Liturgy Commission Mass questionnaries to be released

By Fr. Michel Mulloy, Vicar General

In the month of September, everyone in the Diocese of Rapid City is asked to complete a questionnaire regarding each person’s personal experience at the celebration of Mass in their own parishes.

Why the questionnaire? What is its purpose? It is part of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan published last year and further explained in Bishop Robert Gruss’s pastoral letter, Through Him, With Him and In Him.

The Diocesan Pastoral Plan is a wonderful guide for our diocese and all its many ministries. It provides direction and energy for continuing to fulfill our sacred mission, that is, to attract and form intentional disciples who joyfully, boldly and lovingly proclaim and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, leading to eternal life.

The Diocesan Pastoral Plan has three Pastoral Priorities: Reconcile, Make Disciples and Fund the Mission. The Plan also defined the Foundational Ministries of the diocese, those ministries that are essential to our fulfilling our sacred mission. Each of the five Foundational Ministries have goals to be achieved. These goals tie back to the three Pastoral Priorities, specifying how we can continue to grow as a diocese, responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. It goes without saying that sacraments and worship are a key Foundational Ministry in our Diocesan Pastoral Plan.

As the Director of the Office of Worship, the goals created for the Foundational Ministry of Sacraments and Worship became my responsibility. One of those goals was to create a Liturgy Commission and the other was to measure parishioners’ personal experience in the celebration of Mass. The Liturgy Commission was created late last year. It consists of two priests and 12 lay leaders from throughout the diocese. The purpose of the Liturgical Commission is to renew the liturgical life of the Diocese of Rapid City. The liturgy of the diocese includes all the ways we, the people of the diocese, pray and worship God together. In addition to the celebration of sacraments, Eucharistic adoration and the Liturgy of the Hours are considered liturgy in the fullest sense of that term.

Certainly the most important aspect of the fuller liturgical life of the diocese is the Eucharist. In order for the Liturgy Commission to facilitate the renewal of our celebration of the Mass, we first need to understand the current experience of the faithful in the celebration of the Mass. That brings us to the questionnaire.

The second goal of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan for the Foundational Ministry of Sacraments and Worship was to implement an evaluation process to measure each parishioner’s personal experience of the Mass in their parish. Simply stated, we encounter Jesus Christ in each celebration of the Mass. The Liturgy Commission wants to understand to what degree this experience of the Risen Lord is happening for parishioners.

To accomplish this goal the Liturgy Commission studied the General Instruction of the Roman Missal also called the GIRM. This is the document that governs how we celebrate Mass. Throughout the GIRM are statements about what is supposed to be happening to the faithful at various moments in the celebration of the Mass. These statements became the foundation of the questionnaire created by the commission. The commission hopes to determine whether what the church envisions as the purpose of the Mass is in fact what parishioners are experiencing.

This questionnaire is a positive tool that can be filled out easily in a few minutes. It will help parishioners reflect on their own experience of Mass, understand the church’s vision of the celebration of the Mass and how Mass is designed to allow us to encounter Jesus Christ. In addition to the demographic information requested to help with analysis, the questions about the Mass allow for a range of responses. The questionnaire takes into account the fact that our experience of Mass varies from day to day. This questionnaire is not designed to be critical of the pastor, musicians or others who have ministerial roles in the Mass. The focus is rather on the experience of each of us as priests, deacons and lay persons.

The questionnaire is available August 15 at Following this article are a few sample questions. Hard copies will also be available at your parish in the month of September. Please take a few minutes to complete the questionnaire between now and the end of September. To complete this survey go to the link and answer the questionnaire. Through the month of October the Liturgy Commission will compile and analyze responses. A report of the findings will be made available to the parishes and the whole diocese in the month of November.

Thank you for taking the time to reflect on your experience of liturgy and complete the questionnaire. Your input will guide the work of the Liturgy Commission and each parish Through these efforts, we will grow in full, conscious and active participation in the Liturgy so that we may encounter Jesus Christ and be transformed by what we celebrate to become more fully the body of Christ, the church* and the intentional disciples we are called to be.


*Through Him, With Him and In Him: A Spiritual Guide to the Diocesan Priority Plan, by Bishop Robert Gruss, p. 108

National Tekakwitha Conference brings tribes together

Great Attendance 
The National Tekakwitha Conference was held in Rapid City, July 19-22. Dedicated to St. Kateri Tekakwitha, it is the largest gathering of Native Catholics in the U.S. and Canada. This year more than 750 people attented the event in Rapid City. Dancer Dallas Chief Eagle and his daughter, Dallasina, performed at the powwow demonstrating traditional hoop dancing. (WRC photos by Laurie Hallstrom)

Tekakwitha Conference Committee leaders, Alice Pourier, vice committee chair, from Pine Ridge, and Beverly Running Bear, committee chair, from Rapid City, carried the traveling Tekakawitha icon in the Grand Entry, July 20.


By Laurie Hallstrom

“Loving One Another Through the Spirit of Kateri,” was the theme of the 78th Annual National Tekakwitha Conference held in Rapid City, July 19-22. It brought together people of many tribes, religious and clergy.

Fr. Peter Klink, SJ, vice president for Mission and Identity at Red Cloud Indian School, Pine Ridge, gave the opening keynote address on July 20. He has attended many National Tekakwitha Conferences, and while he cannot recite every state by heart, he does recall the religious and social experiences they brought to him.

“The National Tekakwitha Conferences were a positive faith experiences for the entire family. I remember grandmothers and grandfathers, mothers and fathers, children and grandchildren all celebrating, all having a good time, all sharing faith,” he said.

Father Klink recalled the St. Mary and St. Joseph Societies wherein native people could support one another in faith. He said by the mid-1980s the national conferences had become predominantly a gathering of elders. The Tekakwitha Conferences he has attended brought together all generations. “Include the youth in planning conferences. We have to be fun and substantive to them,” he said.

He noted the conferences were larger before the October 2012 canonization of St. Kateri.

“The challenge and invitation of St. Kateri, and of a loving God, is basically ‘now what’? How is the spirit inviting us and calling us to be a lively experience of God’s good news … throughout Indian Country today?”

“I am confident that throughout these days of our gathering here two women are smiling broadly, the blessed Virgin Mary, the church’s model of trusting faith, and St. Kateri. Both are watching … they want the best faith experience for us. We are not alone; they are interceding and cheering for us. That’s important for us to always remember.”

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, celebrated the opening Mass. He reminded the people he was ordained a bishop 29 years ago in Rapid City. In his homily, he said many of the people he spoke with since his arrival at the conference were men and women who were heavily burdened by illnesses, jobs and deaths.

Referring to the Gospel of the day, Mt 11:28-30, he said, “All of us are subjects of Jesus’ invitation ‘Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart … For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.’”

Archbishop Chaput said by knowing God’s love we can release our anxieties and worries and not take them into the future. We can depend on God.

Friday morning the keynote speaker was Dr. Laurel Vermillion, president of Sitting Bull College, Ft. Yates, N.D., and a member of the Standing Rock Tribe. She addressed the conference theme.

“When we think about loving each other and caring — to me that means family,” said Vermillion. She grew up with her family close by and said her fondest memories include her grandparent’s who lived about 100 yards from them in their own home. Vermillion said. “People need to know where they come from, who they are, their language and their culture in order to be happy people — people who are successful. This is what we encourage our students to do. I didn’t know a lot about my culture and my language. I didn’t learn because it wasn’t a priority. My parents and grandparents thought that would be best for us.

“Now I make sure that our young people know who they are. We have a Lakota language immersion nest and to see the young people there is mind-boggling. They have so much respect. I see these young children speaking and listening and answering questions in Lakota. This is part of the answer. This is part of how we make things better.”

Auxiliary Bishop Edward Clark, Los Angeles, Calif., celebrated the July 21 Mass before conference members spent the afternoon at Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer.

On the morning of July 22, there was a panel discussion on opening the cause of Nicholas Black Elk for canonization.

Bishop Robert D. Gruss, Diocese of Rapid City, celebrated the concluding Mass. The Gospel from Matthew was the parable Jesus told about sowing good seed. Bishop Gruss said, “Our faith makes unconditional demands on us throughout our lives. It requires us to make immense leaps of sympathy and forgiveness; it asks us to live for God, not for earthly power and wealth; it asks us to put aside self-will and to live for others…”


Knights bring Christ alive in wonderful ways

I recently attended the Knights of Columbus 135th Supreme Convention in St. Louis, a gathering of over two thousand from throughout North and Central America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and Europe – bishops, clergy, Knights and their families – to celebrate what the Knights of Columbus accomplished over the past year and to give encouragement to the members as they carry out the mission of the Knights of Columbus in their local church. The theme of this year’s convention was “Convinced of God’s Love and Power.”

Throughout their history, since 1882, the Knights of Columbus have been a force in responding to the challenges of the times, those challenges presented by the culture, and the challenges faced in society around the world. The Knights’ dedication and commitment to the mission of Jesus Christ is expressed through the ways in which they serve as the Lord’s hands. As we all know, the heart of Christianity is not a series of principles or ideas. It is the person of Jesus Christ who extends his deep love for us and then propels us into action, sacrificing our own lives for others. This is the work of the Knights of Columbus.

Those who are “convinced of God’s love and power” find this as the source of the Christian life and mission. This underlies the work of Christian charity and fraternal charity which is the hallmark of the Knights of Columbus and their councils throughout the world.

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, in his annual report given at the convention, shared the major accomplishments of the Knights of Columbus over the past year. He spoke of new records in charitable giving, with more than $177,500,673 given last year. Over the past decade, the Knights of Columbus have donated $1,622,606,995. Over 75 million hours of volunteer service by its members around the world reflect countless individual acts of kindness and love, changing the lives of many people. Other accomplishments include increased membership and the sixteenth consecutive year of growth in insurance sales.

The Knights of Columbus led the way worldwide in assisting Christians facing persecution, especially those facing genocide in the Middle East. They have provided more than $13 million to persecuted Christians since 2014 in the form of food, clothing, shelter, education and medical care. Supreme Knight Anderson shared, “Christians who endure suffering and death for their faith in places like Iraq, Syria and Egypt, show us how to confront terrible evil with the weapons of love and truth. They are a brilliant witness to God’s love and power.”

Two new initiatives were announced to assist Christians at Risk. First, on November 26, the Knights of Columbus and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will sponsor a day of prayer for persecuted Christians followed by a Week of Awareness and Education. Secondly, a new effort was announced to help save Christianity in Iraq by raising $2 million to save the Christian town of Karamedes in Iraq. Until recently Karamedes was controlled by ISIS. The terrorists desecrated churches and graves and looted and destroyed homes.

The Knights of Columbus are urging local councils, parishes, or other church groups, and individuals to help by donating $2,000 — the approximate cost of resettling one family. The rebuilding work will begin immediately. For more information about this initiative or to donate to it, please visit

These are just a few examples of the great charitable work of the Knights of Columbus, continuing its efforts to build a culture of life and a civilization of love.

I am deeply grateful for the great work the Knights of Columbus have done in parishes throughout our diocese, for their support of me and our priests, and for their witness and dedication through the ways in which they serve as the Lord’s hands.

I would encourage all Catholic men to become members of the Knights of Columbus. It is a wonderful way for men to support one another in their faith, to deepen their faith through prayer and action, and to answer the Lord’s call to intentional discipleship. When Catholic men come off the sidelines and get into the work of Christian charity, unity and fraternity the mission of Jesus Christ comes alive and many lives are deeply affected.

To my brother Knights in the Diocese of Rapid City, I conclude with the encouragement that our Supreme Knight shared at the annual convention. “This year let us be in even greater ways who we are called to be as brother Knights. Let us strive to be that radiant and attractive witness of fraternal communion that our church and our world so desperately need. Let us strive to be authentic witnesses of how to care for one another, and how to encourage and accompany one another. We can and we will do these things as the spiritual sons of Father Michael McGivney. We can and we will do these things because we are convinced of God’s love and power.” Vivat Jesus!


West River Catholic: July 2017

Enjoy the July edition of the West River Catholic

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Tekakwitha Conference — A Condensed History

1656-1680 Kateri Tekakwitha (Mohawk-Algonquin, 1656-1680) lived a holy life in the Mohawk Nation of New York and later in Quebec, Canada. Soon after her death, devotions were initiated by local Indian and non-Indian Catholics who had known her. In 1676 she was baptized Catherine after St. Catherine of Siena, also a mystic. The next year, three Mohawk catechists from La Prairie (Quebec) visited the Mohawk Nation and took Kateri with them on their return home. In Canada, her feast day became the anniversary of her death (Apr. 17) whereas in the United States, it became the anniversary of her flight to Canada (Jul. 14).

1884 At the Third Plenary Council at Baltimore, the U.S. bishops signed the postulation brief to introduce the canonization causes to Rome for the Jesuit martyrs and St. Kateri

Tekakwitha. (Her cause was separated later)

1885 From Jan. to Apr. in Canada and the United States, 906 native people supported St. Kateri Tekakwitha’s canonization cause by signing letters of endorsement. The signers included Charles F. Finkbonner (Lummi ancestor of Jake Finkbonner — see 2006 entry), the holy man Black Elk (Oglala; baptized 1904), and over 150 Lakota people from present-day North and South Dakota. These letters were added to the postulation brief, which the Vatican published with signatures in 1916.

1891-1900 Congregation of American Sisters: Under the leadership of Mother M. Catherine Sacred White Buffalo (Hunkpapa) and Rev. Francis M. Craft (Mohawk), several Hunkpapa women from the Standing Rock Reservation founded a religious community inspired by Blessed Kateri. … four of the American Sisters served as nurses in the U.S. Army in Cuba and reportedly they were the first American Indian women to serve officially in the Armed Forces   of the United States.

1931 Since the Congregation of Rites had separated St. Kateri’s cause from that of the Jesuit martyrs, her cause was reintroduced and a postulator was appointed.

1930s Native Catholics awareness of Kateri Tekakwitha grew through books, sodalities, and school plays.

1939 1st Annual Meeting, Fargo, N.D.: Oct. 4-5. Topics: Purpose of conference, native language usage, and Catholic schools. 27 clergy and three native lay Catholics from Minn., N.D., and S.D. convened at the invitation of Bishop Aloysius Muench. Pope Pius XII declared

Catherine (Kateri) Tekakwitha a “Heroic venerable Servant of God” the first of three steps

towards canonization (formal recognition) as a saint.


1946 7th Annual Meeting, S. D. Immaculate Conception Mission, Oct. 7-9.Topics: Catholic schools, native vocations, and Catholic life on reservations.

l 1948 9th Annual Meeting, Marty, S. D.: St. Paul Mission, Oct. 4-6.

Topics: Catholic life on reservations and movement of families to off-reservation towns.


1950 11th Annual Meeting, Stephan, S.D.: Oct. 10-11. Topics: Catholic schools 1956 17th Annual Meeting, Chamberlain, S.D.: St. Joseph’s School, Oct. 8-10. Theme: Social Order and the Indian. Guest speakers: Dr. Ben Reifel (Brule) and Robert Bennett, both of the

Bureau of Indian Affairs.


1957 18th Annual Meeting, Rapid City, S.D.: Mother Butler Center, Sept. 23-25. Topics: Catholic schools, youth and urban adjustment with reports from Los Angeles, Rapid City, Salt Lake City, and elsewhere. 38 attendees.

1964 25th Annual Meeting, Chamberlain, S.D.: St. Joseph’s School, Aug. 10-13.Topics: Catechetics and liturgy on the reservation and at reservation schools. 39 attendees from 14 states.

1965 26th Annual Meeting, Marvin, S.D.: Blue Cloud Abbey, Aug. 9-11. By 1965, native clergy such as Reverend John J. Brown, S.J. (Siksika [Blackfeet]), were members of the conference.

1967 28th Annual Meeting, St. Norbert, Manitoba, Canada: Villa Marie Retreat House, Aug. 7-9. Topics: mission of church, effective evangelization, liturgical adaptation with the sacred pipe and problems of alcoholism. This was the first meeting held in Canada and the first to involve Canadian scholars and missionaries.

1969 30th Annual Meeting, Marvin, S.D.: Blue Cloud Abbey, August 4-6. Theme: The New Indian Generation. Topics: “Red power” with discussions led by Br. Edward M. Red Owl, OSB. The

Tekakwitha Conference reorganized its governance with the position of Executive Secretary as the principal office. The conference’s first newsletter was distributed.

1971 32nd Annual Meeting, Pine Ridge, S.D.: Holy Rosary Mission, Aug. 9-11. Theme: Present-Day Thrust of Indian People for Self-Determination. Topics: Native diaconate and conversion of mission schools to lay control with Birgil Kills Straight as keynote speaker. Association of Native Religious and Clergy (ANRC) established, which is comprised of Native American Catholic clergy and religious from the U.S and Canada.

1977 38th Annual Meeting, Rapid City, S.D.: Aug. [8-11?]. Theme: Re-evaluation of purpose. Msgr. Paul A. Lenz, secretary of the Commission for Catholic Missions Among the Colored People and the Indians (and director of the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions), promised financial support for further development of the conference.

1978 39th Annual Meeting, Rapid City, S.D.: St. Martin Academy, Aug. 7-10. Theme: Toward a Better Understanding of the Present and Future Direction of the Catholic Church with Native

American Tribes. Highlights: Critical and provocative addresses provided by the principal speakers: Sr. M. Jose Hobday, SSSF (Seneca), Rupert Costo, editor of Wassaja, and R. Pierce Beaver, historian of Protestant Indian missions. 220 people attended.

1979 40th Annual Meeting, Yankton, S.D.: Mount Marty College, August 6-9. Highlights: Native American Catholics comprised 66 of the approximately 200 participants. They

challenged the clergy to listen to the concerns of Native Americans. (They) met with Msgr.Paul A. Lenz (Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions), Bishop Harold J. Dimmerling (Rapid City, S.D.), Bishop Thomas Murphy (Great Falls, Mont.), and Bishop William G. Connare (Greensburg, Pa., Chair, U.S. Catholic Conference Mission Committee) to articulate their concerns. The Tekakwitha Conference incorporated with a board of directors, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops appointed an Episcopal Moderator, and it became listed in The Official Catholic Directory.

1989 50th Annual Meeting, Fargo, N. D.: North Dakota State University, Aug. 2-6.Theme: Walking the Sacred Circle with Jesus Christ. Also, 1989, a lay Native Catholic director was appointed as the first Native American director and the Conference is awarded the Pope Paul VI Award of the N.C.C.E. (National Council of Catholic Evangelization).

2002 64th Annual Meeting, Sioux Falls, S.D.: Augustana College, Jul. 30-Aug. 3. Theme: We are All Related through Kateri and Share our Culture and Faith on the Great Plains.

2006 On Mar. 4, by special request, Sister Kateri Mitchell went to Seattle to prepare for the annual meeting to be held in Seattle. She first visited Jacob Finkbonner at Seattle Children’s Hospital who was gravely ill with a strep A infection on his face. While at his bedside Sister Kateri and Jake’s mother prayed to Kateri Tekakwitha for her intercession while pressing a first-class relic to his body. While in surgery minutes later, hospital staff removed Jake’s bandages and discovered that he was disease free. Yet on the previous day when they applied the bandages, the upper half of his body was disease covered.

67th Annual Meeting, Burien (Seattle), Washington Pilgrimage to Lummi Reservation, Jul. 21, included an announcement on the investigation of Jacob Finkbonner’s miraculous healing.

2011 72nd Annual Meeting, Tucson, Ariz.: Tucson Convention Center, Jul. 20- 24. Theme: The Grand Canyon State is Enriched by Kateri Tekakwitha. On Dec. 17, Pope Benedict approved the 2006 instantaneous healing of Jacob Finkbonner as a first class miracle attributed to Kateri Tekakwitha’s intercession.

2012 73rd Annual Meeting, Albany, N.Y.: July 18-22. Theme: Walking in Her Footsteps in Kateri Country. Pilgrimage to Auriesville and Fonda shrines, July 21. Pope Benedict XVI canonized Kateri Tekakwitha as a saint in heaven on Oct. 21.

2013 74th Annual Meeting, El Paso, Texas: July 17-21. The Tekakwitha Conference purchased and relocated to a new National Center in Alexandria, Louisiana.

2017 78th Annual Meeting, Rapid City, S.D.

(From Marquette University Archives, Milwaukee, WI. Used with permission. Statue photo taken at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Rapid City)


Catholic Social Services helps birth mother and daughter reunite

Catholic Social Services is one of the few adoption agencies that still assists with birth parent/child searches. Merri Blake and her daughter, Courtney, found each other after 28 years. (Courtesy photo)


By Mary Garrigan
Catholic Social Services

In 1987, Catholic Social Services helped Merri Blake make an adoption plan for her newborn daughter.

Twenty-eight years later, CSS was there again for Merri when she decided to search for the baby who grew up as Courtney, the happy, healthy and beloved daughter of Joan and John Luft.

Because Merri shrouded her pregnancy and adoption decision in deep secrecy, only her parents, now deceased, some close friends and her husband, Jake, knew of the baby. Merri, already the single-mother of a toddler, never told her six siblings or her four other daughters, now ages 30, 24, 21 and 16, about Courtney.

“I was raised to believe that something like this was a bad thing, you know, like you did something bad and that’s why this has to happen. I didn’t realize that it could be something other than a bad thing,” Merri said.

The culture of adoption has changed dramatically in recent decades, says Natalie Lecy, director of the CSS Family Services Department. “We really encourage open adoption for everyone today. It’s healthier all around. Open adoption doesn’t mean that you’re going to be each other’s best friends, or even have regular contact. It’s just that the lines of communication are always kept open, so that medical questions or grief issues that may come up with a child can be addressed as they do,” Lecy said.

Over time, Merri came to see her adoption decision as a beautiful choice. “I just wish I would have known that a lot sooner,” she said. But once she decided to search for Courtney, things happened quickly.

By law, any birth parent or adoptee is allowed to initiate a search once the adoptee has reached the age of 18. Catholic Social Services is one of the few adoption agencies that still assists with searches. “Most agencies no longer offer this service, but CSS values the courage and selfless sacrifice of our clients who made this decision years ago so much that we’ve made a longterm commitment to help them,” Lecy said.

CSS was able to quickly connect Merri with Courtney’s mom, Joan, who grew up in Mud Butte and happened to be in the area visiting relatives.

“Courtney was the second child we adopted through Catholic Social Services and it was never a big secret that they were adopted,” Joan said. “The doors of communication between CSS and us were always open.”

After the two women met over coffee, Joan quickly shared Merri’s phone number with Courtney, who is married and living in Nashville now. The next day, Merri received a text that read: “This is Courtney. I want to talk sometime. How about tomorrow?”

“This whole thing moved a whole lot faster than I expected it to,” Merri laughed.

Courtney calls Merri’s decision to reach out to her “perfect timing.” Her older sister, Erin, had recently searched for her birth parents and the experience was a positive one. “I was planning to do it soon, too,” Courtney said. “Ever since I was little, I was always intrigued and kind of wanted to know who she was. After all, she’s part of who I am and the reason I am where I am today.”

Merri and Courtney’s first meeting took place in 2015 at a Nashville mall. There were lots of questions and answers, and plenty of tears, too. “We stayed and talked and talked until they kicked us out,” Merri said. “She just asked and asked and asked and I just answered and answered and answered.”

Courtney’s questions were mostly about Merri’s circumstances at the time of her birth, her birth father and the history of her extended birth family. “She was so gracious answering all my questions,” Courtney said.

Merri’s biggest fear — that Courtney would resent her for choosing to parent her first child but place her second for adoption – proved unfounded. “I just wanted her to know the reason that I did this. I couldn’t bring another baby into my home when I couldn’t even feed or clothe the one I already had.”

Courtney says she would have done the same thing. “I never felt any resentment at all. I know I was very fortunate to wind up where I did,” she said. “If someone has the courage and bravery to give their child up for adoption, then they must be a really caring and kind person.”

Merri says she couldn’t have chosen better parents for her baby, something which was not an option 28 years ago.

“Her parents could not have raised her any better. She is so caring and considerate and such a good person. She is such a sweet girl,” Merri said.

Today, Merri and Courtney keep in touch by text, telephone and Facebook. Tragically, John Luft died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack five years ago, before getting to meet the birth mothers of his two daughters. “Not a day went by that we did not want to thank the birth mothers and birth fathers for this gift,” Joan said. “We were never threatened by them searching, or thought it would hurt our feelings.”

Joan, Courtney and Merri come from different perspectives on the adoption experience, but they share a common gratitude.

“We are all very lucky,” said Joan.






Invited to become Spirit-filled evangelizers

In last month’s West River Catholic, I wrote about “The Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America,” which recently took place in Orlando, Florida. This convocation was in response to Pope Francis’ call for the church to embrace her mission to go out to the peripheries in answering the radical call to missionary discipleship. The Holy Father’s apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”) was used as the guide and platform for the convocation.

The heart of the convocation directed us to examine and reflect upon the current landscape and mission field that is awaiting us; our response that leads us to renew our call as missionary disciples and our commitment to form missionary disciples; where are the peripheries and margins of society that await us and who lives there; and finally, strategies for addressing the issues; and equipping Spirit-filled evangelizers.

The Diocese of Rapid City sent a delegation comprised of myself and fourteen men and women from across the diocese. Throughout the four days, we heard many inspiring talks from various leaders in the Catholic Church and from panelists across the country who led discussions in the daily breakout sessions on a range of diverse topics.

An important point in one of the talks was that the work of evangelization is the means to address poverty in the world — all poverty and all forms of it. As we know, poverty is everywhere, in many different forms. We can see it all around us and it can also easily be hidden. It is in every part of our society, culture and geographical area. And because it can be hidden, none of us are removed from experiencing it in our lives.

This is perhaps why Pope Francis has invited “all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal

encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord.” The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms” (EG #3).

Daily asking for this gift of a personal encounter with Jesus should be the beginning point of accepting our call to be missionary disciples, going to the peripheries across our diocese and across America. It begins with conversion in our own hearts which will not happen unless we seek this renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ unfailingly each day. If we are going to accept our baptismal call to radical missionary discipleship, it begins here for all of us. Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight for the Knights Columbus, noted in his address that perhaps we ourselves are the first periphery.

This is at the heart of a life of faith. Many people express a desire for a deeper relationship with the Lord, but often neglect the means to facilitate this desire. Pope Benedict XVI shared these words with the people in St. Peter’s Square, “For every Christian, faith is first and foremost a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus, it is having an experience of his closeness, his friendship and his love. It is in this way that we learn to know him ever better, to love him and to follow him more and more” (Wednesday General Audience, October 21, 2009).

What is needed in our families, our parish communities, this diocese and our world is a new passion for holiness. If we are not seeking this, then we will not accept a radical call to missionary discipleship and a call to holiness. This was clearly one of the challenging messages of the convocation.

As a disciple of Jesus seeks to live out his or her call to holiness, first asking the Lord to accompany him or her, then it will be possible to practice the “art of accompaniment” as expressed by Pope Francis (EV #169). It is the Lord Jesus who will teach us as he accompanies us. This is precisely how Jesus began the early church — “accompaniment” with his disciples. Our response to this encounter with Christ also requires the accompaniment with others, leading us to become Spirit-filled evangelizers.

“To create a culture of encounter and witness, we must live explicit lives of discipleship. We are called not only to believe in the Gospel but to allow it to take deep root in us in a way that leaves us incapable of silence: we cannot help but to announce the Gospel in word and in deed. This missionary outreach is at the heart of disciple-ship” (USCCB, Living as Missionary Disciples: A Resource for Evangelization, p. 14).

In the end, going to the peripheries requires us getting out of our comfort zones, leaving our all too familiar maintenance-mode mindsets, and becoming parish communities which are both creative and mission-driven to share the joy of the Gospel. This has been the encouragement given to us by Pope Francis in “The Joy of the Gospel. “

“Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the “peripheries” in need of the light of the Gospel (EV #20).

This was also the challenge given to the participants who attended The Convocation of Catholic Leaders. This is the challenge I offer all of us in the Diocese of Rapid City.

It is our mission: We, the Diocese of Rapid City, through the power of the Holy Spirit, are called to attract and form intentional disciples who joyfully, boldly and lovingly proclaim and live the mission of Jesus Christ, leading to eternal life.


West River Catholic: June 2017

Enjoy the June edition of the West River Catholic

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Called to live the life of solitary prayer a hermit chooses a quiet Piedmont location

Immaculate Heart Hermitage is a new home for Sr. Mary Catherine Jacobs who will reside in the Diocese of Rapid City as a hermit.

Originally from Ralph, she entered religious life at age 18 at the Carmel of Mary Monastery at Wahpeton, N.D. It is a cloistered contemplative order with a devotion to imitating the Blessed Mother.

“Mary is very much a part of my life,” she said. “Every grace I received came to me through her hands.”

The monastery in N. D. was founded in 1954, the Marian year. “I was there 30 years and began to know the eremitical calling (to become a hermit) around 1986. Vatican II talked about going back to your roots so I felt very strongly that I was being called back to what we lived in the origin of the order.

“Reading the Holy Father’s encyclical on “Rich in Mercy,” St. John Paul II speaks of conversion to the father as an experience of knowing the trinity dwells in every soul.

“I felt called to a life of prayer. You can reach into everybody’s heart by prayer,” said Sr. Mary Catherine.

She first explored the hermetic life in Chester, New Jersey. She also lived in communities in Texas and a new community starting in Brazil. After much contemplation she discerned her calling was to live not in community, but as a solitary hermit.

She talked to Fr. Dan Juelfs, who used to be a neighbor at Ralph. He said he would speak with Bishop Robert Gruss. After interviewing her last fall and reviewing her references, the bishop gave his consent for establishing a hermitage. This is new to the diocese, so the Handbook for Hermetic Life was adapted from the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota. The bishop appointed Fr. Leo Hausmann, director of Eremitic Life. Fr. Mark McCormick is her spiritual director.

“My hermitage is not a place where I get away, it’s where I meet the whole world in prayer and in Christ, because Christ prays for everyone. It’s almost like an infinite vocation — not limited to time or space, nobody is excluded. The whole world is in there from the beginning of creation until the end because God is there,” said Sr. Mary Catherine.

“We are each individuals and are to have a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord. The hermit is to be an icon of the time we are to be personally relating to the Lord,” she said. “I live in silence and solitude and that is to some degree everybody’s calling. The hermit is to be an intercessor, to let Christ pray his prayer through her, that’s what we all seek.”

She will make her temporal eremitic vows at 11 a.m. Mass on June 29 at Our Lady of the Black Hills, Piedmont. She attends daily Mass there and at St. Martin Monastery. The church has a box set up for prayer requests and prayer requests can be sent to her at

According to diocesan policy, hermits residing in the Diocese of Rapid City are required to be self-supporting. Sr. Mary Catherine partially supports herself by painting and selling icons and painting artwork for Christmas and Easter cards, bookmarks and holy cards. To view her artwork for sale, go to Land of Carmel Art Inspirations at She also sews Mass linens for the Carmelites in Wahpeton in order to bring in money.

Immaculate Heart Hermitage has been established by Sr. Mary Catherine as a non-profit organization in the State of South Dakota with a board of trustees so that she can receive donations to help support herself and her ministry. For anyone who would like to inquire about how they can support her ministry, please contact her at