The bishop of the Roman Catholic Church’s diocese in Duluth for the past 10 years died Sunday morning.
Paul Sirba, 59, suffered cardiac arrest at St. Rose Church in Proctor and was taken to Essentia Health St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth, where lifesaving measures were tried in vain, read a statement from the Rev. James Bissonette, Sirba’s vicar general.
News of Sirba’s death about 9 a.m. was disclosed to diocese staff and announced during mass at parishes around the region.
“Words do not adequately express our sorrow at this sudden loss of our Shepherd,” Bissonette’s statement continued. “We have great hope and faith in Bishop Sirba’s resurrection to new life, and have confident assurance that he will hear the words of our Lord: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, enter in the joy of your Master.’ ”
Sirba’s death comes about six weeks after a federal judge approved a nearly $40 million settlement between the diocese and survivors of clergy abuse. The settlement allows the diocese to emerge from bankruptcy after it filed for protection from its creditors in December 2015.
In addition to payouts to about 125 people who filed claims against the diocese, the church agreed to open its files on more than three dozen priests who had been credibly accused of abuse and develop procedures to ensure children will be protected from such harm in the future.
Testifying in court, Sirba offered “my apology and my sincere sorrow for all that the victims of clergy sexual abuse have suffered all these years.”
With sad hearts, we share the following message regarding the sudden death of our beloved Bishop Paul Sirba that was sent out to diocesan clergy and employees this morning and which is being announced at Masses today.
Following is the message from Father Bissonette, who has served as Bishop Sirba’s vicar general:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It is with an incredibly heavy heart that I must inform you of tragic news regarding our Bishop. Bishop Paul Sirba suffered cardiac arrest at St. Rose Church in Proctor, MN this morning, December 1st. He was rushed to Essentia Health St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth, where life-saving measures were attempted, but were unsuccessful. He was attended to by Father John Petrich who administered the last rites to him at the hospital. He was declared to have passed away at just after 9:00 A.M. this morning. Words do not adequately express our sorrow at this sudden loss of our Shepherd. We have great hope and faith in Bishop Sirba’s resurrection to new life, and have confident assurance that he will hear the words of our Lord: “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter in the joy of your Master.”
Arrangements for Bishop Sirba’s funeral Mass and burial will be forthcoming. Please pray for the repose of Bishop Sirba’s soul, as well as for his mother, Helen, and his siblings, Father Joe, Kathy, and John, and their families. Let us also hold each other up in prayer during this most difficult time.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord …
– And let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace.
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God …
– Rest in peace, Amen.
Reverend James B. Bissonette
Diocese of Duluth
Prayers for him and those who love him, and for his flock in Duluth…