CSS honors Richard Thompson — recipient of the 2017 Founder’s Award

Catholic Social Services held their annual banquet on October 1 in Rapid City. The Founder’s Award, given in honor of the late Msgr. William O’Connell, went to Richard Thompson, former Superintendent for the Rapid City Catholic School System.

Thompson was instrumental in getting St. Thomas More High School started in 1991. Before the current building was completed in 1995, classes were held in the basement of National American University. He worked as a principal, superintendent and fundraiser for a new building.

Three people gave testimonials on behalf of Thompson. Barbara Honeycutt is the current Superintendent of the RCCSS. She previously served in the development department for the schools when Thompson was superintendent.

She roasted him on the conditions of the new Catholic high school: “In the fall of 1993, my family and I moved to Rapid City from Grand Island, Nebraska. It was important to us that there be a Catholic School System in the town we relocated to. I learned about St. Thomas More High School and we decided we had found our new home. When I inquired about the school I don’t remember being told at that the students ate lunch on the floor in the hallways, that every clock in the building had a different time on it, or that students had to crawl over their desks in Wayne Sullivan’s math class in order to be seated.”

His daughter, Kara Thompson, who teaches at William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia, spoke second. She was attending with her sister Tammy and brother Brian. (Their brother Kevin passed away in 1986.) “I am a 1996 graduate of St. Thomas More. Msgr. O’Connell was a dear member of our family, of Kevin’s especially. The Founder’s Award contains special significance for all the Thompsons.”

She lauded her father’s sense of fairness and justice and his work toward seeing underprivileged students get a Catholic education.

Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap, gave his congratulations to Thompson via video testimony. Thompson worked for Archbishop Chaput in the Diocese of Rapid City and the Archdiocese of Denver. “Dick Thompson is one of my heroes. He is a great man; he served the Diocese of Rapid City in extraordinary ways. Back in the early days of St. Thomas More (High School) I don’t think we could have survived without the encouragement and hard work he committed to education, to the church, to the Diocese of Rapid City, and to his family. I can’t think of anybody who deserves this honor more.”

Jim Kinyon, executive director of CSS, and Susan Raposa, president of the CSS board, presented the Founders Award.

When Thompson took the stage he thanked Honeycutt and her staff for keeping the school going.

He thanked his children for coming and his wife of 55 years, Judy, for keeping him going. “This award acknowledges that by the grace of God and the hard work of hundreds of people great things can be accomplished and continued,” he said. “It means so much because in reflecting on the life and spirit of O’C what better priestly model of Christ to the community of the faithful could we have than O’C? He’s a very special member of many families here I know, and certainly of ours,” said Thompson. He recalled all the support Msgr. O’Connell had given his family — especially when his son Kevin had gone through treatment for Ewing’s sarcoma of the spine.

John Garvey, president, Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., a nationally recognized expert in constitutional law, religious liberty, and the 1st amendment, gave the keynote address.

Garvey said, “Most universities promote the idea that there are no good or bad choices. I am the judge of my own good; you are the judge of yours. If you mean to do good, that’s what matters most.”

That brings up two areas of concern — moral ambiguity and moral complexity. He gave examples of moral ambiguity themes promoted in pop culture. One is where physician assisted suicide is looked at as heroic and another where non-traditional family structures are held up as just as good as old-fashioned ones. In contrast, he used the Catechism and teachings of Pope Francis to illustrate Catholic moral tradition offers clear counter-cultural answers.

For moral complexity, he addressed a personal issue — the decision to attend a family wedding wherein a person had not gotten their previous marriage annulled. There was a lot of family discussion on whether attending would give young family members the impression they approved of the union. Garvey said he attended and was following Pope Francis’ position on staying close to a person in a messy real life situation. When the time was right, family members encouraged the groom to get an annulment and then be married in the church. Which is what happened.

Garvey said, “The Holy Father says to error on the side of charity. In Francis’s words, “Heal the wounds and warm the hearts of the faithful.’”


Emulate Nicholas Black Elk as a model of faith

There are a lot of great things happening in our diocese. I see many ways that we are moving from having simply a culture of maintenance to developing a culture of mission in our parishes. The more we embrace our diocesan priority plan together, the more we will see the abundant fruit of living as missionary disciples.

To lay it before us again, our Sacred Mission as a diocese is: “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.” We are called to keep before us our vision statement as well: “Reconcile — Make Disciples — Live the Mission.”

As I reflect on our mission and vision statements for the diocese, I cannot help but think about Nicholas William Black Elk Sr., who was a Lakota catechist in our diocese. I was excited to read in last month’s West River Catholic that Bishop Robert Gruss will be offering a Mass as he opens the cause for sainthood of Nicholas Black Elk, on at Saturday, Oct. 21, 4 p.m., in Holy Rosary Church, Pine Ridge, on the campus of the Red Cloud Indian School.

This Mass is for everyone in our diocese and not just for the Native American community. As the cause for Black Elk’s sainthood is being formally opened, I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 12:26, “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.”

This is great news for all the people of our diocese. We should be inspired by the story of Nicolas Black Elk who, after converting to Catholicism, spent his time building up the local church. As I read the story of Black Elk, I see our diocesan mission statement and vision statement come to life. I also see Black Elk as a faithful steward who lived stewardship as a way of life.

They say Black Elk watched and studied the Christian faith which grew out of his curiosity for Christianity. The life of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, who was canonized a saint by Pope Benedict the XIV, on Oct. 21, 2012, was a particular inspiration to him. In 1885, he signed the petition supporting her cause for canonization.

In 1904, he met a Jesuit priest who invited him to study Christianity at Holy Rosary Mission near Pine Ridge. I see in this the first lens of our stewardship initiative — generous hospitality: invitation, welcome and fellowship. There is nothing like a personal invitation. This personal invitation by this priest opened the door for Nicholas Black Elk to begin to understand the way of Christ, and on the Feast of St. Nicholas, Dec. 6, 1904, he was baptized.

In 1907, he was appointed as a catechist because of his love for Christ, his enthusiasm and an excellent memory for learning Scripture and Catholic teachings. Deacon Marlon Leneaugh describes Nicholas Black Elk as one might describe St. Paul: “He traveled widely to various reservations; preaching, sharing stories and teaching the Catholic faith with his ‘Two Roads Model’ of the catechism (the black road and the red road — the black road representing evil and the red road representing good).”

Black Elk’s two roads reminds me of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s teaching in the Spiritual Exercises on the meditation of the two standards (flags). As disciples, we are called to choose where we are going to stand — with Jesus or with the world. No matter what life the Spirit has drawn us to, once we are baptized and confirmed, we are called to stand in Jesus’ company under his flag, under his standard.

Deacon Marlon continues: “Black Elk’s mission was to build the faith among his people and to strengthen the relationships between native and non-native people. He did this by promoting his culture as he worked in the Black Hills and by promoting the message of Jesus Christ as love, peace and harmony that was revealed to him at an early age in the vision.”

His mission reminds me of our mission: to Reconcile — Make Disciples — Live the Mission. Today we continue his legacy when we call forth the power of the Holy Spirit to bring a new Pentecost among us as God’s people, native and non-native, working together as the Body of Christ.

Nicholas Black Elk also came to mind as I read the book “Return: How to Draw Your Child Back to the Church” by Brandon Vogt. In chapter six, Vogt talks about the importance of learning to equip ourselves in the faith. That was very much part of Black Elk’s conversion as he watched and studied the Catholic faith.

This, too, is at the heart of our stewardship initiative (lively faith: prayer, study and formation). Vogt contends that it is important that we equip ourselves, learning our faith through the study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Bible, but we also need to know our testimony and be willing to give it.

Nicholas Black Elk equipped himself to know the Catholic faith and to live it in the context of being Lakota. He also inspired others to live Christ by his own story.

This opening of the cause for sainthood inspires us to continue to equip ourselves with a solid understanding of the teachings of our faith and in the giving of our testimony to what Christ is doing in our lives.

After Oct. 21 Nicholas Black Elk will be called Servant of God. His consistent faith as a catechist and his teaching in joyfully living the Catholic way of life has become a beacon for all of us in our diocese and for the church as a whole. May he model for us a way of walking on the road with Christ, leading us to reconciliation and peace among all God’s people.


Young Black Elk photo from Marquette University Archives

‘Vision with action can change the world’

Our Diocesan Priority Plan was completed and implementation began over a year ago. As you recall, the process of creating a priority plan led to the development of a vision statement. Vision statements reveal the overall vision and mission of an organization. In the words of the late Nelson Mandela, “Vision without action is just a dream, action without vision just passes time, and vision with action can change the world.”

The vision of the Diocese of Rapid City reflects the vision and mission of Jesus in his public ministry: Reconcile — Make Disciples — Live the Mission. These are the foundation stones for moving the diocese forward into the future. Vision with action will tangibly make present the kingdom of God.

The vision statement of the Diocese of Rapid City became the building block for creating the three Diocesan Pastoral Priorities — Reconciliation, Forming Disciples, and Funding the Mission. These priorities serve to guide our diocesan efforts over the next few years. The Priority Plan as a whole describes the mission of the Diocese of Rapid City in many ways. But the mission goes beyond the wonderful ministry that takes place across the diocese. We also have to have sufficient resources, both in terms of facilities and finances, to fulfill our sacred mission. This is why Funding the Mission is one of our priorities.

To move this priority forward, I met with key members of the chancery staff and Rapid City Catholic School System leadership. We discussed the many needs of the chancery, the retreat center and the school. A facility master planning process was engaged over the course of several months, beginning in January and concluding this past June. The purpose of this process was to discern the needs of each entity necessary to continue to live the mission of Jesus Christ throughout the whole diocese.

To backtrack a little bit, much wonderful ministry has happened since we purchased and renovated the former St. Martin Monastery to create the wonderful retreat center and elementary school we currently enjoy. Through the generosity of people across the diocese, we had a very successful campaign in the We Walk by Faith Appeal, raising over 18.5 million dollars. This completed phase one of our diocesan plans. In that process we also helped fund the building of two Newman Centers in our diocese.

But in many ways, our needs have only increased. Our current Chancery staff is located in two places — on Cathedral Drive and at the Terra Sancta Annex. Our spaces in both locations are inadequate and overall ministry is best accomplished when we are all in one place. The retreat center has been a great gift for the diocese. Its use is far beyond what we could have imagined. But for large diocesan events, the retreat center has also become insufficient. The Rapid City Catholic School System has pressing needs as well. High school plays and the many things needed to make them successful are currently taking place in an old, dilapidated gym at St. Elizabeth Seton School. At St. Thomas More Middle School the students begin eating lunch at 10:30 in the morning because of shared space limitations at St. Thomas More High School.

These and other issues were the catalysts for the facility master planning process. This process resulted in the development of a Facility Master Plan for the Terra Sancta Campus looking out many years into the future. This plan includes a new pastoral center and a fine arts/multi-purpose events center at the Terra Sancta campus, as well as additional classrooms for St. Elizabeth Seton School. Rapid City Catholic School System leaders simultaneously engaged in a master planning process for the St. Thomas More campus. This master plan includes a new kitchen and lunch room for the middle school as well as future plans for additional classrooms and a new gymnasium. These are some needs among others identified on the facility master plans for both the Terra Sancta and St. Thomas More campuses. The basic footprint of both completed master plans are below my column.

As I wrote in Through Him, With Him and In Him – A Spiritual Guide to the Diocesan Priority Plan, “While we are doing many great things in the Diocese and providing many opportunities for people to grow in their faith and step out in mission, it is important that all of our efforts are coordinated toward a more comprehensive vision for the whole diocese.” This master planning process has helped to set a more comprehensive vision aligned with the mission statement of the diocese — 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.

As we know, if we are to live the mission we must be able to fund the mission. Although this master planning process was important in looking to the future, buildings are not the complete story regarding our needs. There is a great need to fully fund our priests’ retirement. It is currently funded at around sixty percent. The Rapid City Catholic School System needs to grow its endowment to support tuition assistance and to make salaries and benefits more competitive so as to retain and attract quality educators. Finally, and no less important, as we seek to properly carry out ministry on the Native American reservations in our diocese, I would like to create an endowment to enable us to provide and expand the personnel and resources for those living on the reservations we serve. Our current outside monetary resources are decreasing each year. These are some of the basic needs as we look to the future that will help us carry out the mission of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The needs included in Funding the Mission have been prioritized without having a clear indication of how much money could be raised in order to make these dreams come true. To that end, we sent out Requests for Proposals to twelve fundraising consultants. We received back four responses and interviewed three companies. We have selected Community Consulting Services (CCS) to assist in conducting a feasibility study to help determine what might be possible in terms of raising the money necessary to fund the various needs outlined above. This study will take place over the course of the next three months, with completion, hopefully, by year’s end.

The details of the feasibility study are being worked out at the current time and are not yet completed. A feasibility study will help determine which projects will move forward as well as when and how to proceed with a diocesan-wide campaign aimed at funding our mission.

In conclusion, I would like each of us to remember that first among the Core Values in our Diocesan Priority Plan, which we must embrace in all of our endeavors, is Prayer. In Jesus Christ, the Father has withheld nothing from us, but has given us everything. Nothing is lacking for those who place their faith and hope in him. But without Jesus, encountered through daily prayer, we can do nothing (cf. Jn 15:15). Without sustained prayer we can make no progress in carrying out Christ’s mission. Let us turn to the Holy Spirit daily, asking that he stir up the gifts in our own hearts and give us the courage and strength to step out in faith, hope, love and trust. He will “teach us everything” (Jn 14:26) and “guide us to all truth” (Jn 16:13).

As our Holy Father Pope Francis encourages us: “Keeping our missionary fervor alive calls for firm trust in the Holy Spirit, for it is he who “helps us in our weakness” (Rom 8:26). But this generous trust has to be nourished, and so we need to invoke the Spirit constantly. He can heal whatever causes us to flag in the missionary endeavor. It is true that this trust in the unseen can cause us to feel disoriented: it is like being plunged into the deep and not knowing what we will find. Yet there is no greater freedom than that of allowing oneself to be guided by the Holy Spirit, letting him enlighten, guide and direct us, leading us wherever he wills. The Holy Spirit knows well what is needed in every time and place. This is what it means to be mysteriously fruitful!” [Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (November 24, 2103), no. 275]

Four diaconate candidates installed September 9

On September 9, four candidates for the diaconate were installed at the 5:30 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral of Our lady of Perpetual Help, by Bishop Robert Gruss.

The candidates have completed a year of Aspirancy, which is “primarily a time to discern the capability and readiness of an aspirant to be nominated to the bishop for acceptance as a candidate for diaconal ordination” (National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States, USCCB).

The next step in their formation is the Rite of Admission. The rite is celebrated when, “it has been established that the intention of those aspiring to Holy Orders is supported by the necessary qualifications and has achieved sufficient maturity” (Rite of Admission to Candidacy for Holy Orders).

As they continue through the next three years of the program, there are additional rites for institution of lectors and acolytes before ordination as a permanent deacon.

The four men recently spoke to the West River Catholic about themselves and what has led them to discern the diaconate.

Ralph Dupres

Home Parish: St. Therese the Little Flower, Rapid City

Family: Wife Rita; children: Deseree, Danielle, Lisa, Bobby, and Ralph; 8 grandchildren

Church Involvement: CCD and confirmation teacher, active in TEC, usher, Knights of Columbus, homebound ministry, Commissioned Lay Minister, Lector, and Eucharistic minister

What is one church influence (saint, teaching, book) that has made an impression on you? Why/how? St. Ignatius and his teachings and writings have taught me that there are times of spiritual desolation and how to handle those times.

Why did you decide to begin the process of becoming a deacon? At Mass one day, 17 years ago, I felt a calling. I fought it at first but it got too strong so I talked to Rita about it and we talked to our parish priest. We had small children at the time and he suggested we wait. We were patient and waited but the voices never went away. I searched out (the late) Sister Marie Schwan, CSJ, and she guided us to the lay ministry program which led to this.


Rob Hrabe

Home Parish: St. Therese the Little Flower, Rapid City

Work: Business owner

Family: Wife Natalie; two children: Mackenzie and Ashley; and three grandchildren

Church involvement: Commissioned Lay, Minister, Eucharistic minister, lector, and active in the Cursillo movement and TEC youth program.

What is one church influence (saint, teaching, book) that has made an impression on you? Why/how? When we were in the Air Force in California, Saint John Paul II came to visit Universal Studios for a youth conference. Natalie was teaching at a Catholic High School at the time so we got to chaperone the event. It was electrifying. Our faith and our spiritual life also really grew in the lay ministry program.

Why did you decide to begin the process of becoming a deacon? I had several spiritual experiences that led me to the diaconate. My wife’s and my spiritual formation intensified through the lay ministry program and we have a strong desire to serve the Catholic community.

Rich Olsen

Home Parish: Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Rapid City

Work: B-1 Simulator Training and Support Engineer and TRU Simulation + Training, Inc.

Family: Wife Mary Helen; three children: Charles, Catherine, and Joseph; and two grandchildren

Church involvement: Lector, Eucharistic minister, volunteer with Joy-Filled Marriage and Heart-to-Heart retreats, and VSI certified (Basic and Master certification)

What is one church influence (saint, teaching, book) that has made an impression on you? Why/how? Mary, Mother of God. As a convert, I did not have a devotion to Mary until I was married and had a family. I was called to pray the Rosary daily when my family came under stress from my military career. I have received many blessings through the intercession of our Blessed Mother. She has helped to strengthen our marriage and protect our children as they ventured out into the world.

Why did you decide to begin the process of becoming a deacon? I feel called to serve the Lord, and the permanent diaconate seems to be where God is directing me. My wife and I have discussed the possibility of the permanent diaconate for a number of years, but for a variety of reasons, it never seemed to be the right time to pursue this. When Aspirancy was announced, we felt it was the right time to respond to the Lord’s gentle prodding and pursue the possibility of service as a permanent deacon.

Bill White

Home Parish: Christ the King, Porcupine

Work: Full-time National Guard

Family: Wife Terri; children: Jared, Sarah, Breanna, Audrey, Billie; 17 grandchildren

Church Involvement: Lector, Eucharistic minister, parish council, wake team, confirmation, currently the part-time pastoral coordinator for Christ the King

What is one church influence (saint, teaching, book) that has made an impression on you? Why/how? The clergy have always inspired me. Deacon James “Heavy” Garnett used to always kid around with us. The church we were going to would have Mass every other Sunday so we would go to St. Isaac Jogues every other week and he would say, “I was wondering if you were still Catholic!” He didn’t live a perfect life, just like I haven’t, and that was a great example.

Why did you decide to begin the process of becoming a deacon? It was a calling. A few years ago I went to the Rapid City Diocese website and found the Canku Wakan retreat and signed up for it. That led to more and more involvement and then to the deacon Aspirancy program.




Immigration: ‘Let’s reject the forces of division’


If you have been following the news lately, you have read and heard much about the recent hurricanes in both Texas and Florida. This awareness calls for our continued prayers for the many, many people who have been impacted by these natural disasters as well as those who have been affected by the fires in the western part of our country and the earthquake in Mexico.

Immigration has also been a hot topic in the news over the past number of weeks. You would have most likely heard that President Donald Trump has suspended the five-year-old program instituted by former President Barack Obama known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It is estimated that approximately 800,000 individuals referred to as “Dreamers” have been in the program created by DACA.

The Dream Act associated with this policy is intended to protect immigrant youth who entered the United States as children. These young people are seeking to reach their full God-given potential and fulfill the promise of being able to give back to the only country most have ever known. The decision to end this program plunges these immigrant youth into uncertainty.

As stated recently by the leadership of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “The cancellation of the DACA program causes unnecessary fear for DACA youth and their families. The Catholic Church has long watched with pride and admiration as DACA youth live out their daily lives with hope and a determination to flourish and contribute to society: continuing to work and provide for their families, continuing to serve in the military, and continuing to receive an education. Now, after months of anxiety and fear about their futures, these brave young people face deportation. This decision is unacceptable and does not reflect who we are as Americans.”

DACA is a pro-life policy which protects the life and unity of the family. The family is vital for building up a sound social order. Family is the very foundation of society and a communion of persons called to reflect the life of the Trinity. These images are not to be taken lightly because they reveal the heart of God for the family. These young people were brought to the United States by their parents because they desired to provide their children with hope, opportunity and safety that they could never find in their countries of birth.

In a recent interview, former White House strategist Steve Bannon, a Catholic, criticized the Catholic Church and U.S. bishops for their views on immigration, stating; “The bishops have been terrible about this. … Because unable to really … come to grips with the problems in the church, they need illegal aliens to fill the churches. … They have an economic interest in unlimited immigration, unlimited illegal immigration.”

I, like many other bishops, find this statement outrageous and insulting. Jesus himself, in Matthew 25, has put the stranger, the immigrant, the refugee, the poor at the heart of his Gospel message, “For I was hungry and you gave me food… a stranger and you welcomed me.” The immigrant and the refugee are precisely the ones whom we are called to welcome. The sacred Scriptures very clearly declare that welcoming immigrants is indispensable to our faith. We will all be judged on how well we have responded to this call.

At the heart of Catholic Social Teaching is the moral obligation to protect the life and dignity of every human being, particularly the most vulnerable, which includes the many youth impacted by DACA. The church’s pro-immigration position is based on fidelity to God’s word and respects what all Americans desire — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To think otherwise is ridiculous and has no merit.

As stated by James Rogers, Chief Communications Officer for the USCCB, “The witness of the Catholic bishops on issues from pro-life to pro-marriage to pro-health care to pro-immigration reforms is rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ rather than the convenient political trends of the day. We are called not to politics or partisanship, but to love our neighbor. Let’s reject the forces of division that insist we make a false choice between our safety and our humanity. It is both possible and morally necessary to secure the border in a manner which provides security and a humane immigration policy.”

No matter where a person is politically on this issue, this recent decision by President Trump is clear evidence that permanent and comprehensive immigration reform in our country is desperately needed. Let us all pray diligently that this can be accomplished and soon.


Why being a Stewardship Parish is important

Over the last several months I have written about your parish becoming a Stewardship Parish. Much of what I have written has been about how to become a Stewardship Parish. In referring to our diocesan priority plan, Through Him, With Him and In Him: A Spiritual Guide to the Diocesan Priority Plan,” I have spelled out the process for becoming a Stewardship Parish in “The Characteristics of a Stewardship Parish.” Some readers – and maybe you’re one of them – are asking, “Why is being a Stewardship Parish so important? Our parish is fine.” I am glad people are asking that question.

Patrick Lencioni, in his book, “The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business” lists six crucial questions that need to be addressed for organizational health. They are:

Why do we exist?

How do we behave?

What do we do?

How will we succeed?

What is most important right now?

Who must do what?

It is important to note that Lencioni begins with the why question first — Why do we exist?

Simon Sinek, author, Columbia University professor and motivational speaker, says “very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief — WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care? People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”

Sinek’s thoughts remind me of the prayer by the late Jesuit Father General, Fr. Pedro Arrupé, who answers his why question in finding and falling in love with God:

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

The why is the fulfillment of our true desire and happiness which can only be found in finding and falling in love with God in an absolute way.

Our sacred mission statement for the Diocese of Rapid City addresses the why question as well. “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.”

The why is eternal life!

In Paul’s letter to the Romans we hear: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rm 8:28).

Jesus tells us what his purpose is — to love and serve God, and to love and serve others. “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mk 12:29-31).

In the 19th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, a young man approaches Jesus and asks him, “Teacher, what must I do to gain eternal life?”

Jesus, himself, asks him the why question, “Why do you ask me about the good?”

The rich young man kept all the commandments and desired to do good, yet Jesus has more in store for him than simply keeping the commandments. Jesus wants him to go further and deeper not only with his relationship with God, but with his brothers and sisters: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Why is being a Stewardship Parish so important? It is important because it helps us to focus our lives on Christ as the center of everything we say and do. It takes the focus off ourselves and puts the focus on the needs of our brothers and sisters, who come first, even before our own needs and desires.

Remember, stewardship is not a program; it is a way of life. Stewardship begins with a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, who reminds us of our own identity as beloved sons and daughters of the Father, and then sends us forth as missionary disciples who proclaim joyfully, boldly and lovingly the living Christ that leads us to eternal life.

In linking discipleship to stewardship, we are following Jesus’ examples. In Matthew 25:14-30 he describes a disciple in the terms of stewardship. The steward is the one to whom the owner of the household turns over responsibility for caring for the property, managing affairs, making resources yield as much as possible, and sharing the resources with others. The position involves trust and accountability.

The characteristics of a Stewardship Parish are meant to help us to be accountable not only to one another as missionary disciples, but also to our parishes and our diocese. The characteristics of a Stewardship Parish are meant to be a guide, a blueprint helping us to fall more in love with Jesus Christ by living a Catholic way of life through generous hospitality, lively faith and dedicated discipleship.

I welcome your questions and comments regarding stewardship in your life and that of your parish. Feel free to contact me at (605) 716-5214 x235 or mmccormick@diorc.org.


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 http://rapidcitydiocese.org/. 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…”