December 14, 2017

Last week, I spent some time at the University of Mary in Bismarck and at Black Hills State University in Spearfish visiting and inviting some of our college students to pray about being part our Duc In Altum summer program. In the past, we have had two teams, hopefully this year will have three or perhaps even four, so please pray that our college students will respond generously to this invitation.

I stayed at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck. On the nightstand was a welcome letter giving me the pin number for the rectory, password for the Internet, an invitation to help myself to the food and beverages available in the kitchen and the schedule of Mass times. At the end of the letter was this line, “We are happy to show our hospitality to you as a way of welcoming Christ. Enjoy your stay!” What a great line.

Even though I spent most of my time at U Mary, Msgr. Richter, the pastor of Cathedral, called me Saturday afternoon and asked if I needed anything. He wanted to make sure that I was being taken care of.  He also asked if I wanted to concelebrate the 5 PM Vigil Mass with him and the parish community of Holy Spirit.

As we approach the Christmas season and prepare to welcome, not only our parishioners but their families, friends and all the visitors that will grace our Christmas liturgies, I am mindful of that line that welcomed me to the rectory of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit: “We are happy to show our hospitality to you as a way of welcoming Christ. Enjoy your stay!”

In our Diocesan document, Characteristics of a Stewardship Parish, the section on Generous Hospitality — Welcome, Invitation Fellowship begins by quoting the Rule of St. Benedict: “Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for He is going to say, ‘I came as a guest and you received Me (Matthew 25:35).’” At our Christmas liturgies, we will have ample opportunities to welcome the friends and families of our parishioners, as well as guests and strangers who have come to encounter the newborn King the one we call, Emmanuel, Wonder Counselor, God Hero and Prince of Peace.

Here are some of the key characteristics of a welcoming Parish laid out in our document. In the next several weeks, let us remind our staff and our parishioners of these key points as we prepare for our Christmas liturgies.

  • Our parish has a welcoming atmosphere where both parishioners and visitors feel welcomed, comfortable and valued.
  • Our parish is clean, well-kept and attractive. Items used for mass are appropriately cared for and meet liturgical norms.
  • Our parish regularly evaluates our building and grounds for how welcoming they are to the stranger and makes changes as needed.
  • Our parish has hospitality ministers on Sunday and at other parish events who are joyful, kind, and attentive to the needs of all guests and parishioners.
  • Our parish finds ways to thank people who give of themselves in discipleship.
  • Our parish pays attention to details, i.e. all doors unlocked, microphones are used properly, hearing devices are available to the hearing impaired, etc.

On another note, I wanted to congratulate Fr. Andrzej Wyrostek and the parish of Our Lady of the Black Hills in Piedmont on behalf of the Offices of Stewardship and Vocation for being the first parish to be to be recognized as a Foundational Parish by Bishop Gruss.

December 7, 2017

This past week I have been reading an article from St. Paul Evangelization Society by Deacon Vincent L. Bernadine, Sr., who serves at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Evansville, Indiana. Throughout the article he talks about the central message of the Gospel as the proclaiming and preaching of the kerygma, which leads to a personal response of faith in Jesus Christ, bringing about the conversion of heart. This causes one to be willing to be a living witness to Christ, in one’s relationships with others by engaging others in conversation about what the Lord Jesus Christ is doing in your life. In other words, how you hear His Voice and speak to His heart.

The kerygma of our faith is the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Christ; His preaching, His teachings, His life and the promises he makes about the Kingdom of God.  This story reveals the Father’s face of love and mercy to us.

Ralph Martin, who teaches at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Detroit believes that, at this point in time in the history of our Catholic church, what is most lacking is a fruitful proclamation of the truth of Jesus Christ, in particular the proclaiming, preaching and living out of the kerygma concretely in our daily lives. Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap, the preacher to the papal household, echoes Martin’s sentiments, “we are more prepared by our past to be “shepherds” then to be “fishers” of men, that is, we are better prepared to nourish people who come to the church than to bring new people into the church or to bring back those who have drifted away and live on the margins… There is a need, therefore, for the basic proclamation to be presented to us clearly and succinctly. My sense is that Cantalamessa is talking about kerygma and how it needs to be introduced and re-proposed to our people.

In our diocesan document, Characteristics of a Stewardship Parish, the introduction highlights that the theology of stewardship is rooted in the proclamation of the kerygma. And the very heart of discipleship is faithful stewardship. It states, “we are invited to be stewards of everything that the Lord has created and given us, receiving it joyfully with gratitude and then sacrificially sharing with others what we have received.” Stewards are ones who are willing to witness in a very real and tangible way, telling their own stories of how the kerygma has not only impacted their own lives, but has transformed their lives into Christ’s life. As St. Paul says, “it is no longer I who lives, but it is Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)  Reading this article, A Framework for Diocesan Evangelization, only reaffirms the work our diocese is doing to move stewardship forward in our parishes. Proclaiming, preaching, and living out the kerygma in our lives is fundamental to embracing stewardship as a way of life.

As Bishop Gruss mentions in Through Him, With Him and In Him: A Spiritual Guide to the Diocesan Priority Plan, reflecting on the second core value of stewardship “When we enter deeply into a life of prayer, Jesus will form us and teach us the way of stewardship. This way of life comes from an active personal relationship with Jesus and with one another. At the heart of it all — it is spiritual. It is not a program or an event. It is a spirituality and must be lived as such. It mean seriously committing one’s life to the Lord each day.”

November 30

The opening collect for the 34 week in Ordinary Time struck a chord with me on Monday as I was reflecting on my weekend experience helping with coverage at Blessed Sacrament Church in Rapid City. “Stir up the will of your faithful, we pray, O Lord, that, striving more eagerly to bring your divine work to fruitful completion, they may receive in greater measure the healing remedies your kindness bestows.”

After the 9:00 am Mass, a person approached me about something she noticed during Mass — a fellow parishioner struggling. Like Jesus in the gospel noticing who was putting what into the temple treasury, this person’s heart was stirred, as she noticed how a person seemed to be struggling throughout the Mass. She approached this person after Mass, only to find out that she was new to the parish and to Rapid City, and was quite lonely. This parishioner said she would invite this person over to her house for dinner or out for a meal. Then she introduced me to this person.

We had a good conversation as she shared with me how difficult it is been for her to move into a new parish and a new city where she does not know anyone. She feels like an outsider who has no friends. I told her that she should be like Jesus who invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house for dinner after he caught him in the tree. Next time you are at church I told her, “turn to the person you’re sitting next to in the pew and say to them I’m coming to your house today for coffee and conversation.” She gave me a weird look and then we both laughed.

I asked if I could pray with her and she said she would like that. I asked her what she desired in her heart and what she would like Jesus to do for her. She responded some friends to visit with. So I simply put my hand on her shoulder and asked Jesus to come into her place of loneliness and to bring people into her life. She left with a smile on her face.

I am grateful to this person who offered generous hospitality to a stranger, whom she noticed was struggling during Mass. This encounter brought me great hope that stewardship is alive and well in our parishes. Let your hearts be stirred this week, striving more eagerly to bring the divine work of Christ to others.

One last note, I am including a simple way that you can pray with others. It was praying with this person, bringing Jesus into her place of loneliness that brought her some peace and, in the end, put a smile on her face.

Six Simple Steps in Praying Over and for Someone

  1. Acknowledge God
  2. Acknowledge the person
  3. Invite Jesus to minister to the person at their point of need
  4. Pray for their intention
  5. Listen and share what else, if anything, the Lord is asking me to share or to pray with the person.
  6. Conclude the prayer by praying a prayer that you both know, e.g. Glory Be…

This Sunday’s Gospel uses the word “watch” or “watchful” four times in just a few verses.  As Advent begins, we can all strive to:

Be Attentive!

Be Hospitable!

And Bring Jesus with us into the conversation!

November 21, 2017

The last several weeks the Office of Stewardship has been working with the parishes of Our Lady of the Black Hills in Piedmont and St. Ambrose parish in Deadwood and St. Patrick’s parish in Lead, helping them to begin the process of becoming Stewardship parishes. We began our meetings by praying our diocesan stewardship prayer together, which emphasizes stewardship as “A Catholic Way of Life” through the lens of hospitality, faith and discipleship. These three lenses provide a way for us to hear the voice of Jesus, follow him and imitate his way of life.

This past week, I have been thinking more about stewardship as a way of life, perhaps because of these meetings but also because we are approaching Thanksgiving. I have been asking myself in what ways has stewardship truly permeated my very being — all of my words and actions? What areas of my life do I need to be more intentional in my stewardship so that it may become a way of life?

One of areas that I need to work on was brought to my attention by a short reflection entitled, Exercising Good Stewardship at the Grocery Store. Especially at this time of year, I am sure a lot of us will be spending more time in our local grocery stores preparing special meals for our families and friends.

What is your normal experience of a trip to the grocery store? Is the grocery store a place where you just run to grab what you need, or is it a place where you pause and take time to exercise good stewardship?

Exercising stewardship as a way of life, means being intentional in both big ways and small. Although it may seem like a small thing, going to the grocery store is a regular part of almost all of our lives and therefore, offers us a regular opportunity to be a good steward. Here are a few bullet points from Exercising Good Stewardship at the Grocery Store that could help us to be better stewards:

  • Resolve to go to the grocery store with a steward’s grateful heart.
  • Visit the grocery when you are not rushed.
  • Lift a prayer of gratitude before you go to the grocery store, gratitude that you are able to meet your loved ones’ needs in this way. Those who work with refugee populations tell us the thing that amazes the new arrivals most is the opulence and abundance of a First World supermarket. Pray for those who do not have the choices you have today.
  • Be aware of your fellow shoppers, the elderly individual slowly taking up the center of the aisle or the mom struggling to control her unruly children. Say a prayer for the people you encounter. Have patience and smile generously.
  • Observe the vibrant colors in the produce department, and think of those workers near and far who have labored in the fields and the warehouses, all with the intention of supporting their own families. Say a prayer for them that they may receive wages that are fair, and that they not work in conditions you would not tolerate for a loved one working in similar circumstances.
  • Each week, plan to make a sacrifice out of your family’s food budget, and buy something for your parish’s food drive or a local pantry. Perhaps it means you purchase a less expensive version of your favorite beverage, do without the best ice cream or plan one low-cost meal. Use the savings to share with the hungry.
  • Be present to the cashier who rings up your order. Think of the difficulty of a job spent standing all day, greeting customers both cheerful and surly. Thank her/him with a smile.
  • Recite a thanksgiving prayer from the heart at dinner. Be grateful to the God who has given you so much to meet your needs and to share.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving,

Fr. Mark

Source: Exercising Good Stewardship at the Grocery Store

http://catholicstewardship.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/ICSC-Parish-eBulletin_NOV-17_ENG.pdf

November 16, 2017

This past week I read Msgr. Richter’s new booklet Integrated Evangelization: How to Facilitate the Encounter with Christ. It is only 25 pages in length, but has some wonderful nuggets to pray and ponder on. One of my favorites is in the chapter on Truly Caring for One Another. He shares that Mother Theresa would not let her sisters leave the convent to bring Jesus to the poor if they were not able or willing to smile. “How is your smile today?” she would ask, “Are you able to go about your day or do you need to stay in?”

Msgr. argues that we have made evangelization way too complicated. He uses the story of Andrew meeting Jesus and bringing his brother Peter to him in John 1:35-42.  “Andrew met Jesus and became convinced that he was the Messiah — the treasure. He wanted his brother Peter to have that same treasure, so Andrew brought Peter to Jesus. Andrews’s evangelization was integrated into his relationship with Peter. It was not meant to be complicated.”

Msgr. Richter is challenging us to see that evangelization is not to be complicated or burdensome but instead it is rather simple and intentional. Evangelization is all about relationships, beginning first and foremost with our personal relationship with Christ and the Church, which flows into other relationships we have with family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and the stranger in our midst. All that we say and do or don’t say and do comes from our lived relationship with Jesus Christ.

Msgr. Richter says that “evangelization is about a person who holds a great treasure, his or her relationship with Christ and the Church, being intentional about inviting others into places — relationships, situations, events, classes, conversations, experiences encounters — for the grace of God to meet them more fully and win them over more deeply. This invitation is offered by one whose heart is in a space that is free from fear and pressure.”

He has organized the actions of evangelization into four actions.

First Action:                Praying about whom God wants to meet through my cooperation.

Second Action:           Praying for the person whom I was made aware of through the first action of praying about.

Third Action:              Befriending or reaching out.

Fourth Action:            Accompanying the other.

Msgr. Richter, ends his booklet with words of encouragement from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “Faith is first and foremost a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus. It is having an experience of his closeness, his friendship and his love. It is in this way that we learn to know him even better, to love him and to follow him more and more. May this happen to each of us.”

You can order Integrated Evangelization from the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck North Dakota. They are $3.00 a booklet plus shipping.

Cathedral of the Holy Spirit
519 Raymond St.Bismarck North Dakota, 58501
E-Mail: Joni Obrigewitch at jobrigewitch@cathedralparish.com or call 701-223-1033

November 8, 2017

This week we are celebrating National Vocation Awareness Week, November 5-11. Building on the celebration of Priesthood Sunday, which was October 29, as well as way to draw attention to National Vocation Awareness Week, Shawna Hanson, the Administrative Assistant for the Office of Stewardship and Vocations has been posting on Instagram and Facebook, highlighting the priests in our diocese. Please check it out! (Find us on Facebook at Rapid City Office of Vocations and on Instagram @RCVocations) Like our page!

In a bulletin insert by Vianney Vocations to celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week (https://www.vianneyvocations.com) there is a short piece entitled By The Numbers: Ordinations Rising — You Can Help. The research shows that the number of priests being ordained has increased the last several years from 440 in 2010 to 590 in 2017.  This is great news! The Diocese of Sioux Falls ordained six men last year and the Diocese of Wichita ordained 10 men last year and will ordain another 10 this year. Our neighbors to the north, the Diocese of Bismarck, has 18 men studying for the priesthood at the Theology level alone. There is a vocation boom on the rise and our diocese is planning to be a part of it.  We currently have four men studying at the Theology level for our Diocese.

What can we do to continue to bring this vocation boom in our diocese?

  • Encourage teens. Boys first consider priesthood, on average, at the age of 16.
  • Invite, invite, invite! 82% of men ordained at 2017 were encouraged to consider priesthood by an average of four people.
  • Promote prayer in the parish. Before entering the seminary, three quarters of the new priest regularly attended Eucharistic adoration and 69% regularly pray the rosary.

I would also suggest that both priests and laity regularly ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to them the name of a young person would make a good priest. When the Lord gives you a name, mention that to the young man. Even if he is not called, you affirm his faith in Jesus. Be attentive to the young men in your parishes, who are faithful to Sunday Mass, who are Servers, Readers, Eucharistic Ministers, involved in faith formation and youth group, who have a heart for service. Bring their names to the Lord in prayer. Fast for them, offer Mass for them, pray a rosary for them, spend an hour of Eucharistic adoration for them. Be not afraid to approach our young men and encourage them, keeping in mind that a majority of the men ordained in 2017 were encouraged to consider priesthood by an average of fourpeople.  Fr. Brett Brannen encourages people to simply say, “I see these gifts in you (name them) and if God were calling you to the priesthood, you would make a wonderful priest.”

Attached are two surveys, one for men and one for women that you can give out to encourage our young people to think more deeply about priesthood and religious life. I have found them useful in my ministry as the Vocations Director and wanted to share them with you.

St. John Vianney, pray for us.

Servant of God, Nicholas Black Elk, pray for us.

November 3, 2017

Last week I mused about missing those important side trips of life because of the lack of planning on my part or not looking far enough ahead on my calendar to see the events coming up. Missing those side trips of life is usually caused by not paying enough attention to the important details or even keeping so busy that one doesn’t take the time to think about different possibilities and options that are available. We get so focused on the activity, the event or work that we also miss the many moments of grace and even the simplest pleasures in life.

Several weeks ago I read a story by Susie Moore, a columnist in New York City, who makes a surprise discovery when she sat down to write an article at a hipster hangout where she could feel cool and write at the same time. She ordered a $6.00 latte and began to write. After finishing a satisfying sentence, she went to take a sip of the latte and was surprised that she had already finished it. “My fancy $6.00 was gone. And I didn’t even remember tasting it.” Moore makes the self-discovery that she has been busy for so long doing “stuff”, even including fun stuff, that she’s not sure she’s enjoying the things she is doing.  She says, “I’m not in it.”

Moore started to make mental notes to herself about slowing down so that she could start to enjoy the moment. After her $6.00 latte wake-up call, she tells the story of walking in the rain and how she took a pause to deeply inhale, looked around and noticed how much cleaner the city feels after rainfall. She tells another story about eating with her friends at an outdoor restaurant. She was on her phone and looked up to see her friend’s faces. One of them was laughing. In that moment, she said, “it was like seeing life in high-def. I put my phone down and dove into the guacamole and conversation.”

I’m sure all of us can relate to Susie Moore’s experience of being so busy with life that she misses the simplest things such as smelling the rain. This week I encourage you to slow down and pay attention to the many opportunities one is given to enjoy the many graces and pleasures in life, remembering that God is eternally in the present and we will miss so many opportunities to feel His love, appreciate His gifts and listen to His voice if we don’t remain with Him in the present.

I encourage you this week to be “in it” by slowing down your schedule, the many things that need to be done and start paying attention to the simple things that can bring us great joy. I would be interested in hearing from you next week how you have slowed down and taking the time to be more aware of the simple graces, blessings and pleasures in your life. What are the things, the events, the conversations that you are missing because you’re not paying attention to the details?

Fr. Mark

October 27, 2017

One of my favorite lines during priest retreat this year by Fr. John Horn, who was our director, was “disposition isn’t everything, but it’s almost everything.” I like this definition of disposition, the way in which something is placed or arranged, especially in relation to other things. I thought about disposition when I was visiting with Bishop Gruss about the opening Mass for the cause of canonization of Nicholas Black Elk — Servant of God, last Saturday at Holy Rosary Mission in Pine Ridge.

​My heart was moved to hear that Bishop Gruss went to Manderson before the Mass so that he could visit and spend some time praying at the grave of Nicholas Black Elk.  I wish I would have thought of this myself. To be honest, it did not even cross my mind that this would be a good thing to do. It never entered my heart.

Bishop Gruss, had the right disposition, I am sure moved by the Holy Spirit, and arranged his day to give him sufficient time to go to Manderson first to visit the grave of Nicholas Black Elk and then go on to Holy Rosary Mission in Pine Ridge for the opening Mass.

Hearing of Bishop Gruss’ side trip to Manderson left me with an ache in my own heart, wishing that I had made the time to pray at the grave of Nicholas Black Elk beforehand.

This experience has taught me that disposition is connected to being more aware of, or paying more attention to, the details of my day and the movements of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps during my examen the night before, I should look at the coming day or during my morning offering I can be more intentional in praying to the Holy Spirit to reveal to me the right disposition of my heart, to ask for the grace to pay attention to the finer details of the day so that I will not continue to miss those important side trips in my life.

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