Each piece of the puzzle is unique

It is hard to believe we are approaching the end of summer. These past few months rapidly elapsed for the Offices of Stewardship and Vocations. Although busy, this time has borne much fruit. Allow me to elaborate…

At the end of May to kick off our summer, we commissioned two Duc in Altum teams comprised of eight young adults to go out. The travels of these young missionaries crisscrossed western South Dakota, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the young people of seventeen parishes. I am confident their witness of service, sacrifice, and zeal inspired many, including me.

In June, we hosted our first Stewardship Summit. More than 285 participants from 48 parishes in our diocese attended. A number of people even joined us from the Diocese of Sioux Falls and the Diocese of Cheyenne. Together the participants ascended the mountain of stewardship, cultivating a life of generous hospitality, lively faith and dedicated discipleship, as a way to live out our Catholic faith.

I encourage you to go to our diocesan stewardship page http://www.rapid citydiocese.org/stewardship/, where you can download the audio files of the keynote addresses and the impact sessions. The speakers will inspire and challenge you to live more deeply the call of stewardship in your life.

On July 2, Bishop Robert Gruss ordained two young men to the priesthood of Jesus Christ, Fr. Mark Horn from Burke, and Fr. John Paul Trask from Elm Springs. It was an incredible evening of great joy as we witnessed these young men generously give their lives to Christ and to the Catholic Church of the Diocese of Rapid City.

Throughout the entire summer we have had the great opportunity to be with almost 300 young people. Some attended the Steubenville of the Rockies conference in Denver, Colorado, others stayed for a week at our Girls and Boys Totus Tuus vocational camps. Several more gathered to hike in preparation for World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland to be held in the summer of 2016.

Finally, a few more literally ascended with us as we spent the Feast of the Transfiguration in the Big Horn Mountain range backpacking. All of these activities were beautiful periods of fellowship as we encountered the Lord in his beauty, in relationship with one another, and through his sacraments of Eucharist and reconciliation.

As I reflect back on this summer and the programs, conferences and celebrations that were attended by our children, youth, and families, this line from the Prayer for Vocations resounded in my heart, “Lord Jesus, Son of the eternal Father and Mary Immaculate, grant to our young people the generosity necessary to follow Your call and the courage required to overcome all obstacles to their vocation.”

Stewardship and vocations truly go hand-in-hand. The U.S. bishops’ pastoral letter on stewardship, “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response,” describes stewardship as the grateful response of the Christian disciple who recognizes and receives God’s gifts and shares them in love of God and neighbor. This is what we’ve done all summer long with our children, young people and families — we’ve attempted to instill in them this reality that each person has been blessed and gifted in many unique ways by God our Father and thus is called to share the good news of his son Jesus joyfully with others!

The call of Stewardship and Vocations is not complicated, it is quite simple; however, we need to recognize first how generous God is to us through the many gifts he has bestowed in a particular way. God is so generous, sending his son Jesus to be our Lord, Savior and friend. In turn, Jesus generously invites us into and reveals the Father’s plan for each of us.

Bishop Gruss, at the closing Mass for Boys Totus Tuus, preached on the call to know one’s particular vocation to priesthood, consecrated life or matrimony by using a piece from a jigsaw puzzle. Bishop Gruss said, “When I was a vocation director, I would carry around a jigsaw puzzle and when I spoke about vocations, I would give each young person a piece and tell them that they were as unique as this puzzle piece in the eyes of God and his kingdom.

“Each puzzle piece is unique, in that there is no other piece like it. It has a unique shape, colors only appropriated to that piece, and most important of all, that unique piece fits in only one place in the puzzle to make the beautiful picture complete and what it is supposed to be, how it was created to be. We are like that puzzle piece in the sense that God has created each of us uniquely and each of us fits uniquely in only one place in the kingdom with our own unique mission in that kingdom. We have to seek, discern and discover that unique place for ourselves.”

The ministry and work of stewardship and vocations do go hand-in-hand. I encourage you this month to pick up a jigsaw puzzle piece and carry it around in your pocket or put it on your prayer table at home as a visible reminder to pray fervently that you might know the unique mission God has called you to in his kingdom. Pray that all of us in the Diocese of Rapid City will have the generosity necessary to follow the plan that God the Father has called us to. And may we have the courage to overcome all the obstacles to the particular vocation that God desires for each one of us, whether that is to priesthood, consecrated life, or holy matrimony.

‘Isn’t it time to defund Planned Parenthood?’

The videos are shocking, sickening, appalling and deeply disturbing. The videos to which I am referring are those released by the Center for Medical Progress revealing how Planned Parenthood employees admit that they harvest and sell fetal tissue and body organs from aborted babies for profit. It is a fact that a 17-week-old baby has all its body parts and can be seen sucking its thumb in an ultrasound. Therefore, one of the most disturbing parts of one video entails Dr. Deborah Nucatola speaking about the retraction of a 17- week-old baby in a certain way so that her heart, liver, lungs and brain can be useful to the buyer. How can this type of an abortion at 17-weeks not be called murder, the destruction of human life? Every decent minded American should be outraged by these activities of Planned Parenthood. This activity is evil as is all destruction of human life, a gross manifestation of sin, and entirely against the will of God.

As a gift from God, every human life is sacred from conception to natural death. The life and dignity of every person must be respected and protected at every stage and in every condition. Sacred Scripture affirms this moral truth. In Psalm 139 we read: “You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. My bones are not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be. How precious to me are your designs, O God; how vast the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:13-17)

Or as we read in Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter Laudato Si, The Creator can say to each one of us: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you’ (Jer 1:5). We were conceived in the heart of God, and for this reason “each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary” (LS #65).

Therefore the right to life is the first and most fundamental principle of human rights that leads Catholics to actively work for a world of greater respect for human life and greater commitment to justice and peace. People can pretend that babies in the womb are just blobs of protoplasm. But it is God who reveals the truth. As science advances in this field, it is becoming much harder for any American to ignore what their conscience already tells them, life begins at conception.

The Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade is perhaps the worst, most tragic and evil decision ever made in the history of the United States. Statistics show that 55 million babies have been aborted since that Supreme Court decision. Abortion is a violation of human rights incomparable in magnitude and an atrocity for the whole human family. We must find a way to end these atrocities.

In the aftermath of these videos going public, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards tried to downplay these videos by blaming the “militant wing” of the anti-abortion movement. Perhaps it is always easier to blame others when getting caught in a scandal as horrendous as this. In the end, this organization has absolutely no respect the sanctity of human life and the dignity of the human person.

Following the revelation of these practices of Planned Parenthood, the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice announced plans to investigate the group that produced the videos instead of investigating the alleged criminal activity in harvesting and selling baby parts.

Planned Parenthood claims to be a non-profit organization. Yet they take in enormous revenues. Here are a few facts: During fiscal year 2013-2014, Planned Parenthood reported receiving a record $528.4 million in taxpayer funding in the form of government grants, contracts, and Medicaid reimbursements. It is important to note that taxpayer funding consists of almost half of Planned Parenthood’s annual revenue.

In 2013, Planned Parenthood performed a record high 327,653 abortions. During the years 2009-2011, Planned Parenthood performed nearly one million abortions (995,687). In 2014, abortions made up 94 percent of Planned Parenthood’s pregnancy services, while prenatal care and adoption referrals dropped 14 percent and 4 percent, respectively. For every adoption referral made, Planned Parenthood performed 174 abortions. Planned Parenthood reported $127 million in excess revenue, and more than $1.2 billion in net assets. These are statistics from 2013-2014. Year after year, government subsidy (your tax dollars) and abortions are the lifeblood of Planned Parenthood. Are they really a non-profit organization? Isn’t it time to defund Planned Parenthood?

Despite this massive taxpayer support, Planned Parenthood is a highly political organization as well. During the 2012 election, Planned Parenthood spent $15 million on advertising and get-out-the-vote activities, according to the Washington Post on November 14, 2012. Planned Parenthood and its affiliates lobby at both the state and federal level to block any legislative proposals regulating abortion. They spent $33.6 million lobbying elected officials in 2013-2014, opposing legislation to put in place simple commonsense safeguards, including laws that would inform parents before their minor daughters obtain abortions as well as safety standards in abortion clinics to protect the women receiving services there. Is this organization really good for society and America? Should taxpayers continue to fund such an organization?

Perhaps Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) said it best, “You can’t say in one moment that’s not a human and then sell it in the next moment as a human organ and say now suddenly it is. It was a human all the way through. There was never a time that wasn’t a child, never a time that wasn’t a human, and it seems the ultimate irony to me that we spend time talking about humane treatment of animals being put down and a lion being shot illegally … and we completely miss children being ripped apart in the womb and their body parts being sold.”

On their website, Planned Parenthood claims to be an altruistic health care provider for women and girls. It says, “Care. No matter what.” But when one looks at their annual report, when one views these disgusting videos, it seems that their bottom line is not about women’s health but about the destruction of human life and selling body parts for profit. Those who participate in such activities have completely lost any moral compass. The real Planned Parenthood has revealed who they really are.

Do we, as taxpayers, really want to support such an organization that commits such heinous crimes against humanity? Please contact your congressmen and legislators, demanding an end to Planned Parenthood funding. They should not receive our money for their immoral activity, but our prayers for their conversion. This is what God desires!

West River Catholic: August 2015

Enjoy the August edition of the West River Catholic

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