius X Seminary at Loras College,” he explained. He had summer assignments as a seminarian in the following parishes: St. Joseph’s in Marion, St. Cecilia’s in Ames, and the Spires of Faith Cluster in Dyersville, Earlville, New Vienna, Petersburg, and Worthington.


After completing his philosophy (pre-theology) studies at Loras in 2010, he began studying theology at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He was ordained to the transitional diaconate in October 2013.


In his free time, he enjoys reading, watching movies, playing games, and “doing most anything fun.” Jeff describes the role of the priest as becoming “hidden in Christ,” “being so completely given to Christ that his light and his love might shine through you into the world; that his grace might be poured out onto others; and that his body, the church, might be built up. “The priest is a shepherd of his people and a servant to all,” he continued. “He is a mirror in which faith, hope and love are found.”


Jeff says the main motivation leading him towards the priesthood was a nagging heart to know and follow God’s will, followed by a sense of peace in responding to that longing, what he believes was the Holy Spirit. Accompanying that desire was what he calls “a greater craving for deepened prayer, greater knowledge, silenced reflection, and a richer devotion to God and to the service of others.”


For others discerning a religious vocation, Jeff recommends approaching the question honestly in prayer, not being hesitant because of feelings of doubt or disbelief but trusting always in the Lord. He suggests talking to a priest openly and “It is important to remember that God calls everyone to a unique vocation,” he said. “By opening ourselves to his call, only good can come of it: deepened faith, greater knowledge of ourselves, and a better world.”


What they’re saying about Jeff

Jared Bartel of La Crosse, Wis., friend:

I met Jeff at St Thomas Aquinas Church during undergrad at Iowa State. During our Antioch retreat days, I became endeared to his goofy sense of humor and his engineering mind. We both had plenty of nerd in us and thought graphing calculators and equations were our future. After Jeff convinced me to join his G.K. Chesterton book club, I saw something different calling him. I was struggling through our readings in “Orthodoxy,” with much of it going over my head, but I was sure to make each meeting because I wanted to listen to Jeff. His passion and spirit for philosophy and apologetics were mesmerizing. I ate it up. Jeff, you will be a great shepherd. You always lift my mood and make me feel important. I have no doubt you will positively affect many lives. Congratulations!

Daniel DeHaan of Pella, friend:

I have been a close friend of Jeff Dole since high school, and I have always known him to be a great witness to the Christian faith for his family, friends, and the many\ strangers he greets and converses with. Jeff is a friend to whom I owe many things, but I shall always be eternally in his debt for those years during my undergraduate studies when I first began considering converting to Roman Catholicism. At that time, Jeff had just started discerning for the priesthood and it was during those years that Jeff pastored me and helped to shape the beginning of my personal inquiry into the truth of the Catholic Church. A number of years later, he was present at my confirmation into the Catholic Church, and I very much look forward to being present when this man of God becomes a Roman Catholic priest next week.

Neve Dole of Milwaukee, Wis., 11-year-old cousin:

Jeff is intelligent, generous and a very funny man. He is a good cousin who likes to play video games with my brothers and me. I know for sure that his dream has come true of being a priest. And maybe he will even be the pope someday!


Andy and Jean Dole of Milwaukee, Wis., uncle/godfather and aunt:

Seventeen years ago, Jeff was an altar server in our wedding. A fun-loving, freckled-faced, middle-schooler, he was serious about his role that day. Over the years, despite the distance from Pella to Milwaukee, we have watched Jeff grow into the man he is today — a kind and loving son/brother/uncle, energetic in his faith, and deeply committed to serving God. Blessed to be in Rome for Jeff’s diaconate; it was a truly moving experience to see the Holy Spirit at work. We are excited to see where Jeff’s ministry takes him in the years ahead. Jeff’s faith will make this world a better place.

Father William Joensen, priest of archdiocese, Loras College professor:

“From the first time I met Jeff in the philosophy classroom and seminary conferences at Loras, to time spent indulging our mutual appreciation for Cyclone athletics, I quickly came to appreciate how his affable manner, his way of setting other people at ease, and his humble faith all complemented a very agile mind that can relate the mystery of Jesus Christ to all sorts of folks in pastoral and professional settings. After his seminary placement at my home parish, St. Cecilia in Ames, my only concern is that now my parents love him more than me!



Personal preferences

Favorite meal: Grilled steak, mashed potatoes, and corn.

Favorite pro sport and team: NHL hockey, the Colorado Avalanche.

Favorite subject in school: Math, but I’m required to say that. My dad was not only a 7th-grade math teacher, he was my 7th-grade math teacher.

Favorite saint: St. Raphael the Archangel. The patron of the archdiocese, my confirmation saint, and a great guide for the way.

Favorite quote: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” G.K. Chesterton, “What’s Wrong with the World.”

Favorite book: “Orthodoxy” (1908) by Gilbert Keith Chesterson.

Last word: I’d like to thank every one for their support throughout seminary and look forward to serving them as a priest of Jesus Christ!





Getting to know Kyle Digmann

[sub]Priesthood: ‘How I desire to give my life to God’[/sub]

By Dan Russo | Witness Staff Writer

Digmann, pictured with an African child, worked with the Missionaries of Charity during his priestly formation. He lived in Africa with the religious order Mother Teresa founded helping orphans, the disabled and the elderly. (Contributed photo)
Digmann, pictured with an African child, worked with the Missionaries of Charity
during his priestly formation. He lived in Africa with the religious order Mother
Teresa founded helping orphans, the disabled and the elderly. (Contributed photo)

While growing up in Scotch Grove and Monticello, Kyle Digmann wasn’t a big fan of being in school. If you told him as a teenager that he would make it through a decade of academic training after high school, including six years in seminary, he probably wouldn’t have believed you.


“I think my freshman year in high school I told my mom, I didn’t plan on going to college,” recalled the 28-year-old. “I was going to get on-the-job

training (as an electrician) or something and she convinced me to go to Kirkwood (Community College) and maybe get a technical degree. That’s when I thought, maybe I want to be a teacher.”


On June 28, Digmann will be one of the three new priests ordained for the Dubuque Archdiocese.


“God kind of pulled my heart to the seminary, so it’s been 10 years of a post-secondary education that I never wanted to do in the first place!” he said with a laugh.


As a boy, Digmann was an altar server at his home parish, Sacred Heart in Monticello. His parents, Craig Digmann and Bobbie Jo Purnell, raised him Catholic. His faith-life entered a new phase when he transferred to the University of Northern Iowa, where he became part of St. Stephen the Witness Catholic Student Center.


“Little by little my faith became more my own, because if I didn’t do it, nobody else was going to make me do it,” said Digmann. “I started talking to the priest that was there, Father Ken Glaser. Even when I was dating at the time, he asked me if I had discerned the priesthood.”


Digmann became a peer minister at the center, planning retreats, and organizing other events. By the time he graduated with a degree in religious studies, he felt a call to the priesthood.


“Just like anybody in a dating relationship learns more about the person every day and falls more deeply in love, I’d say that is what happened to me,” reflected Digmann. “I’ve gotten to this point where I love Christ and I love the church so much that I desire greatly to give the rest of my life to them. There will be challenges, I’m sure, but that’s what I feel called to do, and more importantly, that’s how I desire to give my life to God.”


Digmann used another analogy to further explain how he found his vocation, saying that God cleverly “duped” him.


“If I would look back in college and think that I’d be where I am today in terms of being in school for this much longer, being ready to be a priest, that

would seem like such a daunting thing,” he said. “I don’t think I would ever have gone through it. But it seems like every year that has gone by, God has gotten me to say yes to the next step in formation and he sort of duped me into falling more deeply in love with the church and I’m very happy that I allowed myself to be duped.”


After first checking out a Dominican religious community based in Chicago, Digmann entered St. Pius X Seminary on the Loras College campus in Dubuque. His family, including his brother, Tony, a theology teacher at Beckman Catholic High School in Dyersville, gave him their support.


“My brother and dad were very excited,” he remembered. “I’m not sure my mom knew what to think of it exactly. She was very supportive because I think she thought it made me happy and that’s what she wanted.”


Once in seminary, Digmann struggled with the philosophy courses at first, but he immediately thrived while doing pastoral work at Nativity Parish in Dubuque and other places. His work included bringing Communion to the sick, assisting with the drug court program and visiting a man in jail as part of the archdiocesan prison ministry.


“I loved actively serving people long before seminary, but it was at this time that I fell in love with pastoral ministry” said Digmann. “Most of my life in semi-

nary was studying books, but I grew to love the study more and more.”


Digmann, with his colleagues Jeff Dole and Mark Murphy, went to major seminary in Rome for four years. Digmann lived in a residence with 250 other seminarians at the Pontifical North American College. There he received formation while studying theology at the nearby Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. He was in Rome to witness major church events.


“When (Pope Benedict XVI) announced his retirement, it was like losing a huge father figure that had been part of my life for the last three years,” he said.

Digmann is in a unique situation because his father is a Glenmary Home Missionary. Brother Craig Digmann, Kyle and Tony’s father, followed a calling to be a consecrated religious in his 40s after raising his sons.


“(My father) entered formation as a brother about two years before I entered seminary for formation for the priesthood, so our time being formed in the religious life overlapped for a while,” said Digmann. “We’d talk on the phone and we’d be sharing experiences of formation for the religious life at the same time.”

Digmann is looking forward to beginning his ministry as a priest. “A lot of what I’m most excited about is bringing sacraments to the people— saying Mass, hearing confessions, and just working with people to help them grow closer to God,” he said. “There’s a lot of struggles and difficulties for everybody and we need some kind of help to get through it. Ultimately, God gives us the grace to be able to do that. He’s called me to be the minister of his grace, to bring it to people.”



What they’re saying about Kyle

Brother Craig Digmann, GHM, Kyle’s dad:

I feel Kyle will serve the people of the Archdiocese of Dubuque well because he is a well-rounded man. He likes many sports and recreation activities, he didwell in speech and drama, he has a strong work ethic, and he loves to be with people. But the greatest gifts I feel Kyle has are his sense of “humility” and his “openness” to do God’s will. Kyle’s baptismal name comes from the prophet “Micah,” and I think this name fits him well. The Scripture verse Micah 6:8 says, “You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” I love you, Kyle, and am so happy that you are answering God’s call to serve as priest for the Archdiocese of Dubuque.


Bobbie Jo Purnell, Kyle’s mom:

I remember that the doctor, my mother, and I secretly worried about Kyle coming so early. But low and behold, Kyle came into the world with all his fingers and all of his toes, and we cried a cry of happiness. When Kyle was six weeks old I was bringing him to grandmother’s house. He kept squirming and just didn’t look well. So off to the hospital to discover Kyle had Spinal Meningitis. We would rock him and I do believe that was the most precious time with him. Both Kyle and his brother Tony clung to each other as we began to raise them on a farm. They were also very competitive in many things, one of them being Catholicism. I can’t remember how many times at the dinner table they would begin to discuss things to an all-out war of words. Kyle’s and Tony’s deep love for each other kept them as close as brothers can be. Kyle will make a fine priest. Helping in the community and unending compassion of the heart will be the cornerstones of Kyle’s life. Kyle is a self-made man. I am very proud of him and I am blessed to be his mom.


Tony Digmann, Kyle’s brother:

I feel great joy for my brother, Kyle, and his pending ordination to the holy priesthood. Today, I look at the man he has become, and I am left with a sense of wonder at how God’s grace has molded him into an “alter Christus” — another Christ. While still affected by the weaknesses of our fallen humanity, he has truly come to model Christ in his life, attitude, and ministry; which is, of course, something we are all called to do in our own lives. In that and more, I have come to greatly admire my brother. This has been a wonderful blessing to me and our family. As he and I share stories, struggles, and suggestions from our different vocations, I have found that he helps me be a better husband and father. I hope that this mutual sharing will aid him in his priesthood as well. Congratulations, Bro!





Personal Preferences

Favorite meal: Chicken wings

Favorite pro sport and team: MLB, Minnesota Twins

Favorite subject in school: Recess (or history if recess doesn’t count.)

Favorite saint: St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catherine of Siena

Favorite quote: “What a man is in the eyes of God, that he is and nothing more.” – St. Francis of Assisi

Favorite book: “Diary of a Country Priest” by Georges Bernanos

Special interests/talents: Kyle enjoys long distance running and has appeared in theater productions while in seminary, most recently “Murder in the Cathedral” by T.S. Eliot


Pre-Cana pioneers reflect on ministry

[sub]Murphys of Cedar Rapids passionate about marriage prep[/sub]

By Dan Russo | Witness Staff Writer

Sandy and Patrick Murphy spent about four decades helping prepare couples for marriage.  (Contributed photo)
Sandy and Patrick Murphy spent about
four decades helping prepare couples
for marriage. (Contributed photo)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Patrick and Sandy Murphy estimate they helped prepare between five and six thousand couples for marriage over about four decades as the directors of Pre-Cana retreats in the Cedar Rapids area. Even though they officially ended their volunteer work in 2011, the Murphys still regularly get recognized by people they’ve encountered through the marriage preparation program.
“I went to get my watch fixed not too long ago and this guy said, ‘Hey, you’re (from Pre-Cana)!’” said Patrick.

The Murphys meet the classic definition of high school sweethearts. They met in geometry class at Regis Catholic High School and got married soon after graduation in 1962. They’ve been together 51 years and raised four children, including one who is deceased. They became involved in the organizing team for PreCana retreats in 1972.

“We’d been through a few things ourselves,” said Sandy of their reasons for volunteering. “We’re survivors. I guess we believed we had something we could share.”

The Catholic Church requires engaged couples to complete marriage preparation. In the Dubuque Archdiocese, the program can take several forms, including one-on-one meetings with veteran “sponsor couples,” meetings with pastors, a full weekend long retreat called “Engaged Encounter” or a shorter retreat like the ones the Murphys ran. That program is called “Pre-Cana” because of the wedding in Cana where Jesus performed his first miracle. The Pre-Cana events typically pull together a team of experienced couples, with one lead couple, along with priests, deacons, or religious to cover key topics and hold frank discussions with prospective newlyweds. In Cedar Rapids, for decades, the Murphy’s led Pre-Cana over two days at Immaculate Conception.

“On Saturday night we’d have about 40 to 50 couples,” recalled Patrick. “We’d split off into (smaller) groups. I remember in the early years, (the couples) were kind of hostile. Things lightened up as the couples got older.”

The Murphys have witnessed many changes in the attitudes and needs of the couples coming to the retreats over the years. When they started, couples were younger and typically waited until after marriage to live together and have children. As time progressed, the age of the couples in general moved into the late 20s and early 30s. By the 1990s and 2000s, in many cases, they had more experience with life, had already been living together and sometimes already had children. The Murphys emphasized that as retreat leaders they never “preached” and met every couple “where they were at.”

“If people have been through things and are coming back to get married in the Catholic Church, you have to give them credit,” said Sandy. Although the retreat is steeped in Catholic teaching, she explained that many inter-faith couples attend and benefit from the program.

“They come into the weekend with one of them who isn’t Catholic and some of them think we’re going to try to convert them,” she said. “That’s not true.”

Speakers at Pre-Cana retreats cover four specific sections, including “predictable crises,” finances, Natural Family Planning and spirituality. The organizers draw on their experience and don’t pull any punches about difficulties, such as the fact that a majority of marriages in the United States end in divorce. They also touch on other matters that can impact a marriage such as losing loved ones or coping with addictions. Despite the challenges, the Murphys believe faith-filled, life-long marriages can thrive.

“It’s not so much what happens to you, it’s how you adjust to it,” said Patrick. The Murphys handed off their role as Pre-Cana directors in Cedar Rapids to Tim and Mary Beth Neal, a couple who had served with them for several years on retreat teams. The Neals credited the fel owship between couples on the retreat leadership team as one of the reasons the program was so successful under the Murphys. Denise and Dave Behmer, Patty and Terry Leir, and Deacon Jim and Sue Berger are a few of the other veteran couples that made up the team.

“All are such great couples and enjoyed being together so much that their energy just flowed over to the couples at Pre-Cana,” said Mary Beth Neal. “When we talk to the couples getting married about having great faith-filled friends to help support them in their own marriages, it showed in the team! That is what drew Tim and myself into doing this. We continue to have this today; just some great couples that we have become friends with and can share with on a deeper level. I think this is what makes these kinds of ministries work.”

The Murphys are glad that they were able to make a difference as Pre-Cana directors and feel that being involved with preparing couples for marriage helped them.

“Each group we had, we learned from it ourselves,” said Sandy. “We’re better off from (Pre-Cana.)”

In Cedar Rapids, the Pre-Cana program now takes place within one day at St. Ludmila Parish five times a year. The next one will be June 21. For more information, visit http://crprecana.org.

There are various other marriage preparation programs going on across the Dubuque Archdiocese throughout the year. The Archdiocesan Family Life Office has more information on them.



or call Linda Manternach, director of the Archdiocesan Family Life Office at (563) 588-0556

Decades of commitment to Catholic education

[sub]Administrators begin well-earned retirement[/sub]

By Mindy Hart | Associate Director-Program Development, Archdiocese of Dubuque

As the 2013-2014 school year comes to an end, three administrators will be saying goodbye to their respective schools. Steve Cornelius, Dave Gross, and Chris Mitchell, all administrators within the Archdiocesan Catholic Schools will begin the next phase of their life’s journey’s — retirement.

Steve Cornelius
Steve Cornelius

Steve Cornelius, a native of Mason City and graduate of Newman Catholic High School, came to Dubuque in 1967 to attend Loras College. Steve began his career in education at St. Joseph in Key West. At the end of his third year, he was asked by Msgr. Russell Bleich to become principal at St. Patrick School in Dubuque. Steve served for seven years at St. Patrick’s and for five years at the consolidated Downtown Catholic School. He then became principal at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic School where he served for 10 years. For the next six years, Steve was the principal at Resurrection Catholic School in Dubuque. He then traveled to Seton Catholic School where he served as principal for a year and three months before returning to Dubuque to be the Chief Administrator of Holy Family Catholic Schools for the next seven years.

After retiring from Holy Family, he became the principal at La Salle Catholic School, Holy Cross/Luxemburg and St. Mary’s IC Catholic School, Guttenberg.

After three years and driving 63,000 miles; he has decided to retire. All in all, Steve has 42 years working for the Archdiocese of Dubuque in the ministry of Catholic education – three years in teaching and 39 years in administration. He has the honor of currently being the senior principal in the archdiocese.

Steve is looking forward to spending more time with his wife Kathy, his four married children and seven grandchildren. He and Kathy plan to spend their first year of retirement traveling and becoming snowbirds in Arizona during the winter months. Then they will begin the next chapter of their lives.


Dave Gross
Dave Gross

Dave Gross graduated from Aquin High School in Cascade. He attended Loras College and received a BA in History in Secondary Education as well as his master’s degree. He also attended Clarke University and received his degree in Elementary Education.

His first teaching position was at Aquin Elementary in Cascade. He then became principal at St Rose of Lima in Denison for one year. He then served as principal for five years at St Boniface in New Vienna and St. Paul in Worthington. For the next 11 years, he was the principal at St. Boniface and SS. Peter and Paul, which would later be Hennessy. He then served for three years as principal of Hennessy and St. Joseph School in Earlville. He then returned to the classroom, teaching for four years at St. Columbkille in Dubuque. And for the last nine years, he has served as principal of Resurrection in Dubuque.

Dave has spent 41 years in Catholic education and believes his life has been blessed because of that experience. He taught for 12 years in all and served as a principal for 29. He looks forward to spending time with his wife Norma who is also retired and his children, Emily and Jay, as he moves toward the next phase in his life.


Chris Mitchell
Chris Mitchell

Chris Mitchell has spent almost her entire life in education in Catholic schools. Aside from her kindergarten drop out year, two weeks of which were in a Catholic school; four years of college; three years teaching in the Moline Public Schools, the Catholic school years have formed her.

Chris was “called” to serve six years on the St. Edward Board of Education before she was hired to teach third and fourth grades. She loved those years and the idea of teaching as a ministry started to take form. Msgr. Bleich played a big part in her decision to become a principal.

Chris is sure her 6th grade teacher is rolling over in her grave to think she would be in charge of a school (so little did she know). As much as Chris loved teaching, she really loved being an administrator, so for eight years the staff, students, and parents of St. Edward School nurtured her ministry in education. As her grandson’s class entered kindergarten, she knew it was the right time to retire. Chris would always be Will’s grandma to that class. For eight years of retirement, Chris busied herself with Virtus Trainings, Scrip program, wedding and funeral ministry, the Faith Sharing Team at CHS, and serving as an adult confirmation catechist.

She has been blessed this school year to come out of retirement to serve as interim principal at St. John School in Independence. In this stage in her life she is ready to say thanks for the memories and Amen.


Blessings and best wishes

We wish Steve, Dave and Chris much happiness and good health as they enter into retirement and may God continue to bless them and their ministry in Catholic education.