The Bismarck diocese’s announcement did bring him “quite a bit of sadness,” recognizing “that we miss Michelle.”
“We were pretty good friends. Her passing leaves a big hole in the world and my life,” he said.
Duppong was born in Colorado on January 25, 1984. At the age of one her family moved to a farm in Haymarsh, N.D., about a 60-mile drive west from Bismarck. Her obituary said she loved farm life, working in the gardens and vineyards, and taking part in campfire sing-alongs.
“Michelle will always be remembered as a spirited woman of God who loved to have fun and spread joy,” her obituary said. “Aside from constantly opening her own home to share her faith and enthusiasm for music and dancing, one of her greatest joys was in sharing her love for Haymarsh and the family farm with others.”
“She cherished the small country church of St. Clement located near their home and as an adult, frequently made trips there to visit her Beloved Lord Jesus,” the obituary added.
Duppong was a 2002 graduate of Glen Ullin High School. She studied horticulture at North Dakota State University in Fargo, where she graduated in 2006, but she also spent the time focused on her faith. She took part in the Fellowship of Catholic University Students ministry at St. Paul’s Newman Center, the Catholic campus ministry.
During this time, she later wrote, she was inspired by the life of St. Pier Giorgio Frassati, a young Italian who contracted polio from working with the poor and died at the age of 24 in the early twentieth century.
“Why do I share his story? Well, reading about Pier Giorgio’s life made holiness seem so practical, so attainable,” she wrote in a March 2, 2015 column for the Dakota Catholic Action newspaper. “He was an ordinary young person who loved Jesus and allowed this love to pour forth into his relationships with others. He embodied what Jesus taught in the eight beatitudes (Mt. 5:3-10). He’s a hero to me; and I want to be like him.”
Bartek told CNA he believes her faith truly blossomed during her time as an undergraduate student at North Dakota State.
“I think that was a very significant time in her life,” he said. “Michelle, because she found a good community in a place where she could grow in holiness was really just beginning her life of holiness.”
She joined FOCUS full-time in 2006, the same year as Bartek.
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“She just prayed at all times,” he recalled. “I remember just being in conversations with her and thinking that she's actually talking to the Lord as we're having this conversation as well. She always seemed to have this interior presence, showing her connection with Jesus and the way that she prayed. She was also unbelievably faithful to her prayer and in every circumstance.”
“She always just really brought that spirit of prayer into everything we do, and it was very inspiring to me and something that I continue to take with me,” he said.
He added that Duppong was “always joyful and hopeful.”
“It could be really annoying to people because she was always finding the hopeful outcome, and so because it's not easy to see that or experience that or when you see when you're experiencing hardship when her joy would come. I think that sometimes people were a little bit irritated by that, but for the most part, she just really inspired people to want to pray more and want to seek care for God's will in their life and to desire to be around her.”
Monsignor James Shea, president of the University of Mary, described her as “a radiant, joyful woman with the heart of a true servant.”
“For the students on our campus, she was an inspiration and a treasured mentor, teaching them by her example the transformative power of friendship with God.”