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Two Wings: President’s Posts

Two Wings No. 72

By November 17, 2023November 22nd, 2023No Comments

“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know Himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”

–St. John Paul II Preface to Fides et Ratio


Fides et Ratio Reflections


On Tuesday this week I was fortunate to attend a talk by Ian Rowe, founder of Vertex Partnership Academies and a Senior Fellow of the American Enterprise Institute.

His talk was part of the “Menard Family Distinguished Speaker Series” by NDSU’s “Sheila and Robert Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth.”

Distinguished Speakers | Challey Institute | NDSU

Mr. Rowe is a leading advocate for school choice and copies of his 2022 book, “Agency,” were given to the first one hundred attendees (which included me).

“Agency,” according to Mr. Rowe (MBA, Harvard Business School) is the “force of free will guided by moral discernment.”

Founder of schools known as “Vertex Partnership Academies,” his convictions about “agency” seek to empower students rather than promote victimhood. “There are no victims in our schools,” Mr. Rowe emphasized, “only architects of their own lives.”

The backdrop for his entire talk in the Louise S. Barry Auditorium at NDSU’s Richard Barry Hall was a slide of the Cardinal Virtues—yes, of Aristotelian origin and refined in the medieval (in the chronological sense) synthesis of the Two Wings Faith and Reason in Catholicism’s scholastic tradition. Early on, he had students in his schools define these classic virtues in their own words, capturing the essence in their idiom.

Then he had the four Cardinal Virtues carved in the steps at entry of the school.

Now that is a foundation for authentic education.

I also appreciated Mr. Rowe’s emphasis on the proper context for successful education with family and faith as essential for flourishing students.


It’s About Time


World Day of the Poor

Pope Francis instituted the annual “World Day of the Poor” in 2017 to be celebrated each November on the Thirty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time. In doing so, he invites us to encounter the poor, walk in solidarity with them, and respond concretely to their needs.

For the seventh annual observance, the Holy Father chose a verse from Tobit as the theme for this year: “Do not turn your face away from anyone who is poor” (Tobit 4:7).

Pope Francis identifies the “signs of the times,” noting that “Our daily efforts to welcome the poor are still not enough. A great river of poverty is traversing our cities and swelling to the point of overflowing; it seems to overwhelm us, so great are the needs of our brothers and sisters who plead for our help, support, and solidarity. For this reason, on the Sunday before the Solemnity of Jesus Christ King of the Universe, we gather around His Table to receive from Him once more the gift and strength to live lives of poverty and to serve the poor.”

In his prayer intention for the month of September, he similarly warned not to turn away from the poor, for “Our necks are going to get stiff from looking the other way.”

So let us “not turn…[our]…face away from anyone who is poor” and come to the aid of our neighbors in need as he exhorts. Let’s avoid stiff necks.

For the full message from Pope Francis, click here:

Seventh World Day of the Poor, 2023: “Do not turn your face away from anyone who is poor” (Tob 4:7) | Francis (


Fill the Dome

The 17th Annual youth-led “Fill the Dome” Thanksgiving Food Drive wraps up today. The donations we have collected at our schools will then be transported to “Fill the Dome” on Monday with a report and celebration there on Tuesday. The Great Plains Food Bank will be the destination for distribution of collected items to food pantries and food shelves—ultimately feeding those most in need in our region. Prior to this year, collections totaled more than 2.4 million pounds of food and $700,000. Thanks to our students and staff for doing their part to “feed the hungry” in our own region. Thanks to the young people who conceived of this idea all those years ago and to those young leaders who have continued to “Fill the Dome.”



At this time of year, we give thanks for the Lord’s many Blessings: life, faith, family, friends, food, health, etc. We are mindful of those in need and called to respond in charity and justice. We also give thanks for the great Apostolate of Catholic education and all the blessings bestowed on St. John Paul II Catholic Schools. Thanks to all stakeholders in our “community inspiring excellence through faith, learning, and service.”

Happy Thanksgiving!


President’s Proverb


“I am of the belief that we can continue to go out and write our story. We’re holding the pen.”

–Minnesota Vikings Coach Kevin O’Connell



Hagstrom’s Attempt At Humor (HAAH!)




Sunday Psalm Sampler


Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)


“Everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

–Luke 24:44b

Lectionary Readings: Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time | USCCB

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 128:1-5

Responsorial Refrain: “Blessed are those who fear the Lord.”

Chris Brunelle’s YouTube recording: R&A Psalm 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 2023, Psalm 128 – YouTube

With its imagery of the blessings that bloom for those “who walk in His ways” and the joys inherent in family life built in that foundation on the Lord, Psalm 128 aligns well with the theme of wisdom woven in this Sunday’s readings. The “fruitful vine” and “olive plants” are living signs of those who fear the Lord.

The appealing descriptions of domestic tranquility also make Psalm 128 the perfect choice for Holy Family Sunday in the Christmas season.

This week, let us pray to abound in obedience to the Lord as we sing, “Blessed are those who fear the Lord.”



Mike Hagstrom

Mike Hagstrom was named President of St. John Paul II Catholic Schools and Director of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Fargo on March 15, 2016 and assumed office on July 1, 2016. When he applied for the position, he wrote that his “approach would be that of stewardship of the great gift of Catholic Schools. With the help of God’s Grace and all our stakeholders we can be good stewards together, seeing that our schools not only merely survive, but also thrive. For they are designed for human flourishing, forming as we do the whole person, each and every student, made in God’s image and likeness, endowed with a transcendent dignity and destiny.” Prior to this role, he taught Religion and served in a number of other leadership capacities at Shanley High School for 31 years. There, he embraced St. Bede’s notion that “I have always found delight in learning, teaching, and writing.” Mike earned his B.A. in English and M.A. in Systematic Theology from Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota. He and his wife, Shawn, have two children (Therese ’08 and Joseph ’16) and two grandchildren (James and Oliver).