North Dakota woman could become a saint

The Catholic Diocese in Bismarck is investigating Michelle Duppong for canonization.

Michelle Duppong.jpeg
Michelle Duppong
University of Mary
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BISMARCK — A western North Dakota woman could become a saint.

Bishop David Kagan, who leads the Catholic Diocese in Bismarck, announced last month he has opened an investigation into whether Michelle Duppong could be a candidate for beatification and canonization.

“Michelle has not yet been declared a saint, and she would shrink from me even saying this in public, but her life is a life of Christ-like goodness, compassion and the firmest faith I have ever encountered in any person,” Kagan said during his announcement.

The woman, who grew up near Glen Ullin, graduated from North Dakota State University with a degree in horticulture. Duppong joined the Fellowship of Catholic University Students and became a missionary for the group for six years.

She mentored hundreds of college students, including at the University of Mary, according to a news release. Monsignor James Patrick Shea, who also is the president for the university in Bismarck, called her a joyful and cheerful person who brought multiple aspects of her life together to be a witness for God.


“She was able to live the life that all of us want for ourselves," Shea said.

After her missionary work, Duppong became the director of adult faith formation for the Bismarck Diocese. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and died Dec. 25, 2015.

Duppong would become the first saint from North Dakota if the Vatican determined she is worthy of canonization. Only 11 saints come from the U.S.

Shea acknowledged a lot of people are cheerful and suffer in life. Saints are just like ordinary people, but the way they deal with hardships and live their lives is what makes them stand out, he said.

Duppong gave her all, changed lives and was kind and joyful despite her pain during her battle with cancer, Shea said. Even seven years after her death, people continue to talk and think about her, he added.

“She’s still inspiring people all of these years later,” he said.

The diocese will gather evidence regarding Duppong’s life. That includes witness testimonials, information about her deeds, and private and public writings. That evidence will then go to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican, which will determine if Duppong is a “servant of God.”

If the Catholic Church decides Duppong has “fame of sanctity,” which means her deeds are well-known, she would be deemed a holy person. A person qualifies for beatification if a miracle is associated with them, and two or more miracles would allow for sainthood.


It’s unclear how long the process could take.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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