‘The Last Four Things’ and Thanksgiving

‘Black Elk’s hunger and thirst for holiness can inspire us’

Bishop Peter Muhich stands at the grave of Servant of God Nicholas Black Elk. A memorial Mass for Black Elk was held at St. Agnes Church, Manderson, Aug. 17. It has been four years since the diocese opened the cause for canonization. (Courtesy photo)

Homily August 17 for
Black Elk Memorial Mass
+August 17, 1950


“Blessed are the poor in spirit … Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”

These words of Our Lord from the Beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel are a fitting Scripture passage for our Memorial Mass today because they describe this holy man, this holy soul.

Black Elk, baptized “Nicholas’” as you know perhaps better than I, is an authentic witness to the spiritual depth of Lakota culture and an authentic witness to Jesus Christ. He bridges both the Lakota and the Catholic in a beautiful and inspiring way that helps up appreciate how God is present in Lakota culture and how Lakota culture can enrich the church.

St. John’s vision in our first reading from the Book of Revelation is of “a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation, race, people and tongue” standing before the throne and the Lamb in company with all the angels singing “salvation comes from our God/Ancient One and from the Lamb.” With the elders the multitude exclaims, “Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power and might to God forever and ever.” I can say that we hear these words with a distinctly Lakota voice today as we remember the remarkable life of Nicholas Black Elk in this celebration of the Eucharist — the church’s most sublime act of prayer that joins us to that worship of the Ancient One and the Lamb around the throne in heaven in John’s vision.

The church needs Black Elk’s witness and indigenous voice now more than ever, in a world where suspicion and polarization are on the increase. In his recent encyclical Fratelli Tutti our Holy Father, Pope Francis, invites us to “dream as a single human family, as fellow travelers, as children of the same earth which is our common home, for we are all brothers and sisters.” I echo his words today: let us dream with Nicholas Black Elk, the great Lakota mystic, of a way beyond the sins of our past (which we must be accountable for) and the prejudices which we still carry with us; let us dream of a time of purification and healing that can free us to walk the good red road hand in hand.

For, as our second reading from the first Letter of John says so simply and profoundly, “we are God’s children” destined to “be like him who is goodness, truth and beauty itself.”

Nicholas Black Elk’s poverty of spirit reminds us that every breath we take, and every moment of our lives is a gift and that we should not only be grateful but generous, imitating the Giver of every good gift. Black Elk’s hunger and thirst for holiness can inspire us to yearn for a closer friendship with God, that always brings with it a closer friendship with each other.

As you know, Nicholas Black Elk’s cause is making progress in Rome. We have heard through the good auspices of the Jesuit Fathers and Brothers that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has received all the necessary materials put together by our diocesan committee and that they are now being examined and studied. We have heard that Pope Francis is aware of this cause which is consoling as we continue to pray for Nicholas’ beatification and ultimate canonization.

Please join me in not only praying for Black Elk’s cause but in letting him and his unique life-story touch our hearts and enlighten our minds.


Let me close by using the last section of Pope Francis’ prayer at the end of Fratelli Tutti (We Are All Brothers and Sisters):

“Come, Holy Spirit, show us your beauty, reflected in all the peoples of the earth, so that we may discover anew that all are important, and all are necessary, different faces of the one humanity that God so loves.” Amen

Nicholas Black Elk, Pray or us!

+ Bishop Peter


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