The late Msgr. William O’Connell was a fan favorite and founding editor of the West River Catholic. (Archive photo)
By Kathy Cordes, Diocesan Archivist
One of my projects, is digitizing and preserving columns, articles, sermons, and other great works of our clergy. This helps to build a foundation of our archival history. Listen with your heart for an exciting message. These words from Msgr. William O’Connell still ring true today:
“For a moment, imagine … Every day when we get up there is a printed text beside our bed or we are only allowed to say “It will be okay.” These are the only words we can speak that day. What a boring day that would be! Why? Because words are meant to be heard. Spoken in love, in anger or confidence all are meant to be heard.
Msgr. Romano Guardini, a noted theologian, wrote in 1953 how important it was for us to hear the holy words of Scripture when we are in Mass. What Guardini wrote then still applies to this day. During Mass, the Liturgy of the Word is not merely read, it is proclaimed! That is, the priest, deacon or lector is giving us an important message from God, Our Father. An exciting message!
We are called upon to make our hearts and souls receptive to what we hear. Jesus is the sower and the Sunday readings are the good seed that he sows. We need to work so this seed does not fall on the hard soil of our heart. When listening to the reading, it stirs us while in church and hopefully we take it to the outside world. Our Lord hopes that our hearts and souls will be the good soil that produces a very virtuous life in each of us.
If we listen with our hearts, we will have a kernel of God’s truth, which allows it to become the living word in our lives.
As we move quickly towards Holy Week and Easter, let us pray that we indeed have ears to hear the message Our Lord has for us when we listen to the proclamation of Scripture at Mass.” Condensed article “Will God’s Word Land on Good Soil?” by Msgr. William O’Connell, West River Catholic, March 2012.
Update on diocesan Nicholas Black Elk Canonization process
I also serve with the Black Elk Working Group. We are responsible for the groundwork for the diocesan portion of the canonization process. Here are some updates from the group while we wait to hear from Rome on the next step to canonization:
Recently we have been investigating reports of alleged miracles from all over the globe to further the canonization of Nicholas Black Elk. Two miracles are required to be submitted to Rome for the cause of a saint awaiting veneration. Deacon Bill White leads the investigations of alleged miracles. For a miracle to be considered, each one is to be completely faith based — no surgical or human intervention can be attributed to the healing. Currently, the working group is looking at the events surrounding two separate alleged miracles — each one attributed to the intercession of Nicholas Black Elk by those who witnessed the alleged miracle. Deacon White reviews each alleged miracle as a potential addition to the cause.
“Walking the Good Red Road” by NewGroup Media has been widely received and is now showing in Canada.
We would like to welcome Germaine Little Bear to the working group. As the new diocesan Director of Native Concerns, she is a welcome addition.
Since the middle of October, I have been accompanying four students from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in the Cor ad Cor Spirituality Year, an outgrowth of the Veritatis Splendor Institute (VSI), sponsored by the Office of Faith formation. We meet every Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.
The title Cor ad Cor is a Latin phrase meaning “Heart speaks to Heart.” Cor ad Cor is a 30-week retreat in which the first eight weeks are devoted to the Oremus program from Ascension Press and the next 22 weeks focus on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola according to the 19th Annotation.
The 19th Annotation is an opportunity for people who cannot devote 30 days to an Ignatian retreat to do the prayer, readings and meditations over a period of several months.
Cor ad Cor has been a great tool to help all of us, including me, to learn and grow in the spiritual life, and to have the courage to be vulnerable as men by sharing our faith and the work the Lord is doing in our lives.
The center of the Cor ad Cor Spirituality Year is to pray at least 20 minutes every day with a series of Scripture readings, often praying them again and again, going deeper and deeper. We use our imagination to put ourselves into the Scripture scene and to apply our five senses to the Word of God, so that we’re able to see, hear, smell, and touch this living word, letting it penetrate and touch us deeply.
This process reminds me of one of my favorite scripture passages: “Indeed, the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” (Heb 4:12).
It is awesome to see how the Word of God, so alive and explosive, touches the hearts of these four young men week after week. I have been blessed to journey and accompany them for the past six months, and I can hardly wait to see how the Holy Spirit is going to move this small band of brothers in the months ahead.
Several weeks ago, we were praying with The Visitation of Our Lady to Elizabeth in Luke 1:39-56. Several lines hit me in my prayer time: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb” (41) and “And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home,” (56).
The child John leaped in the womb of Elizabeth, who was filled with the Holy Spirit, when she heard Mary’s greeting. I imagined that this was not a one-time occurrence for the infant John, but something that happened repeatedly as Elizabeth and Mary had conversations with one another that were charged with the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary remained with Elizabeth and Zachariah for three months before she returned to Nazareth.
In my prayer time, I imagined what the conversations were like between Mary and Elizabeth, and even Mary, Elizabeth and Zachariah. How many times did Elizabeth ask Mary during that three-month stay to tell her again and again how the angel Gabriel appeared to her and announced that she was to be the Mother of the Son of God; how the Holy Spirit came upon her; and how God overshadowed her?
I imagine Mary saying to Elizabeth, “With God all things are possible.” And Elizabeth nodding and smiling with great joy and replying, “I know, Mary. I am in my 90s and will give birth to my first son, John.”
How many times did Mary ask Zachariah to tell her his story? I imagine him going through the difficulty of writing down his story, that while offering incense in the temple, the angel Gabriel appeared to him, telling him that his prayers had been answered and Elizabeth would bear a son.
Then he would describe his own unbelief at the angel’s word and how he became mute and unable to speak. I am sure that in those three months, Mary, Elizabeth and Zachariah had amazing conversations, encountering the infant Jesus in the womb of Mary and the Holy Spirit over and over again. Pondering these incredible miracles in their heart and then sharing them with one another filled them with amazing joy.
I continue to ponder this prayer period and have preached on it several times. In my work as vocation director, and as the chaplain of St. Thomas More middle and high school as well as chaplain at the Newman Center, I am convicted of the importance of having similar conversations — conversations where we, too, speak of how God is at work in our lives.
This is a key to fostering abundant vocations. When all of us — moms, dads, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, friends, neighbors and our parish priests — share with our young people how we ourselves have encountered Christ and were touched by the joy and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, our young people will learn to seek that encounter for themselves. When they begin to encounter and experience God in this way, their hearts will be open to his call for their lives.
Cor ad Cor – “heart speaks to heart.” Let the Sacred Heart of Jesus speak to our hearts so that our hearts might speak to other hearts, encouraging the living and deep abiding Word of God to penetrate our joints and marrow.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The Eucharist is the source and summit of our Catholic faith because it is during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is made present to us and Our Lord makes himself truly present for us in his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. As one of my brother bishops recently stated, “the Eucharist is an irreplaceable gift, a foretaste of Heaven!”
When the coronavirus pandemic broke out, we explored safe ways to bring Christ to our people, both through the Word of God and the Sacraments in the light of public health recommendations. We put in place prudent restrictions, such as capacity limits and sanitization protocols, to allow for the celebration of Mass and the Sacraments without undue risk of accelerating the pandemic. During the last year our pastors, parishes, and all of the faithful have adapted in order to ensure the health and wellbeing of everyone in our local communities. I am grateful to all of you for your efforts to implement and maintain the things we put into place to keep our parishes and schools safe.
As part of our efforts, many of our parishes have broadcast Masses over the internet. While this has been a means to help Catholics nourish their souls when they could not be present at Mass, we must remember that it cannot become the norm. God did not come to us virtually. He came to us in the flesh. As Catholics, unmediated contact with the Real Presence of the flesh and blood of Our Lord in offering his sacrifice to the Father is essential — and irreplaceable! Remember the Lord’s words in John’s Gospel: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him,” (Jn 6:54-56).
Because of the essential and central nature of the Eucharist it is important for me as your bishop to lead you to the Lord Jesus in the Mass. That is why I am reinstating the obligation to participate in Sunday and Holy Day Masses beginning on Palm Sunday. Because we are still dealing with the coronavirus, I am also granting some particular dispensations to those still at risk. It is time for us to come back to Mass with a renewed amazement that we have a God who is so close to us and who has such a deep love for us that he come to us in flesh and blood. Active participation in Mass is an occasion for all of us to avail ourselves of the inexhaustible graces Christ desires to give us in the Eucharist.
I know that a real concern for spread of infection still remains, especially among those most vulnerable. Because of this important concern I am granting particular dispensations from the obligation to attend Sunday and Holy Day Masses for people in certain circumstances, including those who are ill and those who care for anyone who is at risk of serious complications from COVID-19. I ask all those who are ill or think they might be ill to refrain from in-person attendance at Mass. Those who would experience significant anxiety or fear of getting sick are also dispensed from their obligation to attend Mass. More information about particular dispensations can be found in the list included along with this letter.
In reinstating the Sunday and Holy Day Obligation we welcome back all Catholics who have already been engaged in other activities that would present a similar or greater risk of exposure, such as eating out at restaurants, traveling and partaking in non-essential shopping. These individuals should prepare to return to Mass in recognition of its preeminence in our lives as Catholics.
The health and safety of our communities is very important, and we will continue to monitor local conditions. For that reason, I am continuing to encourage all the faithful present at Mass, with the exception of small children, to wear a mask or face-covering.
The Eucharist is the heart and soul of our Catholic life together. Let us never take this irreplaceable encounter with Christ for granted. And let us continue to pray for an end to this pandemic and for all who are ill.
(Signed) Most Rev. Peter M. Muhich, Bishop of Rapid City
Information on Dispensations from the Sunday Obligation
Effective March 27, 2021
The general obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation
(including the anticipatory Mass at 4 p.m. or later on the previous day) is to be
reinstated in the Diocese of Rapid City effective Saturday, March 27, 2021.
Considering the grave obligation we have of being physically present with our brothers and sisters at Mass on Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation for the Eucharist, each of us is asked to make a good and sincere judgement as to whether these circumstances apply or not. Where doubt or confusion persists, consult any priest for clarity.
While the general dispensation is removed, there are specific instances where the dispensation will continue, as well as those circumstances where there is no obligation in the first place. One does not have an obligation to attend Mass on Sunday in the following circumstances:
- You are ill or your health condition would be significantly compromised if you were to contract a communicable illness (i.e., you have underlying conditions or are in a
- You exhibit flu-like symptoms.
- You have good reason to think you might be asymptomatic of a contagious illness (e.g., you were in recent contact with someone who tested positive for a contagious
illness such as COVID or influenza).
- You care for the sick, homebound, or infirmed.
- You are pregnant.
- Those 65 years of age or older (per the CDC’s recommendation of high-risk
- You cannot attend Mass through no fault of your own (e.g., no Mass is offered, you are infirm, or, while wanting to go, you are prevented for some reason you cannot
control e.g., your ride did not show up, the church was at capacity).
- If you have significant fear or anxiety of becoming ill by being at Mass.
For questions about the application of any of these, please contact your pastor.
These categories will be reviewed in due course and revised as needed.
Those within categories #1-8 above must still observe the Lord’s Day and are encouraged to spend time in prayer on Sunday, meditating on the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection; an excellent way to do this is through participating in a broadcast of the Sunday Mass.