St. Martin de Porres — September 2016


Martin was born the illegitimate son of a Spanish knight, John de Porres, and a freed slave woman, Anna, in Lima, Peru, in 1579. He inherited his mother’s dark complexion and features, and so endured much hardship, persecution, and ridicule for his biracial heritage throughout his life. His own father never married his mother and refused to even acknowledge his son until Martin was about 8 years old. After a sister was born, his father abandoned their family and left them to a life of poverty.

Martin did not receive much schooling, and at age 12 he was apprenticed to a barber-surgeon where he learned both trades — cutting hair, caring for the siSan_Martin_de_Porres_huaycanck and injured, treating wounds and ailments, drawing blood, distributing medication, etc. After spending three years in this apprenticeship, Martin longed to join the Dominican religious community in Lima. As a teenager he asked to serve their community as a lay helper, where he worked tirelessly at any menial task. At age 15 he applied for admission into the community and received the Dominican habit. He served in his old trades as barber and surgeon — caring for those in the infirmary, in addition to cleaning, washing clothes, and serving meals —doing them with great love, care, and humility, prompting a brother to note that “he clung to God in his soul,” and so “all these things were effects of divine grace.”

Eventually Brother Martin made full religious profession in the community. He was known to spend his days caring for the sick and the poor and his nights in prayer and penance. He treated not only the brothers, but all people who came to him, regardless of their race, wealth, or status —wealthy nobles and poor slaves all knew they could come to Brother Martin for medical care and assistance. He helped to found an orphanage and a hospital, and he raised money for poor girls in need of a dowry. It is said that he received extraordinary gifts, including bilocation, flight, miraculous knowledge, and miraculous healing. Many of the brothers asked him to be their spiritual director, and although an admired leader in the community, he always referred to himself as a poor slave.

Brother Martin set an example of great love, humility, compassion, and mercy, giving alms to the poor and providing for them in their need, caring for orphans and slaves, working hard at menial tasks, teaching, tending to the sick and injured, and providing for spiritual direction for the brothers. He was friends with St. Juan Macias, a fellow Dominican, and St. Rose of Lima, who often aided him in his work. Brother Martin died in 1639; prelates and noblemen carried his body to his tomb. A saint of mercy and forgiveness and charity, he is the patron saint of interracial justice. At his canonization in 1962, St. John XXIII said of him, “He excused the faults of others. He forgave the bitterest injuries, convinced that he deserved much severer punishments on account of his own sins. He tried with all his might to redeem the guilty; lovingly he comforted the sick; he provided food, clothing and medicine for the poor; he helped, as best he could, farm laborers and Negroes, as well as mulattoes, who were looked upon at that time as akin to slaves. Thus, he deserved to be called by the name the people gave him, ‘Martin of Charity.’”

Prayer to St. Martin

To you, Saint Martin de Porres, we prayerfully lift up our hearts filled with serene confidence and devotion. Mindful of your unbounded and helpful charity to all levels of society and also of your meekness and humility of heart, we offer our petitions to you. Pour out upon our families the precious gifts of your solicitous and generous intercession; show to the people of every race and every color the paths of unity and of justice; implore from our Father in heaven the coming of his kingdom, so that through mutual benevolence in God, men may increase the fruits of grace and merit the rewards of eternal life. Amen.

VIDEO: October Year of Mercy Events

Day of Mercy

October 25, 2016
Father Peter Etzel, SJ presents “Examen Prayer” during the Deanery One Day of Mercy. Click to see the presentation.

Pilgrimage of Mercy

October 22, 2016
Click to watch Father Christopher Johnson present “Rich in Mercy” at the October 22, 2016, Pilgrimage of Mercy at the Holy Rosary Church, Pine Ridge . Click to see the presentation.

West River Catholic: August 2016

Enjoy the August edition of the West River Catholic

Download the PDF

Our Lady of the Black Hills celebrates 100 years of history

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The new church, circa 1979, was 40 by 84 feet, all steel with triple glass windows, a social center in the basement, and a wing that included the entry and rectory. (Diocesan archives)


Settlers and homesteaders came to the area along Elk Creek east of what is now Piedmont in the 1880s. A traveling priest would say Mass in a local home where Catholic neighbors would congregate.

The first written record of Catholic services being held in Piedmont is documented in the November 25, 1904, Rapid City Daily Journal, “Catholic services were held at the school house in the French District Monday. Five boys and girls were confirmed.”

In early 1916 local Catholics were seriously considering building a church. An Elkton farmer had promised $500 towards the building of a chapel in memory of his wife, Mary. The Catholic Church Extension Society contacted Bishop John Lawler knowing the Catholics in Piedmont wanted to build a new church.

At the corner of Park and Second the church was built on donated land. Volunteers helped with the work and, soon, St. Mary Catholic Church became a reality.

In late 1959 the congregation size had increased to the point where a remodel and update of the church and rectory was needed. Volunteers completed the project.

In the 1970s, Piedmont’s population had grown to the extent that there was a need for a social center for the purpose of fellowship gatherings and fund raising events. One suggestion, though met with opposition, was to build onto the existing rectory and church — it was considered a short-term solution. Another option was to build a new church a few miles south of town. Richard and Heloisa Burns had donated a large parcel of land, in memory of Richard’s mother. A building committee began plans to work on a more desirable new facility. Meetings were held with Bishop Harold Dimmerling to discuss design, budget, finance, and planning, and in April 1979, the bishop gave the approval for construction.

On April 22, 1979, groundbreaking commenced and excavation began the following morning. The budget was $160,000, and again, volunteers completed much of the work.

When the old church property was sold in August 1979, parishioners had to bring their own chairs to Mass on Sundays at the new facility. The first Mass in the new church was celebrated September 16 and the priest was able to move into the rectory on October 10.

Most decisions — colors, carpet, and finish — were voted on by the parishioners, including the name of the new church, Our Lady of the Black Hills. Several items were brought to the new church from the old, namely, two small stained glass windows, the church bell, statues, and a small number of pews.

The next ten years would prove to be a time of significant growth. In 1981 the church still had a limited number of pews and the altar and some fixtures were temporary. An altar and sanctuary lamp, were both donated by Blessed Sacrament Church, Rapid City, a Rapid City family gifted an organ, and the Convent of St. Therese donated a tabernacle.

The generosity and dedication of parishioners continued throughout the 1980s, allowing the church to be debt-free by 1985 despite completion of numerous projects and updates. Work on the church included installing ceiling fans, adding classrooms, purchasing pews, and various projects on the outside of the property. Almost all the materials and labor were donated, saving the church from having to borrow money.

The growth of the parish continued as people enjoyed the activities, events, fellowship, and services provided. It was predicted by the end of the decade that a larger church might be necessary, and in 1996 classrooms, office space, and worship space expansion began. Again, the project was completed by the work of volunteers, and the weekend before Christmas, Mass was celebrated in the new church.

In 2005, the interior of the church was updated with a new altar, ambo and baptismal font created from brass and Crazy Horse granite. The Blessed Sacrament chapel was designed in the space that previously was the cry room. A holy family shrine room and confessional were built.

A prayer garden and patio were added in 2010, along with outdoor Stations of the Cross and a grotto for the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In 2011 the church grew again with the purchase of the home behind the church. The house became the new rectory and the old rectory was named St. Joseph Hall.


(History adapted from “1916-1990 Our Lady of the Black Hills, Formerly St. Mary’s of Piedmont,” by J.R. Honerkamp; “Our Lady of the Black Hills Leadership Booklet,” by Fr. Steve Biegler; and diocesan archives.)


Our Lady of the Black Hills, Piedmont, Centennial Celebration 
Saturday, September 10, 2016, 5 p.m. Mass, with Bishop Robert Gruss and Fr. Andrzej Wyrostek.
Dinner and dance to follow.




Rediscover silence to find the Lord working in your life




Fr. Brian Christensen, Rome, was the featured speaker at the Deanery one Day of Mercy, July 19, at St. Therese Church, Rapid City. He spoke on “Lectio Divina.” (WRC photo)

By Laurie Hallstrom

Fr. Brian Christchristensenensen, Rome, was featured speaker at St. Therese Church, Rapid City, for Deanery One Day of Mercy, July 19.

For the past two years, Father Christensen has been serving in Rome on the faculty of the seminary, Pontifical North American College. He was in Rapid City for a short time this summer.

“It has been a privileged time to work with future priests who will serve here in the United States. They are good men — very inspiring work. I have great hope for the church in the United States and throughout the world because of the goodness and perseverance of these men. It is a great joy to be with them. Also, I have had the opportunity to be close to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, especially during this year of mercy,” he said.

“I had an opportunity to share in days of retreat that the Holy Father had during the special jubilee year for priests. It was really a very powerful time, three hours with Pope Francis offering spiritual conferences for priests and a Holy Hour concluding with Mass on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The pope’s blessing of priests, his encouragement for priests was for me and for so many, very powerful and uplifting.

In his talk on Lectio Divina, Father Christensen emphasized the importance of silence.

“As St. Augustine of Hippo so keenly noted so many centuries ago, back in the fourth century, we are restless until we rest in God. There is a deep, deep longing within each of our human hearts, a desire that’s not quenched by the things of this world. No thing or person will satisfy our human hearts until they discover the fullness of God,” he said. “The Father draws us into this relationship through his son, Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Spirit.”

He recounted Jesus leaving his disciples and the crowds to be with the Father and pray in silence. “In order to be capable of reflecting God’s mercy rediscover the value of silence,” he said. “In silence we hear God’s word which transforms us.”

According to Father Christensen, Lectio Divina is an attentive engagement with the word of God that leads to communion and a new way of life, “We live in a very busy world, filled with so many activities, sometimes very frenetic activity. To cultivate silence even in short periods during our day is difficult but essential to our relationship with God,” he said.

To begin the practice of Lectio Divina he recommended using either the church’s daily readings or the Sunday Gospel.

“We don’t just read it, its about attentive reading, listening to what God is saying, reading it once, reading it a second time, reading it a third time. What word, what phrase, what image jumps out at you,” said Father Christensen. Take time to reflect on that image or phrase.

“Daily prayer is our life breath, without it our supernatural lives will quickly suffocate.

“Do not be anxious. Seek God, do not worry whether you are doing things right. There is no one with more patience than God. No one who wants to help you more,” he said.




When pastors are reassigned, it’s dying and rising

Fr. Craig Cower has often told pastors that moving to a new parish is, in a real way, a participation in the Paschal Mystery. When a pastor is told he is being reassigned, he must die to the hopes and dreams and plans he had for the parish he is serving. He must say good-bye to many of the people to whom he has drawn close.

When he first moves to the new parish and is unfamiliar with the routines, doesn’t know the parishioners or the community, he is, in some respects, in the tomb. After some time, when he has had the opportunity to serve those in need, minister to families in times of tragedy, and build trust with his new parish, he begins to build hopes and dreams in this new place; he experiences resurrection.

Right now your new pastor is in the tomb. Continuing to welcome him throughout his first year can help him rise perhaps sooner than later. Last month, we shared ways we could assist new pastors. With school starting soon, here are a couple ideas to continue welcoming your new pastor:

Show him where the school is and point out where the school activities and athletic events take place. What door do you use to get into basketball games or school concerts? Tell him what the school mascot is, what the school colors are, on which side of the field or court the home crowd sits. Don’t just give him the sports schedule, invite him to come with you to the high school football game. Introduce him to other parishioners while you are there.

Get at least seven families to invite him to something seven times over the course of 18 months or so.

Ask him his thoughts and aspirations concerning faith formation. What is his vision and how can you help make it a reality?

There are also ways we can “help” our former pastor to die to our parish so he can rise from the tomb in his new parish. The first thing is to let the past be the past and not succumb to the temptation to keep comparing the old with the new, as we mentioned last month.

Second, one woman I knew many years ago shared this idea with me: Whenever her pastor was reassigned, she gave him a few postcards which were addressed to her and stamped. She invited him to send her one of these cards whenever he was in need of prayer. He needn’t write anything on the card, she said. When she received it, she would know to pray for him.

Third, it is often tempting to ask an old pastor back for funerals or in other times of need. This is understandable because often there is a relationship and trust built up over many years with him. However, ministering to people in need is one of the primary ways the new pastor builds relationships with his parish. Allow him this time and this opportunity to minister to his people.

Conflicts often arise in times of change. This is a good time to reflect on how we, as disciples of Jesus, are called to respond to conflict. When a new (or old) pastor does or says something with which we disagree, offends us or makes us angry, it is tempting to vent to friends, neighbors or family members. It is more fruitful, though, to take our problem to the one who can truly help us. Go instead to Jesus, present in the tabernacle, and share honestly with him your anger, hurt, disappointment, thoughts and feelings. Ask him how you should proceed, what you should say and with whom, if anyone, you should speak.

If, after this time with the Lord, you still feel you should say something, go to the pastor. “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone” (Mt 18:15). Pray for the right words said in the right tone and at the right time.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that we are to “interpret insofar as possible our neighbor’s thoughts, words and deeds in a favorable way” (CCC 2478). Work toward genuine understanding and reconciliation. If the matter is grave and not resolved with the pastor, then it is appropriate to bring it to the bishop’s attention with trust that, despite the outcome, we have done our part.

Significant transitions can be difficult, but they are also an opportunity to grow as disciples of Christ, to practice humility, charity and genuine hospitality as we read in the Book of Revelation: “Behold, I make all things new!” (Rv 21:5) and Jn 11:25: “I am the resurrection and the life.”

(Fr. Tim Hoag co-wrote this month’s column.)



They were seeking someone — Jesus Christ

World Youth Day has come and gone. More than a million young people gathered in Poland — pilgrims seeking something in their lives. In reality, they were not seeking something, but someone, Jesus Christ. I was one of those pilgrims, along with 85 other bishops from the United States who met in Krakow for this global event. It is estimated that 40,000 people from the United States made the pilgrimage to be united with the Holy Father, Pope Francis, for those days of prayer and celebration of our faith in Jesus Christ.

This was the first World Youth Day that I have ever attended and I was not disappointed. I deeply enjoyed the experience. Our host country, Poland, opened her arms to all of us. We felt welcomed and loved, cared for and secure. The Polish people were very friendly and their own love for Christ and his church was evident. They seemed happy to be the host to so many people from around the world.

What I found most inspiring was the enthusiasm, the beautiful spirit and the prayerfulness of the young people and their love and desire for Jesus. This was a great grace for me. It bolstered the spirit of faith and hope in all of us. In particular, I cherished the time I was able to spend with the youth of our own diocese and to hear of their desires for World Youth Day in regard to their relationship with Jesus. I want to thank them for their willingness to share their love for the Lord and for answering their call to follow Jesus.

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, arrived in Krakow on July 28. Throughout the days he was there, his encouragement to the young people to live a life following Jesus came through over and over again. His messages spoke not only to the young, but to all Christians, if we really want to follow Christ. He challenged the youth and all of us to be in the forefront of serving others. In his talk at the Stations of the Cross, he shared these words:

“Humanity today needs men and women, and especially young people like yourselves, who do not wish to live their lives ‘halfway,’ young people ready to spend their lives freely in service to those of their brothers and sisters who are poorest and most vulnerable, in imitation of Christ who gave himself completely for our salvation. In the face of evil, suffering and sin, the only response possible for a disciple of Jesus is the gift of self, even of one’s own life, in imitation of Christ; it is the attitude of service. Unless those who call themselves Christians live to serve, their lives serve no good purpose. By their lives, they deny Jesus Christ.”

Pope Francis, in his homily at the Vigil Service on Saturday night, spoke of how “God expects something from all of us; how he hopes in us and comes to open the doors of our lives, our dreams, our ways of seeing things. God comes to break open everything that keeps us closed in.”

He told us to get off the couch and stop being young “couch potatoes” but “young people with shoes, or better, boots laced” who go out into the world and leave their mark in history that began at Pentecost. “The Lord wants to work one of the greatest miracles we can experience; he wants to turn your hands, my hands, our hands, into signs of reconciliation, of communion, of creation. He wants your hands to continue building the world of today. And he wants to build that world with you.”

As Pope Francis shared in his homily at the closing Mass for World Youth Day, we are to be like Zacchaeus who took a risk and put his life on the line for Jesus. “When it comes to Jesus, we cannot sit around waiting with arms folded; he offers us life — we can’t respond by thinking about it or texting a few words! Don’t be afraid to say ‘yes’ to him with all your heart, to respond generously and to follow him! Don’t let your soul grow numb, but aim for the goal of a beautiful love which also demands sacrifice. Say a firm ‘no’ to the narcotic of success at any cost and the sedative of worrying only about yourself and your own comfort.”

In spite of the heat and humidity the last few days of World Youth Day, it is my sense that the young people, perhaps all of us, came away with a new sense of mission and a new sense of our call to discipleship; that World Youth Day is not meant to be only a cherished memory, but to be lived in the concrete, to be lived in every corner of our lives. If this happens, then World Youth Day will have been a great success, not only for the church in western South Dakota, but for the entire world.


VIDEO: A Culture of Encounter – WYD 2016