DENVER, June 17, 2022 — Bishop David Kagan, Diocese of Bismarck, N.D., announced the opening of the diocesan investigation which could lead to the beatification and canonization of North Dakota native Michelle Christine Duppong. At the age of 31, Duppong passed away from cancer on December 25, 2015, while serving as the Director of Adult Faith Formation for the Diocese of Bismarck. Before that, Duppong had served as a FOCUS missionary for six years.
Bishop Kagan made the announcement at the FOCUS New Staff Training at the University of Mary, saying, “Michelle’s holiness of life and love for God certainly touched us here in the Diocese of Bismarck, at the University of Mary, and throughout FOCUS, but hers is a witness which should also be shared with the Universal Church.” The video of the full announcement is at focus.org/michelleduppong.
Born in 1984, Duppong grew up in Haymarsh, N.D. She earned a degree in horticulture at North Dakota State University in 2006. While there, she encountered FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) and was so inspired by the apostolate that after graduation she served as a FOCUS missionary. For six years, Duppong mentored hundreds of students at the college campuses, with her final assignment on the inaugural FOCUS team at the University of Mary.
In 2012, Duppong became the Director of Adult Faith Formation for the Diocese of Bismarck, using her missionary zeal to bring others closer to Christ. On Dec. 29, 2014, Duppong was unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer and battled the disease with perseverance and a patient, cheerful spirit, passing from this life on December 25, 2015.
“Michelle was a radiant, joyful woman with the heart of a true servant,” said Monsignor James Shea, president of the University of Mary. “For the students on our campus, she was an inspiration and a treasured mentor, teaching them by her example the transformative power of friendship with God.”
“Michelle’s daily ‘yes’ to Jesus and her obedience to the Lord’s will, even in the smallest things, has had a tremendous impact on so many lives,” said Curtis Martin, founder of FOCUS. “Michelle was a missionary of joy, and that joy is continuing to change lives. She lived everyday faithfulness extraordinarily well, and her authentic witness to the Gospel shows us all what it means to be transformed in, with, and through Christ.”
The diocesan investigation, which involves the gathering of evidence about Michelle’s life and deeds, will include witness testimonies and the compilation of private and public writings. When this is completed, the next stage towards the Cause for Beatification and Canonization is for the evidence to be presented by the diocese to the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican. If the documentation is accepted for consideration, Michelle would then be considered a “servant of God.” From there, the cause could proceed at a steady pace, especially if there are no theological objections and Duppong enjoys what the Church calls “the fame of sanctity” — that she is venerated as a holy person — and there are one or more miracles attributed to her intercession.
A documentary entitled Thirst for Souls: the Michelle Duppong Story debuted at the FOCUS New Staff Training.
FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) is a Catholic apostolate whose mission is to share the hope and joy of the Gospel. FOCUS missionaries encounter people in friendship, inviting them into a personal relationship with Christ and accompanying them as they pursue lives of virtue and excellence. Through Bible studies, outreach events, mission trips and discipleship, missionaries inspire and build up others in the faith, sending them out to live out lifelong Catholic mission wherever they are.
For the 2021 – 2022 academic year, nearly 800 FOCUS missionaries served at 205 locations, which included 22 parish venues across the U.S. and seven international campuses. FOCUS alumni, now nearly 40,000 strong, are living and serving in parishes and communities across the country. By 2026, FOCUS expects to have more than 70,000 alumni. An important blessing of a fruitful partnership between the local campus ministry and FOCUS has been the pursuit of religious vocations. Since 1998, more than 1,000 people have entered the seminary or a religious house of formation after involvement with FOCUS on college campuses. Based on past experience, FOCUS expects that number to nearly double in the next five years. FOCUS missionaries are typically recent college graduates who devote two or more years of their post-collegiate lives to reach out to peers on campus. focus.org
About the University of Mary: True to its motto “lumen vitae” — The Light of Life — the University of Mary offers education for the whole of life through cutting-edge professional programs and graduate programs animated by moral courage and leadership in chosen professions and service to the community. A private, co-educational Catholic institution, the University of Mary welcomes students of all faiths and backgrounds.
A Christian, Catholic, Benedictine institution founded in 1959 by the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery, Mary offers nearly 60 bachelor’s, 15 master’s, and five doctoral programs — in business administration, education, nursing practice, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. The 19-sport Athletic Department adheres to its Greatness Through Virtue mission under the governance of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) conferences. With more than 3,800 students, Mary has locations in North Dakota, Montana, Arizona, and Rome, Italy, as well as vibrant online offerings.
Anyone who wishes to learn more about undergraduate programs at Mary can do so at www.umary.edu, or online offerings at www.online.umary.edu, by contacting an admissions representative at [email protected], or by calling (701) 355-8030. The University of Mary is one of only 15 Recommended Cardinal Newman Society Residential Colleges and Universities in the US.