March for Life 2020

September 2019 — Pastoral Center photos

Photos from the construction site at the Diocesan Pastoral Center

September 30, 2019

September 25, 2019

September 19, 2019

Gathering Rite ritual draws faithful together

By Fr. Michel Mulloy

The various ritual actions of the Gathering Rite draw the faithful together and prepare them to listen to the Word of God. Christ is present in his Body the Church when we gather, continuing his saving work. Presence in one building does not necessarily mean togetherness. The community shakes off the concerns of individual lives, opens their hearts and minds to the action of the liturgy and focuses on joining the self-sacrifice of Christ to God the Father. 

The Opening Hymn is the first prayer of the liturgy. Songs are prayers set to melodies. The stated purpose of this song is to begin the celebration, to foster unity with one another, to introduce the feast or mystery that we are celebrating that day and to accompany the procession of the priest, deacon and servers.

The community enters the eternal self-sacrifice of Christ. We must be willing to do this. This means we sing the gathering hymn to the best of our ability. A choice at this moment not to sing, to simply listen to the song or wait for it to finish, is a choice to not to join the self-sacrifice of Jesus. Furthermore, singing draws the community together. It expresses the unity with God in one another that is the hope of the celebration of the Mass. The gathering song also speaks about the feast or season of the liturgical year we are celebrating. Once again, the gathering song is designed to accompany the procession of the priest and servers to the altar. This is a reminder to us that music, although essential to the Mass, is not done for its own sake but rather to accompany the action of the Mass.

The Sign of the Cross is a declaration that we stand in this assembly as the people of God because Jesus died and rose to free us from our sins. We are not here of our own volition but gather because we are drawn here by God in Christ Jesus.

The greeting is an ancient dialogue with  roots in the letters of St. Paul. The three different forms of this greeting all express that we are here to unite our lives to God. The priest states that the community has a relationship with God, through Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. (“The Lord be with you.”) The assembly’s response indicates that the priest, who is for them Christ present leading his Body the Church, has that relationship with God. (“And with your spirit.”)

The greeting also reminds us that the Eucharist is a dialogue between God and his people. In the same way that the inner life of God is a dialogue between Father and Son and Holy Spirit, so this ritual action affords us the opportunity to share in the dialogue that is the life of God. Thus, when the priest speaking in the person of Christ, reaches out to the assembly with this ancient greeting, the people as the body of Christ are expected to respond. Together we are declaring that we believe God is present to us in his Son Jesus Christ.

The Penitential Rite which comes next is the community’s admission that we are sinners. Yet, we are here because the forgiveness of God has been given to us in the death and resurrection of Jesus. In effect we are declaring that though unworthy, we are made worthy by Christ. The “Lord Have Mercy” is less an appeal for God to be merciful and more a declaration that God IS merciful.

Next we pray the Gloria, a hymn of praise. It is appropriate at this moment in the Gathering Rite, to offer praise to God. We have just acknowledged God’s presence with us in the greeting. We have faced our unworthiness and yet declare that God’s mercy is with us. The community stands forgiven and redeemed. Praising and thanking God at this moment makes sense. Ideally the Gloria is always sung by all praising God in our unified voices.

The Gathering Rite comes to an end with the Opening Prayer. Although the priest vocalizes the prayer, the community is praying. Through the silence that follows the introduction, “Let us pray,” the community members call to mind and heart those things which they want to pray for at this Mass. When the presider speaks aloud a prayer, he is speaking for everyone. The community’s attention to his words and their clear “Amen,” which means in Hebrew, “yes I agree,” is vitally important.

Next month we will begin talking about the Word of God in the context of the Eucharist.

Let ‘Sede Vacante’ be a cry for a new bishop

I was asked last week by the editor of the West River Catholic what we should call this column that I am now writing. I decided to call it Sede Vacante. That is a Latin term which means “vacant seat.” It refers to the fact that as a diocese, we have a vacant seat in our midst. That vacant seat is the bishop’s chair, or cathedra, located in the cathedral. The light over that chair is not lit right now and the coat of arms is missing. More importantly we are missing someone who is very important for any diocese.

The Bishop is the Vicar of Christ for our local (diocesan) church. As a successor to the apostles and a member of the college of bishops, he is a visible connection to Jesus Christ and the church he established on earth. The bishop is also our direct link to the Holy Father and the universal Catholic community.

In the meantime, we are called to continue our mission, the mission of Jesus Christ. The “vacant seat” does not mean that we stop being disciples of Jesus Christ, called to attract and form intentional disciples who joyfully, boldly and lovingly live and proclaim the Gospel.

All these connections are very important to being Catholic. We are a universal church which has a local expression in western South Dakota. We have our own unique experience of church, but our experience is not so unique that we are separate from other expression of the Catholic Church elsewhere. We are not a “congregational” form of governance. We belong to each other. We are brothers and sisters of one another because we are all joined to Jesus Christ who is our brother. We are sons and daughters of one Father, and we are bound together by the Holy Spirit. The bishop is our diocesan father and our family is not complete without our father sitting at the head of the Eucharistic table, leading us into a deeper relationship with our brother Jesus and his Father. We should be praying daily for our new bishop, longing for him to come, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the choice of our Holy Father, to be seated among us.

That is where I come in. Elected, I said yes to assuming this mantle of leadership temporarily. It has been interesting and challenging from the first day. I am learning and growing in ways that I have not been asked to do in the past. Most importantly I have come to appreciate the ministry of a bishop in a much deeper way. I have not prayed enough for our bishops and for all the bishops of our country and the world.

During my short few weeks, I have come to understand the burden of a bishop’s ministry. This was made especially clear when I had the privilege to attend a meeting of the bishops of our province (North and South Dakota and Minnesota). Their responsibilities would be a challenge during any era, but our own time has made their ministry particularly heavy to bear. Gratefully they do not carry this load alone. The Lord is yoked to them on the journey. Our prayers on their behalf, raised to the Father, will lighten that load, for the Father bends down to listen to the cry of his children.

In telling you all this, you should not feel sorry for me or for our bishops. As I often tell people, every appointment on my calendar was put there by me. Likewise, this responsibility of diocesan administrator was something I accepted. I am willing to do this, to serve the Lord and his people as we continue to grow in holiness and prepare for the leadership of a new bishop.

I am finding this new assignment challenging but also so interesting. I am learning and growing. I enjoy the support of the clergy and laity of our diocese. That is a great blessing. As much as I miss having a bishop in our midst, I know the Lord is present. The mission of our local church continues. While there will be no new initiatives while the cathedra is vacant, we will continue to bring to fulfillment the great work that we have already begun. The Lord is calling all of us to do our part so that when a new bishop arrives, he will find us ready and willing.

We are so blessed in our diocese. We have wonderful priests and deacons in roles of leadership. Many talented lay men and women are involved in our parishes, serving the Lord is our ministry together. We have a hard-working and generous chancery staff. There is much to be grateful for, and we are not finished. I know there is much more that the Lord wants to give us. There is a legacy of faith that is waiting to be lived. We have only begun to discover the blessings God wants to pour into our lives through his beloved Son and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Let Sede Vacante be a joyful cry for a new bishop, a cry to spur us on to continue the great work we have been given until we stand together with our new bishop to rejoice in all that will be given to us by our gracious and loving God. 

Duc in Altum 2019

This summer, the Office of Vocations served 20 parishes and touched the hearts of 668 children and youth through our diocesan Duc in Altum program. Duc In Altum draws its name from Luke 5:4 where Jesus instructs Simon Peter “put out into deep water” (Duc in Altum). You will see how Max Vetch, Corbin Olson and Cristina Esquivel, heeded the call of Jesus, to put out into the deep and to cast the net of faith. Strengthened by the Eucharist the Lord fulfilled the desires of their hearts beyond their own imaginations as their faith was stretched to help our children and youth to put out into the deep this summer.

Max Vetch

I think this last summer was one filled with sharing in the cross of Jesus. I say this not as a way to complain about my team or that the parishes were all unpleasant and unwelcoming. I say it rather because that is what the Lord put on my heart and put on my body as well. I was sick multiple times this summer, and I felt very downtrodden because of it. My own interior self was suffering as well with doubts of how everything was going to get done and how my team would handle being down a leader. I also lost some consolations in prayer that I was used to receiving. However, there is still joy in carrying the cross. Though I felt empty, I was filled each day anew by the Eucharist and the grace of prayer, and I had some great moments that let me know that what we were doing was fruitful, and it needed to be done. There were times with the kids and with my teammates where I saw God working in them, and knew that though we toil, our toil was not in vain this summer. The line that we kept coming back to was, “we are fools for Christ,” from 1st Corinthians, and thank goodness we weren’t expected to be anything more.

Cristina Esquivel

I came into Duc In Altum this summer with two core desires: to give back to the Church, and to have the adventure of a lifetime. God fulfilled both of those desires, but I never could have imagined all He’d do. You see, I’ve spent the first 20 years of my life in California, and the last 3 years in Arizona. I had never set foot in South Dakota. This was all new territory for me.

Every week and every day, I encountered God’s love – not only in the Church, but also in the new faces, families, communities, adventures, and experiences. There were many moments where I thought to myself, “I can’t believe I get paid to do this.” Moments like sitting on a paddleboard in Timber Lake with the teens while the sunset blinded me. Moments like soaring over the open ranges of Lemmon in a plane while receiving free flying lessons. Moments like seeing the eyes of a child light up when he learned about Jesus in the Eucharist. Or moments like sharing tears with a teen when she connected with my testimony. There are too many moments to recount here.

This summer I encountered God in the generous hearts of so many of His people. Never had I felt so welcomed and loved. God showed me what true love looks like. Not just the “fluffy” kind of love, but the backbreaking, self-sacrificing kind of love. The kind that gives of herself even when she is exhausted and doesn’t feel like it. Real love.

I encountered Him in the unknown. Just having graduated college, God was whispering to me this summer, asking me to trust Him with my future. Every week He taught me more about what trust looks like. As we traveled home to home, at times I felt like Mary and Joseph. I gave up most of the control and independence I had developed in college, and I trusted that we would have a place to stay and meals to eat, even when I didn’t know what that looked like. I began to learn the beauty in just trusting and receiving. Even when things in my personal life were seemingly falling apart, God reminded me that just as He was exceedingly providing for me this summer, He would continue to do so. Every day we had a holy hour in front of the Eucharistic presence of Jesus, and I sat there and let myself be held by Him. Despite the highs or lows of the day, I ran to the Eucharist daily, and His graces permeated me. I noticed an interior strength and trust I had not seen before.

Overall, my encounter with God this summer could be summed up in the words, “love” and “trust.” Every week, as God continued to cover me in His love and call me to trust Him, my heart was being transformed. I can only pray that this transformation was being bled upon all the young people I interacted with.If I impacted any of these young people, it was not with my lessons; it was with my relationships with them. For God to transform their hearts, He had to transform mine. He is still at work in me, and He is still at work in them. I may never see these young people again, but I can trust that the seeds that were planted will continue to be nourished by new gardeners. As it turns out, God is so much bigger than California, or Arizona, or even South Dakota. God is alive, and so is His Church, my friends.Thank you for allowing me to tend to and be nourished by your garden. For the greater glory of God!

Corbin Olsen

While serving the Lord this summer through Duc in Altum, I grew and was blessed in ways that I wasn’t expecting at all. Going into the summer, I felt that I was being called to Duc in Altum so that God could continue forming me into the man that he is calling me to be. Almost every single day, I was given challenges and experiences that tested my limits and my patience, but ultimately made me a stronger person each time. I was reminded this summer that in order to live a life in God, your life must be grounded in prayer. By maintaining our team’s schedule and commitment to prayer, I felt my heart becoming more aligned to Christ’s.

The Lord gave me a profound love for the Eucharist this summer. As we traveled the diocese and encountered Christ in countless new experiences and people, I really came to rely on our uniquely Catholic gift: the Eucharist. In a summer of constant change from Rapid City to Timber Lake to Ft. Pierre and beyond, I was always able to rely on the same Jesus in the Eucharist through adoration and the Mass. God gave our team the opportunity to travel the diocese and form meaningful connections at every turn. He even fulfilled a longtime dream of mine — to fly a private plane — on TWO separate occasions (it was incredible)!! Now I am coming back to college — a world that is far from the Catholic “bubble” that I experienced this summer. But, after all of the experiences that I had this summer, I feel equipped and ready to bring Christ to the depths, wherever he leads me.

The Perils and Promise of the Amazon

In 2017, when Pope Francis called for a regional synod on the Amazonian region to take place at the Vatican, it surprised many Catholics. The Amazon invokes images of dense jungle pierced by its namesake river. The region is much more than that. Five times the size of Alaska, it has a population of 31 million, of which 3 million are indigenous peoples. It is undergoing a rapid, some say ominous, transition, as small-scale farmers, corporate ranchers and miners clear the land and often come in conflict with local tribes. The region is plagued by widespread environmental damage as well as military strife, drug trade and human trafficking.

Binding the region together is the presence of the church. Its missionaries and pastoral workers, priests and men and women religious, sometimes at great risk, have ministered to the indigenous peoples as well as the settlers and farmers. In the sprawling shantytowns and in the villages, the church struggles to accompany the people of the Amazon.

Catholic News Service over the past several months has reported extensively from the Amazon, helping Catholics to understand both its spectacular diversity and the threats that endanger it. In preparation for the Oct. 6-27 synod, here are some stories highlighting the region.

Articles from Catholic News Service

Curia Corner — Behind the scenes of the closing of the diocesan phase of Nicholas Black Elk

To examine all the writings and documents related to the Servant of God Nicholas Black Elk was the charge of the Historical Commission for the diocesan cause of the canonization.

We were comprised of Mark G. Thiel, CA, President of the Commission, Archives of Raynor Memorial Libraries, Marquette University, Wisc; Father Michael Steltenkamp, SJ, professor of Anthropology and Religious Studies, Wheeling Jesuit University, W.Va.; and myself, representing the Diocese of Rapid City as archivist.

The final report, from the Diocese of Rapid City, supporting the canonization of Nicholas Black Elk, Servant of God, was signed and sealed with wax before it went to Rome. (Courtesy photo)

Forming a collaborative network was quite a task. We were to search out and gather all published writings, those not yet published as well as historical documents. Father Luis Escalante, Postulator from Italy, asked that we research local areas, repositories, Black Elk’s time spent in Yankton/Vermillion areas, and to check Wyoming where he was reportedly born. One finding incorrectly reported Black Elk as being born in Montana.

Many, many emails, phone calls exchanging ideas, hours of research, waiting for return phone calls and excitement shared that one of us had found this or found that. “Did you know, there is a park in Nebraska …” “Please check out …” read one email. Another remarked “ Hmmmm, I had never heard of that manuscript of his …”

Thiel said, “The Historical Commission’s quest for archival documentation has been an exciting adventure of hunting and stalking into the past. With pain staking scrutiny, we uncovered and studied holdings large and small, which illuminated Black Elk’s holiness and added clues about obscure parts of his life. (Did you know that our diocesan archives and Marquette have an extensive collaboration between the diocese and St. Francis and Holy Rosary Indian Missions?)

The final Historical Commission Report detailed why the name change to Black Elk Peak, several photos of Mass being celebrated on top of Black Elk Peak and much more. To view the full Historical Commission report, please visit our diocesan webpage The link to Black Elk, Servant of God is in the lower left corner of the home page.

Many others from the diocese also put in many hours of work on Black Elk’s cause. The personal letters written by Nicholas Black Elk in Lakota were verified by Father Joe Daoust, SJ, of Pine Ridge and translated by Patricia Catches the Enemy, both of Pine Ridge. Catches the Enemy was the Official Verifying Translator on the inquiring commission of Cause of Canonization of the Servant of God — concerning the Life and Virtues and Father Daoust is Episcopal Delegate of the Cause of Black Elk.

“Nicholas — pray for us as we open our hearts to recognize the Risen Christ in other cultures and peoples, to your glory and honor” (from prayer for the Canonization of Nicholas Black Elk).

Diocesan Youth Rally 2019