This week’s Compass features a special section devoted to the newest Catholic bishop in the United States, the Diocese of Green Bay’s own Daniel Felton, bishop of Duluth, Minn. Within the section’s pages, Bishop Dan’s family and friends share many fond memories and anecdotes — the experiences that make this much loved and admired minister the unique and gifted leader that he is.
Many readers can recall the first time they met Fr. Dan at one of the parishes at which he served or visited. My first time meeting him was in Superior. Coincidentally, it was at the cathedral (Christ the King) located just across the bay from the cathedral (Our Lady of the Rosary) where Bishop Felton was ordained and installed the 10th bishop of Duluth on May 20.
The year was 1992, while Fr. Dan was still pastor of St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in Oshkosh. He was in Superior giving a workshop on evangelization to about 200 people. I was there to report on the workshop for the diocesan newspaper.
The message Fr. Dan shared that evening was how storytelling is an effective form of evangelization, much like the stories Jesus told through parables. One story the young priest told that evening drove his message home and left participants chuckling.
This is how it was reported in the Superior Catholic Herald:
Felton shared another story that took place while making the rounds at a hospital. This experience showed that God’s grace is laced with humor.
“One day, on a hospital visit, I stopped in to see Margaret,” he began. “I walked around the curtain and saw Margaret sitting in a corner of the room. I asked how she was feeling and then noticed her feet were six inches off the floor.”
He was embarrassed to find Margaret sitting on the toilet. She greeted him nonchalantly, saying not to feel uneasy, since “nothing was happening anyway.”
The two talked briefly, then the priest placed his hands over Margaret’s head. He recited a prayer, then began to leave the room. “As I left, Margaret shouted to me, ‘It’s working, Father.’”
Whether it was a humorous anecdote, a homily that began and ended with a verse from a familiar liturgical hymn, or an address before some 500 Catholic journalists gathered in Green Bay in 2018, Bishop Felton’s gift of proclaiming the Good News was always a moment of encounter with the Holy Spirit.
For Bishop Felton, it’s always been about the Holy Spirit. As he told The Compass, “It is with a sense of gratitude that the Holy Spirit afforded me those opportunities along the way. As the Holy Spirit has given me this next step to go to Duluth … there will be new opportunities and new experiences to build on the past.”
The 10 counties in northeast Minnesota that make up the Diocese of Duluth will soon discover what northeast Wisconsin has known for four decades: Bishop Felton has that “joy, joy, joy, joy” down in his heart and a voice to proclaim it.
Embracing people’s hearts and introducing them to Jesus has been Fr. Dan’s longtime mission and passion. Now, Bishop Dan will do the same in Duluth, shepherding others with joy, with a smile — and possibly with his stumpf fiddle.
Ad Multos Annos, Bishop Felton. Here’s to many happy years in Duluth. May the Holy Spirit continue to guide you in your new home.