October 19, 2017

Last week, the priests of our diocese were on retreat at Terra Sancta. Our director was Fr. John Horn, SJ. 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 DePaul Regional Seminary in Florida.

One of the things Fr. Horn shared with us was a new guide for confession and receiving God’s mercy. This guide bases our examination of conscience on the 7 deadly sins of pride, envy, greed, gluttony, lust, anger and sloth.  Fr. 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” (Galatians 5:19-21).

The guide suggests possible penances that focus on heavenly virtues that lead us out of isolation and to communion with Christ: humility/loving obedience, kindness/admiration, charity/generosity, temperament/self-control, chastity/purity, patient/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 self-control”  (Galatians: 4:22-23).

Most of the deaneries are starting to schedule their Advent Communal Penance liturgies in the parishes in our diocese. This Advent could be a good time to use this new guide for Penitents and Priests, title Confession and Receiving God’s Mercy, which is put out by the Institute for Ongoing Clergy Formation at St. Paul Seminary, in St. Paul Minnesota. I am planning to place an order. If you or your parishes are interested, please let me know within the next week or so.

I am concluding with the new act of contrition that is part of this new guide for Confession and Receiving God’s 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 (Psalm 91, 51). Amen

October 13, 2017

In the middle of September, I was able to participate in the International Catholic Stewardship Council Conference. At the conference, Ron Schatz, the Director of the Office Stewardship and Resource Development for the diocese of Bismarck was awarded the Bishop William G Connare Award. When receiving this award, he told this beautiful story “Did You Put Anything In?”

I would like to preface this story through the lens of The Widow’s Offering in Mark 12:41-44. Jesus is sitting across from the treasury watching people putting their offering in the treasury, the rich and the poor alike. However, he notices that a poor widow has put in from her very livelihood, while the rich have put in from their abundance. St. Paul teaches us in First Corinthians 11:1 “you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.”

As you read this stewardship story be mindful that we can learn a lot from a three-year-old who, not only imitates what he sees his own father doing Sunday after Sunday, but ultimately imitating who calls all of us to do more than put in from our “surplus wealth.”

A Stewardship Story: Did You Put Anything In?

Each Sunday morning when we would go into church, our three children, ages 7, 5 and 3 would take turns picking the pew that we would sit in.  It was our 3-year old son’s turn.  As we entered the back entry way of the Cathedral, I noticed he was off to a fast start down the center aisle.  I had a good idea of where he was heading to.  I tried to hurry to catch up to him because I could see that there was already two other people sitting in the front, left pew – way at the end.

That first pew is a shorter pew to give parishioners with a wheel chair a place to sit next to their family members who are taking care of them.  Sure enough, that is where my son was going.  When he made it down to that first pew and looked in, he noticed those two ladies at the end and he froze in his tracks.  I was able to catch up to him and I entered the pew first, followed by the children and then my wife.

At the offertory collection time, our priest comes to the front of the church and invites all of the children to come forward with their offering.  Our children went up and put their children’s envelope in the offering basket and were back in our pew quickly.  My son crawled on my lap.  Eventually, the ushers came down the middle isle and handed the offering basket to my wife, who handed down to the next child, and the basket eventually made it to my son and me.  He put our adult envelope into the basket and handed the basket to the lady next to us.  She immediately took it from him and reached it to the people in the 2nd pew.

My son was watching this and speaking loudly enough for everyone in the church to hear, says to that lady, “Did you put anything in?”

Wow, was I a proud parent.  My 3 year old son was teaching this lady about stewardship.  The lady whispers quietly, “No.”  My son then loudly says to her, again loud enough for everyone to hear, “You should put something in every time!”  Now I was really, really proud of my son.  This lady was beat red in the face and she quietly whispers, “I will next time.”

As the Director of the Stewardship Office, the smile on my face was from ear to ear and I had everything I could do to not start laughing.  So, I looked away from that lady, down to the other end and noticed my wife – giving me that look!  Guys, you know what that look is!!  As I gave my son a big hug, I whispered into his ear, “I am very proud of you and I love you.  I think your mom wants to give you a hug too!”  So he crawled over our other two children and was able to sit on Michele’s lap for the rest of Mass.

October 6, 2017

The 2017 Stewardship Summit was held last Friday and Saturday and it was a fantastic event! I personally want to thank all of you who participated in Summit 2017. Chris Stewart and Tony Brandt, from Wichita, KS shared inspirational stories, and wonderful practical tools for living a life of stewardship.  They also challenged us to grow!  We had 40 some people fill out the evaluation so far and here are a few comments from participants:

  • Outstanding, Motivational, Inspiring!
  • Really a meaningful exchange of information.  So glad we came!
  • The speakers were amazing and inspired us with many ideas to pray about.  The breakout sessions were also really good and gave us some great information to help us and others grow in holiness.
  • Had a wonderful time and appreciate all of your hard work!
  • Every person should hear this message!  It is applicable no matter what your age or your work or how involved you are in the Church.
  • What people are saying to me about the Summit is that the talks and workshops were so applicable to daily life.
  • “I think it’s our best one so far!”  – Bishop Gruss

Those families who took advantage of our Youth Track were very grateful.  Here are a couple of comments:

  • The kids track was ESSENTIAL to me – all five of my kids attended and loved it. I would not have been able to attend the Summit without the track – please consider offering this option in the future!
  • I am so glad you had the spot for the kids. I wanted to come last year but had no place for my son to go.  This year you did and I am so glad.  And my son had a great time!

If you came, but didn’t get a chance to fill out an evaluation, please take a few minutes to do so RIGHT NOW!  Your comments really do help us to plan for next year.  Here is the link:


If you didn’t come, we missed you!  But we don’t want you to miss out on the great information presented!  All of the talks from the Summit are posted for you in two places:

o   Audio and some Video on our website at:  www.rapidcitydiocese.org/Stewardship

o   Audio available on the Rapid City Diocese’s Podcast.  Open Podcasts on your smart phone or tablet, search for “Rapid City Diocese”, download the talks and enjoy

I would encourage you stewardship committees to watch the keynote talks from Chris and Tony together and then to have a discussion afterwards as a way to continue help move stewardship forward in your parishes.

Mark your calendars now for next year’s Summit to be held September 21-22 at Terra Sancta Retreat Center.  We are already working on great ideas for next year. If you have any suggestions or ideas for us to consider please let me know.

Fr. Mark

September 14, 2017

This past week our office has been busy with preparations for this year’s Stewardship Summit.  Our keynote presenters, Chris and Tony have sent us their flight arrangements and they are ready to come and inspire us with their stories and wisdom.  All of our workshop presenters are getting excited to come and share with all of you.  And the Retreat Center staff is busy preparing the space, planning food and doing what they do SO WELL – making sure all the details are taken care of so that we are comfortable!  We have been visiting with Vendors who are working to make sure they have materials here that will be helpful to you.  But we may still be missing one important detail – YOU! Have you registered yet?  The deadline for early registration is tomorrow (savings of $10-$35!).  Are you still thinking the Summit isn’t for you?  Are you still thinking you are too busy?  Take a just a few minutes now to read why some people have decided to come:

  • “I’m excited to attend my first Stewardship Summit – 2017.  There is always something new to learn and explore in our faith journey as individuals and as part of a wider community.  I also appreciate the youth track that has been added this year with activities for the children.  What a great way to welcome families!” – Anne from Martin, SD
  • “I have been feeling a pull to deepen my Faith.  When you were in Timber Lake for Mass a couple of weeks ago and suggested the Summit after Mass there was a voice inside of me saying, Jim, this is something you need to go to.” – Jim from Timber Lake
  • “The Summit is a can’t-miss experience for me. With incredible speakers and great breakout sessions, as well as being in the company of wonderfully holy people, it’s an event which I eagerly anticipate.” – Brad from Piedmont
  • “I am so excited to attend this year’s summit.  It will be a great opportunity to touch base with many old friends and make some new ones.” Pat from Sturgis
  • “This will be my first Stewardship Summit.  Last year’s attendees were animated by speakers they heard.  The topics energized them.  They enthusiastically shared their new fervor.  I want to be a part of that lively discipleship, too.  I look forward to growing in my faith by attending the 2017 Summit. The line-up looks fantastic, but I’m especially excited about the new youth track for toddlers-9th grade.” – Gail from Cathedral
  • “Stewardship is very important in any church.  I think we as Catholics can and should do it better. We are looking forward to learning new ways that this can be done to make our parish stronger and assist us in working together. We look forward to meeting others from our Diocese.” – Diana from Hot Springs
  • “The Summit sounds very exciting! The topics all look good and any way I can extend my faith life is worth spending time doing.” – Debbie from Deadwood
  • “The workshop titled “How to Pray and Not Just Say Prayers” is the topic that grabbed my attention.  I am 59 years old and feel like I really need to learn to go beyond memorized prayers.” – Deanna from Buffalo
  • “For this particular Summit, I keep hearing the words of Jesus at the end of the Gospel of Matthew: “Go and make disciples.”  This was said to the apostles at that time but it is also for us who are disciples now.  But I wonder, how do we/I do that?” –Sr. Connie, Pine Ridge
  • “We need to stand boldly for Truth and the salvation of souls, which is why I love the Summit experiences.  I believe that if I come to the Summit 2017, I will gather the tools, fellowship, and encouragement I need to Drop the Net, be not afraid and do what God is calling me to do!” – Mary from Blessed Sacrament
  • “This Stewardship Program is certainly a positive for the Catholic Church.  I am traveling 1500 miles to the Summit because I believe it will be inspirational and rewarding.” Ken from Iowa
  • “I am coming to the Summit to learn more about my faith and how I can become better at sharing it with others. Last year’s summit is still very much in my memory and the keynote speaker was phenomenal. I hope to be inspired again this year.”  – Eileen from Cathedral

As you can see, we have parishioners from all over the Diocese who have decided to come for many different reasons!  How about you?  Will you join us?  Register today at:  http://www.terrasancta.org/Summit2017/.

September 7, 2017

On Wednesday evening, we had our annual Evening of Prayer and Renewal for Spiritual Mothers. Spiritual Motherhood was established for the good of the priesthood by the Congregation for the Clergy on December 8, 2007. The congregation had three main goals in mind: the renewal of an authentic priestly life, the fruitfulness of priestly pastoral ministry and an increase in vocations to the priesthood.

Spiritual Motherhood is rooted in the imitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Spiritual Mothers spiritually support priests with their self-offering, prayer and penance.  Jesus established a spiritual connection between Mary and the Apostle John in the words, “Woman this is your son; son, this is your mother.” (John 19:26-27)  It is in light of this that the Congregation understands the role of a Spiritual Mother who, in imitation of Mary, spiritually adopts a priest and agrees to support him by her prayer and sacrifices.

Spiritual Motherhood is a “vocation within a vocation” for women who are called to it. Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, in Adoration, Reparation, Spiritual Motherhood for Priests said: “spiritual mothers are women recognized by the church and set apart, albeit in diverse states of life, to pray and suffer for the church and priesthood.” The prayers of these women, including regular Eucharistic adoration, and the uniting of their sacrifices from ordinary life to Jesus on the cross, become a spiritual powerhouse for the Church and priesthood.

This amazes and brings me such great comfort and hope to know that there are a group of women in our diocese who willingly suffer, sacrifice and pray every day so that my priesthood might bear abundant fruit in the Diocese of Rapid City. The individual priests in our diocese have had spiritual mothers who have been called in a special way to suffer, sacrifice and pray for them since 2009.  Mary Gannon Kaufmann, in her article, Understanding the Vocation of Spiritual Motherhood of Priests, reminds us that the priests “success or pastoral effectiveness comes as much from the faithful, fervent prayers of others who are often times engaged in the simplest of ordinary activities, as much as from his own actions.  This should stimulate a deep sense of humility within the priest.”

She goes on to share an experience of the fruits that a priest has experienced by having a spiritual mother. The priest described that he possessed a deep sense of joy in knowing that he is being supported in prayer by spiritual mother, a sister in the Lord. The priest feels closer to Jesus and is greatly encouraged to live as a holy priest.  He has also noticed a strong inner healing in his own heart, especially in his relationships with women in general. The priest said; “Knowing that I have a “sister in Christ” praying for me has changed my heart towards all women. There is a deep spiritual protection for me in this. I have received a great healing from lust and felt the fires that can burn in a man’s heart tempered and purified. I don’t find myself seeking attention from women, but desire more to serve others and to facilitate the healing of women. I notice that I possess a greater love and respect for women.”

I am grateful knowing for the last eight years that I have had a “sister in Christ” suffering, sacrificing and praying for me daily. I am sure it is through her prayers, though I am often unaware of such a sacrifice being made on my behalf, that I continue over time to grow in my holiness as a priest of Jesus Christ. I think of these spiritual mothers as truly living a life of stewardship through their generous hospitality, their lively faith and their dedicated discipleship.  And because of their faithfulness to living a Catholic Way of Life, the priests in our diocese experience greater success and fruit in their pastoral ministries, even unbeknownst to them.

August 30, 2017

I am always amazed at how the Lord surprises us through the faith and inspiration of others. Last evening, the Office of Vocations put on a barbecue for those high school leaders who assisted in leading this year’s Girls Totus Tuus Camp, Fearless: Perfect Love Casts Out All Fear. (I John 4:18)

After dinner, I asked the young women to reflect on the graces and blessings of Totus Tuus this past summer and then to name the desires of their hearts as they enter this new school year. I think it is important to ask one another, from time to time, to name the desires of our hearts. St. Therese of the Little Flower says that, “the good God never gives desires that He cannot fulfill” and Fr. Michael Scanlan, the former president of Franciscan University, says that “He makes us desire, then grants our desires…”

One high school senior shared her desire for the school year. She said something like this, “At the end of May, when I graduate I will probably never see some of my classmates ever again. I do not want to waste this year.  I want to get to know all of my classmates better and to reach out to them in friendship. I am going to have to pray for a lot of courage to approach some of my classmates, especially the jocks, who like to hang out in packs. However, when I see one of them by themselves, I will approach and engage in a conversation with them as a way to get to know them more. I plan get a list of all of our classmates and pray for each one of them by name each day.” Wow, I can hardly wait to the end of May to see what a difference her prayers have made, not only in her own life, but in the lives of her classmates.

Pope Benedict XIV said, “The renewal of the church is also achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believers.” Here you have a young believer who is willing to offer and sacrifice by praying for her classmates daily. Although she might not realize this, this young woman is very much working for the renewal of the church.  In today’s daily reading from the First letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, we hear, “Night and day we pray beyond measure to see you in person and to remedy the deficiencies of your faith.” I believe in one sense she is praying for the deficiencies of faith, in her class mates as well as in herself as she prays for more courage and strength to approach her classmates in faith and to get to know them better her senior year.

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

August 24, 2017

Last evening, our high school leaders from our summer Boys Totus Tuus Camp met at Blessed Sacrament in Rapid City for Evening prayer and a great dinner prepared by Fr. Brian Lane. After our meal, we took some time to share some of the blessings and graces we received during the summer and our desires for the new school year. I think this was one of my favorite parts of the evening, hearing the varied graces and desires of not only our high school youth but also from Fr. Brian and Fr. Leo as well.

One of our high school youth shared the grace he received this summer was his experience of Boys Totus Tuus Camp, especially the opportunity it gave him to meet some new friends. Fr. Leo shared the great graces of celebrating his 25 years of priesthood with his family, friends, parishes and his brother priests. Several of our high school youth shared their desire to do better in school and to give more time and energy to their homework this year. Another youth spoke about the anxiety he feels as he begins this new school year and how he desires the Lord to take that from him.  Fr. Lane shared how he wanted to be more faithful to exercise and to lose some weight this fall.

As I reflect on this experience, I thought about Fr. Brett Brannen, who came last spring to visit with our priests and parish vocations committees about creating a “culture of vocations” He said, “It is important to lead with our vulnerabilities.”  When we have the courage to be vulnerable and share our true selves with others, we begin to model our relationships on Jesus, who offers us his Sacred Heart in complete vulnerability.  These friendships meet our deepest needs and bring us true joy.  They also begin to open us up to the grace and love of God.  I experienced this last evening as nine high school youth had dinner with four priests sitting around the rectory dinner table laughing, telling stories, and sharing graces and desires of our hearts — so simple yet so profound.

We ended the evening with the game outside called “no hucks, no shucks and no neighbors.” and a hike behind Blessed Sacrament. A great evening in relational ministry.  A great evening in REAL LIFE.

August 17, 2017

As the summer comes to a close for the Office of Vocations from the many activities and events, this quote from the French educator Jean Baptiste Massieu comes to mind, “Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” The summer’s activities began when I attended training week at Broom Tree Retreat Center with our two Duc In Altum teams.  They then spent June and July crisscrossing the diocese teaching our children and youth in 13 parishes.  I launched into Girls and Boys Totus Tuus Camps with 39 High School leaders, 105 middle school campers, 25 religious Sisters from 13 different communities (Girls Camp) and 10 of our own priests (Boys Camp) participating in the weeklong camps, plus the 40+ disciples (volunteers) needed for a successful camp. Between camps, there were the two Steubenville High School Conferences in Denver, CO and Rochester, MN with over 100 youth and 25 Adult leaders participating from our diocese.  When I think of all of these things, my heart is overflowing with gratitude. The more I recall and relive these memories, the more my heart is filled with the abundant love that God has showered upon our children, youth and families this summer.

Watching Michael Craven, who has a prosthetic leg, which he didn’t use when he climbed 2 of the three courses at Nora’s Wall at Sylvan Lake during Boys Totus Tuus, was an inspiration to everyone who watched and cheered Michael on— Amazing Grace. To see a young freshman from Lemmon, Kole Reede, a junior leader, lead his small group of middle schoolers in faith sharing and an Examen at the end of the night was a blessing. To see 8 of our young men and women come forward during the altar call at the Steubenville Conferences expressing a desire in their own heart to be open to the possibility that Jesus might be calling them to priesthood and religious life made this spiritual father proud.

As your summer comes to a close and our children, youth, young adults, families and parishes prepare for another school year, take some time this week to recall and relive some of the graces you have received from this past summer. Let this grace flow from a grateful heart. As Meister Eckhart, the 14th century Dominican mystic, wrote, “If the only prayer you ever say is ‘thank you,’ that will suffice.”

August 11, 2017

All the parishes by this time should have received their posters and fliers for the third annual Stewardship Summit being held Friday- Saturday, September 29 – 30 at the Terra Sancta Retreat Center in Rapid City. I hope you have noticed them!

As another way to help publicize this year’s Stewardship Summit in your parishes we have produced a short, eight-minute DVD. In the DVD, several parishioners from the diocese, who have participated in the Summit in the past, share how why they went and why they would invite others to come. They have found the Summit to be a valuable experience for them in living out a life of stewardship through generous hospitality and lively faith. I also invite those watching to attend and give a short synopsis of what the Summit offers.

The theme for this year Stewardship Summit is “Learning to Drop the Net” with Casting Nets Ministries, which will focus on the third lens of our Stewardship initiative:  Dedicated Discipleship.  Our keynote speakers are Tony Brandt and Chris Stewart of Casting Nets Ministries. “Tony and Chris have been speaking all over the country for more than a decade proclaiming the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ and equipping Catholics to become Missionary Disciples,”  according to their website.

Both are former teachers who bring warmth, humor and wisdom to their presentations. They have great stories to tell about their own experiences living as dedicated disciples in the Diocese of Wichita, which has a rich and successful tradition of stewardship. They will give three addresses during the summit and will share with us their Seven Pillars of Effective Evangelization.

In addition to these talks, eight workshops will be offered. Bishop Robert Gruss has generously agreed to lead three workshops. Fr. Jonathan Dillon, who is the pastor of the parish clusters in Gregory County, will be back with three more stories of great saints and I will share wisdom from Brandon Vogt’s book, Return, which outlines proven steps for drawing your adult child back to the church.

An addition to our conference this year is a youth track – meaningful play and age appropriate stewardship lessons for toddlers through 9th grade.

I would really like to encourage all stewardship committees to take an active role in reaching out to members of your parish communities and your families, to personally invite them to the Summit.  Do not take the week easy way out and simply put up the posters and fliers in the narthex gathering areas of your parishes, but instead take a few fliers and personally invite a parishioner, a family to the summit. Hand them a flier yourself. I would also encourage the parish stewardship committees to help promote the Summit by organizing different parish groups and organizations to view the DVD*.  Personal invitations are always the best and produce the best type of fruit.

In the past, stewardship committees have not been well represented at the summit themselves.  If stewardship committees could take a more active role by participating in the summit, it could go a long ways re-energize your stewardship committees in your parishes.

This Summit is for you!

*We have copies of the DVD in our office which we will be mailing out next week.  However, if you would prefer to view it from YouTube or from our website (available next week as well) that is also an option.  You may also embed the video on your parish’s website if you wish.  Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/NZwlJXRUgqg

August 4, 2017

Today we celebrate both the Feast of St. John Vianney, patron saint of parish priests and the funeral liturgy for Fr. Jerry Scherer.  As we remember him in a special way today, I would like to offer this memory of Fr. Jerry which I shared last August with all of you.

“May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”
Father Gerald Nicholas Joseph Scherer
February 17, 1919 – August 1, 2017

From August 24, 2016:

If you read my Musing last week, you will remember that I made a promise to go see Fr. Jerry Scherer after golfing in the Bishop’s Golf Classic with the Ping Golf Clubs Fr. Jerry gave me 25 years ago. There is great joy and new life that springs forth when we are able to keep our promises. I went to visit Fr. Jerry in the Alzheimer unit at Bella Vista Nursing home last Friday. I tracked Fr. Jerry down at a table in the dining room.  I introduced myself and he was delighted to see me. I walked Fr. Jerry back to his room so we could visit. He must have asked me 100 times what my assignment was and where I was living.  I responded 100 times back with all the patience I had within me. “My assignment is the Director of Stewardship and Vocations for the diocese and I live in residence at St. Therese the Little Flower with Fr. Kerry Prendiville.”

I decided to change up the conversation a little bit.  I asked him, “How is the food at Bella Vista?”  His response surprised me, “That is minor stuff.” I said “Fr. Jerry, what would be the major stuff then?” His response surprised me even more, “You visiting me.” His response echoed in the silence — you visiting me.

At the end of my visit, I prayed with Fr. Jerry and we ended with a Hail Mary. Fr. Jerry said, “Let me walk you out.” As we were walking out of his room there were 6 or 7 other residents following us to the front door. Fr. Jerry looked at them and then looked at me and said “I don’t think any of us have assignments.” I responded back “perhaps your assignment is R & R, rest and relaxation.” Fr. Jerry said, “Sounds like a good assignment.”

In the end, my friends, when it comes right down to it, it is all about relationships. The personal relationship we have with Jesus and the relationships we have with one another. In the end, what else matters?

Do you have some “major stuff” to attend to this week?  Make an intentional effort to do so.

Photo of Fr. Jerry with Fr. Ed Vanorny courtesy of WRC

Fr. Scherer’s obituary can be found at: http://rapidcitydiocese.org/obituary-father-gerald-nicholas-joseph-scherer

July 21, 2017

The last several years I have heard Patrick Lencioni, who is an active and practicing Catholic, speak several times on the five dysfunctions of a team. The first time was at the Amazing Parish conference in Denver, in which I even bought his book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Parable.” However, the book ended up on my bookshelf after the conference, where it remained for over two years until this past July. The second time I heard Lencioni speak was in July at the Convocation of Catholic Leaders on the Joy of the Gospel.

After the convocation, I decided it was time to get the book off the bookshelf, dust it off and actually read it. I was also encouraged by Susan Safford, who is the new Director of Pastoral Ministries for our diocese, who has asked that her team, those ministering in the Offices of Native Ministries, Faith Formation, Family Life, Youth and Young Adults and Stewardship and Vocations, read the book as well.

I have enjoyed reading the book. It had some great insights on how to be more collaborative and tips on avoiding a “silo mentality” in ministry. He also cautions against the temptation to settle for maintenance rather than striving for mission. As summer draws to a close, and our children, youth and young adults head back to school, we have an opportunity to reflect on how we do ministry in our parishes and diocese. We can then use this information as we gear up for the coming fall with its many activities and programs.

I would like to give you a summary of the five dysfunctions of a team as outlined by Lencioni.  He begins by telling the story of a former client of the million dollar company who said, “If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.”

=I think one of the hopes of Bishop Gruss is to get all of his pastors and all the parishes rowing in the same direction and his pastoral letter is a great help in this endeavor. But my perception is that these 5 dysfunctions are present in every parish and every diocesan office to a greater or lesser degree and they keep us in maintenance mode, and hinder our ability to truly be missionary disciples.

The Dysfunctions

Dysfunction # 1: Absence of Trust
This occurs when team members are reluctant to be vulnerable with one another and are unwilling to admit their mistakes, weaknesses or needs for help. Without a certain comfort level among team members, a foundation of trust is impossible.

Dysfunction #2: Fear of Conflict
Teams that are lacking on trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered, passionate debate about key issues, causing situations where team conflict can easily turn into veiled discussions and back channel comments. In a work setting where team members do not openly air their opinions, inferior decisions are the result.

Dysfunction #3: Lack of Commitment
Without conflict, it is difficult for team members to commit to decisions, creating an environment where ambiguity prevails. Lack of direction and commitment can make employees, particularly star employees, disgruntled.

Dysfunction #4: Avoidance of Accountability
When teams don’t commit to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven individuals hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that may seem counterproductive to the overall good of the team.

Dysfunction #5: Inattention to Results
Team members naturally tend to put their own needs (ego, career development, recognition, etc.) ahead of the collective goals of the team when individuals aren’t held accountable. If a team has lost sight of the need for achievement, the business ultimately suffers.

For more information on the five dysfunctions of a team see: https://www.tablegroup.com/books/dysfunctions