VIRGINIA — Diocese of Duluth Bishop Paul D. Sirba died Sunday morning after having a heart attack in Proctor. He was 59.
Sirba was preparing for mass when the diocese said he collapsed and was rushed to a Duluth hospital where he died about 9 a.m. He led the diocese since 2009, which includes Iron Range communities.
His vicar general, Rev. James Bissonnette, said in a statement “words do not adequately express our sorrow at this sudden loss of our Shepherd.”
Sirba was ordained in 1986 and served at the Church of St. Olaf in Minneapolis, the Church of St. John the Baptist in Savage, at St. John Vianney Seminary and the Church of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin, both in St. Paul, and at the St. Paul Seminary.
One of his seminary students was Father Brandon Moravitz of Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Virginia. He recalled the impact Sirba had on the young priest.
“It’s painful because it’s as if I have lost a father,” Moravitz said. “Bishop Sirba has played such an instrumental role in my life and has been someone that has always been a great source of comfort and support.”
Moravitz, who was ordained by Sirba, said he was “incredibly excited” when his mentor was elevated to bishop of the Diocese of Duluth. He added that Sirba was full of compassion, gentleness and committed to his faith.
“I will be forever indebted to Bishop Sirba for blessing my life with my first assignments as a priest,” he continued. “One of the greatest gifts I have ever received in my life was, and is, my current assignment.”
Condolences and remembrances of Sirba flowed in through social media Sunday and Monday as news of his death circulated.
Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said he’d remember Sirba’s “many years of joyful service as a son of this local Church.”
Bishop Don Kettler of the Diocese of St. Cloud said he was “shocked and deeply saddened” upon learning of his death.
“He was a kind and gentle leader who served the people of God with great joy & dedication,” Kettler wrote on Twitter. “Please pray for him, his family & the people of his diocese.”
Visitation will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary located at 2801 East Fourth Street in Duluth. Praying of the Rosary will take place at 6 p.m., and vigil prayers at 7 p.m. Visitation will continue at the Cathedral from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m. Mass of Christian Burial on Friday. Following the funeral Mass, burial will be at Calvary Cemetery in Duluth.