Refuel: An opportunity to draw near to Christ and rejuvenate

Bob Rice (Courtesy photo)

Click here to register!

By Becky Berreth

“If we are enthusiastic and excited about what the Lord is doing in our lives, then the faith becomes contagious to others,” said Bob Rice. “That is when faith becomes a joyful activity for everyone.

“One of my favorite lines from Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium is when he wrote that an evangelizer should not look like he just came out of a funeral! The church has said many times that the first way we evangelize others is through the joyful witness of our lives. I think sometimes we who do ministry within the church can get so caught up in the ‘what of what’ we say that we forget to also give attention to how we say it.”

Rice is this year’s featured speaker at the annual “Refuel — Diocesan Religious Educators Conference” held January 19-20 at the Terra Sancta Retreat Center. He is a professor of catechetics at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, and will speak to this year’s theme, “Sharing the Joy of the Gospel,” while connecting the theme to the Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment as well as Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium.

“This year, in anticipation of the upcoming synod, we wanted to bring in a speaker who could help us prepare and make the most of it,” explained Susan Safford, diocesan director of faith formation.  “At the same time, we wanted the topic to be broad enough to be relevant for those who work in all variety of ministries.”

According to Safford, the conference is based on a long ago youth ministers rally the diocese had sponsored. She wanted something where the presentations were encouraging, informative, and engaging and came at a time during the year when people needed a boost. When she began her work in the Office of Faith Formation and Youth & Young Adult Ministry in 2012, she surveyed the dioceses and found a need to revive the event, but open it to all who minister in the church — in faith formation, youth ministry, music ministry, liturgy, marriage and family, business and administration.

“There was need to bring people together for prayer, support and helpful presentations — to be with the Lord and receive him,” she said. “Everyone who serves the mission of the church, in whatever capacity — anyone who wants to learn more about “Sharing the Joy of the Gospel” — sign up. This is a great opportunity to be re-energized for the call that the Lord has for us, to learn more and grow in our work for the church. It is a chance to be with people from around the diocese for fellowship and sharing of ideas, and especially to be with the Lord in prayer and receive what he wants to give us.”

Safford hopes the conference will give participants an opportunity to draw near to Christ and allow him to rejuvenate and reinvigorate those in attendance for future work in their church.

Rice agreed saying, “My prayer is that everyone who comes will feel energized, educated, and empowered to grow deeper in their faith and be able to joyfully share that with others.

“Plus, I am incredibly good looking. I mean … dang. Just wait until you see me,” he added jokingly.

The conference begins with Mass at 5:30 p.m. on January 19, followed by dinner and the opening presentation. There will be time for adoration and confessions to end the night.  Saturday sessions begin at 8:30 a.m. and will end at 4 p.m. The day will include presentations, prayer, and daily Mass.

Register before December 24 and receive $10 off the $65 registration fee. For more information contact Susan Safford or Susan Thompson at 605-716-5214 or email ssafford@diorc.org or sthompson@diorc.org.

Serra Clubs support vocations through building friendships

Greg Schwietz, President of Serra USA, from Omaha, Neb., discusses the possibility of forming a Serra Club in the Diocese of Rapid City, on Nov. 30, at Terra Sancta Retreat Center. (WRC photos by Laurie Hallstrom)

 

By Laurie Hallstrom

Vocations Director Fr. Mark McCormick first heard of the Serra Club 34 years ago when he was a seminarian in St. John Vianney College Seminary, St. Paul, Minn. “They would have dinners at restaurants and invite us to tell our stories. I always wondered why our diocese never had a Serra Club.”

Last year, Al Wolf, from the Bismarck, N.D. chapter of the Serra Club, met with Bishop Robert Gruss and Father McCormick about chartering a Serra Club in the Diocese of Rapid City.

On November 30, an introductory meeting was held at Terra Sancta Retreat Center. About 60 people came to hear about the club: members of parish vocations committees, parents of seminarians and religious, and others who would like to help foster vocations in the diocese.

Opening the program, Father McCormick said, “Vocations are booming in our diocese, we want to create a culture where it’s normal for young men and women to think about a deeper relationship with Christ in their lives.”

The Serra Club was founded by four Catholic men in Seattle who met in 1934 to discuss ways they could share their faith. They selected supporting seminarians and priests in their diocese. Later they chose Padre Junipero Serra, a Spanish Missionary, as their patron. He was canonized September 23, 2015. They modeled their new club after the service clubs which were popular in the United States. Today the Serra Club has more than 20,000 members in 30 countries.

Speakers included Greg Schwietz, President of Serra USA, from the Diocese of Omaha. “Junipero Serra was known for his zeal, an undying amount of love for his faith and fellow humans, dynamic energy, and drive. His motto was ‘Always forward, never back,’” said Schwietz.

“We walk as friends with young men and women as they discern their calling,” he continued. “We walk through the joy of ministry and the fatigue of ministry.”

Schwietz said the clubs meet bi-weekly and members grow spiritually together. Schwietz said Serrans are known for prayer and action. They pray for vocations and they sponsor dinners and send cards and letters to build relationships with seminarians, priests and religious.

Dianne Breen, from the Diocese of Sioux Falls, said, “We start every meeting with Mass, we have a book of those we want to pray for, and this year we have 24 seminarians.” She said in Sioux Falls they host a spring meeting and luncheon with the bishop to meet the seminarians and religious who are in formation as well as parents, priests, sisters, and deacons and their wives.

Fr. Marvin Klemmer was a chaplain for the Bismarck Club in the early 70s and is now retired. He said the Serrans are good positive people. “At the meetings, I make a point to go to every table and say thank you to them. It’s nice to get that birthday card and one on Priesthood Sunday.” He said the Diocese of Bismark has 28 seminarians.

Al Wolf was glad to see a Catholic high school in Rapid City. “This is where a lot of vocations should be coming from. St. Mary High School in Bismarck has a wall of names of priests and religious who came from that school,” he said.

According to Wolf, St. Junipero Serra was the first person on American soil who sought out from the Mexican government a bill of rights on behalf of the Indian people in Mexico and southern California. “I have great admiration for this man who was a great theologian. He was the head of a large seminary, but he wanted to be a missionary.” said Wolf.

“If you live the life of a Serran, you are living a whole different life, you are living a life of experience, culture, and service. We need a better life for people, a more spiritual life. How would you feel if there was a young man who might be a priest, but he was never asked, no one talked to him about that possibility? What if no one was around to encourage him?” asked Wolf.

Region 8 Director Bill Olmstead, Diocese of Duluth, said the Serra Club’s mission is to foster and promote priestly vocations and encourage and affirm vocations to consecrated religious life. It also assists members in their call to holiness.

“Be confident, the Lord of harvest will never turn away,” said Olmstead.

 

Put down your cell phone; become friends with our Lord

In the middle of November, I took five young men to a live-in weekend at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Minnesota. Our young discerners were able to enter into seminary life and spend time with our seminarians, as well as with those from other dioceses. They were able to get a first-hand experience of seminary life by participating in the life of prayer, study and formation; plus they were able to enjoy several games of Ultimate Frisbee and attend several college classes while they were there. It was a great weekend!

Winona is about 620 miles straight east of Rapid City on Interstate 90. It can be a long and boring drive. As a way to prepare them for the road trip, I drew their attention to this year’s theme for the Office of Vocations, “I Call You Friends” from John 15:15.

Jesus made it abundantly clear to the Apostles that they were to be his friends. Jesus showed his chosen friends that he was willing to lay down his life for them by sharing with them the life he had with the Father. The Apostles were privy to the thoughts and actions of Jesus, making them his true friends.

Because of our theme of friendship, I asked the five men to limit their use of cell phones, video games and watching movies on the long ride to the seminary. I encouraged them to use this time of grace and discernment to interact and get to know one another and the other students at the seminary.

Franciscan Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, the pontifical household preacher, says that the essence of friendship is founded on a common search for the good and the true. Our drive there and back was really grounded in this common search for the good news in our lives.

We all shared with one another something about ourselves, the desires of our hearts, the things we wanted the Lord to do for us on this weekend and what the Lord wanted to do for us. The Lord does amazing things when we are able to be even the least vulnerable with him and one another, especially as men.

One of my favorite parts of the trip home was the praise and worship music to which we listened. The young men spent a lot of time creating their own beat box versions of the songs. Listening to the different rhythms and sounds they were coming up with made the hours and the miles go by quickly.

I was thankful that I encouraged them to limit their use of social media on the trip. It would have been easy for them to put their earbuds in and to get lost in their own worlds, forgetting about the person sitting next to them, who has much to offer them in friendship, and who can assist them in finding the good and the true.

By asking them to limit their time on their cell phones, I actually freed them up to enjoy each other, with time for turning out toward one another rather than the turning in on themselves.

Henry Wadsworth Long-fellow said, “Time is the life of the soul.” In the prayer after Communion on Thanksgiving Day we hear, “Help us, we pray, to reach out in love to all your people, so that we may share with them the good things of time and eternity.”

Time becomes a true gift and a blessing, especially when we use it to build our relationship with Christ, the Church and one another. The Psalmist reminds us, “So you teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (90:12). The gift of wisdom, which we receive at Confirmation, strengthens our faith, deepens our hope, and helps us focus our life on Christ — to keep Jesus at the center of our lives. This, in turn, affects the way we relate to one another and the world.

Since this trip, I have been reflecting on the way we use our time. The time we spend in prayer, time with our family and friends, time at work, and time at play. Do we make the connection to use the time we are given to prepare for eternal life or do we waste our time, using it for our own selfish desires, without even thinking about life eternal?

Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, a pastoral letter of the U.S. bishops on stewardship, states: “A true understanding of stewardship begins with taking care of and sharing the gift of time. Stewardship of time involves the realization that none of us ‘owns’ time. Each of us is given only so much of it, and planning a careful schedule in order to have the time to work, to rest, to play, and to pray is vital in the stewardship of our physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual lives. How we spend our time is perhaps the clearest indication of our progress in the life of Christian discipleship.”

In this season of Advent and as we anticipate the Christmas season, with plenty of opportunities to be connected with family, friends, coworkers, neighbors and parish communities, look for opportunities to search out the good and true in one another. Make it a priority to become friends with one another in the Lord.

Be attentive to each other. Learn to put the cell phone down and to limit your consumption of media so you can focus on the things that matter the most — time and friendship in the Lord.

God’s gift should continue to impact us every day

We are about to begin a very beautiful season in the Church’s year as we celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation, God becoming man in the womb of the Virgin Mary — the Solemnity of Christmas. What we celebrate is a clear reminder of how God deeply desires to be with us. The Son of God became a child born into a human family. Through the Incarnation, God has demonstrated how he chose to experience human life so that he could not only be close to us, but so that he could save us. This reality calls forth from us deep reflection, because as Catholics, it expresses and gives clear focus in how we are to live from this reality in every day life.

In other words, it must extend far beyond just this time of the year. The real meaning of Christmas is part of the Christian past, but must also be part of our present and future. The real meaning of Christmas defines who we are and to what the birth of this child calls us. This gift should continue to impact us every day in how we choose to follow Christ. Our whole identity as human beings is bound up in this mystery of Christmas. But this birth is only a moment in the unfolding of God’s plan for both Christ and us.

For Christ, God’s plan was taking on your sins and mine, and the sins of all humanity in an ultimate act of love. The manger became the cross where eternal love was born into the world. For each of us God’s plan will continue to unfold as we continue to accept the grace and the gift of Christmas. A continuous reflection on this beautiful event will never cease to move us into a deeper relationship with the Lord.

Christmas is so often diminished to a one-day celebration, like a holy day or a Sunday which has a birthday party included with it. For many, Christmas ends when the decorations are taken down shortly after Christmas Day and life returns to its wintry normal. As the world moves into “ordinary time,” the birth of our Savior – the greatest expression of the Father’s love – will be just a memory. If we allow the Christmas reality to settle deeply into our hearts, we recognize more fully the power of this gift of incarnation and how it calls from us a response.

In the words of Pope Francis, “The power of this Child, Son of God and Son of Mary, is not the power of this world, based on might and wealth; it is the power of love. It is the power which created the heavens and the earth, which gives life to all creation: to minerals, plants and animals; it is the force which attracts man and woman, and makes them one flesh, one single existence; it is the power which gives new birth, pardons faults, reconciles enemies, and transforms evil into good. It is the power of God. This power of love led Jesus Christ to strip himself of his glory and become man; it led him to give his life on the cross and to rise from the dead. It is the power of service, which inaugurates in our world the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice and peace.”

In other words, this love and its power awaits each of us. In fact, it comes looking for us. In the birth of Jesus, God is truly close to each one of us, and he wants to meet us, wherever we are in this relationship. He desires to lead us to himself. There is always more for him to share with us. He is that shining star, that true light, which dispels the darkness that envelops our lives and the whole world.

The following Christmas card verse says it well: “Love has a name – Jesus; Love has a place – Our hearts; Love has a story. And it is not finished yet.” As we contemplate this mystery of love, the Lord draws us deeper into this relationship, and yes, it will shake the very foundation of our lives again and again, but in this way: we will come to know LOVE in a deeper way; we will come to love in a deeper way; the world will then be transformed by our love in a new way. Christmas is a timeless story, a story without end to be carried and lived through the ages.

As we celebrate this gift of Christmas, let us gaze upon this baby born into poverty with humility and trust. With the wise men and shepherds, let us enter into the real Christmas, bringing to Jesus all that we are and hope to be. Then we will enjoy the true experience of Christmas – the beauty and gift of being loved by a God who chose to enter into our world. Our response to this gift can only be: Thank you. Thank you, because I can never repay you!

Merry Christmas to all!

 

25th Anniversary of WSDCF: ‘We can do more by uniting’

By Laurie Hallstrom

The Western South Dakota Catholic Foundation was created to insure the financial stability of ministries within the Diocese of Rapid City. It was established on December 30, 1992.

At the time of incorporation, Grant Trotter, Stewardship Director, was named executive director and Linda Batman assisted him. The mission of the foundation was established as promoting and strengthening the Catholic Church by providing people an opportunity to contribute to a permanent endowment fund, and make other types of gifts that will provide financial resources for meeting the spiritual needs of future generations of Catholics in the diocese.

The foundation is primarily the project of laity and it was encouraged by then­Bishop Charles J. Chaput. Among the steps in establishing the foundation was the lengthy process of writing a constitution and by-laws that would govern the organization. A silent fundraising phase was immediately started by the newly formed organization with an original goal of $4 million.

Msgr. Michael Woster, serving as Diocesan Administrator at the time, continued with the silent phase with the help of foundation leadership, after Bishop Chaput was appointed Archbishop of Denver in 1997. President Ray Hilenbrand, with the support of Pat Goetzinger and Harvey Krautchun, conducted estate planning seminars and promoted the purpose of the foundation throughout the diocese. A significant portion of the original $4 million goal was raised between 1992 and 1998.

Endowment 2000

When Blase J. Cupich was ordained Bishop of Rapid City in September of 1998, the foundation began their campaign titled “Endowment 2000.” The initial strategy was to raise the remainder of the $4 million in five-year pledges. In December 1998, the newly ordained bishop said everyone contributing to the growth of the WSDCF should consider themselves “new founders of the future” of the church in the Diocese of Rapid City. “In working toward self-sufficiency for the ministries in the diocese, I sense that, people are willing to change their viewpoint from being a mission diocese, to a diocese with a mission,” he said.

At that time, the foundation’s first president, Ray Hillenbrand reminded everyone saying, “A large majority of the foundation’s annual fund distributions will to go to seminarian education, priest retirement, Catholic Social Services and the West River Catholic newspaper — programs that impact all areas of the diocese.”

Harvey Krautschun of Spearfish was the chairman of Endowment 2000. He was also elected the treasurer of the WSDCF board. At that time he said, “Foundations intrigue me, especially this one, because it reflects my spiritual beliefs. All too often people have the perception foundation work is driven by dollars. The reality is the opposite; what drives foundations and endowments is a common belief in our spirituality and our humanity as they come together; we can do more by uniting than by standing alone.

“The question is not, does the church need more money,” Krautschun said. “The question is, do we want to be active participants in making sure that what we have been blessed with continues for our children and grandchildren.”

People are encouraged to remember the foundation in their retirement and estate planning. The foundation incorporated the slogan, “Remember God’s Will in Yours.”

With the set goal of $4 million, in February 2000, the Endowment 2000 campaign became a parish drive encouraging all families to participate. Parishioners were told only the interest earned from investing the core money would be used to support the diocese and religious education and youth ministries were added to the list of recipients.

By March 2000, $3.5 million had been raised. As the fund grew, people began donating money for specific causes; those donations did not become part of the core investment and were dispersed according to the wishes of the donors.

At that time, Trotter, said, “A number of people have told me they would like to give to Endowment 2000, but are not able to make the kind of gift necessary for the Foundation to reach its goals. They feel they are not able to make a “large enough” gift …” Recalling the widow’s mite, he went on to say the fund had received gifts ranging from 85 cents up to $500,000.

In March 2001 Dwight Sobczak took over as president. In September that year, Bob Bickett became the executive director. In December the new executive director and foundation members launched a series of diocesan-wide meetings to raise awareness about the foundation and planned giving.

Catholic Heritage Society

In 2002, Shirley Stec and Dan Corrin from Stec’s Advertising Specialties designed a logo, which is still in use. Also in 2002, a Catholic Heritage Society was formed to recognize people who made deferred gifts to the foundation. A fund was established for monthly Masses to be celebrated at various locations, to remember the society’s members. Around that same time the foundation began sponsoring a donor reception after the annual Chrism Mass. The Mass is held at the same time as Pastoral Ministry Days and it attracts many people from outside Rapid City. The reception is a way to thank the donors.

In 2006, Doris Bride became the new assistant to Executive Director Bickett. Bishop Cupich was appointed Bishop of Spokane, Washington in 2010 and Bishop Robert Gruss was ordained for the Diocese of Rapid City in 2011. In 2013 Tim Henderson took over as executive director and in 2016 Elizabeth Siemieniak became the assistant. They are the current WSDCF staff.

New Activities

Many other fundraising events have been strategized over the years. In 2001, the foundation hosted a Pheasant Hunt for Seminarians. The latest hunt was held October 3-4. In 2011 a fishing tournament was held at Ft. Pierre to benefit the people impacted by Missouri River flooding. In 2012 it evolved into the Bishop’s Fishing Tournament for Seminarian Education. It has been held in four of the past five years. In 2014 a Bishop’s Golf Classic was added to the fund raising events. It is held in conjunction with the Catholic Social Services and the Rapid City Catholic School System. This year the fourth annual golf tournament was held August 14, netting the three entities more than $30,000.

Sobczak stepped down in 2015 and Msgr. Woster of Spearfish became president. Tony Berendse, Rapid City, is currently serving as the foundation’s vice president. They, along with the executive director, are leading the WSDCF Board of Directors through a re-envisioning exercise to develop strategic approaches for improving the structure of the organization, set short and long-term goals, and implement actions that will guide the Foundation for the next 5-10 years.

As of June 30, 2017, the total WSDCF fund balance is $20,148,771, and unrestricted funds totaled $6,449,204. During the past 25 years the WSDCF has given out $9,288,131 to the diocese, parishes and Catholic organizations.

President Msgr. Woster is confident of the foundation’s future, stating, “Through its many donors in the past, the WSDCF has served the needs of the diocese since its inception. It is our belief that our re-envisioning and refocus of the Foundation’s purpose will serve the expanding mission of the Church for the years to come.”

To find out more about the foundation contact: WSDCF Executive Director Tim Henderson, PO Box 678 Rapid City, SD 57709, phone 605-343-3541 or email THenderson@diorc.org.

 

Catholic Conference office opens

 

Christopher Motz is Executive Director of the South Dakota Catholic Conference. The newly created conference will serve as the official voice of the 
bishops of South Dakota on issues of public policy, providing explanations of church teaching and their practical applications. He will follow the development and implementation of public policies and communicate with officials at all levels of the government.

 

 

Christopher Motz is in the initial stages of opening the first South Dakota Catholic Conference Office in Sioux Falls. It is jointly sponsored by the Dioceses of Sioux Falls and Rapid City.

He has joined the National Association of State Catholic Conference Directors, which has members from 40 states. His first meeting will be Nov. 29 to Dec. 2 in Washington, DC, at United States Catholic Conference of Bishops headquarters.

“While I am out there I will also take the opportunity to introduce myself to the S.D. congressional delegation,” said Motz.

He said his job will have internal and external components. Externally he is focused on keeping Bishops Paul J. Swain and Robert D. Gruss informed on current judicial, executive and administrative actions. In addition, he will apprise the bishops of lower level court decisions in cases working up through the appellate process that may eventually have an impact at a broader level.

“Internally, it is important that the Catholic lay people are informed and have a grasp of what the church teaches and believes not only for their own understanding, but also so they might be able to articulate it to their friends and neighbors,” said Motz. An example of an important issue is the physician assisted suicide initiative which failed to garner enough signatures to be on the 2018 state ballot. “It will come again and education will continue to be important,” he said.

The upcoming 93rd South Dakota Legislative Session, which opens Jan. 2, 2018, will be his first opportunity to work with S. D. lawmakers. In the future he sees himself being available to give presentations to parishes and on college campuses.

He has already had the opportunity to speak at S.D. State University, Brookings. His topic “Render Unto Caesar,” was based on the book by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Motz said, “At the heart of the message I wanted to convey is that we can be faithful Catholics and good citizens.”

He can be reached at: Christopher J. Motz, Executive Director South Dakota Catholic Conference, 523 North Duluth Ave., Sioux Falls, SD 57104.

Telehealth reduces windshield time and improves counselor access

Jim Kinyon, executive director of Catholic Social Services and members of his staff test the new telehealth system. (Courtesy photo)

By Mary Garrigan 
Catholic Social Services

There are 22 counties in western South Dakota and 21 of them don’t have enough mental health providers to meet the needs of their residents.

Thanks to a new telehealth initiative from Catholic Social Services, access to a licensed, professional counselor may soon be only a computer screen away in those counties.

“We know that thousands of South Dakotans who live in remote, rural areas of the diocese lack access to mental healthcare services. The miles are long and the providers are few,” said Cathy Larsen, director of counseling at CSS. “Now, using a confidential online telehealth platform, those folks will be able to access a mental health therapist without driving hundreds of miles to do so.”

Telehealth technology can provide outpatient therapy and other behavioral health services delivered electronically by a counselor in Rapid City to a client who is accessing the appointment via computer, cell phone or other mobile device at a remote location. Telehealth is an innovative way to help solve the problem of limited access to mental health care that exists in western South Dakota, Larsen said.

Two at-risk populations who stand to benefit from telehealth services are middle-age white males living in rural regions and young Native Americans. In South Dakota, these groups are among the high risk populations for suicide and have experienced record numbers of losses to suicide in the past three years, according to the S.D. Department of Health’s 2017 Suicide Surveillance Survey.

“This initiative will allow us to more effectively reach out to those groups using telecommunications technology and help two of the most underserved areas in our state: Native American reservations and rural ranching communities,” said Jim Kinyon, executive director of CSS.

In the western half of the state, only Pennington County, where CSS’s main Rapid City office is located, has sufficient mental health professionals to meet demand for services. CSS also staffs satellite offices part-time in Sturgis and Spearfish, and in the more remote communities of Pine Ridge, Porcupine and Eagle Butte. On the Cheyenne River Reservation, where a CSS counselor works two days per week, the ratio is 1 mental health providers for every 2,840 residents.

“While Catholic Social Services would love to extend face-to-face services everywhere, the reality is that given many of the remote regions of our diocese this is not feasible. However, through telehealth, we reduce the windshield time and travel expenses and this improves access for those needing services,” Kinyon said.

Telehealth counseling costs are being supported by a two-year, $50,000 grant from Catholic Extension. This strategic initiative funding is designed to improve health ministry in the Diocese of Rapid City and other mission dioceses in the U.S. CSS is working with numerous parishes across the diocese that will serve as locations for anyone who wants to access telehealth services from the agency but may lack the technology or high-quality internet connection in their home that it requires.

To learn more about telehealth services or to schedule a counseling appointment, contact CSS at 605-348-6086.

 

All gifts large or small make difference in touching someone

Mission driven or maintenance driven? This is an important question for all of us. In other words, do we keep doing what we have always done and in the way we have always done it? Or do we step out in faith allowing Jesus to stretch us as we embrace life as his disciple, his living witness in the world?

Let us return to the Diocesan Priority Plan as a reminder of our sacred mission described in this way. “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.”

This mission should drive everything we do — all pastoral ministry, all parish

ministry, and all sacramental ministry. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council in Gaudium et Spes similarly outlined this same mission: “Inspired by no earthly

ambition, the Church seeks but a solitary goal: to carry forward the work of Christ under the lead of the befriending Spirit. And Christ entered this world to give

witness to the truth, to rescue and not to sit in judgment, to serve and not to be served.”

Our Diocesan Priority Plan points our way as we “carry forward the work of Christ under the lead of the befriending Spirit.” As we all know, essential resources are needed to allow the Diocese of Rapid City to be mission driven rather than maintenance driven. Some of these resources come from the Annual Diocesan Appeal.

In my pastoral letter for the Diocesan Priority Plan, Through Him, With Him and In Him, I shared these words. “Funding the mission of Jesus Christ means that we are a community of believers who seek to live our lives for the Gospel and for others. We therefore embrace this mutually shared vision for the sake of building Christ’s kingdom.”

The 2018 Annual Diocesan Appeal took place the weekend of November 18-19 with an in-pew solicitation, asking you to give generously. This year’s theme is “ … who else will give? . . .The people rejoiced … for they had given to the Lord wholeheartedly” (1 Chronicles 29:5,9).

This is an invitation for every Catholic family across the diocese to prayerfully consider what the Lord is asking of them. When we reflect upon what the Lord has done for us, we realize that he will never be outdone in generosity. And when we give to the Lord wholeheartedly, we imitate his generosity to us.

This year’s annual appeal goal of $1,491,000 represents approximately 37.6 percent of the total diocesan budget. The remainder comes from outside granting sources and other revenues. This is why your support is invaluable for us to carry forward the mission of Jesus Christ. We really do want to live as disciples of Jesus with hearts that are “mission driven.” This is the call of the Gospel!

Over the last many years, three of ten families share a gift in the annual appeal. Imagine what could happen if more Catholic families partnered with us in the mission of Jesus! Imagine if this number increased to 40, 50, 70, 80 percent participation! All families are invited to participate. Some families may feel they are not able to give, but I believe that most all families can find a way to participate in some way. All gifts, large or small, make a difference and touch the lives of the people we serve throughout the diocese.

Generous disciples are never afraid of running out or fearful of not having enough. They live in faith, gratitude and — trusting that God will always provide. Generous disciples realize that God feels responsible for us, even though we are sinners; that God will never be outdone in generosity; that God has invited each of us into his way of life, into his way of being, into his way of generosity.

When we live God’s way of life, we live in the very image of God himself, in whom we have been created. We look and act just like God.

In other words, we view and live life through the lens of abundance instead of scarcity, a lens of provider instead of provision, a lens of gracious giving instead of fearful giving.

We experience God as giving, the moment our hearts say “yes” to Gods desire for relationship with us, giving abundantly to us, endlessly pouring out in His gifts a love greater than our hearts can fathom.

Generosity puts our lives in the proper order. Living a generous life sets us free. We are no longer possessed by what we have and therefore, are free to give it away. This fills us, not with secular happiness, but with true Christian joy — “… who else will give? … The people rejoiced … for they had given to the Lord wholeheartedly.”

Over the years, I have discovered this truth — when we step out in faith and generosity, amazing things happen. “When we accept our lives as sheer gifts, the Spirit can use us as apt instruments for spreading the Gospel. Wherever the Spirit works, there is joy.” (“Pastoral Letter on Stewardship: A Disciples Response”)

The Annual Diocesan Appeal is an important way in which every Catholic family can serve one another sacrificially, thereby helping to build up the body of Christ in western South Dakota. Your sacrificial support is important to us, deeply valued and necessary for us to love as mission driven people. The Lord has given us all different gifts, but calls each of us to the same sacrifice. This is why the heart of stewardship is spiritual.

Please prayerfully seek the Lord’s guidance in this regard. Please be generous in pledging both your financial support and your prayers for the mission of our great diocese, so that together we may “rejoice, for we have given to the Lord wholeheartedly.”

May God bless you and your families!

For Advent, focus on reconciliation

At the end of October, Jesuit Father Jim Kubicki, president of St. Francis Mission, led the chancery staff retreat. In the talks he shared with us, he focused on the diocesan vision statement: Reconcile — Make Disciples — Live the Mission. These six words are the foundation stones, the building blocks that will help to move our diocese in a new direction, helping us to reorient our lives to be reconciling disciples.

Father Kubicki said “the heart of the Gospel is reconciliation itself.” In 2 Corinthians 5:18, we hear that Christ was sent by the Father to reconcile us to him, and so now Christ gives us the ministry of reconciliation.

We are called to be a reconciling people, to not only extend forgiveness to one another, but also to receive forgiveness from others and to learn to forgive ourselves in and through Christ.

In 2006, speaking in Australia, Pope Benedict XVI said, “Commitment to truth opens the way to lasting reconciliation through the healing process of asking for forgiveness and granting forgiveness — two indispensable elements for peace.”

In our Pastoral Priority Plan, we hear this: “As God has reconciled us through Jesus Christ, so we will promote forgiveness and healing within families; within and between communities; among racial groups; with the Church. We will invite others to experience the good news of God’s love through encounter with Jesus Christ.”

To help us live out this vision of reconciliation in our parishes and diocese, we are called as parish communities to identify areas where reconciliation and unity are strong and areas where reconciliation is needed. Also, each parish or group of parishes were asked to submit to Bishop Gruss a plan which engages and promotes reconciliation and includes an implementation process that will help us live intentionally in the heart of the Gospel as Jesus did.

In October, the priests of our diocese were on retreat at Terra Sancta. Our director was Jesuit Father John Horn. He is the co-founder of the Institute of Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Omaha, and currently serves as professor of spiritual theology and spiritual director at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Florida.

Father Horn, like Father Kubicki, focused the priest retreat on the theme of reconciliation. One of the things Father Horn shared with us was a new guide for confession and receiving God’s mercy. As we approach Advent, we will have a number of opportunities in our parishes to ask, to receive, to grant forgiveness in and through Christ and to be those reconciling disciples that we hear about in Second Corinthians.

This new reconciliation guide bases our examination of conscience on the seven deadly sins: pride, envy, greed, gluttony, lust, anger and sloth.  Father Horn reminded us that these sins always lead us to isolation from Christ and one another. Living in isolation then leads to “bad fruit” — immorality, impurity … idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, fractions, occasions of envy … and the like” (Gal 5:19-21).

The guide suggests possible penances that focus on heavenly virtues which lead us out of isolation and into communion with Christ: humility/loving obedience, kindness/admiration, charity/generosity, temperament/self-control, chastity/purity, patience/forgiveness and diligence/zeal.

When we are living in communion with Christ, the good “fruit of the Spirit” is born in our midst, namely “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal 4:22-23).

This Advent could be a good time to use this new guide for penitents and priests, titled “Confession and Receiving God’s Mercy.” It would be a good addition to your parish’s reconciliation plan and one more resource for helping to fulfill the Diocesan Pastoral Plan.

This guide is put out by the Institute for Ongoing Clergy Formation at St. Paul Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota. I have ordered 5,000 of these guides. I know a number of parishes have already ordered them as well through the Office of Stewardship and Vocations, but if you or your parishes are interested, but have not already ordered some, please let me know and I would be happy to get them out to you.

I wanted to leave you with the Act of Contrition contained in this new guide. It speaks beautifully of this desire to live a life focused on reconciliation and mercy.

An Act of Contrition

Lord Jesus, to know You is eternal life. I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. I love You and I place my trust in You.

I am sorry for all my sins and for withholding myself in any way from you. Please forgive me and heal any pain I have caused others. I forgive anyone who has hurt me, and I ask You to bless them. In Your name, Jesus, I renounce anything in my life that is not of You that I have welcomed into my mind or heart. Wash me in mercy and fill me with Your Precious Blood and the Holy Spirit.

Father, of all my need for love and affection is found in Your embrace. May I never leave my home in Your heart again. By Your grace, I resolve to remain in Your shelter and abide in Your shade, where You restore to me the joy of Your salvation (Ps. 91, Ps.51). Amen.