Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God – Vigil Mass 12/31/18

Many of us in the Diocese of Rapid City have the privilege of celebrating Mass each weekend and Holy Day of Obligation. However for some who are home bound this is not possible. The Diocese of Rapid City records Holy Day of Obligation evening Mass for the Holy Days and post it the next day […]

FOCUS at BHSU: ‘Building a culture of missionary disciples

By Becky Berreth

“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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20).

“Everything we do is to make disciples of all nations,” explained third year FOCUS missionary Ben Acosta. “We teach students to have a sacramental life, to rely on prayer and the sacraments, to live an authentic friendship and to go out and teach others to do the same.”

Acosta, Sarah Knopik, Kim Herdering, and Andrew Noah will be helping the students at Black Hills State University, Spearfish, find that authentic friendship with Jesus as missionaries from the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.

FOCUS is a Catholic outreach organization whose mission is to share the Gospel with university students. Missionaries are trained in church teaching, prayer, Scripture, evangelization and discipleship, inviting students to have a personal relationship with Jesus, and accompanying them along the way. BHSU is one of 19 new FOCUS campuses this academic year. They are working from the new Newman Center which was dedicated in September.

“We have real conversations with the students,” said FOCUS team leader and third year missionary Sarah Knopik. “We are being taught how to rely on God for all things and in turn do the same for the students.”

One of the first things the missionaries do on campus is begin leading Bible studies. Then, eventually, begin training students to organize and lead their own. The goal is to bring students closer to Christ and to help students establish and/or deepen their relationship with Christ.

All four missionaries first experienced FOCUS through a Bible study. As an undergraduate at North Dakota State University, Knopik became involved with a FOCUS Bible study her freshman year. From there she was invited into discipleship (one-on-one mentoring program) with another student.

“As I got more involved in my faith, I started leading my own Bible study, experiencing discipleship with other women, and going on missions’ trips,” she explained. “I felt that God was calling me to be his missionary, so I took the opportunity and ran with it.”

First year missionary Andrew Noah, joined a Bible study his freshman year at St. John University, Collegeville, Minn. By his sophomore year he was leading a men’s group in his dorm. After attending a leadership conference, he began to think about becoming a missionary.

“Being a theology major, I knew I wanted to do something with the church. Halfway through my sophomore year I thought maybe I should check this missionary thing out,” he said. “By my senior year it was apply to be a FOCUS missionary or go on with graduate work in theology. Here I am.”

It was through a Bible study that Kim Herdering, a first-year missionary who also attended North Dakota State University, was invited to attend a SEEK conference. At that yearly national conference — presented by FOCUS — she encountered the Lord in a new way and carried that through her college experience. Majoring in biology, with the intent to continue on with a career in medicine, she always felt called to care and serve people.

“I really love healing and maybe the Lord wanted to satisfy that desire not through physical healing but through spiritual healing,” she said. “Now I’m working with people’s spiritual needs which is really cool too.”

Ben Acosta was leading a Bible study on his own, not knowing that the University of Northern Colorado had a Newman Center. “I went to a pro-life event and met a FOCUS missionary and was plugged into and started doing things with the Catholics on campus,” he said.

However, he still was not sure if being a FOCUS missionary was in his future. “My senior year I had a few offers to teach and I turned down FOCUS initially,” he explained. “That is until Jesus intervened, and I said ‘yes.’”

All four are excited about the new Newman Center and being part of an expansion campus. The group attended Mass at both St. Paul Church, Belle Fourche, and St. Joseph Parish, Spearfish, when they first arrived in S.D. and have been welcomed by parishioners at both parishes.

“People are eager to learn more about us and who we are,” said Acosta. “I know Jesus was preparing the way, going before us. In a very real sense we are building a culture here — a culture of missionary disciples. A culture of love that is contagious, meant to conquer all and set the world on fire.”

‘For Christmas, I want a new and purified church’

 

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth, my two front teeth, just my two front teeth.  Gee, if I could only have my two front teeth, then I could wish you Merry Christmas.”

I would suspect that this little catchy tune would be familiar, at least to people my age. I clearly remember singing this as a little boy. Perhaps it may have been because I didn’t have two front teeth at the time. I don’t recall for sure.

This time of the year, as kids, we would also scour the JCPenney and Sears catalogs for what we really wanted for Christmas — making a list, checking it twice and then turning it over to our parents with the hopes that some of these dreams might come true. This was the season of Advent for us — preparing for the celebration of Christmas. I would suspect that it is what most children have done, at least back then.

We are only about a week from Christmas. How have we spent this season getting in touch with our true hopes, our dreams and desires that only the Lord can fulfill? What have we been letting the Lord do with us during this Advent season? Now that we are this close, what do we really want for Christmas? For most of us, we don’t need more material things. They just become luxuries — things that possess us — not to mention obstacles to a deeper faith and freedom. We don’t need things that bolster the consumeristic and materialistic culture. It is a shallow life!

My Christmas gift list is long. I want a deeper life in Christ. In other words, the “more” that he desires to give me. For Christmas I want Jesus to always be my deepest desire. I want a faith that can move mountains, literally. I want Christ’s message of love and peace, mercy and hope to penetrate my own heart and the hearts of all the people across the diocese entrusted to my care.

For Christmas, I want a new and purified church — one of openness, honesty, accountability and transparency. I want deep healing for all victims of sexual abuse, especially those harmed by clergy, that they will experience the healing love of Christ.

I want our young people to seek and discover the Lord’s vocation for their lives, leading to more priests and women religious in our diocese, but ultimately, leading to true happiness.

I want the Father to give this diocese a new Pentecost where the Holy Spirit enkindles the fire of his love anew in the hearts of all people of faith.

I want the New Evangelization to come alive so that our efforts will attract and form intentional disciples who joyfully, boldly and lovingly proclaim and live the mission of Jesus Christ, leading to eternal life.

For Christmas, I want the many, many Catholics who have left the church to return and be welcomed into the Father’s arms of mercy and love.

I desire a world filled with peace, where all strangers are welcomed and the life of each person is not only valued, but treasured; where respect and civility in our public and private discourse is the rule of the day; where religious freedom is completely restored as God meant it to be.

What a Christmas list! There’s more! The list could easily go on. People of faith know in the depth of their hearts that, in the end, the first Christmas has become the answer.

Christmas is the celebration of God coming into the world in his incarnate Son so that we no longer have to let the things of this world possess us. Christmas is God’s entrance into human history in a tangible way so that we can be possessed by him. When we fully embrace the meaning of Christmas, God becoming man restores the proper order of our human desires, and the world is transformed back into its original condition. The world becomes as it was meant to be. We become as we have been created to be. Our eyes are opened to God’s view of reality. What a gift for which to pray!

When this happens, we will love like Christ; we will bring peace to the world like Christ; differences will be reconciled; the suffering and lowly will be raised up; and a world divided by sin and death will be restored by hope and resurrection. What a gift for which to pray!

In the words of Pope Benedict, “Christmas has become the feast of gifts in imitation of God who has given himself to us. Let us allow our heart, our soul, and our mind to be touched by this fact!”

Let us all put this on our Christmas gift list this year and pray that our hearts will be open to receive it. Be assured of my prayers for you and your families. May your Christmas be filled with every grace and blessing!

Merry Christmas!

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