Bringing the Priority Plan to life at home and in the community
—Reconcile—Make Disciples—Live the Mission—
Reconciliation and Communities
Two Envisioning Team members were asked what has to happen before we can genuinely invite others to experience the good news of God’s love through an encounter with Jesus. Fr. Christopher Johnson, Pine Ridge, said, “We need to recognize that we have failed in love, and we need to believe that God, who is love, came among us as one of us to share the good news and that despite our failures, we can, in any moment, discover how we have gone astray, correct course, and step into the kingdom of God. We then need to see others as we see ourselves, as loved sinners longing for communion.”
Fr. Steve Biegler, Rapid City, said. “One thing we need to realize is our mission to be ‘church’ is inviting others to experience the good news.
“We have gained some ground in that territory, we are getting people to understand that our mission is to evangelize and reach out. We are helping people see that a parish is a mission center — I think that’s an image used by Pope Francis.
“If we are going to invite them here they have to have a place to land that they feel is welcoming and safe. Obviously that means a place of hospitality.
“A lot of people don’t see themselves as people who invite, welcome or evangelize.
“My experience in the last several years, is that for people who are unchurched or who are not regular in a Catholic faith journey, the Mass is too much for them.
“I would say before we can genuinely invite people we need another place for them to enter. We have to explore that, another experience of prayer and liturgy that might not be the Mass. It might be an adoration experience or healing service. But we need to figure out some of the language from the Making Disciples workshop; we need a ‘lower threshold.’
“I’ve found, for example, that couples who come for marriage or baptism instruction, are exploring, but not sure they want full participation. They need an in between step.”
The priests also considered how our core values need to influence the way we work towards reconciliation in the church and local communities.
Father Johnson said, “Through prayer we find ourselves loved and called to love. Through prayer we find ourselves children of God, surrounded by brothers and sisters. In the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, we find that we too suffer, and our hearts reach out in love. When our families pray and foster care for one another, reconciliation happens. In seeing all people as children of God, as brothers and sisters, this reconciliation can extend throughout the world.”
Father Biegler added, “Everyone on the Envisioning Team was convinced that prayer is the most valuable place to start. The work of prayer, which is a spiritual work, is integral to the success of any ministry in the church. I always tell people who come to confession, and need reconciliation with someone, to pray for that person. Pray for the grace you need for yourself. God can work something through prayer in ways that we could never work.
“Many people who say in confession, ‘I know God forgives me, I can’t forgive myself.’ Then, they are not receiving God’s forgivenesss. We aren’t very good at receiving mercy and I don’t think they really believe in Christ’s mercy.”
“Solidarity is a really strong value for being a brother or sister toward everyone, we think of reconciliation with people who have hurt us, we might not think of people we may have ignored, immigrants, unborn, elderly, and other races.”
Making Disciples with Prayer
The Mass is the source and summit of becoming disciples ourselves, so we can go out to make disciples of others. Fr. Michel Mulloy, an Envisioning Team Member from McLaughlin, said, “Being a disciple of Jesus requires spending time with the Master. Spending time with Jesus can take many forms, but there is no substitute for praying the Mass. The Mass is Jesus’ self-surrender to God the Father through the Holy Spirit. As we celebrate Mass, we join with Jesus and learn over and over how to live our discipleship.”
Father Mulloy also explained that being in love with Christ forms the basis of our desire to spread his Gospel.
“When I love someone, the loved one is the source of my activity and the end of all I do. I want others to know the one who has captured my heart. When I love the Lord, then I want to spread the good news of who he is to everyone I meet so that they can come to know and love him as well.”
The practice of loving Christ inspires a conversion of hearts and minds. At the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Rapid City, Stephanie Hatley joined the Catholic Church at Easter Vigil. She said, “My conversion was an entire mind, body, and soul transformation. From my daily thought patterns and attitude, to my physical health, to my heart’s deepest desires, I am literally a new creation.”
Hatley works as a cleaning lady. She began getting several new clients who were Catholic. She talked to them about church doctrine and started researching things on her own. Two of her clients she said were particularly influential, Courtney and Nancy Lien. Courtney served as her sponsor going through RCIA.
“I was trying to cope with the wounds of an absent father, I spent 14 years searching for love and happiness in the world. I lived a noisy life, desperately seeking the approval of others, while attempting to mask the pain and guilt with alcohol and drugs,” Hatley said.
She continued, “God captivated me with his mercy. As my heart began to embrace what Jesus endured for us, my life rapidly began to change. My addictions and bad habits fell away. I began to love my work, appreciate my family, and have a profound desire to live life God’s way.
“In search of the truth, led by prayer, I came in to full communion with the Catholic Church. It is through His church I have been able to experience the grace and mercy I have needed all my life,” said Hatley.
Living Our Faith
In living the mission of the church and diocese, first we need to recognize that all people, at all stages of life, are important. Sue Jimmerson, Rapid City, has been active for many years with the Pro-Life Commission, which subsequently became the Social Justice Commission.
Jimmerson said, “As Catholics and Christians we believe that human life is a gift from God, each person is created in God’s image and thus deserving of care and protection. Our challenge is to promote human dignity, extending from conception, through all situations in life, until natural death.
“Unfortunately, our culture can reduce the value of a human person to an arbitrary standard that can change through laws like Roe v. Wade or assisted suicide legislation. A utilitarian view looks only at how a life would benefit others, e.g. embryonic stem cell research, the buying and selling of unborn baby parts, pornography, sex or labor trafficking, unjust wages.
Jimmerson has worked with many inter-denominational and secular groups promoting the dignity of life over the years.
“We don’t need religion to recognize that fetal development is part of the wondrous progression of human life; that poverty, unsafe living conditions, and lack of food or medical care are detrimental; or that abortion and assisted suicide are violence. Advancements in science and increased knowledge of conditions that hinder or degrade life can form our thinking and actions. There are even national atheist groups which have become involved in supporting pro-life causes.
“For example, young pro-life pagans participated in the Texas March for Life this year; Secular Pro-Life defends life in blogs and on college campuses; and Pro-Life Humanists are defenders of the marginalized and champions of human life.”
She continued, “In S.D., there are many secular or non-religious groups that affirm the dignity of human life and strive to protect it. We could not have made progress in promoting pro-life causes without uniting with such groups. Christian faiths and those with no religious faith have worked to limit Planned Parenthood’s work in Rapid City; with a civic group in Lead to ban nude dancing and adult-oriented business advertising; and with various groups on state legislation. These have always been inspirational and dynamic alliances. Today, the Social Justice Commission and parish groups help promote or aid pro-life efforts by Habitat for Humanity, Fair Trade, Right to Life, and Family Heritage Alliance.”
Being pro-life means more than just advocating on behalf of life, it means lending a helping hand. At Catholic Social Services, Family Services Supervisor, Natalie Lecy works with the Uplifting Parents Program. It is a coalition of more than 30 Rapid City social service agencies combining resources to lift single parents out of poverty.
Started in April 2014, the program has nine graduates and 14 current participants working on a degree or learning skills that will allow them to provide a better life for themselves and their children.
Lecy said, “This program is so near and dear to my heart. You are working in the trenches with folks doing everything they can to raise their family out of poverty and to create a life for their kids that most of them never had themselves.
“I’ve been doing social work for over 10 years and this is one of the most inspiring programs to work with. You see close to immediate change when people are accepted into the program. They receive scholarship and stipend money, often times they can put their children in childcare or enroll in an education program that they never thought they’d be able to go into.”
The program helps with needs like: tuition, books, transportation, housing, and childcare. Applicants must have a concrete goal and a workable time line. “We try to provide wrap-around support for the entire family. If you are coming from generational poverty and you don’t have a support system it’s easy to fall through the cracks,” she said.
—Reconcile—Deacon Greg Sass, Retuning Catholics Program, Call 939-0579
The Returning Catholic Program is a series of six classes for people who have been away from the church and are interested in returning. Deacon Sass sees it as stewardship — an ongoing invitation that calls for making room for others.
He said to welcome someone who has been away from the church, first meet him or her where they are. He advises asking if there is anything they would like you to pray about in their life. “That can be such a simple little thing and it is easy to do,” he said.
In the Book of Matthew it says, “knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Deacon Sass sees himself standing by the door, inviting people in and answering their questions. “I may not know the answer to every question; however, I tell them I will find it for them,” he said. Keeping Jesus in mind, he does not chide them for not attending Mass. He looks at their struggles and compares them to areas where he himself has struggled.
“Most of the people who attend are divorced. I had one person come through the program because people asked her why she came to church — she was a divorcee. She left the church because others did not understand the church’s teachings,” said Deacon Sass.
“It is important for everyone to know and keep studying our faith. The education on church teaching is the real benefit of this program. It is giving them that information in a non-threatening way and helping them with mercy and forgiveness,” he said.
The Envisioning Team determined prayer is the first value. Adoration is praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament. According to Valarie Brown, Faith, Adoration is held after Friday morning daily Masses.The parish started it when (the late) Fr. Brian Fawcett served the parish in the 90s. Brown’s husband, Deacon Larry Brown, was instrumental in getting it started. She said it was originally a time to pray for vocations and the parish has had a two men go to the seminary to discern a vocation.
“Adoration is a call to spend time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. It’s a different kind of prayer. You might say your daily prayers quickly and go on with your day. This is a time of quiet,” said Brown. She said she gets a sense of peace and quiet. “It’s a time you can ask God for things in a more personal way,” said Brown.
Deacon Ray Klein, Belle Fourche, said, “Adoration is being alone with Jesus. We know Jesus is in the church. We should know He is in everybody we meet, but we don’t.
“Adoration is calming, it seems you go in there with your problems and just sit — sometimes the prayer is just to sit there and look — sometimes the answers or solutions to a problem just pop into your head,” he said.
—Live the Mission—John Litenberg, Love INC., (Love In the Name of Christ) 718-5683
“Everything Love INC., does is a shared ministry of our area churches coming together and giving parishioners an opportunity to put their faith to work. They don’t have to create a roll, its already there for them to step into,” he said.
The main office is in Rapid City and this year Love INC., is also working in Sturgis.
“We have a lot of individual volunteers and church congregations involved. Classes are taught by volunteers or organizations. The night starts out with a meal provided by an area church, and there is child care provided for adult classes,” said Litenberg.
He said word of mouth is a powerful way to attract people to their programs. “For instance, Catholic Social Services has excellent parenting classes.They are pulling in people through their organization. We are pulling people in through ours. We are doing what we can to promote brother agencies.”
One of the programs under development is “Thrive” an outdoor adventure resale store. The store will be an employment opportunity for youth that will include mentoring in job and life skills. The program will also have walking, biking and running events.
Fall classes: Financial Freedom; Bridges to Freedom, Star Quilting 101; Strengthening Families, Common Sense Parenting, Concerned Persons Study, Jobs Class, Nutrition on a Budget, Christianity Explored, Rebuild Your Broken World, Marriage, Stepping into Freedom, and Storyline: Live a better story.