Roxane B. Salonen
WAHPETON — 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 — 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, 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 — 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 — The call about the vandalism went to Frank Lalonde's home phone as he was heading to work as office manager of Nativity Church the morning of Aug. 4. En route, he missed the warning of what he'd soon witness. Arriving at the sacred place he knows so well, he was met by a parishioner with worry lines on her face. "There's a bit of damage to the building," she'd said. "When I opened the door, I was greeted by a sea of glass down the hallway," Lalonde recalls. "The parishioners were standing there in shock and awe."
FARGO — Many here 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 nine 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. The mentoring began at age 16, in inner-city Sacramento, where Schauer coached youngsters.
BISMARCK, N.D. — Jewel Hecker has seen some deep-down lows. At one point in her life of addiction, she says, things had gotten so bad she was living like character Matt Foley from "Saturday Night Live," "in a van down by the river." Other times, Jewel says, she would find a tent and camp out with her boyfriend, or a cheap hotel room to live in for a while. They weren't below stealing if necessary. Scars she's collected reveal how addiction and abuse can erode the soul.
FARGO — While living in Amarillo, Texas, in 2015, Paul Braun hoped to raise funds for area youth and his local Knights of Columbus council by inviting Christian musician Matt Maher to perform a concert there. Though Maher's crew was receptive, logistics pulled the plug on the Amarillo gig. "You owe me one," Braun told them. After he began work the following year for the Fargo Diocese, Amarillo's loss became Fargo's gain. Maher's performance at the Fargo Scheel's Arena Aug. 12 will mark his second touch-down in North Dakota, following a Bismarck concert in 2015.