Enjoy the January edition of the West River Catholic
In the Diocesan Priority Plan, Vocations is one of our foundational ministries and remains an important focus. An emphasis will be in promoting a culture of vocations, not only in the diocese as a whole, but in every parish and in every family. One of the core values in the Priority Plan is the family. Some of the behaviors under this value specifically address the truth that the seeds of a vocation to priesthood or consecrated life are grounded in family where couples are intentionally living their vocation to marriage. There has been much discussion regarding the need to increase the number of seminarians in order to maintain or even increase our current level of diocese.
To that end, it was felt that a new vocation prayer could assist in this endeavor. The new Prayer for Vocations reflects this focus in the Priority Plan and makes a connection to the mission statement of the diocese as well. Praying a new prayer gives us all the opportunity to pray these new words with a lively faith.
In time, they will be printed as prayer cards and made available in all parishes.
New Diocesan Prayer for Vocations
Invitation: We ask for God’s blessing on those discerning a vocation to priesthood, diaconate, marriage or consecrated life as we pray our Vocations Prayer:
Heavenly Father, Inflame our hearts with the fire of your love.
Inspire our families to eagerly say “yes” to the Holy Spirit,
as did Mary and Joseph.
Help our parishes become schools of prayer,
forming intentional disciples of Jesus who desire to live for him.
Assist us in building a culture of vocations,
creating an environment where all disciples
will seek your will for their lives.
Teach married couples to live their vocation
in the Spirit of Christ
so that their families may become a “domestic Church,”
reflecting the life of the Trinity.
Inspire young men and women to seek
a living encounter with your Son
so that they will courageously respond
to your call to priesthood or consecrated life,
giving themselves generously to the Church
in service of the Gospel.
We ask Mary, Mother of the Church and our Mother,
to intercede for us.
Pour out anew upon our diocese your Holy Spirit
and make us courageous witnesses of Christ’s love.
May our lives “attract and form intentional disciples
who joyfully, boldly and lovingly proclaim and live
the mission of Jesus Christ, leading to eternal life.”
We make this prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.
I am writing to share with you some important information and to seek your assistance. God has blessed this diocese with many wonderful and dedicated priests. I am proud of and deeply grateful for the priests who serve the people of God across the Diocese of Rapid City. They live as true witnesses of the love and mercy of the Lord, day in and day out. This is good news. Please be grateful for all they do for you and continue to pray for them daily.
But I also want to share with you some not-so-good news about the priests’ situation in the diocese, seeking your daily prayers for this situation as well.
The Diocese of Rapid City currently has seven men in seminary formation for the priesthood. This is good news. However, we had no ordinations this past year and the next ordination to the priesthood for our diocese is not scheduled until the summer of 2019, if the man currently in Theology II discerns this through to completion.
We also have priests who are moving into retirement. Fr. Bill Zandri retired last July, although he is still active in hospital and nursing home ministry. Another priest is due to retire in July 2017. Due to health issues of two of our active priests, we are already short on clergy personnel for this current year. Fr. Ed Vanorny has come out of retirement to cover a cluster of parishes in Harding and Perkins Counties.
In addition, Fr. Godfrey Muwanga and Fr. John Lule, who are on loan from Uganda, have been serving for almost ten years and their status in our diocese is year-to-year. Fr. Andrea Benso, who has been here on loan from Italy, will be returning home to his diocese next June. In addition, the two Jesuit priests serving at the Sioux Spiritual Center will also be taking new assignments, thus leaving a void in the ministry which they have been providing.
Also, Fr. Brian Christensen will complete his assignment in Rome and return to the diocese in July 2017. Taking all of this into consideration, there will be a shortage of at least one priest, and maybe more, if the Ugandan priests are called home.
So as you can see, the priest personnel situation leaves a challenging reality in covering our current places for ministry into the coming years. People may inquire, “Why don’t you get more priests from outside the diocese to come here?” This is much more difficult than one thinks. Obviously, in doing so, it would have to be the right person — one who would fit well into the culture of our local church.
St. Paul wrote in his Letter to the Corinthians, “But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If (one) part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.”
Yes, we are one body of Christ in the Diocese of Rapid City. If one parish is affected, all parishes are affected. A shortage of two priests or even one priest has an impact across the whole diocese. Any adjustment to the number of parishes we can serve will impact more than just one parish. “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.” We all must become concerned about these challenges in our diocese.
Therefore, while I wanted you to be aware of this situation, I am also asking each of you to take seriously the call to pray daily for vocations to the priesthood in our diocese. But I am also asking that each of you pray daily for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our diocese and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in this endeavor to find more priests to serve here, so that there will not be a shortage in this coming year and the years to follow.
Be assured of my prayers for all of you and your families. May Christ’s peace and love be the source and meaning of your lives.
Pope Francis called for a Jubilee Year of Mercy, December 8, 2015 through November 20, 2016 with the theme Misericordiae Vultus — Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. In Misericordiae Vultus, our Holy Father writes of mercy as being the very foundation of the church’s life. The very mission of the church, he noted, should be caught up in extending mercy through tender and compassionate love, not only to its own members, but also to all of God’s children. One of the great graces that sprung up in the Year of Mercy in a number of dioceses across the country, including our own, is “Mercy Night.” It is a candlelit evening of eucharistic adoration, prayerful music, healing prayers with the opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation. Mercy Night is a call to rest in the heart of God’s mercy and to experience his peace. Mercy Night is open to people of faith from all denominations.
Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help held the first Mercy Night in our diocese on Dec. 6. More than 500 hundred people participated in some way. There were 16 priests hearing confessions and most of them heard confessions for at least three hours. Four prayer teams prayed over people, asking the Lord for healing, for close to four hours. It was truly an amazing night of God’s mercy flowing through his son Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit to his people. Those who organized the Mercy Night at Cathedral have taken the message of stewardship to heart. The event speaks of both generous hospitality and lively faith. The parish reached out with an invitation to seek Jesus Christ in a very intentional way and to encounter the face of the Father’s mercy.
Father Steve Biegler, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral, sent out postcards to every household — Catholic and non-Catholic — within a two mile radius of the cathedral parish. With an investment of $2,400, that mailing reached 9,728 households.
It is amazing to see this type of invitation and evangelization happening in our diocese. It seems we invite people to a deeper relationship with Christ and his church by making a pulpit announcement, putting a blurb in the bulletin, and then we call it good.
Yet, here is a parish that stood up and stepped out in faith, taking to heart the call to be part of the new evangelization. In 1990, Pope John Paul II wrote in Mission of the Redeemer: “I sense that the moment has come to commit all the Church’s energies to a new evangelization…No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.” The Mercy Night at the Cathedral embraced these words of St. John Paul II.
In Through Him, With Him and In Him: A Spiritual Guide to the Diocesan Priority Plan, Bishop Gruss writes, “If we are true to our mission statement and living the ‘mission of Jesus Christ, leading to eternal life,’ then we must find ways to reach out to them (individual or groups of people who feel disconnected from the church), we must find ways to reach out to them because we care for their souls.”
One of the goals in the Priority Plan is that each parish or group of parishes will create a reconciliation plan. Perhaps a Mercy Night quarterly in parishes and deaneries would be one way to fulfill this goal of reconciliation.
People have shared many wonderful stories about Mercy Night. Mary Daniel, Cathedral Liturgy director, said, “So far I’ve run into about 10 people, including my doctor, and they all had wonderful things to say about Mercy Night at the cathedral. These are everyday folks in the pew who found it a very peaceful and comforting experience.”
I also visited with Jennifer Mayforth, who grew up Baptist and lives in the neighborhood around the cathedral. She said “I was so appreciative of the invitation, it was fantastic to receive the postcard inviting the whole neighborhood to Mercy Night. I knew there would be quiet and beauty, where I could just sit and be still and feel the Lord’s presence with other Christians. We don’t take enough time in our lives to be quiet with Jesus.”
Bridget Decker, a religion teacher at St. Thomas More High School, Rapid City, shared this reflection: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest’ (Mt 11:28). These words from Matthew’s Gospel come to mind when I reflect upon my recent experiences of prayer ministry in the Diocese of Rapid City. On different occasions, I have prayed with others offering to intercede for them.
“The reality that has struck me most during these prayer opportunities is the amount of suffering present in the world: sickness, loss, death, and disappointment. Yet, despite the pain many people carry, those that approached us made their requests for healing, reconciliation, and strength in great faith. Each individual that came forward suffered in some way and they brought their particular burden to the Lord to find rest.
“Maybe that rest was in the form of physical healing, tears, or laughter, but more often than not, I think people experienced rest in the peace they received as they entrusted their cares to the good Father, believing in faith that he would take care of them according to his will. Being able to stand privy to that dialogue of vulnerability has been a gift and has strengthened my own faith.”
While the Jubilee Year of Mercy is “officially” over, it continues to bear the fruit of many graces such as Mercy Night. If you, or someone you know, had a powerful encounter in the Year of Mercy, I would love to hear the story.
Father Mark McCormick
Director of Stewardship and Vocations
605-716-5214 Ext. 235 or MMcCormick@diorc.org
By Teresa Spiess
At the First Friday Luncheon on December 2, Bishop Robert Gruss talked to participants about the Strategic Plan that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has approved for 2017-2022 (www.usccb.org/about/strategic-plan.cfm).
The December West River Catholic carried a brief story about the USCCB strategic plan on page 6: “U. S. Bishops’ strategic plan similar to diocesan priority plan.” What Bishop Gruss pointed out was the many connections between this plan, which he received at the USCCB meeting on November 15, and our own Diocesan Pastoral Priority Plan, which he published in his pastoral letter,
The USCCB plan is a reminder that the church is universal. We are connected by the mission of Jesus Christ with Catholics across our country. The common themes in the USCCB Strategic Plan and the Priority Plan of the Diocese of Rapid City are a source of hope and reassurance for our local church. We are in step with the wider church in America. Following our Priority Plan will help us to move forward in union with the church, inspired by the Holy Spirit, through the love of our Lord.
Structurally, the documents are a bit different. The USCCB plan has five strategic priorities, which are filled out with emphasis areas. The plan is backed up by operational plans for 34 committees, subcommittees and departments. The operational plans contain objectives and activities for fulfilling the priorities.
Our plan has six core values, three pastoral priorities and five foundational ministries. The core values are defined and behaviors to enforce the values are described. The pastoral priorities and foundational ministries have supporting goals.
The first strategic priority for the USCCB plan is evangelization. It was described as:
Open wide the doors to Christ through missionary discipleship and personal encounter.
The USCCB emphasis areas for evangelization are:
- Go into all communities with the message of eternal salvation to awaken all God’s people through a personal encounter and relationship with Jesus. This call to discipleship should be addressed particularly to the marginalized and those most in need of Christ’s merciful love.
- Inspire youth and young adults to enter into the joy of a sacramental relationship with Christ.
- Rekindle the fire of Christ’s mercy, reconciliation, and healing among those who no longer attend or have left the Church.
- Foster personal commitment among Catholics to faithful weekly participation in the celebration of the source and summit of our faith, the holy Eucharist.
Although organized differently, these ideas sound very familiar to those who have read the Priority Plan of the Diocese of Rapid City.
Core Values of the Diocese of Rapid City
Our core value of Prayer includes a call to daily prayer to renew a personal encounter with Christ and an encouragement for everyone to actively participate in Sunday Eucharist and celebration of sacraments.
Our core value of Stewardship is described as living a life of generous hospitality, lively faith and dedicated discipleship. Evangelization through invitation is the first behavior described for this value, which really touches on all of the emphasis areas in the USCCB priority.
Solidarity is the third value in our plan, and the behaviors described for Solidarity include reaching out to others, particularly those who are marginalized.
Our values of Mercy and Charity include the mercy, reconciliation and healing that the USCCB plan points to in “Rekindle the fire.”
In our value of Family we include the call for families to educate and form youth in the faith.
Pastoral Priorities of the Diocese of Rapid City
Our Pastoral Priority of Reconciliation goes even further in the call to “invite others to experience the good news of God’s love through an encounter with Jesus Christ.”
Forming Disciples is the Pastoral Priority that specifically speaks to that underlying event which prompts Catholics to participate in the life of the church, to seek a greater understanding of the faith and to share that good news with others.
Our third Pastoral Priority, Funding the Mission, is not something that the USCCB brings up specifically in their strategic plan, however it is included in their operational plan, and reflects the practical nature of South Dakota Catholics. In order for our plans to succeed, we need to know that they will be supported by the necessary resources.
Our Foundational Ministries
The USCCB priority of Evangelization is also directly or indirectly supported by each of our Foundational Ministries: Sacraments & Worship, Education & Formation, Governance & Finance, Social Services & Outreach, and Vocations & Evangelization. The quote from Matthew 28 which is listed under Vocations & Evangelization in our plan is a reminder to us that we are an evangelical people, called to share the Gospel with others. “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, teaching them to
observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
May Jesus, who has promised to be with us, bless these plans of the USCCB and of the Diocese of Rapid City, and plant his Spirit deep in us so that we may use these plans to build up his kingdom in the world around us and to live out our Sacred Mission: 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.
(Note: Copies of Bishop Gruss’s Pastoral Letter, Through Him, With Him and In Him, as well as copies of the Priority Plan for the Diocese of Rapid City are available at parish and diocesan offices.)
Nazareth — Reflections a prayers for the first three weeks of Ordinary time.