Enjoy the August edition of the West River Catholic
Father Gerald N. Scherer was born in 1919 in a little farmhouse near Timber Lake, South Dakota. He was the third of six children born to Simon A. Scherer and Mary C. Ditter. He attended grade school in a one-room country school near their farm, then went to high school at St. Joseph’s School in Timber Lake, graduating in 1936.
From 1936 to 1940 he helped his father operate a lignite coal mine near Firesteel, SD. When his father died in a mining accident in 1940 he took over the operation of the mine and ran it until 1943 when the underground supply of coal was exhausted.
After spending a year working in an aircraft factory as an arc-welder in Wayne, Michigan, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. In 1947 he was discharged from the service, and that fall he entered St. John’s University at Collegeville, Minnesota, graduating with a BA degree in 1950.
In the fall of 1950 he entered the Seminary at Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, for theological studies. He was ordained to the priesthood there on May 8, 1954 by then-Archbishop Amleto Cicognani, who was the Apostolic Delegate to the United States before later being named a Cardinal and appointed as the Vatican’s Secretary of State.
Father Scherer’s first assignment in the Diocese of Rapid City was as assistant pastor at the Cathedral Parish in Rapid City. From there he was sent as assistant pastor to Buffalo, South Dakota, where he helped attend to St. Anthony’s Parish and its six outlying missions.
In January 1956 he was appointed by Bishop McCarty as rector of Witten, Hamill and Dixon-Iona. While pastor there he helped with the remodeling of all three churches. In 1960 his residence was transferred to Winner, where he helped out with the school and sports program while still taking care of the missions at Witten, Hamill and Dixon.
In 1965 he was appointed as pastor of Murdo with a mission at Draper. During these years he held the additional position of Diocesan Director of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.
On September 14, 1967 he was appointed pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Gregory, and in 1970 he was again reassigned as pastor of St. Mary’s in Lemmon, where he continued to work at the diocesan level organizing parish catechetical programs, training catechists and using a mimeograph to publish the materials he had written, bringing a new approach to teaching the faith to children and youth.
In 1974 Father Scherer was appointed as Rector of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Rapid City, where he served until 1983. During this time he put his building know-how to good use, designing the present chancery, which opened in 1975.
From 1983 to 1994 he served as pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Custer with a mission at Hermosa. During this time, he build a new rectory in Custer, doing much of the work himself.
Father Scherer retired in 1994 to the private home he built near Hermosa. His “hermitage” was used at times for private retreats by many in the diocese. He continued to assist pastors with weekend pastoral support and to host retreats and workshops at his home until 2000, although he enjoyed visiting relatives in warmer climates during the winter months.
In 2011 his Hermosa home was sold and Father Scherer moved to Casa Maria Priest Retirement Home, where he lived until 2013, when he moved to Here’s a Hart Assisted Living. In 2014 he celebrated his 60th Anniversary of Priesthood in May, and that November moved to Bella Vista Golden Living Center, where he received skilled care until his death on August 1, 2017.
The Vatican is preparing for a Synod of Bishops on the topic of Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment, to be held in October 2018. They have put out a Preparatory Document, which can be found here: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/synod/documents/rc_synod_doc_20170113_documento-preparatorio-xv_en.html
The Vatican is collecting information based on several questions that they have put out in order to gather information for drafting the work-document or Instrumentum Laboris.
And so, they would like as many people as possible – young people ages 16-29, and adults ages 30 and up, to participate in a survey. Our feedback will have an impact on this Synod of Bishops and their discussion.
A diocesan committee has put together this survey and made it available via Survey Monkey or in hard copy. These surveys are due in to the diocese no later than September 1, 2017.
Here is the link to the online Survey Monkey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Synod2018Input
Click here for a printable PDF (Please fill out and return to your parish or mail it to: Office of Youth & Young Adult Ministry, Diocese of Rapid City, 2101 City Springs Rd Ste 200, Rapid City, SD 57702.)
We would like to ask everyone to disseminate this survey as widely as possible, and here are some possible ways to share this:
1) Email to your parishioners the link to Survey Monkey, and post it on your website. If your parish has an app, you could send it out through the app. Encourage parishioners ages 16 and up to go online and fill it out. There is a possible pulpit and bulletin announcement below that you could use if it is helpful.
2) Make hard copies of the survey available at Mass, for people to take home and then return to the parish, or mail to the Diocese: Office of Youth & Young Adult Ministry, Diocese of Rapid City, 2101 City Springs Rd Ste 200, Rapid City, SD 57702.
3) Gather small groups of people and complete the survey orally, with one person recording the groups answers. Please indicate how many people were in the group, and their ages. With small groups of youth or college students, you could gather them for a pizza party, do the survey, and the pray evening prayer or spend time in adoration together.
Father D. Craig Cower, 90, of Rapid City, died Sunday, April 2, 2017 at Westhills Village Health Care.
He was born March 2, 1927 in Roxbury, New York to Robert H. and Blanche (Hebert) Cower. During his senior year of high school, he went to St. Andrew’s Preparatory Seminary in Rochester, NY. Later he spent a year in what had been a Lutheran Seminary at Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY where his father was Superintendent of Campus Housing and Grounds. He then went on to St. Francis Seminary in Loretto, PA. He graduated from there and finished Theology at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN.
He was ordained for the Diocese of Rapid City, in Albany, NY, with 29 other young men in 1954. His first assignment was the old Cathedral and then was assigned to Ardmore-Edgemont-Oelrichs, Buffalo-Camp Crook-Cox-Vessey-Ralph-Redig-Drew, Faith-Opal-Plainview-Pedro, Wall & Scenic and retired in 1987 serving the parishes of Hot Springs and Oelrichs.
In 1991, he was appointed to be Executive Secretary of the Priest Retirement and Aid Association and in 1993 Vicar for Retired Priests. He served on numerous boards, including Black Hills Chamber Music Society.
He was preceded in death by his parents and brother, Rod.
Christian Wake Service will be at 7:30 pm on Tuesday, April 4, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Christian Funeral Mass will be offered at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 5, at the Cathedral with The Most Rev. Robert D. Gruss presiding. Burial will be in St. Patrick’s Cemetery (near Sioux Spiritual Center) near Plainview at 3:00 p.m.
(Fr. Cower’s Original Words….)
IT HAPPENED OVER THE MOUNTAIN FROM WHERE RIP VAN WINKLE SLEPT FOR 20 YEARS. IT HAPPENED IN ROXBURY-IN-THE-CATSKILLS OF NEW YORK STATE WHERE D. CRAIG COWER WAS BORN. Sunday Mass regularly lasted fifteen minutes, including the sermon—which was usually a tirade against Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) then President of the United States. And the priest bragged to the Protestants that he got his people out of church in fifteen minutes. Little seven-year-old Craig was hear to remark: “If I ever become a priest, Sunday Mass is not going to be like that!”
Rather a strange way for a vocation to begin. However, the idea continued through Public Grade School and High School. It wasn’t until his senior year that he went to St. Andrew’s Preparatory Seminary in Rochester, NY. Later he spent a year in what had been a Lutheran Seminary at Hartwick College in Onsonta, NY where his father was Superintendent of Campus Housing and Grounds- – a very interesting year. Next he went to St. Francis Seminary in Loretto, PA. The last five years saw him graduate from college and finish Theology at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN.
He had been studying for the Vicariate Apostolic of the Bahamas, West Indies, and would have been the first diocesan priest of what is now the diocese of Nassau, Bahamas. After much prayer and discernment, as ordination approached, his concern at being alone and the first to set the precedent for the diocesan clergy led him to ask to be released by his bishop.
When asked how he came to the Diocese of Rapid City, Father Craig answers: “It was very much God’s will inasmuch as I knew nothing about the diocese or Western South Dakota.” The maps he looked at then noted that Western, SD was “semi-desert”. He had also heard of Wall Drug because they had advertised for college summer employees. When Cower had graduated from college, it was Joseph Busch, former Bishop of Lead, SD and the Bishop of St. Cloud, MN, who gave him his diploma. When Busch died, at his graveside, McCarty told the rector of the seminary that if he had any unattached men to send them out to him. The rector told Cower about this and he wrote to Bishop McCarty. McCarty answered promptly and told Cower to call for an appointment. Cower reached him by phone at Oelrichs, SD where he had presided at the funeral of the last resident pastor there. Cower came out and was adopted by the diocese. Bishop McCarty, when he heard where Cower had been born said: You certainly came from a God-forsaken place!” McCarty has been in that area during the disastrous flu epidemic of 1918.
Cower spent that summer of 1953 at Camp Columbus in the Black Hills and was ordained for the Diocese of Rapid City in Albany, NY, with 29 other young men in 1954. His first assignment was the old Cathedral, where he lived in the upstairs back porch of the rectory. Fr. Muldoon could look in one window, Fr. Plante another, Fr. Cowley through the window of the door and all the parishioners through the other windows. There were no shades or curtains.
Next he was assigned to Ardmore-Edgemont-Oelrichs (54’ to 56’), then to Buffalo-Camp Crook-Cox-Vessey-Ralph-Redig-Drew Missions (56’ to 58’), Faith-Opal-Plainview-Pedro Missions (58’ to 70’), Wall & Scenic (70’ to 80’) and finally Hot Springs-Oelrichs (80’-87’), from which he retired for health reasons in 1987.
During his ministry in the Buffalo Missions, he was very much involved in consolidating some of the missions, moving the Vessey church & hall to a more central location and the Ralph and Strool churches to a Reva location. On the trip to Ralph to Reva, he straddled the roof-ridge across the prairies, using a stick to hold up the electric and telephone lines, not informed the men working to block the Strool Church before moving it onto the foundation. As a result Cower and a parishioner, Stan Lesselyoung, were almost crushed to death as the church fell and slid down the hill.
At Faith in 1962, Father Craig’s parents: Robert and Blanche Cower joined him to: “help him out for a year.” They stayed with him for twenty five years until he retired. The rule in the rectory was based on St. Paul: “He who does not work, does not eat!” He told them it was the Catholic teaching that martyrs went straight to Heaven when they died and that if they stayed with him for 25 years that would be the same as martyrdom. His mother took care of the rectory and his father did a tremendous amount of work at Faith and its missions and at Wall and Scenic. On their 50th wedding anniversary they were the first in the diocese to receive the Papal award: “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” (For Church & Pope) from Pope Paul VI.
During Cower’s tenure at Wall, a new church was built and it was there that he gave his art collection spanning eleven centuries to the Diocese of Rapid City in the custody of St. Patrick’s Church. There are 121 pieces in the collection. He left his two thousand volume library in the church and Public libraries at Wall. The church library was later moved to the St. Thomas More Library in 1996.
Twice he almost died in blizzards: Once on route 20 between Prairie City and Bison and once on I-90 near Wicksville. At the latter time he sprained his ankle and was reduced to crawling in the snow and froze his fingers. He said: “I wasn’t afraid to die, but I could imagine people going past my coffin and saying: “How stupid he was to leave his car!” “I just couldn’t die stupid!”
In his early days, assistants, as they were called, received $50 a month — sometimes! When he was transferred from the Cathedral to Ardmore it was October 15th. Msgr. Roach told him that Msgr. Biever should pay him for the month and Biever told him Roach should pay—he never/did get his salary for that month. When he was transferred from Ardmore to Buffalo it was the 15th of January; Msgr. Biever told him Fr. Murray should pay him and Murray said Biever should pay. And you guessed it, neither never did. It was the beginning of many months of the year that he did not receive any salary. Mass offerings kept him going. They were long distances in the Buffalo missions and most of the roads hardly more than trails. A pair of fence plyers were an absolute necessity to let down fences and go across the prairie to get through. The worst road was South of route 20 on the way to Drew—it had crushed flintrock on it and ate up the rubber tires of that day and spit them out. One Sunday he went through three spares.
In 1987, he retired while in the Hot Springs parish and he and his parents moved to different abodes in Rapid City. His father, Robert, died in 1998 and his mother, Blanche, came to live with him. His retirement years have been busy ones. In the early years he substituted in parishes all over the diocese from one-half to three-quarters of the weekends of the year, driving further than active priests. He still does spiritual direction and counseling from his apartment. Because there are people who are unable to participate in regular R.C.I.A. classes because of jobs, sickness, age, etc., he instructs them on an individual basis. In 1991, he was appointed to be Executive Secretary of the Priest Retirement and on numerous boards including the Black Hills Chamber Music Society. As his mother’s health continued to worsen, he curtailed and finally eliminated all weekend and weekday substitution. Since December of 1996 he has been the primary caregiver of his bedridden mother. His brother, Rod, who lives in Rapid City has had a whole series of major operations and Cower tries to help him as much as possible.
Commenting on his present lifestyle, Cower says: “How does one respond to fifty years that Mom and Dad gave to the diocese and to me.” What I do is a small token for all that they did. Besides, Scriptures have some great things to say about children who care for their fathers and mothers!
In regard to South Dakota and the diocese, he has to break into song with music from “My Fair Lady” “There is no place else on earth that I would rather live.”
Asked about fifteen minute Masses, Fr. Craig says “… at least a half-hour for weekday Masses and an hour for Sunday Mass… and if I have the opportunity EVERY MASS with song.”
In the Diocesan Priority Plan, Vocations is one of our foundational ministries and remains an important focus. An emphasis will be in promoting a culture of vocations, not only in the diocese as a whole, but in every parish and in every family. One of the core values in the Priority Plan is the family. Some of the behaviors under this value specifically address the truth that the seeds of a vocation to priesthood or consecrated life are grounded in family where couples are intentionally living their vocation to marriage. There has been much discussion regarding the need to increase the number of seminarians in order to maintain or even increase our current level of diocese.
To that end, it was felt that a new vocation prayer could assist in this endeavor. The new Prayer for Vocations reflects this focus in the Priority Plan and makes a connection to the mission statement of the diocese as well. Praying a new prayer gives us all the opportunity to pray these new words with a lively faith.
In time, they will be printed as prayer cards and made available in all parishes.
New Diocesan Prayer for Vocations
Invitation: We ask for God’s blessing on those discerning a vocation to priesthood, diaconate, marriage or consecrated life as we pray our Vocations Prayer:
Heavenly Father, Inflame our hearts with the fire of your love.
Inspire our families to eagerly say “yes” to the Holy Spirit,
as did Mary and Joseph.
Help our parishes become schools of prayer,
forming intentional disciples of Jesus who desire to live for him.
Assist us in building a culture of vocations,
creating an environment where all disciples
will seek your will for their lives.
Teach married couples to live their vocation
in the Spirit of Christ
so that their families may become a “domestic Church,”
reflecting the life of the Trinity.
Inspire young men and women to seek
a living encounter with your Son
so that they will courageously respond
to your call to priesthood or consecrated life,
giving themselves generously to the Church
in service of the Gospel.
We ask Mary, Mother of the Church and our Mother,
to intercede for us.
Pour out anew upon our diocese your Holy Spirit
and make us courageous witnesses of Christ’s love.
May our lives “attract and form intentional disciples
who joyfully, boldly and lovingly proclaim and live
the mission of Jesus Christ, leading to eternal life.”
We make this prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Ray Hillenbrand, Rapid City, was honored by Catholic Social Services with the 2016 Founder’s Award, October 11. The keynote speaker was Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Philadelphia, and the award was presented by CSS Board Vice President Susan Raposa. (WRC photo by Becky Berreth)
By Laurie Hallstrom
Anecdotes of youthful hijinks, fishing tale “whoppers,” and sincere admiration were used by speakers to pay homage to a local businessman and philanthropist. October 11, Ray Hillenbrand, Rapid City, was awarded Catholic Social Services 2016 Founder’s Award for his contributions to Catholic Social Services, the Diocese of Rapid City and the greater community.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Pa., a long time friend, was the keynote speaker. Archbishop Chaput served as Bishop of Rapid City, 1988-97.
“The nine years I spent as the Bishop of Rapid City are truly among the best and happiest in my life. One reason for that happiness was you, the people I served. Dakotans have a character that comes from a closeness to a very beautiful, but also a very hard land. The other reason was the friendships I made with many of you, but first and best among them is my friendship with Raymond Hillenbrand,” said Archbishop Chaput.
“My first memory of Ray was meeting him when he was caring for his wife, Rita, as she was struggling with terminal cancer. Ray’s composure and affection for Rita, at a time of great anxiety, pain and stress, were a lesson to me and to others in Christian dignity.
“We are honoring Ray tonight for his generosity to Catholic Social Services, and that honor is well earned. Ray is able to make clear decisions and take decisive action in almost any situation. I have never seen a more generous and capable volunteer when it comes to Catholic projects. His engagement with community goes very far beyond the church. He brings his energy and enthusiasm to every task.
“He has done extraordinary things for Rapid City. He has a special love for the Native American community that shows itself in a very consistent way. His Prairie Edge Store in Rapid City is remarkable for its quality and beauty.
“Ray is also a leader and major philanthropist in the Rapid City Collective Impact Program — efforts to improve the quality of life for all the city’s residents in areas like housing, jobs, vacation, hunger, family services and health. What a wonderful task that is,” he said.
Then Archbishop Chaput chided Hillenbrand for telling Moby Dick sized fishing stories. “He does have one alarming flaw, all of us who fish tell tales, little white lies, modest little exaggerations that we invent to help other people enjoy the sport. Ray has told some whoppers.”
The archbishop explained the mission of CSS is to live out the great theological virtue of charity. “The English word charity comes from the Latin word caritas. Which simply means love. More specifically an unselfish Christian love for others, especially the suffering and the poor.
“Government programs can help solve social problems, and sometimes we need them, but they are not the same and they can never replace the role of charity. Real charity is always personal, it can’t be delegated, it’s an expression at the human-to- human level of our dependance on each other and the recognition we can never really know God until we acknowledge and support the dignity of human life that we find in other people and that we all share as children of God. When we help the poor, the disabled, the homeless, the unborn child, they also help us draw closer to heaven,” he said.
The archbishop said, what he admires most about Hillenbrand is the love in his heart that has led him to help people generously for a long time.
Following the award presentation, Hillenbrand was given a few minutes to speak.
“The thing that impresses me most about getting an award like this is the people who got it before me. I am in awe to be in their company. Three of them were friends of mine in many ways, Msgr. O’Connell probably touched the majority of lives in this room; Fr. Bill Pauly was a really special friend of mine and the other one is one of my best friends, Archbishop Charles. What Archbishop Charles has meant to me as a best friend is unbelievable because it’s not only who he is and how he operates, but it’s the way he communicates with people.”
Others were recognized at the banquet with Catholic Social Services Order of St. Benedict Awards — named for St. Martin Benedictine community, Rapid City. Those included the Hettick Family, for fostering a special needs child, Megan, who is now 34 years old; Audrey Kirkpatrick who worked at CSS for 25 years; and Rene Parker, former United Way Chair.
606 Cathedral Drive
Rapid City, SD 57701
Chancery Annex at Terra Sancta
2101 City Springs Rd Ste 200
Rapid City, SD 57702
Terra Sancta Retreat Center
2101 City Springs Rd, Ste 300
Rapid City , SD 57702
Victim Assistance Coordinator