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, said 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 read. “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.”
Sirba was raised in Bloomington and attended the Academy of the Holy Angels in Richfield, the College of St. Thomas, and the St. Paul Seminary. He received his master of divinity degree from St. Paul Seminary and a master of arts degree from the Notre Dame Apostolic Catechetical Institute in Arlington, Va.
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After being ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 1986, Sirba served as associate pastor at the Church of St. Olaf, Minneapolis, from 1986 to 1990; at the Church of St. John the Baptist, Savage, from 1990 to 1991; as a member of the spiritual formation department at St. John Vianney Seminary in St. Paul, from 1991 to 2000; as pastor of Maternity of the Blessed Virgin, St. Paul, from 2000 to 2006; and as spiritual director at the St. Paul Seminary from 2006 to 2009.
He was appointed vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis by Archbishop John Nienstedt on July 1, 2009, and ordained a bishop on Dec. 14, 2009, for the diocese based in Duluth that now totals roughly 45,000 adherents in 72 parishes in 10 northeastern Minnesota counties.
Arrangements for Sirba’s funeral mass and burial are pending. Survivors include his mother, Helen Sirba, two brothers and a sister: Duluth diocese’s the Rev. Joseph Sirba, John Sirba and sister Catherine Kelly.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482