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.

—Reconcile—Make Disciples—Live the Mission— August


Bringing the Priority Plan to life at home and in the community


Bishop Robert Gruss’ pastoral letter, “Through Him, With Him, and In Him,” along with a copy of the Priority Plan of the Diocese of Rapid City and a bookmark, has been mailed to registered households in the diocese. Additional copies can be obtained at parishes. In this month’s WRC we will reflect upon the importance of reconciliation within families, how disciples embrace lifelong learning and the Gospel’s call to reach out in ministry.

Reconciliation in the Domestic Church

“As members of families, both our own and our parish family, we have experiences that pull us apart and create division. When we choose to hang on to those hurts, we remain separated from one another. That separation cripples our ability to become disciples of Jesus. His first invitation to his apostles after his resurrection was to forgive,” said Fr. Michel Mulloy, an Envisioning Team member from McLaughlin. “Forgiveness restores unity in the family and unity enables the love of God to be manifested in us.”

Envisioning Team member Mary Helen Olsen, is principal of St. Thomas More Middle School, Rapid City. She said one of the best tools the church gives us is the sacrament of reconciliation.

“Families who wish to grow in the virtue of mercy routinely practice seeking and offering forgiveness to each other. These families also seek forgiveness from the Lord in regular reception of the sacrament of reconciliation.” She added that it is helpful for parents to model for their children giving comfort and consolation to the sorrowful. Olsen said, “Finally, families can pray for the grace to grow in patience and charity with one another.”

Fr. Christopher Johnson, SJ, is an Envisioning Team member from Pine Ridge. He said, “Mercy is experiencing another’s suffering and reaching out with the heart. In injured relationships, love is wounded and misery results. Reconciliation heals relationships, better enabling us to live charity. Valuing charity and experiencing mercy draws us to reconcile. Seeking reconciliation within our families — society’s fundamental element — we more profoundly experience the love of God and we are strengthened to share that love with all the world.”

Among all the people we interact with, family members are the ones we are most likely to hurt or offend. Cathy Larsen, the director of Counseling at Catholic Social Services, Rapid City, said “One concrete way to improve communication and family relationships is to have family meetings. The meeting can open with prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to be present. Families might also consider a regular daily prayer time or weekly prayer night if they are very busy.”

She recommended a format from a website called “Positive Discipline.” It discusses sticking to a set time frame, making sure everyone feels safe to talk, and joint problem solving. It promotes listening to one another, respect, and modeling the actions parents want their children to emulate.

Make Disciples by Sharing the Faith

When we invite others, including our children, to develop a closer relationship with Jesus, the way to start is by creating a sense that people are welcome and belong in the church community.

“Generous hospitality keeps inviting others to seek a deeper relationship with the Lord and his church, regardless of where they are in their faith development,” said Envisioning Team member, Fr. Mark McCormick, diocesan director of the Office of Stewardship and Vocations. “Hospitality is about seeing the other person as another Christ. Hospitality keeps inviting people back to personally encounter Jesus in the midst of the church. If we are generous in our hospitality we provide different paths or doors that will help people to connect to Christ and the church. We are always moving them to be true disciple of Jesus.”

He referred to the Letter to the Romans where St. Paul writes that one of the true markers of being Christian is to “contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality” (Rom 12:13). Father McCormick said, “Offering and practicing hospitality is the way to open the door to others as Jesus has opened the door of faith to us. Offering and practicing hospitality fosters and nurtures the gift of being in relationship with one another as stranger and as friend. It allows for conversations to spring up between God’s people, hopefully, strengthening and renewing one’s relationship with Jesus. Where faith is shared, faith is strengthened.”

Education and Formation are foundational ministries, meaning they are present in every diocese, for the purpose of building up the body of Christ. In this diocese, kindling an interest in learning about the faith happens mostly in the parishes. Susan Safford is the diocesan director of the Office of Faith Formation and an Envisioning Team member. Her role is to educate catechists who minister as religious education directors and teachers in the parishes. In turn, they minister in settings varying from multi generational gatherings to the traditional classroom settings.

“God created us, became a man, lived and died for us because of his great love. Wanting all to know and share in his love, before ascending into heaven, the Lord called his disciples to ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’

“He founded the church and promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to protect and guide her. It is our own living in union with Christ and our love and zeal and joy in the Lord that sparks an interest in learning about the Catholic faith in others. And so, the mission of the church begins with my own growth in relationship with Christ.

“Sharing that faith then must start with relationship — building relationships with people, no matter their age, becoming friends with them. As St. John Bosco said in regard to working with youth, ‘Get them to love you and they’ll follow you anywhere.’ When people know that we love them, they want to be a part of that community. From there, an introduction to Jesus Christ — his love and salvation — will draw people closer to him through love. Growth in the relationship, conversation, and union with Christ through prayer moves the heart to fall more deeply in love with him. And so, learning how to pray — to speak to and listen to the Lord — is at the heart of growing in the faith.”

For almost 900 students, pre-K-12, education in the faith is enhanced by attendance in the Rapid City Catholic School System. Envisioning Team member, Barb Honeycutt, is the superintendent of St. Elizabeth Seton Grade School, and St. Thomas More Middle and High Schools, Rapid City.

Honeycutt said, “The family, being the domestic church, creates the foundation for a strong society. In Catholic school communities, solidarity is evident in the response of our people to those in need. Through the development of personal and academic excellence, our students gain the skills and practice the virtues that create in them the desire to accept the call to love and serve one another. Graduates leave knowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ calls them to use their talents for the common good of society. Furthermore, they are deeply committed to social justice, the care of the poor and the planet, and proud members of the church, ready to help at all times.”

LeAnn Wenger is a parent of three RCCSS students. “One of the tough things about being a Catholic convert, is that I don’t have the personal experiences to bring to my children as they have grown in their Catholic faith. I was fortunate enough to have met Father Mike Mulloy while he was serving in the town of Faith. He was the one who helped me find my ‘home’ in the Catholic Church.

“As a parent, I put all my trust in God and know that I am far from perfect. Parents are called to share the faith with their children, to teach them how to pray, to share the tremendous love God has for them, to help them enter into a relationship and union with Christ, to raise them up in the moral, liturgical, and sacramental life of the church.

“Parents give an example of virtue, faithfulness, and commitment to their children, and they help them to discern their own vocation from the Lord as he draws them to holiness.

“Called to solidarity with all people, the disciples of Christ desire all to come to share in the great love that we share in — knowing Christ Jesus our Lord, and so the mission of the church given by Christ extends to every person.”

The task of raising children in faith also takes place in homeschooling families.

Peggy Sue Mutchler, Keystone, is the mother of six. “I was raised like most Catholic kids; attending Sunday Mass and Wednesday CCD classes. We prayed the rosary and lit our Advent candles. My parents instilled in me a strong foundation of faith.”

She said she was open to the Holy Spirit when the opportunity to homeschool her children arose. “Through the grace of God, I have been able to intertwine faith into my children’s lives and schooling; to immerse them in the beauty of Catholicism has become a natural process.

“Faith has become our daily routine. The rosary is our morning start. Daily Mass is a bonus. We immerse ourselves in school curriculum that is Catholic based; history is read from a Catholic perspective, spelling and vocabulary teach us words like ‘transubstantiation.’ Catholic artwork is a staple in our home; whether purchased, or home-made.”

She said she has found support from members of their parish, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, as well. “The kids enjoy cantoring, lectoring, and altar serving at Mass.”

Live the Mission on Sacred Ground

The spiritual and corporal works of mercy are an important component of the Catholic faith. In the land west of the Missouri River there are three primary cultural backgrounds, Native Americans, white Anglo descendants and Hispanics. There are also a handful of people with roots in other traditions. Faith has been handed down in different ways in different traditions and while one might be versed in their own faith traditions, they could still be ignorant of traditions from another culture.

Maria Munoz, an Envisioning Team member, was one of three women who spoke with the West River Catholic on extending works of mercy to different cultures. She said as a member of the Envisioning Team she reached out to parishes in the diocese to determine the number of Hispanic parishioners being served. No one knew — questions of ethnicity are not on registration forms.

She said, “ Every parish should update their registrations to identify the diversity in the community. How many Hispanics or Vietnamese do they serve?”

Irma Lefaive, an Envisioning Team member from Ft. Pierre, said the forms should include more information on heritage that would identify Germans, Norwegians or French descendants.

She suggested an informative way to encounter other cultures. Lefaive said, “Have a monthly dinner that is ethnic in origin and along with the dinner have people dress in traditional regalia and bring their traditions. Maybe center it around a saint’s day that is particular to a culture.”

An Envisioning Team member who serves on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Veronica Valandra, said learning about other cultures works best when it goes two ways.

“As I reflect on ‘actions of mercy’ I think of the service groups that come to the reservation each summer to share their gifts by assisting the parishes with their vacation Bible camps. They in turn learn from us our cultural ways of worship and life. Taking communion to home bound, Wake Teams leading wake services and comforting the mourners, and the group planning the diocesan pilgrimage for the Year of Mercy here in October are all ‘actions of mercy.’ At the pilgrimage event, we will share with all people who attend an inculturated faith, incorporating the Lakota ways of prayer. Mercy is the Sacred Heart of Jesus, where we can share in God’s love through an encounter with Jesus Christ and live a good way of life as a Lakota Catholic.”

Two of the seven Spiritual Works of Mercy include feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Rapid City, has three groups that serve a meal at the Cornerstone Rescue Mission the second Sunday of each month. Each group serves quarterly.

Paula Clark, a Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help parishioner, is a member of a 2006 Renew group that has remained active.

“Our Renew group is one of three, that still meet, pray, study, etc., for Advent and Lent of each year. One of the other of these groups is headed by Teresa Treinen and she invited our Renew group to join theirs in providing a meal at the mission. We started serving mission meals as a combined Renew effort in June 2007.”

According to Clark, the group is funded by the Cathedral for most of the meal and the groceries are purchased.

“I can only speak for myself in that I usually leave the mission uplifted and realize how great it is that we are blessed and have enough. I love to serve rather than cook because I like the direct interaction with those we serve. Most of those receiving the meal are very grateful, complimentary, and they vocalize that.”

(Contributing to this article were Laurie

Hallstrom and Becky Berreth)





Fr. Steve Biegler, Vicar General, Envisioning Team Member


Pope Francis talks about “Personal Accompaniment in Processes of Growth” in his apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium 169-173).

According to the pope, it is meeting people where they are now and sharing their journey. That requires the virtues of

prudence, understanding,

patience, and docility of spirit. The process is further explained by Bishop Robert Gruss in his pastoral letter, “Through Him, With Him and In Him,” on pages 55-56.

Father Biegler said, “The art of accompaniment is not an entirely new concept. You are on a journey with someone as people who are both trying to grow in the Spirit.”

In Evangelii Gaudium the pope quotes Exodus 3:5 wherein Moses sees the burning bush.

Father Biegler said, “The first thing Pope Francis teaches us is to remove our sandals — we are on sacred ground. I think what he means by that is we need to

recognize the sacredness of the other person’s journey. We are all on a pilgrimage with Christ to the Father. We are walking with

another person step-by-step to become more Christ like.”

According to Father Biegler docility of spirit calls for “really listening to what the Spirit is trying to do with this person. How is the Spirit calling them?”

He said a greater emphasis of Pope Francis is to “be patient.” This process is going to take time and compassion. It is a very

personal encounter, much more than counseling or therapy.

He said, “When you look at the life of Pope Francis, he is very personal with people. The art of accompaniment is deeply

personal in the context of faith.”

Father Biegler said the end of the pope’s explanation on accompanying people sums it up. “This is clearly distinct from every kind of intrusive accompaniment or isolated self-realization. Missionary disciples accompany missionary disciples” (Evangelii Gaudium 173).


—Make Disciples—

Fr. Michel Mulloy, Director of the Office of Worship, Envisioning Team Member

Father Mulloy said, “In every sacrament Jesus is present, acting on our behalf, offering himself to God the Father and inviting us to offer ourselves with him. When we fully embrace the sacramental action of Jesus we are caught up with him into the presence of God the Father and the life of the Trinity.

“Celebrating the liturgy helps make us disciples. We are doing what Jesus first did when he was on earth and what he does eternally in his relationship with the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.

“The sacraments are a primary way to live out of discipleship. However, there are other ways of worship that can impact our journey of discipleship. Any liturgical action that is associated with the sacraments, like eucharistic adoration or the Liturgy of the Hours are extensions of our encounter with Jesus and thus deepen our relationship with him and our sharing in his discipleship. Other devotional prayers (the rosary, Divine Mercy, Scripture reading and meditation, traditional prayers, spontaneous conversation with the Lord, etc.) also assist in the discipleship journey in that they are moments of reaching out to God through Jesus. Any time we sincerely seek to attend to God through Jesus in the Holy Spirit, that is, any sincere prayer, continues our movement toward a deeper discipleship with Jesus.”


—Live the Mission—

Hope For New Life jail ministry volunteers bring their faith to men and women inmates at the Pennington County Jail, Rapid City. The group started in 2005.

Bill Gradoville, a group leader, said they get positive feedback from the inmates and he has been told it is the best attended volunteer activity in the jail.

“I do it because it is a corporal work of mercy. We (volunteers) get as much out of it as the inmates do. Sharing your faith makes it stronger. Also, it has given me a new outlook on those who are incarcerated — I have more compassion,” he said.

Currently, there are two separate sessions for men held on Wednesdays, and one for women is held the same evening.

“We explain that no matter what they have done, God will forgive them,” he said.

The jail requires a background check and an orientation session on jail policies before anyone can minister. In addition, the jail ministry has prayer partners — volunteers who pray for the intentions of the inmates. Jail ministers work in teams and usually serve two Wednesdays in a row. There is a team meeting at Catholic Social Services on the third Monday of each month.

Father Ed Witt, SJ, of St. Isaac Jogues Church works with the team. According to Gradoville, the group is working with him and other ordained clergy to establish regular Mass and Communion Services.

The group gives away Bibles, rosaries, prayer books and prayer cards. At Christmas they give away 500 to 600 bags of candy to inmates and guards.


To learn more about this ministry call the following Rapid City or

Piedmont parish representatives:

Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Bill Gradoville, 341-2721

Blessed Sacrament Church, Tony Galles, 348-2301

St. Therese Church,Jill Leberknight, 431-1926

Our Lady of the Black Hills Church, Brad Blauvelt, 343-6906, or 390-0683.



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

olbh 79


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