Enjoy the April edition of the West River Catholic
(Left) Fr. Timothy Castor, Sturgis; Deacon Greg Sass, Piedmont; and Pastoral Ministry Days guest speaker Tom Corcoran, Parkville, Maryland; visit during a break. (Right) Fr. Michael White, pastor of the Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland, held a special session for clergy. Corcoran and Father White co-authored books on increasing attendance and participation at church.
(WRC photos by Becky Berreth)
By Laurie Hallstrom
Genuine spiritual renewal was the core premise during Pastoral Ministry Days. Speakers Fr. Michael White, pastor, and Tom Corcoran, assistant to the pastor, from Church of the Nativity, Timonium Md., addressed more than 250 people at the annual gathering. It was held April 3-4 at Terra Sancta Retreat Center, Rapid City.
During Father White’s tenure at his church, Mass attendance has risen from 1,400 people to more than 4,000 on weekends. He and Corcoran have written several books illustrating what did and did not meet the needs of the parish. “Rebuilt,” “Tools for Rebuilding,” and “Rebuilding Your Message,” are among their titles.
Prior to making changes in the Maryland parish, the men visited thriving evangelical churches to learn about their practices. They knew they had to change the weekend experience, including hospitality, the message, and the music. They came up with five steps to revitalize their church. To grow disciples, people need to serve, they need to give, to engage in small groups, to participate in prayer and the sacraments, and to share their faith or evangelize others.
“Why” is the most important component of ministry, according to Corcoran. “When you lose your why, you lose your way,” he said.
He cited The Great Commission, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19), as the answer to the question, “why?”
“Look at the church from the point of view of the people who are not attending,” he said. “What keeps people away from church is they don’t think they will be welcome.”
At his parish, welcoming begins in the parking lot with greeters directing drivers to spots. They are welcomed at the door by more greeters and hosts who help them find a place to sit.
He underscored the importance of children’s formation that allows the parents to focus on the Liturgy of the Word. At his church they have three programs — Kids Zone, All Stars and Time Travelers. All of which encourage the children to share their faith. He said empty-nesters and teens work well in that ministry. For children with disabilities the church has a buddy ministry — volunteers who sit with them during the children’s formation. Before the Liturgy of the Eucharist, hosts shepherd children back to their seats.
Another important component of ministry is music. “Music can reach people’s hearts,” he said, advising parishes to invest resources in skilled musicians — he acknowledged finding both talent and a heart for ministry is hard, but “the history of God’s people includes singing.”
Fr. Michael White said, “We are trying to advance the kingdom of God in our generation. This is the fundamental, indispensable work of the whole church.”
According to Father White the parish is more than a church building; it is a geographical term, your zip code including people you have never met. The majority of people not attending church are un-churched Catholics. He asked, “Who are the people not currently in the pews? What are they like? What language do they speak? How do they spend their time, their money? What is their culture? What do they think about God, faith and religion?”
While discussing ministry he said to ask the church leaders:
- Are we making a measurable difference in the community or simply serving our members?
- Are we mobilized for mission or
insisting on business as usual?
- Are we here to preserve our broken systems or are we willing to go where God is blessing?”
- Are we simply meeting or are we moving?
He told the story of Nehemiah, rebuilding the fire damaged walls around the city of Jerusalem, to make several points. Nehemiah was an educated, sophisticated Jewish man who first prayed to God for the king’s permission to rebuild the walls. Nehemiah surveyed the situation, then he tackled projects one at a time. He drafted teams to help him. Then, when his critics accused him of treason he redoubled his efforts.
“When we are making progress critics come forward, don’t be surprised,” said Father White.
By Laurie Hallstrom
“The people we serve on average make less than $1.25 a day. They are the poorest of the poor and they live in fragile situations,” said Dr. Carolyn Woo.
More than 800 people gathered in Rapid City for the Catholic Social Services Palm Sunday Brunch, the charity’s largest fundraising effort of the year. The guest speaker, Woo, served as president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services From 2012 to 2016. The international relief agency was established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington D.C., after World War II to help refugees. The agency will have its 75th anniversary in 2018.
Woo’s family emigrated from Hong Kong. She attended Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., where she earned her bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees and she was a member of the faculty. She served as dean of the Mendoza School of Business at Notre Dame University, Notre Dame, Ind., before joining CRS.
She said CRS partners with 1,200 organizations across the world and 600 of those are Catholic. Workers are active all over the globe in about 100 countries. In the countries where CRS workers are, they are not allowed to evangelize, or they would be killed. “Our role is to let people know what Catholicism is all about — it is by the way we love, by the way we treat each other. That is the good news. We are people who can love and care and we actually make the choice (to share) it,” she said.
“People ask if I am depressed with my work and I just want to say, ‘on the contrary.’ There is a lot of suffering, sometimes I feel like we are sent to the foot of the cross,” said Woo. “We are face to face with suffering people — children who are hit by shrapnel and have no access to care. We run into people who have been trafficked, women whose daughters were captured and sons were killed. We are often visited by women whose children died of malnutrition. There are a lot of crosses people bear. But I am not at all depressed.”
She explained that at the foot of the cross, after the horrific torture, the suffering and the crucifixion, the good news began.
Woo led a retreat with Sisters of the Holy Cross, Notre Dame, on the feast of the Annunciation, March 25. She shared that message about the invitation from God. “He invites not only Mary, but God invites us to be a part of the plan of salvation. He hopes sometimes we say ‘yes,’” said Woo. “God issues invitations each and every day, to make his kingdom known, to bring about salvation.”
In December, as she was finishing her work at CRS, she told her colleagues, “What is the work that we do? What is our role in God’s plan? We are the answers to people’s prayers. It sounds so arrogant — it is not meant to be. The reason I say that is the people we work with don’t have a home, food, or medicine. Sometimes they don’t have money and they pray, whatever religion they are, they say ‘God please send help, please send food and medicine, my child needs milk.’
“Somehow, when we show up that’s what we bring. It is more than formula, food, shelter, and medication; we also bring longer term solutions as you do in Catholic Social Services. We bring a way for people to find a new path, to rebuild their lives.”
Woo explained sometimes social work is tangible, someone needs something and it can be given to them. “Not all needs are tangible — the deep need of loneliness for example, low self concept or a sense of having no hope, those things are not always tangible; but we are sitting next to people (family and coworkers) who could benefit from kindness,” she said. “Prayers are made to God, we have a chance to be working as God’s answers.
“The fact that we are given a chance to be God’s answer to people’s prayers is really an incredible privilege,” said Woo. “I think that the whole idea of witness is making God real. Each of our roles is to make generosity and love real. When we do that we are emulating God. That’s how people come to believe in God.”
By WRC Staff
Courage and EnCourage support groups are getting started in the Diocese of Rapid City. Courage is a Roman Catholic Apostolate to people with same-sex attraction. Cardinal Terrance Cook founded it in 1980, in the Archdiocese of New York. The founding director was Fr. John Harvey. At the root of the ministry it says persons experiencing same-sex attraction must be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity as people created and loved by God. EnCourage, a ministry to family and friends of SSA individuals, was started in 1992 to provide peer support and spiritual growth for its members.
Like all single Catholics, members of Courage are urged to live chaste lives and participate fully in the sacraments of the Catholic Church. Courage proclaims that holiness and happiness are possible for its members who strive to know Christ profoundly and seek to follow him in the Gospel way of life.
The program requires compassionate chaplains to guide the ministry. Two priests from the Diocese of Rapid City, Msgr. Michael Woster, Spearfish, and Fr. Jim Hoerter, Faith, will be coordinating the efforts to start a chapter (or chapters) in western South Dakota. The two priests attended the Courage and EnCourage national meeting July 19-24, 2016, in Washington, D.C. “The Courage apostolate is a wonderful opportunity for those experiencing same-sex attraction in our diocese to know personally Christ is walking with them. Through community and the riches of the church, participants come to know Jesus’ very real concern, his friendship, joy and his call particular to their own life,” said Father
Hoerter. “Through Courage members can come to know Jesus Christ concretely. He is the One we desire in the depths of our being. He really is the ‘good news’ for all of us.”
Msgr. Woster said, “I was really impressed with the people I met at the national meeting in Washington. Some tended to be older, people who had gone through some pretty rough times, and maybe had gone through several relationships. Many were people who had some connection to spirituality or to the church earlier in their life. They went down one road after another and nothing worked out and they have found their way back. They found reconciliation, forgiveness, friendship, and support through Courage. Christ is real to them — they rely upon him.”
He said the people at the national meeting were strong Catholic Christians — many have been in Courage for several years. “I was touched in listening to many of their stories. They are wonderful examples of God’s love and God’s grace.”
“At the convention we learned Courage members love their priests. Fr. Jim and I felt very affirmed by Courage members. Our celibacy is a sign to them that living a chaste life and having chaste friendships are possible,” said Msgr. Woster.
While at the conference, Msgr. Woster also attended a joint meeting of Courage and EnCourage members. The EnCourage parents told how hard it was when they learned their son (or daughter) was questioning their sexually identity or experiencing SSA. They spoke of their confusion about how best to respond to them and their fears about their child’s future. The Courage members shared with EnCourage family members what they were looking for in their parents and siblings that would help support them and help them find healing and reconciliation.
“It was amazing to see the compassion and growth toward understanding between Courage and EnCourage members,” Msgr. Woster said.
The chaplains can be reached by phone. To protect anonymity, a contact number for the chaplains is given. Callers can leave a message, and a chaplain will contact the caller and give them ministry and meeting information as well as assistance in discerning if the ministry will be helpful to them.
Call Courage at 605-646-3363 or EnCourage at 605-519-8688. To learn more about this ministry go to http://couragerc.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the January West River Catholic, Bishop Robert Gruss wrote an article titled, “Praying for more priests.” He highlighted the severity of the priest shortage we are facing together as the body of Christ in our diocese. The bishop concluded, “While I wanted you to be aware of the situation, I am asking each of you to take seriously the call to pray daily for vocations to 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 the coming year and the years to follow.”
In Through Him, with Him, and in Him: A Spiritual Guide to the Diocesan Priority Plan, Bishop Gruss notes that “promoting vocations is the responsibility of all of us. It must involve everyone.”
The Code of Canon Law reminds us: “The duty of fostering vocation rests with the entire community so that the needs of the sacred ministry in the universal church are provided for sufficiently … This duty especially binds Christian families, educators, and, in a special way, priests, particularly pastors.”
As part of the diocesan pastoral plan, each parish or parish grouping has been asked to form a vocation committee in order to encourage and promote a culture of vocations. This was to have been established by this past Jan. 1.
Formation of this committee emphasizes the fact that promoting vocations, in particular those to the priesthood, is the responsibility of all of us. This encouragement begins in our homes, where “married couples live their vocation in the Spirit of Christ so that their families may become a domestic church reflecting the life of the Trinity,” as we pray in our new diocesan vocation prayer: http://rapidcitydiocese.org/ new-prayer-vocations/.
As a way to help promote and raise the awareness of creating a culture of vocations in our families, in our parishes, in our Catholic schools and in our diocese, Bishop Gruss is starting a Serra Club in the Diocese of Rapid City. The Serra Club is a named for the Franciscan Missionary, Junipero Serra, now St. Junipero Serra, who was canonized on September 23, 2015, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in Washington, D.C., by Pope Francis.
Father Serra originally founded nine missions; this expanded to 21 missions established along the El Camino Real, from San Diego to Sonoma, where he ministered. Despite his struggle with asthma and a chronic sore on his leg, St. Junipero Serra did amazing work with the Lord by bringing the Gospel of Christ to life. He was a true evangelizer and heeded the call from Jesus, which we hear at the conclusion of the Gospel of Matthew: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28:19-20).
The Serra Club is recognized by the Holy See as a lay apostolate dedicated to fostering vocations in the Catholic Church. It is a voluntary association of some 20,000 Catholic laymen and laywomen called Serrans. They are Catholics of all ages and from all walks of life — lawyers, carpenters, doctors, accountants, businesspeople, nurses, engineers, mechanics, salespeople, clerks, retirees, etc. They share a passion for promoting and fostering vocations.
Serrans define their vision as:
To foster and promote vocations to the ministerial priesthood in the Catholic Church as a particular vocation to service, and to support priests in their sacred ministry;
To encourage and affirm vocations to consecrated religious life in the Catholic Church;
To assist its members to recognize and respond in their own lives to God’s call to holiness in Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.
In September 2000, Pope John Paul II addressed the Serrans with these words:
“Dear Serrans, you are committed in a special way to promoting vocations. Never forget that yours must be above all a commitment to prayer, prayer which is constant, unwavering and full of trust. Prayer moves the heart of God. It is the powerful key to resolving the vocations question. But at the same time prayer for vocations is also a school of life, as I had occasion recently to point out: ‘By praying for vocations we learn to look with Gospel wisdom at the world and at each person’s need for life and salvation; it is a way of sharing in Christ’s love and compassion for all mankind…’” (Message for the 38th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, September 14, 2000, No.6).
New Serra Club
If you are interested in being part of founding a Serra Club in the
Diocese of Rapid City, please contact Fr. Mark
McCormick at the Office of Vocations and Stewardship,
(605) 716-5214, ext. 233 or MMcCormick@diorc.org
Last month I was in Davenport, Iowa, my former diocese, to give a four-night Parish Renewal on Stewardship at St.
Anthony Catholic Church, the oldest parish in the Diocese of Davenport. It was a great joy to be back amongst many people whom I have come to know through my years of ministry in that diocese. Having never given a parish renewal before, I was not sure what to expect. Many questions came to my mind: Would people show up? How would they hear my message? Is a prophet welcome in his native place? Any concerns that I had quickly went by the wayside. My message was well received and I deeply enjoyed the experience.
But my experience went beyond just giving one-hour talks on various aspects of stewardship. One afternoon, a woman from the church who faithfully attended each evening talk, as well as the talks that I gave following the daily Mass, invited me to come and bless her office. She was a local chiropractor and her office was not far from the church. When I showed up at her office, I also found her mother and her almost five-year-old nephew. They were not unfamiliar to me because they had all been at Mass on Sunday. But this gave me an opportunity to get to know them a little better.
What I experienced was beautiful and deeply moving. The little boy was very active, but a little shy in my presence, at least for a little while. It didn’t take him long to warm up to me. The next thing I experienced was something unexpected. His aunt asked him to pray with me the 23rd Psalm. As a four-year-old, this little boy could not yet read, but he began to recite Psalm 23 for me by heart. Remarkable! I was blown away. During the visit, he later recited Psalm 91 for me as well. But if that was not enough, there was more.
Prior to me leaving his aunt’s chiropractic office to go next door for a cup of coffee at his mother’s café, this little boy was asked to pray a prayer of blessing over me from his heart. Out of his mouth came this beautiful extemporaneous prayer, asking God to bless the bishop with many blessings and to grant me a safe trip home. Again, I was deeply moved, even to tears. I have never experienced anything like this before.
It revealed to me not only his faith, but the faith of the parents, the aunt and the grandmother. They were intentional about working with this child and sharing with him the importance of prayer and a relationship with Jesus.
As I reflected upon this experience, it reminded me of two core values in the Diocesan Priority Plan — Prayer and Family. The first Core Value is prayer, which is the very foundation of the Catholic life. “As the primary educators of their children in the faith, it is imperative that parents teach their children how to engage in a relationship with Jesus through prayer. It is the one way in which they will build a strong and secure foundation, leading to an intimacy with the Lord based on faith and trust. The active engagement of family prayer is also what builds strong, healthy marriages and families. Daily family prayer is what best models the life of the Holy Family. It should be the practice of every Christian family.” (Through Him, With Him, and In Him – A Spiritual Guide to the Diocesan Priority Plan, pg. 32).
This family was living out this Core Value of Prayer, but also the Core Value of Family. It was clear that they had created the “domestic church,” a place where we first learn about who God is and how we encounter him in prayer; a place where Christ is encountered within a community, an individual Christian family where each member plays a role in the mission of evangelization. We evangelize when we share faith, teach faith and live faith. The Christian family is where this begins and should continue, lifelong” (Through Him, With Him, and In Him – A Spiritual Guide to the Diocesan Priority Plan, pg. 51).
There is no doubt that these family members took seriously their role in the evangelization of their little four-year-old. I found myself thinking what society would be like if this was the norm rather than the exception. Imagine what would happen if parents began teaching the psalms to their little ones; if they began teaching them how to pray from their heart at this early age. This little boy was no doubt very smart, but his gifts for prayer came alive and were developed because family members took the time to share their faith and teach him the importance of God in his life.
To learn more about the Core Values which provide the basis for living an authentic Catholic way of life, read and reflect upon the Spiritual Guide to the Diocesan Priority Plan – Through Him, With Him, and In Him.
(More free copies are available. Ask your pastor how you can obtain one.)
Who knows where this little boy’s life will lead him, but certainly he is well on the way in building a strong and secure foundation in the Lord. His prayer over me was truly an experience of resurrected life in Jesus.
As we celebrate this beautiful season of Easter, may Jesus set our hearts afire with his love so that we all become bearers of Christ’s radiant glory, filling the world with this new life!
Father D. Craig Cower, 90, of Rapid City, died Sunday, April 2, 2017 at Westhills Village Health Care.
He was born March 2, 1927 in Roxbury, New York to Robert H. and Blanche (Hebert) Cower. During his senior year of high school, he went to St. Andrew’s Preparatory Seminary in Rochester, NY. Later he spent a year in what had been a Lutheran Seminary at Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY where his father was Superintendent of Campus Housing and Grounds. He then went on to St. Francis Seminary in Loretto, PA. He graduated from there and finished Theology at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN.
He was ordained for the Diocese of Rapid City, in Albany, NY, with 29 other young men in 1954. His first assignment was the old Cathedral and then was assigned to Ardmore-Edgemont-Oelrichs, Buffalo-Camp Crook-Cox-Vessey-Ralph-Redig-Drew, Faith-Opal-Plainview-Pedro, Wall & Scenic and retired in 1987 serving the parishes of Hot Springs and Oelrichs.
In 1991, he was appointed to be Executive Secretary of the Priest Retirement and Aid Association and in 1993 Vicar for Retired Priests. He served on numerous boards, including Black Hills Chamber Music Society.
He was preceded in death by his parents and brother, Rod.
Christian Wake Service will be at 7:30 pm on Tuesday, April 4, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Christian Funeral Mass will be offered at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 5, at the Cathedral with The Most Rev. Robert D. Gruss presiding. Burial will be in St. Patrick’s Cemetery (near Sioux Spiritual Center) near Plainview at 3:00 p.m.
(Fr. Cower’s Original Words….)
IT HAPPENED OVER THE MOUNTAIN FROM WHERE RIP VAN WINKLE SLEPT FOR 20 YEARS. IT HAPPENED IN ROXBURY-IN-THE-CATSKILLS OF NEW YORK STATE WHERE D. CRAIG COWER WAS BORN. Sunday Mass regularly lasted fifteen minutes, including the sermon—which was usually a tirade against Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) then President of the United States. And the priest bragged to the Protestants that he got his people out of church in fifteen minutes. Little seven-year-old Craig was hear to remark: “If I ever become a priest, Sunday Mass is not going to be like that!”
Rather a strange way for a vocation to begin. However, the idea continued through Public Grade School and High School. It wasn’t until his senior year that he went to St. Andrew’s Preparatory Seminary in Rochester, NY. Later he spent a year in what had been a Lutheran Seminary at Hartwick College in Onsonta, NY where his father was Superintendent of Campus Housing and Grounds- – a very interesting year. Next he went to St. Francis Seminary in Loretto, PA. The last five years saw him graduate from college and finish Theology at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN.
He had been studying for the Vicariate Apostolic of the Bahamas, West Indies, and would have been the first diocesan priest of what is now the diocese of Nassau, Bahamas. After much prayer and discernment, as ordination approached, his concern at being alone and the first to set the precedent for the diocesan clergy led him to ask to be released by his bishop.
When asked how he came to the Diocese of Rapid City, Father Craig answers: “It was very much God’s will inasmuch as I knew nothing about the diocese or Western South Dakota.” The maps he looked at then noted that Western, SD was “semi-desert”. He had also heard of Wall Drug because they had advertised for college summer employees. When Cower had graduated from college, it was Joseph Busch, former Bishop of Lead, SD and the Bishop of St. Cloud, MN, who gave him his diploma. When Busch died, at his graveside, McCarty told the rector of the seminary that if he had any unattached men to send them out to him. The rector told Cower about this and he wrote to Bishop McCarty. McCarty answered promptly and told Cower to call for an appointment. Cower reached him by phone at Oelrichs, SD where he had presided at the funeral of the last resident pastor there. Cower came out and was adopted by the diocese. Bishop McCarty, when he heard where Cower had been born said: You certainly came from a God-forsaken place!” McCarty has been in that area during the disastrous flu epidemic of 1918.
Cower spent that summer of 1953 at Camp Columbus in the Black Hills and was ordained for the Diocese of Rapid City in Albany, NY, with 29 other young men in 1954. His first assignment was the old Cathedral, where he lived in the upstairs back porch of the rectory. Fr. Muldoon could look in one window, Fr. Plante another, Fr. Cowley through the window of the door and all the parishioners through the other windows. There were no shades or curtains.
Next he was assigned to Ardmore-Edgemont-Oelrichs (54’ to 56’), then to Buffalo-Camp Crook-Cox-Vessey-Ralph-Redig-Drew Missions (56’ to 58’), Faith-Opal-Plainview-Pedro Missions (58’ to 70’), Wall & Scenic (70’ to 80’) and finally Hot Springs-Oelrichs (80’-87’), from which he retired for health reasons in 1987.
During his ministry in the Buffalo Missions, he was very much involved in consolidating some of the missions, moving the Vessey church & hall to a more central location and the Ralph and Strool churches to a Reva location. On the trip to Ralph to Reva, he straddled the roof-ridge across the prairies, using a stick to hold up the electric and telephone lines, not informed the men working to block the Strool Church before moving it onto the foundation. As a result Cower and a parishioner, Stan Lesselyoung, were almost crushed to death as the church fell and slid down the hill.
At Faith in 1962, Father Craig’s parents: Robert and Blanche Cower joined him to: “help him out for a year.” They stayed with him for twenty five years until he retired. The rule in the rectory was based on St. Paul: “He who does not work, does not eat!” He told them it was the Catholic teaching that martyrs went straight to Heaven when they died and that if they stayed with him for 25 years that would be the same as martyrdom. His mother took care of the rectory and his father did a tremendous amount of work at Faith and its missions and at Wall and Scenic. On their 50th wedding anniversary they were the first in the diocese to receive the Papal award: “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” (For Church & Pope) from Pope Paul VI.
During Cower’s tenure at Wall, a new church was built and it was there that he gave his art collection spanning eleven centuries to the Diocese of Rapid City in the custody of St. Patrick’s Church. There are 121 pieces in the collection. He left his two thousand volume library in the church and Public libraries at Wall. The church library was later moved to the St. Thomas More Library in 1996.
Twice he almost died in blizzards: Once on route 20 between Prairie City and Bison and once on I-90 near Wicksville. At the latter time he sprained his ankle and was reduced to crawling in the snow and froze his fingers. He said: “I wasn’t afraid to die, but I could imagine people going past my coffin and saying: “How stupid he was to leave his car!” “I just couldn’t die stupid!”
In his early days, assistants, as they were called, received $50 a month — sometimes! When he was transferred from the Cathedral to Ardmore it was October 15th. Msgr. Roach told him that Msgr. Biever should pay him for the month and Biever told him Roach should pay—he never/did get his salary for that month. When he was transferred from Ardmore to Buffalo it was the 15th of January; Msgr. Biever told him Fr. Murray should pay him and Murray said Biever should pay. And you guessed it, neither never did. It was the beginning of many months of the year that he did not receive any salary. Mass offerings kept him going. They were long distances in the Buffalo missions and most of the roads hardly more than trails. A pair of fence plyers were an absolute necessity to let down fences and go across the prairie to get through. The worst road was South of route 20 on the way to Drew—it had crushed flintrock on it and ate up the rubber tires of that day and spit them out. One Sunday he went through three spares.
In 1987, he retired while in the Hot Springs parish and he and his parents moved to different abodes in Rapid City. His father, Robert, died in 1998 and his mother, Blanche, came to live with him. His retirement years have been busy ones. In the early years he substituted in parishes all over the diocese from one-half to three-quarters of the weekends of the year, driving further than active priests. He still does spiritual direction and counseling from his apartment. Because there are people who are unable to participate in regular R.C.I.A. classes because of jobs, sickness, age, etc., he instructs them on an individual basis. In 1991, he was appointed to be Executive Secretary of the Priest Retirement and on numerous boards including the Black Hills Chamber Music Society. As his mother’s health continued to worsen, he curtailed and finally eliminated all weekend and weekday substitution. Since December of 1996 he has been the primary caregiver of his bedridden mother. His brother, Rod, who lives in Rapid City has had a whole series of major operations and Cower tries to help him as much as possible.
Commenting on his present lifestyle, Cower says: “How does one respond to fifty years that Mom and Dad gave to the diocese and to me.” What I do is a small token for all that they did. Besides, Scriptures have some great things to say about children who care for their fathers and mothers!
In regard to South Dakota and the diocese, he has to break into song with music from “My Fair Lady” “There is no place else on earth that I would rather live.”
Asked about fifteen minute Masses, Fr. Craig says “… at least a half-hour for weekday Masses and an hour for Sunday Mass… and if I have the opportunity EVERY MASS with song.”