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Reflections on Bishop Emeritus Paul Zipfel
by Christopher Dodson
Executive Director, North Dakota Catholic Conference
July 15, 2019


It is with great sadness that I learned today of the
death of Bishop Emeritus Paul Zipfel.

Bishop Zipfel faithfully shepherded the faithful of the Diocese of Bismarck from February of 1997 to his retirement in October of 2011. February of 1997 was in the middle of a hectic legislative session. We were dealing with a massive reform of the welfare system, a fight about the definition of marriage, abortion legislation, and a push for parental choice in education. Bishop Zipfel had little time to immerse himself in the details of this legislation or the North Dakota political process, but he expressed trust in Bishop James Sullivan of Fargo and the staff of the North Dakota Catholic Conference.

He eventually became a knowledgeable and wise leader for the conference. He understood the limits of public policy, the relationship between religion and politics, and the prophetic voice of the church in the public sphere. I remember a time when he asked parishioners to send postcards on a pro-life matter to our members of Congress. The response was enormous. It was a testament to how much he was loved by the faithful of the diocese.

As our relationship grew closer I became a confidant to him and him to me. I always appreciated the trust he placed in my advice and his willingness to suggest another course of action for consideration. More importantly, he supported me personally during some very difficult times in my life. He was to me like a loving and supportive grandfather departing wisdom and care with a loving smile. It is no exaggeration to say that Bishop Zipfel had a profound influence on my life. I do, and I will always, miss him.

Eternal rest grant to him, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.