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Catholics gather in Duluth to celebrate history, faith

DULUTH - Hundreds of people filled Fourth Street, spilling onto the lawn of Duluth's Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary on Saturday as the bells rang for the noon hour.

DULUTH - Hundreds of people filled Fourth Street, spilling onto the lawn of Duluth's Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary on Saturday as the bells rang for the noon hour.

They posed for photos, munched on a lunch of hot dogs and chips and picked up a free bag with water, a program and a rosary in it as they waited for the start of the 4-mile Eucharistic procession celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Diocese of Duluth.

The crowd - an estimated 2,100 people registered to join the procession - was a gathering of Northeastern Minnesota's Catholic churches and schools. Signs and banners carried in the crowd indicated the wide reach of the diocese, with cities such as Silver Bay, Pine City, International Falls, Aurora, Cass Lake and Grand Portage represented in the procession.

Altar servers, the Knights of Columbus, regional deans and priests led the way as Bishop Paul Sirba - carrying the Eucharist in a monstrance - began the 4-mile procession through central Duluth.

Stopping a few times along the route, the procession's destination was a late-afternoon Mass at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center Arena.

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The weather was beautiful and the turnout better than expected, Diocese of Duluth communications director Kyle Eller said before the procession got underway.

The Eucharistic procession, the first one held in Duluth, was a reflection of participants' faith, Eller said.

"We love our Lord and we want to walk through our city with Him," he said.

From Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Cloquet, Marilyn Sowada of Wrenshall said she'd never participated in a procession like the one taking place in Duluth on Saturday.

"It's nice to get together with all the other Catholics," said fellow parishioner Jane Setala of Cloquet.

Cloquet residents Jeff and Christine Isakson agreed. It's a once-in-a-lifetime event, Christine said.

"It's a great thing to have all the parishes get together as one big community," Jeff said.

A group of college students wearing maroon T-shirts reading "Bulldog Catholic" were gathered together before the procession began.

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The University of Minnesota Duluth has a strong Catholic community with the Newman campus ministry, said Ben Berning, who is serving as a focus missionary with Newman.

The students were joining the procession to show their love for the Lord and to "put a face out there that we're Catholic," he said.

Craig Skalko, who helps with the Mass music at Newman, pointed out, "It's a whole day to celebrate what God has done in Northeastern Minnesota."

The college students decided to join the procession to show that they're an active part of the both the Diocese and the Duluth community, said Benjamin Foster, development director of Newman. At a time when most college students are partying and drinking, they're providing a "light in the darkness" for students, he said.

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