BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET)— When something big happens in our lives, we can often recall where we were or what we were doing. When the then David Kagan learned of some particularly big news 11 years ago, he was getting ready to eat.

“I was in the kitchen making myself a salami sandwich. I love cold salami. And my cell phone kept ringing and I was determined I wasn’t going to answer it,” Bishop Kagan said.

The Illinois native did finally answer his phone and was told by a church official that Pope Benedict XVI appointed him to be the next bishop of Bismarck. He could have thought about it or even said no, but the bishop said that’s not what he was taught to do while studying to become a priest.

“We were schooled from the very beginning that as a priest we’re all morally obliged to obey our bishop, our religious superiors and if you’re asked to do something by your bishop unless you have an awfully good reason, you really are morally obliged before God and the church to say ‘yes’ and go and do what you’re being asked to do,” Kagan said.

Monsignor David Kagan was installed as Bishop David Kagan on November 30th, 2011. But not too long after arriving in Bismarck, he was asked to temporarily lead the Diocese of Fargo, for 11 months and one day, traveling mostly Fridays, working from the “rising of the sun to its setting.”

“The priests there are just as good as the priests here in Bismarck. They realized I couldn’t be there every day, so they kind of saved everything up for me each Friday. And so, I certainly had enough to do once I got to Fargo,” Kagan said.

Bishop Kagan acknowledges that like any leadership position, some days are more difficult than others, but what he says makes him very happy is seeing the church in North Dakota grow, specifically, “ordaining priests and confirming young people. Don’t ask me about office work.
That’s daily drudgery, but you have to offer that up for the poor souls in purgatory,” Kagan said.

A bishop has a lot of responsibility. And this bishop says, even though it’s not easy, he’s learned to let go. “I learned quickly enough that there are people smarter than I am and more capable than I am and so I should just let them do what they do and things always work out. God takes care of it,” Kagan said. He prays God will continue to take care of him when he retires.

By church law, a bishop has to hand in his resignation to the pope when he turns 75. Bishop Kagan turns 75 on November 9th, 2024. And then, he’ll wait until his successor is named before his schedule lightens up; but Bishop Kagan says he likes to stay busy. “The thought has come to me a few times: ‘What am I going to do all day once I’m retired?’ I love reading. So, that will be part of my days of retirement. I do want to help, as long as my health is good, at least the parishes in the Bismarck Mandan area with Masses, confessions,” Kagan said.

But even after he retires, the bishop says he’ll keep living out his motto: “Prefer nothing to the love of Christ.” He’ll also keep praying for the church. “It’s just been a wonderful 11 years for me here and I’m looking forward to the future,” Kagan said.

Bishop Kagan is the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Bismarck. June of 2023 will mark Bishop Kagan’s 48th year as a priest.