MACKVILLE — A festive atmosphere greeted parishioners as they entered St. Edward Church for 8:45 a.m. Mass on May 30. The chattering of excited guests as they viewed a display of photos in the foyer, along with the smell of bratwursts cooking a few yards away, foretold a special occasion.
It was the homecoming of a parish son, who, 10 days earlier, had been ordained and installed as bishop of the Diocese of Duluth, Minn. (See story, page 11.) Bishop Daniel Felton returned home to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving with family and friends, some of whom were present nearly 40 years ago when Fr. Felton celebrated a similar Mass following his ordination as a priest.
“So who would have ever thought a kid from Mackville…,” Bishop Felton began his welcome following the opening procession.
“One of the great privileges of being a bishop’s mom is that the bishop has to come to Mom. Mom does not go to the bishop,” Bishop Felton said to a chorus of laughs.
Seated in the second pew in the center of the church was a smiling and proud Carol Felton, along with Bishop Felton’s four sisters and their families.
“And so, as we celebrated the ordination a while ago in Duluth, so Mom said, ‘Now it’s time for you to come home to your home parish and to celebrate,’” continued Bishop Felton. “And so it is a great day of celebrating you, it is a great day to say ‘thank you’ for all that you are and all that you continue to be in my life.”
Prior to the opening procession, Bishop Felton greeted guests as they entered the church. One guest received special attention: Fr. Justin Werner, who had served as his boyhood pastor at St. Edward Parish and influenced his priestly vocation.
Additional chairs were placed near the church entrance to seat the capacity crowd, many of whom wore face masks as a public safety measure.
As he began his homily, Bishop Felton, as he does on many occasions, shared a hymn.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have called you and you are mine,” he sang, repeating the opening verse of Michael Joncas’ “I Have Loved You.”
The bishop then told the assembly that the day’s feast of the Holy Trinity was all about relationships. “Today we acknowledge God as our Creator, we acknowledge God as our Redeemer and we acknowledge God as our Sanctifier,” he said. “But really, what this feast day is all about is a relationship — that God the Father loves God the Son, Jesus Christ, so deeply, so widely, so divinely, and God the Son loves God the Father so deeply, so widely, so divinely that we even have a name for that and that name is the Holy Spirit.”
This relationship between the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit leads us to celebrate “a divine life, a divine love and a divine joy,” Bishop Felton said.
“Now the incredible thing is that you and I were baptized into that relationship,” he continued. “It is God’s deepest desire to pour out that divine life, that divine love, that divine joy upon each one of us and our relationships.”
On this day, he said, “I am here to acknowledge another relationship, and that is the relationship that I have with my home parish at St. Edward’s in Mackville.”
“For most of my life, all I can remember is St. Edward’s being my home parish,” said Bishop Felton. “As kids growing up, Mom and Dad (Ken) were very involved in the parish. Dad was a trustee, Dad was head of the pastoral council; he fried hamburgers for the tractor pull every year; he was involved as a cantor, as a singer.”
He said his mother was also involved in many activities, including the Girl Scouts and serving as two-time president of the Christian Women’s Association.
“In so many ways, this was part of our relationship to God,” he said. “Part of the life and love and joy that we celebrated in the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit was to be experienced right here in the relationships that we have right here at St. Edward’s.”
He then named some of the teaching sisters he had during his years at St. Edward School who influenced his life, as well as former pastors.
“I was able to share that love of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit in the many priests who would become a part of my life here as well,” he said. “Fr. (Nicholas) Gross, for all of those years. The chalice that I will be using today is the chalice of Fr. Gross that was given to me. Fr. Gross was ordained 100 years ago in the month of May, and so here, 100 years later, I’m using his chalice as I was ordained a bishop. Another priest who greatly influenced me, and I was very surprised and so happy to see him today, is Fr. Werner.”
“Throughout my whole lifetime,” he told the congregation, “in the relationship that we have shared with one another, that divine life, that divine love, that divine joy,” still exists.
Bishop Felton revealed how his mother had secured a burial plot for him, along with his parents.
“Mom called one day and she said, ‘Do you want to be buried in Mackville with Dad and myself?’
“And I said ‘Yes, that would be great,’” Bishop Felton remembered. “She called some weeks later to say, ‘Well, you’re going to be cremated.’ And I said, ‘That’s fine. We’ve got to have our bodies for the funeral, but after that I’m just fine with cremation.’ She said, ‘They were running a special. All three of us can be buried in one plot.’ I said that’s just great.”
Before that day comes, said Bishop Felton, “I will always carry you with me in a special way.”
He explained that the bishop’s crosier, or staff, he uses was a gift from St. Edward Parish.
“So whenever I carry the staff, I will always keep you in my prayers, as I would ask you to keep me in your prayers,” he said. “Literally, I will carry you with me for all that I will be as a bishop.”
The mitre he wears was a gift from his mother, he said.
“My mom bought what she called the ‘bishop’s hat,’ the mitre, and so, every time I put this on, I will be putting on my family, along with many other things that they helped me out with as well,” Bishop Felton added.
When he was introduced as the 10th bishop of Duluth on April 7, Bishop Felton said he was asked two questions: Would he still be a Green Bay Packers fan and what would be his vision for the Diocese of Duluth?
“If you watched the news conference, my response was very simple: Relationships, relationships, relationships,” he said. “Certainly, during the first year, it’s just getting to know people and forming relationships. Wherever there is the deep relationship, there will always be the divine life, divine love and divine joy.
“Because where you find that relationship and where you find that divine life, that divine love and divine joy, you will always hear the Holy Trinity — the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit — simply sing: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have called you and you are mine,’” Bishop Felton sang.
Following Communion, Fr. Walter Stumpf, pastor of St. Edward Parish, presented Bishop Felton with another gift from the parish.
“You are moving from the Port of Green Bay to the Port of Duluth,” Fr. Stumpf said, presenting Bishop Felton with a case of port wine with the bishop’s image on each bottle.
“For every glass of port I take, I will remember you, the people of St. Edward’s,” said Bishop Felton.
The Mass concluded with the assembly extending their arms and singing a blessing song, “May God bless and keep you. May God smile on you. May God smile on you and fill you with peace.”
View more photos on our Flickr page.