BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — “Her life is a life of Christ-like goodness, compassion and the firmest faith I have ever encountered in any person,” Diocese of Bismarck Bishop David Kagan said, addressing people at the end of Mass at the University of Mary in June 2022.

Bishop David Kagan is referring to Michelle Duppong, a woman who grew up in North Dakota, and loved her family and her Roman Catholic faith. According to several biographies, Duppong grew up in Haymarsh, North Dakota, graduating from Glen Ullin High School and North Dakota State University. Duppong felt the call to help college students draw closer to Jesus, leading her to become a FOCUS missionary.

“She just had this beaming smile and you always felt like you were immediately picking up where you had left off from her,” FOCUS Senior Director of Mission Partner Development, Mark Bartek said. “People talk about encounters with St. Theresa of Calcutta or St. John Paul II and how the rest of the world would seem to fade away when they were talking to the person and it was like that with Michelle.”

Among the many campuses where Duppong ministered was the University of Mary. “She would come alongside our students, especially the young women, and she would talk to them in a very real way about their lives,” University of Mary President Monsignor James Shea said. “And that really made a difference because she was able to open minds and open hearts as a result of that. She was always just full of confidence.”

In 2012, in confidence and faith, Duppong felt she was being called to a new ministry, becoming the Adult Faith Formation Director for the Diocese of Bismarck. In December 2014, Duppong was diagnosed with cancer. While many people wondered why and how this could happen to Dupppong, Bishop Kagan said it was the complete opposite for Duppong herself. “I made a point of asking her parents and her sister who was a great help to her. They said they never once heard Michelle even intimate ‘why is this happening to me?’ She had great faith and trust in God’s will and if this was God’s will for her, she would accept it,” Kagan said.

Michelle Duppong died on Christmas Day 2015, at the age of 31.

“I remember being very saddened and also not surprised. One of the things that we see in the lives of the saints if you look through history is the day that they die, it can oftentimes be something of significance to them. I remember the first thought I had was what a gift Jesus has taken for himself on his birthday December 25th,” said Bartek.

Though she’s not a saint yet, it appears there may be evidence. Following Duppong’s death, Bishop Kagan said he received different types of messages about how she had inspired or touched lives. One includes a woman with the same cancer as Duppong’s yet not as advanced. She said she had asked Duppong to pray for her. Bishop Kagan said what followed some time after was unexpected following more testing from the woman’s oncologist.

“He said: ‘I’m confused. You don’t have any cancer.’ He said: ‘Would you mind, could I redo these tests?’
She said: ‘Well, sure.’ [He] redid the tests. She said her appointment, which was supposed to have been maybe 45 minutes was two hours by the time it was over. And he came back and he said:’ I can’t explain this. There’s no evidence of cancer anywhere in your body.’ Anyone who has a hard time believing in God shouldn’t after hearing something like that,” Kagan said.

As to what’s next, Bishop Kagan said there’s a great amount of work ahead, including formally announcing the investigation into the cause for Duppong’s canonization. There’s no official timeline as to how long the whole process could take. If her cause follows the traditional steps, a total of two miracles attributed to her intercession would be needed to declare Michelle Duppong a saint. That would be a first in North Dakota history.