St. Damien de Veuster — July 2016

(Father Damien with residents of the Molokai settlement.)

Joseph de Veuster grew up on a farm in Belgium in the 1800s. He responded to God’s call to enter the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, taking the name of a fourth-century physician and martyr, St. Damien, and soon volunteered to go to the Hawaiian Islands in place of a brother who had fallen ill. In Honolulu, in 1864, Damien was ordained a priest.

For several years leprosy had been spreading in Hawaii, and in 1866, the government established a leper colony on the island of Molokai in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease.

By 1873, almost half of the nearly 800 lepers who were sent there had died. Efforts were made to improve conditions but were unsuccessful. Molokai was a lawless place, filled with some who in despair, participated in sexual immorality, drunkenness, brawling, and robberies. When the lepers died, their bodies were thrown into shallow graves where wild animals could reach them. In 1873, Fr. Damien requested to go to Molokai, as many of his people at his mission in Kohala, Hawaii, were falling ill with leprosy: “Many of our Christians here at Kohala also had to go to Molokai. I can only attribute to God an undeniable feeling that soon I shall join them … Eight years of service among Christians you love and love you have tied us by powerful bonds.” Fr. Damien was not the only missionary who offered to go to Molokai despite the danger of contracting the contagious disease. He was sent as a part of a team of four priests who would spend three months at a time serving the lepers, but soon he requested to remain for an extend period of time. His request was granted by his superiors who said, “You may stay as long as your devotion dictates. …”

Fr. Damien, a skilled carpenter, added to the chapel, dedicated to St. Philomena, building a rectory and cottages. He admonished those who were living an amoral lifestyle and brought many back to the faith. He filled the chapel and had to expand it. He formed a choir with organists and provided a poor box so that the parishioners too could give to the poor.

He served the people with great love and care; he washed their bodies, cleaned and bandaged their wounds, and helped tidy their homes. He built a proper cemetery and organized the Christian Burial Association to provide a decent burial for each of those who died. He anointed the sick, heard confessions, brought communion to those who could not attend Mass, and taught them to build roads, to farm, raise animals, play athletic games and musical instruments, and to sing. He taught them all these things and shared his life with them giving them dignity.

Fr. Damien brought attention to the plight of the lepers and people around the world began to give to them. Eventually Fr. Damien contracted leprosy, a plight that he had dreaded, and truly joined them often speaking of “we lepers.” He suffered from the disease and was criticized by the government and his own congregation. Once he had to confess his sins by shouting them from a boat to a bishop on another ship because the ship’s captain would not allow Fr. Damien to board or the bishop to disembark on Molokai.

Even with the disease, Fr. Damien worked harder than ever for the sick. He solicited help from donors and the Hawaiian government, laity and priests who came to help him on the island, and by bringing Mother Marianne Cope and her sisters to a girls orphanage on Molokai. Leprosy took Fr. Damien’s eyesight and spread to his throat, lungs, stomach, intestines, and eventually he died from the disease at the age of 49, having lived a life of mercy.

At the Mass for canonization, Pope Benedict said, “Not without fear and repugnance, he chose to go to the Island of Molokai to serve the lepers who lived there, abandoned by all. Thus he was exposed to the disease from which they suffered. He felt at home with them. The servant of the word consequently became a suffering servant, a leper with the lepers, for the last four years of his life. In order to follow Christ, Fr. Damien not only left his homeland but also risked his health. … Let us remember before this noble figure that it is charity which makes unity, brings it forth and makes it desirable. Following in St Paul’s footsteps, St. Damien prompts us to choose the good warfare (cf. 1 Tim 1: 18), not the kind that brings division but the kind that gathers people together. He invites us to open our eyes to the forms of leprosy that disfigure the humanity of our brethren and still today call for the charity of our presence as servants, beyond that of our generosity.”

Prayer to St. Damien

Father of mercy, in St. Damien you have given a shining witness of love for the poorest and most abandoned. Grant that, by his intercession, as faithful witness of the heart of your Son Jesus, we too may be servants of the most needy and rejected. Teach us to live our lives with joy like yours and to celebrate and contemplate the Eucharist so we might be good disciples of Jesus and Mary. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.


Administrative Assistant (Development)

Applications are being accepted for the full time position of Administrative Assistant to the Director of Development.
Click here for a full job description

Performs administrative, secretarial and clerical duties for the Office of Development and assists in the design, implementation, tracking, and reporting for the Annual Diocesan Appeal, Terra Sancta Guild and other funds as assigned.

A demonstrated high level of confidentiality and dependability. Excellent secretarial and computer skills especially in the area of databases. Must have a high level of accuracy and be detail oriented. Good written and oral communication skills, and ability to work without direct supervision. High degree of efficiency in planning, organizing and carrying out
fund raising social events. An understanding of and respect for the Catholic faith required.


Interested individuals should send a resumé, letter,  by e-mail or postal mail listing three professional references along with a completed application (click to downloadto:
Development Office
Diocese of Rapid City
606 Cathedral Drive Rapid City SD 57701

Open until filled.

The Diocese of Rapid City offers a competitive salary and benefits package.

(Click here for an application)

West River Catholic: June 2016

Enjoy the June edition of the West River Catholic

Download the PDF

Sioux Spiritual Center Planning Team analyzing the center’s future

By Deacon Marlon Leneaugh
Director of Native Ministries

Mahpiya Na Maka Okoigna is the Lakota name given for the Sioux Spiritual Center. The name means; “a place between heaven and earth.” The name was given by a Lakota Spiritual leader, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe who used the analogy of the power of the Sacred Pipe when raised up during a ceremony to Christ being lifted up on the cross and being suspended between heaven and earth. The SSC represents a place that supports both Lakota spirituality and Catholicism.

The SSC was opened in 1977 by Bishop Harold Dimmerling as a place to support the Permanent Diaconate Program and to develop Native leadership among the Lakota people. It is a diocesan facility and ministry and has been traditionally staffed by Jesuit priests since itsscs beginning. They are responsible for administering the Ministry Formation Program and Diaconate Program for the diocese.

The work of the center is overseen by a Board of Directors comprised of the bishop, chancellor, Director of Native Ministry, Director of the SSC, Director of the Inculturation Project and eight appointed Lakota members from the five various reservations across the diocese. The bishop is responsible for appointing board members.

The facility has served the diocese well as a place to go for personal reflection and to take advantage of the many retreats that are offered. Hundreds of retreats have been held and thousands of people have come to love the center and the Jesuit priests who have served the people so well for many years. The center will always hold a special place in the hearts of many. The place is quite unique and one does not forget the times spent praying and basking in the love of the Father. Folks come away refreshed, renewed and spirituality uplifted.

After almost four decades of Jesuit leadership, the Jesuit Provincial has informed Bishop Robert Gruss that the Jesuits can no longer provide priests to staff SSC beyond June of 2017. This was unfortunate news, but yet not totally unexpected, due to the declining numbers of men entering the seminary.

Bishop Gruss has commissioned a team to study the situation and make recommendations. The committee consists of priests, deacons and lay people from across the diocese. The following are members of the Sioux Spiritual Center Planning Team and the telephone numbers where they can be reached.

Fr. Steve Biegler 787-5168

Fr. Ron Seminara 985-5906

Dcn. Cal Clifford 685-6893

Dcn. Steve McLaughlin 680-2936

Dcn. Marlon Leneaugh 343-3541

Jennifer Black Bear 747-2496

Rosalita Roach 964-3391

Veronica Valandra 867-5491

Bill White 455-2591

Ben Black Bear, III 747-2436

The committee will look at the purpose statement of the center, establish priorities, create a vision statement and address future funding and staffing issues. Presently the committee would like to hear comments concerning the center. If you have ideas or suggestions regarding the SSC, please contact one of the committee members. Your opinions, ideas, suggestions or comments are welcome and valuable to planning the future of the Sioux Spiritual Center.

Listed below is the current policy: The primary mission of the center is with and for the Lakota people of the Diocese of Rapid City and for the promotion of an inculturated Catholic Lakota Church. Thus our purpose is to work for the Lakota people as they develop their own church in their own style, a real Catholic Church rooted in Lakota culture and tradition.

Current Purpose: The purpose of the center is to provide a place where Lakota people of the diocese can come to pray and to provide a central location for the Ministry Formation Program.


Pilgrimage reawakens spiritual life

This past February, I was blessed to be on the diocesan pilgrimage with Bishop Robert Gruss. It was a whirlwind pilgrimage, as we visited France, Spain and Portugal in 10 days. The weather wasn’t the greatest, but praying at these holy sites and pondering the Blessed Mother’s appearances to St. Bernadette in Lourdes, St. James in Zaragoza, and Lucia, Jacinta and

Francisco in Fatima was absolutely the best!

As a bonus, we stopped at Avila and Salamanca to reflect on the courageous lives of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, each of whom became bold witnesses for renewal in the church in the middle 1500s. We need witnesses like them today, people who are willing to give testimony to the power Christ in their lives.

Pope Paul the VI, in his 1975 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi said: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”

The call to be witnesses is not a new one in the church. Toward the end of the Acts of the Apostles we hear how the Lord stood next to St. Paul and said, “Keep up your courage! For just as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also in Rome” Acts 23:11. In all times and in all places, we are called to bear witness and to give our personal testimony of Christ to others. And it isn’t always easy.

On the pilgrimage, we were staying at Lourdes and I had a beautiful view from the balcony of my hotel room of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Our last morning in Lourdes, I found myself on the balcony about 3:30 a.m., praying and taking it all in one last time.

I was surprised to hear the door of the balcony next to me open as a gentleman walked out onto it. I greeted him and started to make some small talk with him. I found myself sharing with him how he was going to love Lourdes. I told him how our Blessed Mother Mary appeared to a teenage girl named Bernadette Soubirous in 1858, and how Lourdes, through the intercession of Blessed Mother Mary and St. Bernadette, has become a place of both spiritual and physical healing for many people around the world.

Many spiritual lives have been re-awakened and renewed in Jesus Christ here. Mary always points to her son, Jesus — the way, the truth and the life. I finished by saying, “I pray and hope that Jesus through Mary will touch your life in a new way while you are in Lourdes.”

He looked at me and, without saying a word, walked back into his hotel room and shut the door. I was stunned by his action.

Were my words offensive to him? Maybe he had a bad experience of church growing up or felt that God never answers his prayer. Perhaps I was boring him with all this talk about Jesus and Mary? Or maybe he was just having a bad day. Whatever it was, he was not interested in what I had to say.

I have thought about this experience a number of times since then. Looking back on this encounter, I should have first invited the Holy Spirit into my heart and asked him what he wanted me to share with this person. Perhaps it would have been better to share my personal story of how the Lord Jesus is working in my life, in particular of beholding Our Lady.

St. Paul tells the Thessalonians the call to discipleship invites us to share not only the Gospel, but our very selves. In our stewardship initiative this is where “lively faith” enters — sharing the Gospel and ourselves with others. This is how faith is caught. It becomes contagious and alive.

As we continue to hear lay witness speakers in our parishes witnessing on generous hospitality and lively faith, I encourage you to think about your personal testimony, your story.

Summer is a perfect time to meet new people in the many events, activities and travels of this season. We meet people at the baseball park,

camping, while on a family vacation or perhaps on the balcony of a hotel room. Summertime gives us many opportunities to give witness to our faith in Jesus — to share the joy of the Gospel. Are you ready?

Here are a few questions I have found helpful. I invite you to take them before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Pray and journal on these questions. They will help you prepare in an

intentional way to give your testimony if the opportunity arises.

*What event or series of events in your life lead you to the place where you first said “yes” to God?

*What was your life like before that?

*How have you experienced the invitation to follow Christ?

*How have you experienced Christ longing for you?

* is your life like now? How have things changed because of your decision to follow Christ?

*What are the little ways you see God moving in your life?

*What keeps you connected to Christ and his church?

*Remember, when you are about to give your testimony, first pray to the Holy Spirit that he will give you the words to speak from your heart. Oh, and then remind me to do the same, won’t you?

*Keep it simple. Be direct. Beintentional. Be discreet. Be bold.


Zestfully living the Gospel mission

Engaging your faith in an intentional way (more than merely going to Mass once a week) will bear fruit in your life and the life of your family far beyond what you can image. You will be amazed what God will do for you, with you and through you. When we give the Lord control of our lives in every area, transformation takes place. When we seek to engage a life of faith daily, through prayer, study and formation, we become more intentional disciples who live the mission given to each of us in baptism and strengthened again in confirmation. In the process, the Holy Spirit comes alive in us and our hearts are awakened like we have never experienced before. It is then we become more clearly our true selves as God created us to be.

Intentional disciples, united as the body of Christ, live the mission of the Gospel entrusted to us, thereby building the Kingdom of God. Our lives, our families, our faith communities, our local church become focused on a mission that ultimately leads us to heaven.

The Envisioning process has led the Diocese to a clear pathway into the future as outlined in the Diocesan Priority Plan. I have been writing about this plan in the West River Catholic almost monthly since January. The completed plan was published in the West River Catholic in April and May. This Priority Plan will lead us into the future with the hopes of creating many new intentional disciples and stronger families as they become engaged more deeply in a life of faith.

If I gave you a quiz on the Diocesan Priority Plan, would you be able to pass it? First question: What is the Mission Statement? Second question: What are the six Core Values? Third question: What is the Vision Statement? Fourth question: What are the three Diocesan Priorities? Fifth question: What are the five Foundational Ministries?

It will be very difficult to implement the Priority Plan if Catholic families across the whole diocese are not engaged in the process. We cannot do it without each and every one of you. The results will be diminished if we are not all engaged, individually, as families, as faith communities and as a diocese. We can do this together united as the Body of Christ.

I have created a resource to assist us. Part of the implementation process was for me to write a pastoral letter to help set us on our way. The pastoral letter ended up being something much larger. I have written a book of sorts entitled, “Through Him, With Him, and in Him, A Spiritual Guide to the Diocesan Priority Plan.”

Be on the lookout for a copy coming your way! A copy of this book is being sent to each of your homes. Consider it a gift from me and the Diocese of Rapid City. More copies will be made available. It is my expectation that you will receive your copy by the end of June. It is my hope and prayer that everyone will take the time to prayerfully read and reflect upon this resource as a way to engage your faith life. Discuss it with your families and in your faith communities. Ask the Holy Spirit to let it form your hearts anew, leading you deeper into your personal call to discipleship.

In the spiritual guide, I have tried not only to share the Diocesan Priority Plan in more detail, but to enflesh it with a spiritual dimension that seeks to offer each of us some encouragement as we answer our own call to be intentional disciples for Jesus. This plan is meant to bring into clearer focus the mission and ministry of the Diocese of Rapid City as a whole.

Now, back to the quiz. I will even give you the answers! First question: The Mission of the Diocese is: 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.

Second question: The six Core Values are Prayer, Stewardship, Solidarity, Mercy, Charity and Family.

Third question: The Vision Statement is: RECONCILE — MAKE DISCIPLES — LIVE THE MISSION.

Fourth question: The three Diocesan Priorities are: Reconciliation, Forming Disciples and Funding the Mission.

Fifth question: The five Foundational Ministries are: Sacraments and Worship, Education and Formation, Governance and Finance, Social Services and Outreach, and Vocations and Evangelization.

Finally, we must always remember that each of us has our own particular spiritual gifts to share in carrying out this mission, this priority plan. St. Paul reminds us: “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit” (1 Cor 12:4-7). We know that if we rely on and trust in the Holy Spirit to guide our efforts we can be assured of the fruitfulness of our endeavors. May God bless you all.


Dr. Peter Kleponis Clergy Days Presentation

With help, porn addictions can be healed


Dr. Peter Kleponis visits with attendees after his talk on pornography addiction and ways to seek help for someone with an addiction. Click the photo to see the full video his public presentation at Terra Sancta, Rapid City.

By Laurie Hallstrom

Kicking porn addiction cannot be done with a Lone Ranger, pull yourself up by the boot straps approach according to Peter Kleponis, Ph.D. He has pioneered a Catholic approach to recovery. He was in Rapid City to address the clergy of the diocese during their annual Clergy Days retreat. He made a public presentation, May 25 at Terra Sancta, Rapid City.

He was trained as a couples and family counselor. About eight years ago his business shifted. More men were coming to him who were struggling with pornography. With married men it was usually their wives who were calling seeking help. After research he discovered there is a huge epidemic of men struggling with pornography addictions.

He went back to school to gain the skills needed to help in recovery.

He provided the Rapid City audience with a host of statistics, but then he said they are probably a gross underestimate because many people do not want to admit to the problem.

“Why are we being bombarded (with pornography) from every direction? It’s simple, money,” he said. He explained the billions of dollars made from exploiting women and children.

Of those addicted to porn he said two-thirds are men and one-third are women. He went on to explain men and women are wired differently. Men react to visual stimulation and view the images as being there for their pleasure. Women are looking for relationships — often described in romance novels.

He described the series of chemicals produced by the brain that cause addiction to be desirable.

“As with any addiction as tolerance grows you need more of the substance to get the same effect, dependency sets in, (and if a person cuts back) withdrawal symptoms occur,” he said.

He said treating the addiction is only part of the healing. The other part is addressing the underlying problems in the person’s life: family of origin, abuse, loneliness, trauma, insecurity and escapism. If the person is married you have to look at what is happening in that relationship.

Kleponis recommended limiting screen time. “Every night at 9 o’clock collect all the gadgets, turn them off and lock them away. Why? Kids need to realize they don’t need to be surgically attached to their technology 24- hours a day. They need time for their brains to decompress if they have had their face in a screen all day long, their brain is over stimulated, it needs time to relax and calm down,” he said.

Even adults need down time. He recommended turning off all technology before bedtime. “If you like to read, use old fashioned paper,” he said.

He has found support groups to be helpful in recovery. “You need support and accountability. You cannot do this alone, you have to surround yourself with other people who understand the struggle, and will support you and keep you accountable. And you do the same for them too,” he said.

Click here for the full video of Dr. Kleponis presentation

Chancery Housekeeper

Applications are being accepted for the full time position of Chancery Housekeeper
Click here for a full job description

To clean the Chancery offices, Monday through Friday, for approximately two hours each evening


Experience in cleaning with knowledge of cleaning products
Attention to detail and safety


Interested individuals can download and fill out the application form by calling or e-mailing Mark Hazel, Director of Diocesan Facilities. Contact him at 343-3541×219 or at

 The position is open until filled

(Click here for an application)

Duc in Altum 2016

Register with your parish today!

8.5"x11" Vertical Flyer Template

Questions: Call Shawna in the the Office of Vocations at 605-716-5214 x233 or email

Technology Support Specialist

Applications are being accepted for the full time position of Technology Support Specialist.
Click here for a full job description

The Technology Support Specialist has the following responsibilities:

  1. Provides network design, maintenance and support of the Diocesan computer services, hardware and software.
  2. Provides support and education to staff members regarding the use of technology.


  • Bachelors Degree or Associate Degree in Computer Science or Network Technology with understanding of Network Operating systems and Network Administration
  • Experience in providing software support
  • Possession of Industry certifications desirable
  • Respects the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church
  • Demonstrates good written and verbal communication skills
  • Ability to work with diverse staff in a team atmosphere

Download and complete the application form and submit it by mail or e-mail with a resume and a cover letter to:

Office of the Chancellor
Diocese of Rapid City
606 Cathedral Drive
Rapid City SD 57701

The Diocese of Rapid City offers a competitive salary and benefits package. Open until filled.

(An application can be downloaded here)