Reconcile — Make Disciples — Live the Mission

In last month’s West River Catholic, I began to share with you information about the envisioning process and where we were in regard to the completion and implementation of our Priority Plan. This month, I would like to begin sharing some detailed information about the Priority Plan for the diocese of Rapid City. When the plan document is printed and disseminated among the faithful, you will notice that we began by clarifying who makes up the Diocese of Rapid City. It is important to understand that the “diocese” is more than the 80 parishes and missions in western South Dakota.

The diocese includes a territory – the land west of the Missouri River in South Dakota – but more importantly it includes all people in western South Dakota. The bishop’s flock includes all the people of God, both Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

“The Diocese of Rapid City, under the leadership of the Bishop, includes diocesan personnel, clergy and religious, members of parishes, missions, Catholic school communities and organizations, and all people in western South Dakota.”

Establishing who we are as a diocese determines to whom our mission is focused. The Diocese of Rapid City has had a clearly defined mission statement for some time. A mission statement communicates the purpose of the organization. Through this envisioning process, there was much conversation about the mission of the diocese. Yes, we had a diocesan mission statement before, but this process has allowed us to redefine ourselves and our sacred mission — in other words, “Why we exist as a diocese.” Our new Sacred Mission is now described:

“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.”

The mission of the Diocese of Rapid City must be aligned with the mission of the Roman Catholic Church which comes from the mission of Jesus Christ — the mission of the Gospel. In other words, the alignment of the mission of the diocese flows from the mission of Jesus Christ himself. Because the diocese is the bridge between the “Universal Church” and the “local Church,” our sacred mission is meant to build up the body of Christ. In doing so, we can engage in a mutually shared vision as disciples of Jesus. We recall that Jesus’ mission and vision is to call his disciples into the very life of God.

Our sacred mission statement provides the framework within which every ministry of the diocese focuses their work in order to fulfill the objectives of our mission. The purpose and mission of every parish and diocesan entity should also stem from the mission as outlined in the diocesan mission statement.

The Priority Plan clearly defines the focus of the diocese over the course of the next 3-5 years. Our values also come into play in determining how we interact, communicate and behave in carrying out this sacred mission. The Envisioning Team has identified a set of core values, selected from many worthy options, which are named, defined and illustrated in the Priority Plan. These values are so important that they should be exemplified in every person, every family, every ministry and every organization all across the diocese.

These Core Values with their definitions include the following:

Prayer — Seeking an encounter with God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, according to one’s own culture.

Stewardship — Living a life of generous hospitality, lively faith and dedicated discipleship.

Solidarity — Recognizing and accepting all people as brothers and sisters in Christ; being responsible for the common good of all.

Mercy — Steadfast kindness, compassion and forgiveness received from God and extended to others

Charity — Loving God and others because God has first loved us.

Family — The domestic church, the foundation of society, a communion of persons called to reflect the life of the Trinity.

The team also outlined many behaviors which exemplify these values. They will be shared at a later date when the whole Priority Plan is communicated.

The next step in the envisioning process was to create a vision that will focus our efforts over the next five years. Why is this important? Because, as the late Nelson Mandela offered, “Vision without action is just a dream, action without vision just passes the time, and vision with action can change the world.” Isn’t this the call of every disciple, to go out and change the world? To live the mission of Jesus Christ is to “change the world.”

Our vision is one which offers a message of hope and opportunity that draws the people of God to something greater than themselves and inspires them to action. The ideas and thoughts that were gathered from the listening sessions held throughout the diocese last summer were instrumental in creating the vision and priorities.

Our vision statement for the Diocese of Rapid City is: Reconcile – Make Disciples – Live the Mission. Vision statements are meant to be short so that they are easy to commit to memory. In being committed to memory, they become an underlying mental picture of what will be important for us over the course of the next five years. This vision statement — Reconcile — Make Disciples — Live the Mission — leads to the Pastoral Priorities for the Diocese of Rapid City in the coming years.

The three Pastoral Priorities and the goals which accompany them will be finalized in the near future and communicated in the March West River Catholic. In the meantime, I encourage each of you to become familiar with our vision statement and in prayer, begin to ask the Holy Spirit how you might be called to engage this vision in a personal way, as well as in your parish community. Ask the Holy Spirit to prepare your heart to live this inspiring vision and pray for the fruitfulness of this important mission. As we continue to introduce the full Priority Plan, I am very hopeful that we will create a healthy, vibrant diocese for years to come — building the kingdom of God. May God continue to abundantly bless you, your family and the Diocese of Rapid City.



The Diocese of Rapid City includes South Dakota land from the Missouri River west to the Wyoming border.

Map.effective 2014.07



Reach out to those missing at Masses

In “The Joy of The Gospel,” Pope Francis says that an “evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first, and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast.”

Recent statistics remind us that we need to be more inviting communities of faith. The pastoral essay, “Becoming an Inviting Church,” published by Paulist Evangelization Ministries, describes a “new normal” for Catholics. Weekly Mass attendance rates have dropped below 25 percent. They argue that “once a month” has become the new normal or the new “once a week” for most parishes.

The essay goes on to say that “parishes cannot presume on the involvement of folks listed in their databases. In fact, parishes should look upon this list as pointing to the very people they should aim to invite. With 60 percent of Catholics mostly not going to Sunday Mass, and many of them identified by parish leaders, parishes need to start making connections with the registered members in a consistent way.”

The great challenge for us as individuals and as parish communities is to begin making new connections with those in our parishes who are absent from Sunday Eucharist. Making connections is all about relationships. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to be in communion and relationship with one another; this is part of the divine plan of the Father.

I was surprised when I heard someone say that the reason they go to Mass is just for themselves: “It’s about Jesus and me. I do not go for anyone else but myself.”

This comment caught me off guard and, after hearing it, the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4:8-9 was placed in my heart. Recall that Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out in the field.” When they were in the field, Cain attacked Abel and killed him.

Then the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”

He answered, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

God does expect us to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.

It’s all about relationship! The heart of our new ministry of sending lay witness speakers three times a year to every parish is to emphasize how the Lord Jesus Christ is alive and active in each of our lives.

We need to re-awaken in the lives of our people the fact that God desires us to have a relationship with him and with one another. That is why God the Father sent his only-begotten Son, Jesus, so that we might come to know him and to live in him upon whom our salvation depends. We hear in John 15:5, “Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.”

It is in learning to remain in Christ, to stay connected to him through word and sacraments, to be grounded in the Scriptures, that we hear the voice of Jesus speaking directly to us. To be

involved in the faith life of a parish community where we experience Christ’s love through our involvement renews and strengthens us.

Sherry Weddell, in her book “Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and following Jesus,” describes the sobering fact that “only 48 percent of Catholics were absolutely certain that the God in whom they believed was a God with whom they could have a personal relationship.”

We have a lot of work to do. Hopefully, our lay witness speakers will foster and develop this connectedness to the body of Christ through their own testimony and witness.

In Hebrews 10:24-25 we hear: “We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

I have a challenge, or, if you will, a homework assignment, for you this week as a way to start making connections with people in your parish communities that are registered members of the parish but who are, for the most part, missing and absent from Sunday Eucharist.

When you go to Mass this weekend, make it your personal intention for the Mass to ask the Lord Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to place in your heart one person who you no longer see or rarely see at Mass. If the Holy Spirit places in your heart a name, I invite you to contact that person this week and reconnect with them. Simply tell them that their name came to your mind and heart this week and you just want to reconnect with them.

Call them, email them, text them, write them a note, or take them out for a cup of coffee. Then report back to me next week. Fr. Mark McCormick 605-716-5214, x235 or MMcCormick


Combating climate change requires conversion



By Fr. Ron Seminara, SJ

In his encyclical Laudato Si, after stating that human-generated climate change must be urgently addressed, Pope Francis calls all people to conversion, which lies at the heart of his plea on behalf of the environment.

Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect (Rom 12:1-2).

The denial, continued destruction, and modern distractions which militate against any hope for healing our “common home,” our planet, need to be vigorously challenged. Yet, Christians, as people of hope, trust in the God of salvation, who has promised his presence until space and time end. Firmly grounded in holy hope and in a sacramental view of creation, Catholics are morally obliged to confront still another aspect of the “culture of death” promoted by a society bent on self-annihilation under the guise of individual freedom as it exploits nature and the human beings who depend upon creation for survival.

For thus says the Lord, the creator of the heavens, who is God,

The designer and maker of the earth who established it,

Not creating it to be a waste, but designing it to be lived in:

I am the Lord, and there is no other (Is 45:17-18).

Our Holy Father reminds us of Saint John Paul II’s call for a global ecological conversion which not only respects the human person but also concerns itself with the planet’s

systems of support for its living organisms; a moral conversion is necessary to “take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system” (John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 1987; “everything is closely interrelated” (LS 137). We may well heed the wisdom of our Lakota brothers and sisters in this respect, repeated in so many ways in Laudato Si.

Conversion and catastrophe both involve a turning. One is intentional and active; the other unintended and passive. The encyclical demands what may be most difficult: a conversion not merely from fossil fuels to renewables, but a conversion which begins with the heart and mind, even while a change of behavior is underway. Most seculars would call for a “change of attitude”; Christians descend deeper, designating it metanoia or repentance: a revolution from self-centeredness and a turning to the communion which the Creator desires for every one of his creatures. This transformation is none less than feeling with the

Father’s heart, and gazing upon the world through Jesus’ eyes.

“There is no communion with God without transformation of the heart, and there is no transformation of the heart apart from Jesus Christ. An unconverted heart walks in darkness; it loves the darkness more than the light and does not seek to escape from the shadows” (Jn 3:19-20). (Pope Francis, “Open Mind, Faithful Heart Reflections on Following Jesus,” p. 74)

The Lord’s vision derives from a change of heart which focuses on an ecological view environmentally, economically, socially, culturally, and humanly integral, since each influences the others. It may be no accident that “Care for God’s Creation” is last of the seven general themes of Catholic Social Teaching. Without this theme, acting as a capstone, promoting a healthy natural environment, the life and dignity of human beings, especially of the poor, and their participation in family, community, work, and solidarity in building a just and peaceful global society would surely suffer if not be impossible to realize.

Protection of the environment is not an option. Not to care for the environment is to ignore the Creator’s plan for all of creation and result in an alienation of the human person. (Pope St. John Paul II, message for the World Day of Peace, 1990)

Christian care speaks to the dignity of the human person, created in the image of a compassionate and caring God, who wills fulfillment for his works. Pope Francis describes as a fallacy the “technocratic paradigm” to solve all problems, including climate change. If the world’s people do not understand the death-dealing in present economic and social structures, and begin to adopt an alternative vision for human activity, there is little science can accomplish.

Again, such a revolution must begin with repentance and conversion of heart. Catholics are in a privileged place in this regard given the church’s long-standing social justice tradition, which acts as a scaffold not only to protect the environment but to renew it.

As Lent approaches, it may well be spiritually beneficial to reflect prayerfully on Laudato Si, easily downloaded online, and to petition for compassion of heart, enlightenment of mind, and courage to care for our common home, through which the world receives the loving nurture of a generous God. In this Year of Mercy, what actions are necessary to envision and to understand our place in the garden God has created? What is required of those who are to live the Beatitudes?

How blessed are those whose strength is in You,

In whose heart are the highways to Zion.

Passing through the bitter valley, they make it a spring;

the early rain also covers it with blessings (Ps 84:6-7).

Send forth your Spirit and let us be created, and renew the face of the earth.

Father Seminara is the Associate Director of the Ministry Formation Program. He resides at Sioux Spiritual Center, Howes.

West River Catholic: January 2016

Enjoy the January edition of the West River Catholic

Download the PDF

Lay witness speakers begin sharing their faith with others


This past June at the Stewardship Summit, Bishop Robert Gruss commissioned our first set of lay witness speakers. They were sent out this fall to the parishes to give their testimony on how they have experienced hospitality and how they extended hospitality to others. Our lay witness speakers are scheduled to speak or have spoken in 39 parishes. They were well received by parishioners and pastors alike. Here are some of the comments we have received in regards to our lay witness ministry program which is part of our Stewardship Initiative.

“The witness talk about stewardship was excellent! She gave a very personal and wonderful witness at all the weekend Masses, both on Saturday and Sunday.”

“He is a good speaker, people enjoyed his message.”

“They did a clear, humorous and pointed message about the importance of continuing to invite. I had several say they enjoyed it.”

“Great talks! Lots of good feedback! Thank you for getting them to give witness talks!”

“They did an awesome job. They spoke of prayer and the need to visit with Jesus, as well as the importance of visiting with each other as we build stronger and more welcoming communities.”

“He did an excellent job and his talk was well received. Thank you for coordinating the details.”

“I had a great deal of positive feedback. It seems the more a person does this adventure, the easier it seems to become.”

“This has truly been a humble and rewarding time in my life.”

“I really enjoyed our time with their church families.”

Our plan is that every parish will experience a lay witness speaker at least three times a year. This year we will continue to focus the witness talks on generous hospitality. By the end of next year, we plan to move into lively faith — prayer, study and formation.

If you are interested in learning more about the lay witness ministry program in our diocese, are interested in becoming a lay witness speaker, or know someone you feel would be a good witness to others, please contact the Office of Stewardship at 605-716-5214, extension 233, or Fr. Mark McCormick at

Those who have been part of this new and exciting ministry come from parishes across the diocese:

Blessed Sacrament, Rapid City:

Julie Bernard

Dave Elkjer

Tom Hilt

Denise Maher

Cathedral, Rapid City:

Paula Clark

Maureen Yantes

St. Rose of Lima, Hill City:

Clare Ten Eyck

St. Anthony, Hot Springs:

Joyce Bussmus

St. Joseph, Spearfish:

Carol Athow

Mary Anne Herrboldt

Jan Carlson

St. Paul, Belle Fourche:

Carrie Donovan

Sacred Heart, Philip:

Marianne Frein

St. Mary, Milesville:

Nina Pekron

Our Lady of Victory, Kadoka:

Janet VanderMay

St. Joseph, Gregory:

Roxie Chocholousek

Andy and Patty Clark

Sacred Heart, Burke:

Mary Horn

St. Anthony, Fairfax:

Tony Koenig

St. John, Ft. Pierre:

Wade Pogany

Our Lady of the Rosary, Trail City:

Bill and Lynn Hahne

St. Joseph, Faith:

Josh Lee

Brad and Mandy Lemmel

St. Mary, Isabel:

LuAnn Lindskov

Holy Cross, Timber Lake:

Ray and Jean Tehle

One last note: Our priests are going to jump into the mix as well by swapping parishes from time to time to speak about “A Catholic Way of Life” through the three lenses of stewardship — hospitality, faith and discipleship. Look for one of them at your parish during the coming months.




Envisioning Team working to define upcoming priorities

Happy New Year to all of you. I hope that you had a blessed Christmas season with your families.

As another year begins, I want to take this opportunity to give an update on the Diocesan Visioning Process which began last May. The purpose of this process is to help set a clearly defined course for ministry in the Diocese of Rapid City for the next three to five years.

As you recall, I attended thirteen listening sessions across the diocese during the summer, listening to you as you shared what you believe we are doing well as a diocese that helps you grow in your faith and relationship with the Lord, areas of focus you would recommend for the next few years, and things which you would like to see accomplished within the next two years for more effective ministry and pastoral care throughout the diocese. The purpose of the listening sessions and receiving your feedback was to give voice to the Diocese of Rapid City and allow your voices to assist in shaping the future of the church in western South Dakota.

At the conclusion of the listening sessions, I created an Envisioning Team made up of thirteen leaders from across the diocese, both clergy and lay, whose responsibility is to work together to create a “Diocesan Priority Plan” that will lead us into the future with a clearly defined direction. To begin this lengthy, challenging, but invigorating process the first meeting was held in late August 2015 and the work continues today. With the assistance of Catholic Leadership Institute, the team began its work by considering the data collected from the listening sessions and looking at trends and demographics as a way to scan the environment to help determine what our priorities might be.

Over the course of the past four to five months, this leadership team has prayerfully discerned a vision and priorities for the diocese for the next two to three years. We have carefully defined our mission (why we exist as a diocese) that will serve as the foundation of the five-year vision (where we are going as a diocese). The Envisioning Team has not only identified core values that will guide how we conduct ourselves as a diocese, but has carefully discerned three major priorities that will guide and direct our ministry over the course of the next two years.

There is still much work to be completed before the “Diocesan Priority Plan” is shared with the whole diocese. It is a real work in progress as we determine specific goals for each of the three priorities. It is my earnest hope that the plan will be completed in the next two months so that we can share the great fruits of the work of this team. When the Priority Plan is completed it will then be communicated to everyone through many different means. A communication plan is currently in progress.

One would ask why we need to take on such a process. Isn’t what we are already doing enough? It is always good to take time to reflect upon all the good things we are doing and all the things we should be doing. The last time a process similar was undertaken in the diocese was the Synod of 2002, completed thirteen years ago. It is always good for any organization to look at itself and what it is doing to determine if the priorities are in alignment with its mission; to discern where it wants to be in five years and how it will get there.

When we think about a vision for the diocese, it must be aligned with the mission of Christ and his church. The document from the Second Vatican Council, The Church in the Modern World states: “The Church seeks but a solitary goal: to carry forward the work of Christ under the lead of the befriending Spirit. And Christ entered the world to give witness to the truth, to rescue and not to sit in judgment, to serve and not to be served” (Gaudium et Spes, The Church in the Modern World, paragraph 3).

This Envisioning Team has spent much time carefully discerning and creating a vision and priorities which align with the mission of Christ particular to the Diocese of Rapid City. I am deeply grateful for their efforts and want to thank each of them for their diligence and great assistance in this process. I am very excited about what has been done so far and look forward to the completion and implementation of our priority plan. The hard work that is being put into this plan will create a healthy, vibrant, diocese for years to come with great intent on building the Kingdom of God.

It is my hope that more detailed information about the plan will be provided in next month’s West River Catholic. But in the meantime, I would ask for your prayers for the fruitfulness of this important work.

May this New Year 2016 bring you many graces and blessings!