Why a document on the Eucharist?

You may have seen some of the coverage in the media of the U.S. bishops’ plans to draft a teaching document on the Eucharist. Unfortunately, the secular media and some Catholic media sources presented this as being about denying Holy Communion to politicians who promote immoral practices like abortion and euthanasia.

The real reason for drafting a document on the Eucharist was to help our Catholic people better understand the awesome mystery of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Recent polls have shown that awareness of Jesus Christ’s Real Presence has declined significantly. Since the Eucharist is the source and summit of the church’s life, we should all be concerned about the results of these recent polls.

The document we are preparing as bishops will be a teaching document which will have three parts: “The Eucharist, a Mystery to be Believed”; “The Eucharist, a Mystery to be Celebrated”; and “The Eucharist, a Mystery to be Lived.” The intended audience for this document is every Catholic.

In the third section, “A Mystery to be Lived,” we will take up the need for all who receive the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist to do so with deep reverence. An important part of that reverence always includes refraining from receiving Holy

Communion if we have not been faithful to the Lord and his teachings in significant ways. There is nothing new in this.

To be clear, the teaching document will not include a national policy on withholding Holy Communion from politicians. Only a local diocesan bishop can make that decision on a case-by-case basis after dialogue and discernment.

After much discussion at our June meeting the U.S. bishops voted 168 to 55 to go forward with this document. We will continue to pray and reflect and discuss how best to write a document that will help us effectively teach our people about the awesome mystery of the Eucharist. Please pray for wisdom and insight for me and for the whole body of U.S. bishops as we work on this important task.

May we all experience a renewed appreciation for and devotion to the Lord as he gives himself to us in the Eucharist.

+Bishop Peter

 

Looking back at my 1st year as your bishop

Bishop Peter Muhich counts three permanent deacon ordinations and one transitional deacon ordination as highlights during his first year as Bishop of Rapid City. On June 29, he presented Deacon Joshua Lee a book of Gospels after Lee’s ordination as a transitional deacon. (L-R) Dcn. Bill White, Dcn. Rich Olsen, Bishop Muhich, Dcn. Greg Sass, Dcn. Joshua Lee, Master of Ceremonies  Ken Orrock and Fr. Brian Chistensen, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral. (WRC photo by Laurie Hallstrom)

 

On July 9, I celebrated my first anniversary as a bishop.  Even with the challenges of the pandemic and the various problems we have faced as a diocese I can honestly say that I am grateful for everything we have been through together.

Being a new bishop means learning many new things, from when to wear my mitre and when to hold my crosier to how to navigate through personnel matters. It has been a busy year. I have particularly enjoyed getting out to most of our parishes and look forward to visiting the rest soon.  My guardian angel has kept me safe on long drives on the prairie and has helped me find things when my Google navigation has failed me in the Black Hills.

My first Christmas and Holy Week as a bishop at the Cathedral, my first ordination of three permanent deacons and one transitional deacon were highlights, as were my first round of confirmations across the diocese.

I have enjoyed getting to know my priests and deacons. They have all welcomed me warmly and I am impressed with the generosity of their service. I am grateful for the dedicated religious who serve our local church, from the Benedictine Sisters at St. Martin Monastery to the Jesuits Fathers and Brothers at Pine Ridge, Rosebud and St. Isaac Jogues, to the Ursuline Sisters at Pine Ridge, to the Franciscan Sisters at Standing Rock, to the Sacred Heart Fathers in Lower Brule, to our Hermit in Piedmont and the Fraternal Society of Saint Peter at Immaculate Conception Church in Rapid City.

The staff at our chancery have given me able assistance during a time of budget cuts and the need to do more with less. We said farewell to Susan Safford, who left us after years of effective ministry to care for her ill father, and recently celebrated Margaret

Simonson’s retirement after almost 23 years in the important role of chancellor.

An unexpected blessing has been the opportunity as bishop to welcome a new religious community to the diocese. The Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary have agreed to send sisters here to assist in important roles at the chancery (chancellor and director of pastoral ministries/faith formation) and at St. Thomas More Middle School and High School directing campus ministry and teaching theology.

I want to thank those of you who have sent donations to help us welcome these new sisters to the diocese, get them established in a new convent and provide for their needs. We have received a good number of donations for which I am most grateful. If you would like to help, donations large and small are still needed.

Looking back over my first year as your bishop, I clearly see the hand of God at work in our midst. He has seen me through challenges and given me many blessings. Western South Dakota is now my home, and I am honored to be the bishop of a local church that has such a rich history and such good people. Thank you for your prayers and support. I look forward to the things God will do in us and through us to build up the church in this beautiful place.

 

+Bishop Peter

Welcoming a new religious order to Rapid City

In last month’s print edition of the WRC I shared the news that we will be receiving sisters from the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary to serve in the Diocese of Rapid City. I can now provide an update on this new opportunity for our local church along with a request that you help me get the sisters settled here in Rapid City.

Mother Adela, the founder of the Pierced Hearts, will be sending us Sr. Christine, who will serve as our new Chancellor. With Margaret Simonson retiring after many years of excellent service I am grateful to have Sr. Christine succeed her in this very important position on my leadership team.

Mother is also sending Sr. Rachel who will succeed Susan Safford as Director of Pastoral Ministries and Faith Formation, another important leadership position on my diocesan staff. I am grateful to Susan for her great work over the years and we are blessed to have Sr. Rachel step into this role.

We will also be receiving two sisters to work for the Rapid City Catholic School System. Sr. Maria Belen will head up campus ministry at St. Thomas More Middle School and Sr. Brooke will do the same at St. Thomas More High School. I am very grateful that we will have these talented and energetic sisters ministering to our students, families and staff at STM.

MY REQUEST: Could you please help us welcome these new sisters and help them begin their service in our diocese? We are in the process of preparing and furnishing a suitable convent for them. We could use donations to help purchase appropriate furniture and supplies for the convent and help with the ongoing expenses involved, including the cost of rent for their housing and providing two vehicles for them. Please see the list of these opportunities on Page 2 of the WRC e-Edition June 2021 to help provide for this exciting new ministry in our diocese.

I am so grateful that God has opened this door for us.  Please join me in welcoming the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary to the Diocese!

+Bishop Peter

‘God never leaves us without the graces’

The glory of Christ’s resurrection continues to shine on us as we complete the cycle of Easter feasts with the Solemnity of the Ascension and the Solemnity of Pentecost, the two great liturgical days that bring an end to our annual celebration of the Paschal Mystery. Of course, every Sunday is a “little Easter,” and we rejoice whenever we can participate in the celebration of the Eucharist, which makes present the Lord’s death and resurrection so that we can be taken up into it and share in his victory over sin and death.

I am grateful to our lay leaders, deacons and priests who led our parishes through the past year with all its challenges. They did great ministry in a very difficult time. I am also heartened by the number of our people returning to Sunday Mass. Please continue to reach out to those still needing to keep their distance because of underlying conditions or ill health. We want them to know of our love and concern for them. Please also continue to encourage those who can safely do so to join us in the celebration of Sunday and Holy Day Masses.

I also want to take this opportunity to share some good news with you. When I first arrived in the diocese, I heard of the great contributions of the Benedictine Sisters to our local church over the years. At the same time I learned that they were preparing to conclude their ministry with us as they now grow older as a community.  Having had the chance to get to know them, I have been blessed by their prayers and support. We have much to thank them for.

At the same time, I also heard that people have been praying that God would send us a new group of religious women to pick up the mantle that the Sisters of St. Martin Monastery will be laying down after their many years of faithful service and I began asking the Lord if he would bless us with a new religious community willing to come to our diocese.

The Lord has been listening to our prayers! In March two members of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary led a retreat for the staff of St. Thomas More Middle and High School that was well received. Following the retreat Fr. Mark McCormick asked for my permission to contact the head of the Servants to see if there was any possibility that they would consider sending sisters here. I agreed and put this request into the hands of the Lord and the Blessed Mother. In a couple of days I heard that Sr. Ana, the Vicar General of the Servants, wanted to speak with me.

After our phone conversation, Sr. Ana and Mother Adela decided that they would like to visit Rapid City. Arrangements were made for her and Mother Adela to come in April. They spent three days with us to discern whether the Lord wanted them to come to Rapid City. The visit went well, and we discussed the needs of the diocese and how the Servants of the Pierced Hearts might be able to help. Mother and Sr. Ana took our conversations to prayer and let me know before they left that they believed they had sisters who could help us in some key positions and ministries: campus ministry at the middle school and possibly the high school, and chancellor and director of pastoral ministries and faith formation on my diocesan staff.

During the last year with the challenges of the pandemic and clerical misconduct issues in our diocese I have been assuring people that God never leaves us without the graces and blessings we need to deal with our problems. I have also been praying that God would do new things in our midst. The Lord has been listening and I firmly believe the arrival of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary is part of his response to our prayers. This unexpected relationship with these religious women of whom I had never heard before has been a grace for me and for our diocese.

Mother will send Sr. Ana back to us later this month with the three sisters she would send to us so that I can make my final discernment and give my approval for their assignment here. Please pray for them and for me that we would be open to God’s will.

Please join me in thanking God for doing something new for our diocese. I would also ask you to pray that I find a house in Rapid City that would serve as a fitting convent for the sisters and that we can get it furnished and have things ready for them in mid-July when they arrive.

With a grateful heart for all the Lord is doing for us,

+Bishop Peter

 

‘Mystery of the resurrection is rich and deep

In John’s Gospel Mary Magdalene arrives at the tomb on Easter Sunday morning and finds it empty except for the linen burial cloths. The Lord had risen from the dead and would appear to her and his other disciples over the course of 40 days before ascending to the Father.

What does it mean that he had risen?  The mystery of the resurrection is rich and deep. What I would like to point out in this short column is that the Lord rose bodily from the dead. This might seem obvious, but it bears pointing out. The Lord himself does this in many of his

resurrection appearances. For example, He tells Thomas to put his finger into his side and stop doubting. In another appearance He asks for a piece of fish and eats it after saying he is not a ghost.

Jesus did not shed his body in the resurrection but rose in his body. He did this to free us from the ravages of sin and death and lift us up into a glorified life. We have received the new life the Lord won for us in baptism and this new life is strengthened in us as we receive the other sacraments, but we have much to look forward to in the resurrection on the last day. Life freed from sin and death will include a glorified body that will never age and will share the characteristics of Jesus’ glorified body which we read about in his resurrection appearances. I ask you to remember this article of our faith and meditate on it. It has much to teach us.

May God bless you richly during this Easter Season.

+Bishop Peter

Reinstating the Sunday Obligation

 

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:

  1. 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

high-risk category).

  1. You exhibit flu-like symptoms.
  2. 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).

  1. You care for the sick, homebound, or infirmed.
  2. You are pregnant.
  3. Those 65 years of age or older (per the CDC’s recommendation of high-risk

individuals).

  1. 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).

  1. 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.

Repent and believe in the Gospel

The Holy Season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 17. Last year we entered Lent not knowing how our lives would be disrupted because of the novel Corona Virus. We have made many adjustments to stay safe and avoid contracting and spreading the virus, including social distancing and other precautions. With the availability of vaccines, we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel and a brighter future.

My prayer for you as we begin this Lent is that you re-engage in the practice of your Catholic faith as never before. Open your heart to the Lord and ask him to renew your faith. Make coming to church for the celebration of Sunday Mass a priority once again and if you cannot safely do so, please pray that will change for you soon. The celebration of the Sunday Eucharist is the source and summit of our Catholic life together. Nothing is more important for our spiritual health. I invite you to deepen your hunger for the Eucharist during this Lenten Season and join me in praying that we can all soon be together for Sunday Mass.

Please check your parish bulletins and websites for a listing of Lenten opportunities to practice your Catholic faith. Carve out some additional time for prayer and engage in fasting, prayer, and almsgiving as best you can. Let this Lent be a time for a deep renewal of the practice of your Catholic faith. Hear the Lord’s call to conversion once again: “Repent and believe in the Gospel!”

+Bishop Peter

Bishop Muhich January 2021

Let us pray hard and work hard for a better 2021
As I write this column for our diocesan paper I am quarantined at home with COVID. I started having symptoms New Year’s Day and tested positive a couple days later. So, I am living proof that we aren’t done with the Coronavirus yet. I’m thankful that my symptoms have been pretty moderate but can attest that this virus is not to be taken lightly. My experience of COVID has helped me have a deeper compassion for those who have struggled with this illness these past months and those who still fear coming down with it. With vaccines now becoming available, may we soon be able to put this pandemic in the rearview mirror. Speaking of vaccines, please take a look at the joint statement Bishop DeGrood and I put out addressing moral concerns about the development and testing of the two vaccines now available in the United States. It is available on our diocesan website www.rapidcitydiocese.org/covid-19-vaccines/.

Unfortunately, the New Year has also featured continuing civil unrest in our nation. As followers of Jesus Christ and good Catholics we believe in the importance of the common good and should always treat others with respect — even those we have serious disagreements with. After all, the Lord himself teaches us to love our enemies. Let us pray and work hard for our communities, state and nation and not be duped by the Evil One’s temptations to violence and division. Let us watch our tongues and speech and remember another important principle of our Catholic faith: “in all things charity.”

This month also marks another sad anniversary of Roe v.Wade. In a culture that seems to value human life less and less, you and I are called to stand for the sacred dignity of every human person beginning from conception until natural death. The unborn have no way to defend themselves, so the Lord calls on you and me to defend them. After so many years of justifying the taking of unborn human life are we surprised that we devalue human life at its other stages more and more?

Featured in this issue of the West River Catholic is the annual financial report for our diocese. Our diocese has had a challenging year for a number of reasons: the wait for a new bishop, the Coronavirus, and the economic ups and downs of our agricultural and natural resource economy, to name just a few. I am grateful for everything all the members of our West River Catholic community did to keep our important ministries going during challenging times. Our people’s spiritual, physical, emotional, and pastoral needs do not go down in challenging times — just the opposite — and I am grateful for your support of our programs and ministries.

My prayers for many blessings in this new year for you and your families and friends.

 +Bishop Peter M. Muhich 
Diocese of Rapid City

Bishop Muhich December 2020

“Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy!”
These words of the angel to the shepherds of Bethlehem keeping watch over their flocks are proclaimed every Christmas Eve by the church. They are words of comfort, not only to those 1st century shepherds, but also to us, the church in western South Dakota, as we celebrate another Christmas in challenging times. It is appropriate that the Good News of Christ’s birth was first announced in the darkness of night to humble shepherds. Jesus did not enter the world in the splendor of a palace in the midst of worldly comforts. Though he was rich he made himself poor. He descended from heaven to confront the darkness of our world and defeat it in his saving passion and death. A
s we celebrate his birth this year in the midst of a pandemic and in the midst of all the problems we see in the world and even in the church, I invite you to turn to Jesus Christ and center your life on him. He is the only one who can give us real hope in the midst of our struggles. The fallen world often lets us down, but the Lord never will. Put your trust in him. He is the light that entered the darkness of our world on that first Christmas to defeat the powers of sin and death. There is nothing we face this Christmas that the Lord Jesus did not take unto himself on the cross. He knows our fears and our disappointments and our sins. He was born to save us from them.
My prayer for you and those you love this Christmas is that you open your hearts to Him. He is the answer to our broken world. This day in David’s city a savior has been born for you — Jesus Christ our Lord.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Wanikiya Tonpi Wowiyuskin nahan Omaka Teca Oiyokipi! 
Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo! 
+Bishop Peter M. Muhich
Diocese of Rapid City