There’s an urgency to the work of the S.D.Catholic Conference

When Bishop Paul Swain and Bishop Robert Gruss asked me to begin the South Dakota Catholic Conference this last fall, the Rushmore State joined 43 other states — including our Midwest and mountain neighbors — that already have Catholic conferences. The mission of the Catholic Conference, in a nutshell, is to serve as the church’s institutional ambassador to the public square, keeping the bishops of South Dakota informed on lawmaking, administrative rulemaking, and judicial action at the state and federal level, and to serve as a platform for them to exercise their voice when, as happens with increasing frequency, issues arise in the civic arena that bear on the church’s social and moral teachings.

As our nation’s First Amendment recognizes, religious faith has a vital role to play in the health of our Republic, and the Catholic Conference is an initiative that will ensure that the church has a voice on behalf of the common good.

Elsewhere in the nation, historically, a large wave of state Catholic conferences were born in the immediate wake of the Second Vatican Council, and state-by-state additions have been steady in the intervening decades. The council has been described by some as a “missionary council,” and I think this is important to consider in connection with the birth and growth of Catholic conferences in the post-conciliar decades. They are, in a certain sense, instruments serving the church’s missionary mandate. While my work is focused on the nuts-and-bolts of policy, on being a resource to legislators and citizens alike, there really is a missionary flavor to it, a sense that it’s one way in which the church can be a light to the nations. The New Evangelization at the capitol.

Further, there’s an urgency to the work of the Catholic Conference as a response to the signs of the times. Pope Francis, in his beautiful exhortation Evangelii Guadium, points out that “the process of secularization tends to reduce the faith and the church to the sphere of the private.” We can certainly attest to this trend in our country. On the contrary, Pope Francis reminds us, “responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation.” As the U.S. bishops tell us in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, “the church’s obligation to participate in shaping the moral character of society is a requirement of our faith.” There are no benchwarmers on our team, and we can’t leave our faith on the sidelines.

So, at root, the fundamental purpose of the Catholic Conference is to spread forth before our fellow citizens in the public square the banquet of the church’s beautiful teachings as a witness to the truth that sets us free, and I hope to equip you to do the same. This banquet, to be clear, is not a list of “No-no’s,” a terse recitation of prohibitions. Rather, it’s a vision for the fullness of life. As the Holy Father puts it, the “Church’s social thought is primarily positive: it offers proposals, it works for change and in this sense it constantly points to the hope born of the loving heart of Jesus Christ.” The dignity of the human person and respect for the family, the sanctity of life, religious freedom — all of the issues that form a firm foundation for a just society — to propose these truths is to propose a feast!

As this article goes to press, our neighbors who serve us as elected legislators are gathered in Pierre to do the heavy-lifting of political governance. They’ll engage with one another on a host of issues of importance to our common life as citizens. For their service, we thank them.

It will be my task to track legislation under consideration and to highlight for you those bills that might most benefit from a reading with the church’s social and moral teaching. Visit to stay up-to-date on what’s happening during the legislative session, and if you’re not sure who your district’s Senator and House Representatives are, I encourage you to learn.If you’d like to receive email alerts or provide feedback, send me a note through the website.

Lastly, thank you for your prayers on behalf of our elected leaders and the Catholic Conference.


West River Catholic: January 2018

Enjoy the January edition of the West River Catholic

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Jesus or Satan: With whom will you stand this year?

Jesus or Satan: With whom will you stand this year?

As we begin this new year, we would be remiss if we did not take the opportunity to reflect and examine our relationships and how they influence the way we live out our lives as followers of Christ.

“Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response” states, “Becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ leads naturally to the practice of stewardship. These linked realities, discipleship and stewardship, then make up the fabric of the Christian life in which each day is lived in an intimate personal relationship with the Lord.”

Let us begin 2018 first by praying for a greater desire within our own hearts to truly live a life in union with Christ. Every time we celebrate the Mass, as we prepare to receive the Real Presence of Jesus, we pray, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

At the heart of who we are, there is a real thirst and hunger to open wide the door of our hearts and have our Lord Jesus Christ enter and completely heal us. Yet, at the same time, we struggle to do so because of temptation and the pattern of sin that continues to plague our lives leaving us empty, unfilled and unhappy.

This struggle is actually a spiritual battle that is being waged within each us, whether we want to believe it or not. At the center of this spiritual battle is the battle for our very souls.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, a former soldier, offers a powerful reflection of this reality in his Spiritual Exercises. In his “Meditation of the Two Standards,” he compares our spiritual lives with that of a soldier who must decide which standard (flag) to stand with, to be loyal to, to fight for.

The two standards are that of Jesus and of Satan. Jesus says in the Gospel of Luke, “Whoever is not with me is against me” (Lk 11:23). He invites us to place ourselves firmly under his standard.

Both because of the temptations of the Evil One and our own fallen nature, we have a tendency within ourselves to get stuck somewhere in between Christ and the world (Satan, our own ideas and plans and all that is not of God), wanting to have both. In the end, this prevents us from truly having to make a decision to follow Jesus, to give testimony and witness to his life within us.

The Greek word for testimony is martyria, meaning martyr, implying that at the heart of testimony there is not only a personal and first-hand knowledge of Jesus, but also a willingness on our part to risk it all for Christ — to be true light to the world.

We hear these challenging and uncomfortable words in the Book of Revelation: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, will I spew you out of my mouth” (Rev 3:15). This is the indecision that leaves us in the gap between standing under the flag of Jesus and coming under the flag of the world.

The question we are called to ponder and wrestle with in our lives is, “Who are you with? Team Jesus or Team Satan? Whose flag are you waving? Are you firmly in one camp or the other, or are you wavering somewhere between the two?”

Knowing the reality of living under these two standards is helpful in answering these questions. Under the standard of Jesus, we are ALWAYS drawn to the Advocate, the Good Father, the perfecter of human nature. We experience unity.

Where is the unity in your heart today? In John 17, Jesus calls us to oneness of heart: “The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (Jn 17:22-23).

On the flip side, the evil one always brings division and darkness. When we are tempted to keep hidden our fears, doubts, anger and sorrows and when our hearts are divided and restless, we are not standing under Jesus’ standard.

Likewise, when we come under the standard of Jesus we are all about courage and communion. However, when we follow the standard of Satan we are filled with inadequacies and have the tendency to isolate ourselves from family, friends and one another.

When we come under the standard of Jesus, we are filled with humility, happiness and hope. We experience a deep sense of joy being held by God the Father who loves, delights and rejoices in us. When we fall into the trap of coming under the flag of Satan, we are filled with disappointment, discouragement, doubt and despair. Despair is a dangerous place in which to be because we lose our sense of direction completely, of being called by God, who does indeed have a mission and purpose for our lives.

Lastly, when we come under the standard of Jesus, we experience belief and forgiveness rather than unbelief and unforgiveness, which are the marks of Satan’s standard. The enemy wants to keep hidden our fears, doubts, angers and sorrows. The enemy wants us to keep these to ourselves, rather than relating and bringing them to the heart of Jesus — the way, the truth and the life.

It is in our fears, doubts, angers and sorrows that the enemy plays around with us and begins to bind us, taking us down dead-end streets that only lead to emptiness, darkness and sadness within us. But when we are able to relate our fears, doubts, angers and sorrows to Christ, bringing them out of darkness and into the Light, he leads us to freedom, joy and happiness.

In this New Year, may you take some time to examine the movements your heart experiences and ponder more deeply what that says about who you stand with and which flag you are waving.


A New Years resolution to bring God’s abundant blessings

We find ourselves in the second half of January already. Christmas and New Year’s Day are distant memories for many people. Now the focus is perhaps “getting me through winter.” The beginning of each new year can also be a time where people refocus their lives. This comes about through New Year’s resolutions. With great resolve and determination, a new course is set for ourselves. New Year’s resolutions should have a positive impact on our lives, bringing about new blessings. Otherwise, we wouldn’t resolve to make them in the first place. Shouldn’t resolutions make us feel better, never worse?

But a month or two down the road, New Year’s resolutions can become a source of depression and unnecessary stress or foster disappointment if the resolutions are unattainable or we experience failure in carrying them out and they becomes just another a list of things we had hoped to do.

I would like to offer one resolution for everyone in the diocese. This is already part of everyday life for some of you, but my prayer is that it becomes a part of everyone’s lives. I guarantee that this resolution will bring God’s abundant blessings upon us as individuals, upon your families, your parish community, and our diocese. When practiced with desire, determination and discipline, lives will be changed and enriched in ways you cannot yet imagine. Guaranteed!

The resolution? Spend a half hour each day with the Lord Jesus in prayer — only one-half hour of the twenty-four hours allotted to us each day! When we think about the magnitude of God’s love for us, how are we not compelled to return daily to the Lord in gratitude? Yes, thirty minutes is a long time for many people to be in silence with the Lord. But spending time in silence with our hearts and minds gazing upon the Lord Jesus, either in Eucharistic Adoration or simply in private prayer, leads to intimate communion with the One who loves us more than we love ourselves.

In a recent Sunday Gospel, we heard the story of two disciples following Jesus. “Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see’” (Jn 1:37-39).

This question, “What are you looking for?” is a question for all of us. What are we looking for? What will bring the deepest meaning to your life? Are we looking for Jesus each and every moment of our daily lives? He is always present, waiting to encounter us, waiting for us to “come and see.” Are we looking for the intimacy that he longs to have with us? In other words, have we fallen in love with the Lord, as a bride is in love with her bridegroom? This is what Jesus desires with and for us. “What are you looking for?”

Falling in love with God is the vital key to opening the door to the fullness of the Christian life. Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, points out, “Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, falling in love with God in a quite absolute way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love. Stay in love. And it will decide everything.”

Jean Jacques Olier, founder of the Sulpicians, notes that prayer, in its simplicity, “is contained in these three things: To look at Jesus [to fall in love]; to unite ourselves to Jesus [to stay in love]; and to act in Jesus [and it will decide everything]” (my emphasis added in the brackets).

What keeps a person from pursuing this relationship with reckless abandon, like a man who has found the love of his life? There are many reasons. We all have our own. Often it is because we are looking for fulfillment in other things besides Jesus. In other words, we are seeking fulfillment in idols. Or we see prayer as another “thing” to do.

Salvation in Jesus is meant for everyone, and therefore it must be simple — uncomplicated. This is why daily prayer is so important, but also so simple — gazing on the one we love and the one who loves us.

The work of staying in love with God is about remaining steady and committed to prayer, even if such prayer is one long exercise in suffering the absence of a felt presence of God. The blessings we seek cannot be attained through our own strength but must be received as a gift, when the Lord chooses to give them. We must wait on the Lord. When we succumb to the temptation to skip regular prayer, Jesus chooses to remain intimately present, even though we might not feel anything. His love deepens in our hearts in the painful, felt absence.

Recently, while on retreat, this question for meditation was proposed. “In prayer, have we lost our expectation of intimacy with Jesus?” Perhaps this is why people struggle to enter into a daily life of quiet prayer. They have lost their expectation of intimacy with Jesus. Prayer is not complicated. Perhaps it is we who are complicated and are afraid to love and be loved. Prayer is communion with the Lord and not something we do or accomplish. Jesus desires this union with each of us more than we do ourselves. Jesus is looking for us! “What are you looking for?”

There is so much more that can be said about prayer and its importance in our daily lives that cannot be addressed in a short article. But the New Year has begun. Will you claim this resolution as your own — 30 minutes of daily prayer — and put it into practice? It is the same amount of time as one program you watch on television daily. If so, the year 2018 will be one filled with many graces and blessings, more than you can imagine. It is said that it takes doing something seventeen times in a row for it to become a habit.

Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you into this habitual daily life of prayer. The Spirit is eager to initiate and sustain this union with the Father and the Son. Do not be afraid!

Jesus said, “What are you looking for?”


Eileen Sullivan Rotert, 76, former WRC editor

Mary Eileen Sullivan Rotert, age 76, passed away on January 16 at Maple Crest Care Centre, Belvidere, Ill. She was formerly of Lemmon, Rapid City and Sturgis. She was cremated and a Mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. Mary Catholic Church, Lemmon at a later date, and burial will follow at Greenhill Cemetery also in Lemmon.

Eileen Sullivan was born on May 31, 1941, to John L. and Marguerite M. (Klinkhammer) Sullivan. She graduated from Lemmon High School and Black Hills State College in Spearfish. On August 3, 1959, Eileen married James A. Rotert at St. Mary Catholic Church in Lemmon; they had four children.

Eileen spent most of her working life in journalism. Before retiring in 2004, she served as the editor of the West River Catholic newspaper for the Diocese of Rapid City. She earned a number of journalism awards, especially for her writing about women in the church. Eileen was an Associate of the Sisters of the Holy Family.

After retirement, Eileen left her beloved South Dakota to be closer to her children and lived in Florissant, Mo., and Rockford, Ill. She maintained her love of learning and her passion for nature throughout her life. Her grandchildren were her greatest joy.

Eileen leaves, to cherish her memory, her four children, daughters: Barbara Bennett, Michelle Rotert, and Catherine Sylve all of Illinois and one son: Patrick Rotert of Spearfish; their families; three siblings, Joe Sullivan of Ottawa, Ill, Jim Sullivan of Mandan, N.D., and Patricia Fletcher of Chicago, Ill; and many nieces, nephews, cousins and lifelong friends. She is predeceased by her parents and her former husband.

Memorials may be made to the National Audubon Society at

MIB Basketball: ‘We will have a comfortable enough lead that we should be able to hold them off’

By Becky Berreth

“They ain’t ready,” said Kale Landguth, St. Thomas More High School student team coach. “We are more athletic and more disciplined. We have a pretty good squad this year. We’ve been preparing for this our whole high school career. We are ready.”

“We are a well-oiled machine,” responded Dan Duffy, first year coach for the Men in Black. “We’ve got some priests that they should be worried about.”

On January 29, the priests of the diocese will take on a team of St. Thomas More High School students in the 7th Annual Men in Black basketball game. The evening begins with a dinner at 5 p.m. followed by the St. Elizabeth Seton students vs. staff, St. Thomas More Middle School students vs. staff, and the Men in Black game tipping off at 7 p.m. The event is co-sponsored by the Rapid City Catholic School System and the Vocations Office as a way for the people of the diocese to meet some of the priests and seminarians in a fun and entertaining environment.

The students anticipate using their size to their advantage. “We’ve got a big man coming in — new recruit, Christian “Larry” Simunek. He’s 6 feet 5 inches, finishes around the rim, and he’s a rebounding machine,” explained Landguth.

According to Coach Duffy, the size of the student team is one thing they are preparing for. “We are going to plug the middle and put our bigger guys up against theirs,” he explained.

The Men in Black are also counting on their experience to help win the game. “Old age and wisdom will always hold out over youth. I’m confident that our wisdom and experience will be enough to counter act the youth and athleticism of the students,” said Duffy.

When asked how they are going to overcome the fourth quarter energy drain, Duffy expressed confidence in his team. “We are prepared for that. I can’t disclose anything, but we will have a comfortable enough lead that we should be able to hold them off.”

The Men in Black team has been known to run trick plays. To prepare, student team assistant coach Joe Poeppel is watching film to prepare for anything the Men in Black might bring to the game. “Our defense is good enough to hold up against any trick plays they might have,” he said.

Coach Landguth said his team is also preparing for Father Adam Hofer, a youngster out of Blessed Sacrament Parish, in Rapid City.

“Father Hofer is a great player. We’re looking at changing up our defensive strategy for him. We’ve got a couple guys coming from the football team that I think can handle him. We may have to play a little zone defense, but I think we can take him down.”

“He’ll see that as a challenge and run right through them,” countered Duffy. “He’s very competitive.”

“We will come prepared,” said Duffy.

“To lose,” added Landguth.

The game will be broadcast live on Real Presence Radio, 89.9 FM, beginning at 6:45 p.m. and streamed live on Facebook at