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
Living the Mission
By Fr. Michel Mulloy, Vicar General
In January the West River Catholic broke a story about the new diocesan pastoral center. The Diocese of Rapid City purchased the former Black Hills Federal Credit Union building on the east end of Main Street in March. Although the original plans, developed before the Living the Mission Campaign started in the diocese, called for a new Pastoral Center to be built on the campus of Terra Sancta, Bishop Robert Gruss did not stop looking for a suitable facility that would house the chancery staff. The credit union building has adequate space.
The credit union has moved to their new location. The bishop, vicar general, Chancellor Margaret Simonson and the Chief
Finance Officer Rick Soulek have been meeting with ARC International, an architecture firm. The diocese also hired Rangel Construction to manage the renovation. This group is working on the plans for remodeling this newly acquired facility so that it will best accommodate the chancery staff. The first draft of the renovation plan was shared with the full chancery staff to receive their input. Once the design is complete, the remodeling will begin. The projected date for the construction to commence is mid-August.
The building has two floors and a half basement. The basement will be used primarily for housing the archives of the diocese. These are all the records, both historical and financial, dioceses are required to keep.
The first and second floors will have enough offices for the chancery staff, currently about 40 employees, as well as a few extra offices for possible expansion of one department or another. Most of these offices are already in place. A section of the second floor that was previously filled with moveable cubicles will be converted to permanent offices.
The second floor will also have a small chapel. There are two reasons for this. First and foremost, a place to gather for Mass and prayer is a strong reminder to the chancery staff that our work is grounded in our diocesan mission to attract and form disciples of Jesus who want to live and proclaim the Gospel. In addition, the chapel will be used for daily Mass and times of prayer for the staff.
To accommodate meetings and committee work, the new pastoral center will have conferences and meeting rooms. Some of these already exist and some will be added during the remodeling process.
The design is simple and functional. This will be the place from which the bishop and his staff reach out in service to the diocese, that is, to all of us. Plans include ways to reflect the whole diocese in the artwork of the new Pastoral Center.
As you think about and reflect on your contribution to the Living the Mission Campaign, realize that the bishop and his staff are working to use the gifts that have been offered well. The diocese needs a new pastoral center and the purchase of this credit union facility will allow us to realize that aspect of the case elements in the campaign in a cost-effective way.
Father Leo Hausmann
September 9, 2018
This is why I am a Catholic and always will be. Jesus Christ. That is why I am not only Christian but why I am a Catholic and always will remain a Catholic.
My faith is in Jesus Christ. I am a cradle Catholic, but have come to know and believe that he is the Son of God, that He died for me, He has risen, and if I cooperate with his grace, he will bring me to live with Him in heaven for all eternity. I echo the words of St. Peter, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
I am Catholic because my faith is in Jesus Christ who chose twelve apostles as the foundation stones of His Church. One of these twelve became a traitor, allowing Satan to induce his heart. That was the first scandal in the Catholic Church and a clear teaching of Christ that even under His direct care scandal does not nullify the Church He established, as some fifty days later the Holy Spirit descended upon His church at Pentecost confirming it as His chosen instrument to bring grace into the world.
I am Catholic because my faith is in Jesus Christ who proclaimed to Peter, “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
I am Catholic because history from the earliest years of the Church shows that even while some Apostles still lived after the martyrdom of St. Peter, the Church understood that St. Peter’s special place of authority In Christ’s Church was to be passed down to the bishop that followed him, even to our present Pope, Francis.
I am Catholic because Jesus promised His Church He would never abandon it when he said to his disciples: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
I am Catholic because Jesus said to the crowd, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” And at the Last Supper “Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.”Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.”
I am Catholic because the Church has understood from the very beginning that the authority to consecrate the bread and wine to become the Body and Blood of Jesus was given to those who are ordained priests and bishops.
I am Catholic because no one can proclaim themselves a priest, but they must be chosen by the Church and then ordained by a bishop who was ordained by another bishop, who was ordained by another bishop extending back in a historical unbroken line back to the Apostles. As a Catholic I truly receive Christ’s Body and Blood, and not just a symbol, because of this historical succession of priests and bishops.
I am Catholic because it is only in that historical link to the Apostles in the priesthood that I can receive sacramental confession for the forgiveness of my sins. It was to the Apostles, the first bishops and priests of the Church, that Jesus breathed on and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
I could go on saying why I am Catholic because of all of the other Sacraments that come through the Catholic Church, as each one is vital to my happiness and eternal life. I could also speak about the great comfort I enjoy knowing that the Church will never lead me astray because in the teachings of faith and morals the Church is preserved from error through the Holy Spirit. These are the things of the Catholic Church that are rooted in Christ’s living presence and the work of the Holy Spirit that are essential and true even to the end of the world.
These reasons for which I am Catholic and will always remain Catholic can never be wiped away by the bad behavior or the poor judgments of men. Christ is the invisible head of the Church and keeps it true even during times of scandal and disappointment caused by men, even those who have high places of authority in the structure of the Church Christ instituted.
I am Catholic also for the very many beautiful and glorious works of the Church through its history. Like the Catholic hospitals and schools that have brought healing and learning to so many, especially the poor. Like the great religious orders of women and men whose members have served God’s people in so many beautiful and wonderful ways, such as St. Theresa of Calcutta who gave dignity to the poor and forgotten dying in the gutters of India. Like the priests, bishops, cardinals and popes over the ages, and even today, who were true servants of Christ offering their lives in His service. Like the blessed martyrs who bravely professed their faith in Christ even in the face of torture and death. Like the lay faithful who in marriage have lived their marriage vows with deep sacrificial love for their spouse and their children. Or the lay faithful who with that same spirit of sacrificial love serve their local parishes in care of their church building, serving funeral dinners, teaching catechism and so many other things.
I am Catholic and I am boldly Catholic, honored and proud to be associated with Jesus Christ, with His Holy Catholic Church, and with the beautiful works and saints that it has produced throughout its history.
No bad behavior and poor judgment by any man or woman during any age will ever change me from my love and devotion for Christ’s Church, even in times when their bad behavior and poor judgment has brought us all humiliation before the world.
I continue to love the Catholic Church because I know and believe that it is truly the Body of Christ that St. Paul proclaimed it to be. I love that Body of Christ especially when it is suffering in its members as it is today because of the scandal that has touched it. In fact, I love it even more, because I believe the suffering we endure will bring a new spring of purity and renewal that will one day make the Church shine forth in glorious beauty before all the world.
I am Catholic and will always remain Catholic. Boldly Catholic, even in these times when I am embarrassed and ashamed by the behavior of some. I proudly profess my faith in Jesus Christ and His Church.
For those of you who are troubled by the events of our time I leave you with the words from our first reading: “Thus says the Lord: Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; With divine recompense he comes to save you.”
God has not abandoned His Church and nor should we. Rather, let us pray for the Church and be part of its renewal. Let us pray for the victims of this scandal and those whose faith has been shaken by it. And now, more than ever let us be Catholic. Let us be boldly Catholic.
Home Parish: St. Mary, Milesville
Parents: Steve and Nina Pekron
Education: Minor seminary Immaculate Heart of Mary, Winona, Minn.; major seminary St. Paul School of Divinity, St. Paul, Minn.
Pastoral Learning: Duc in Altum, Institute for Priestly formation, worked on the Pine Ridge Reservation with Jesuits, and hospital ministry program through the seminary
Summer Learning Experience: St. Joseph, Spearfish; St. Paul, Belle Fourche
Hobbies: I grew up on a cattle ranch so I like working with horses — roping and riding. I also enjoy playing different sports.
Favorite Book: Lone Cowboy by Will James
On May 24, Zane Pekron will be ordained a transitional deacon at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Rapid City, at 7 p.m. All are welcome to attend. He recently spoke to the West River Catholic about his experiences.
WRC: When was the first time you thought about the priesthood?
The first time the priesthood was brought up to me was around my sophomore year in high school. Our parish priest at the time, Father Ron Garry, encouraged me to attend the Totus Tuus Boys Camp put on by the diocese. I remember being at camp and around the seminarians who kept saying, ‘You are not here by chance. You are where God wants you to be.’ That stuck with me, but I shelved it until I was a senior in high school. After camp, I noticed that the priesthood was something that came up, but I didn’t want to think about it a lot. In the time between camp and my senior year in high school, people mentioned in passing that I would make a really good priest. This kept the thought in the back of my mind. I started thinking about it more seriously the summer before my senior year in high school. Our new parish priest, Father Kevin Achbach, started visiting with me. My mom had brought up the priesthood too. That’s what got the ball rolling. They convinced me to go on a seminary visit in November. I went and had a good experience. So much so, I went back in March for the second visit of the academic year. I was debating either priesthood or taking over the family ranch — there were some challenges with that. It was towards the end of the senior year that I really felt the Lord working in my life. I wasn’t sure what I was going to study, but I thought I would go to seminary for a year, and see where the Lord would lead me. Each year I felt the Lord calling me back.
WRC: What has been your seminary experience?
Being in seminary in both Winona and St. Paul have been some of the best years of my life — coming to know the Lord and drawing closer to him, the lifelong friendships I have made — I wouldn’t do it differently. It was by far the best decision I could have made.
WRC: How would you describe your prayer life?
Consistent and slow growing. There have been some really high moments, but a lot of times there is a steady consistency of coming to greater knowledge and trust in the Lord and how he’s leading me and where he’s asking me to go.
WRC: What are you most excited for during your last year of formation?
I’m really just excited to be drawing closer to becoming a priest. I want to live that life of service that the Lord is calling me to. I have a joy and excitement to be in that ministry of sharing the love of Christ and the Gospel with those that I meet.
Appointment of the Executive Director of the SD Catholic Conference signals the formal launch of the SDCC
August 22, 2017
The Most Reverend Robert D. Gruss, Bishop of Rapid City, and the Most Reverend Paul J. Swain, Bishop of Sioux Falls are pleased to announce the appointment of Christopher Motz as the first executive director for the South Dakota Catholic Conference. This newly created Conference will serve as the official voice of the bishops of South Dakota on issues of public policy, providing explanations of Church teaching and their practical application.
As the executive director, Mr. Motz will follow the development and implementation of public policies and communicate with public officials in all branches and at all levels of governments not only during a legislative session but throughout the year. He also will serve as a resource for clergy as well as diocesan and parish staffs. Additionally, he will focus on issues that are of common concern among Catholic organizations, other faith-based communities, and secular agencies to promote religious liberty and the common good.
Mr. Motz and his wife Hannah have three children and will be relocating to South Dakota. He will begin his duties as the executive director of the South Dakota Catholic Conference in October.
In 2017 the Diocesan Liturgy Commission conducted a survey of parishioners in the diocese regarding their experience in the celebration of the Eucharist in their respective parishes. The results were collated and analyzed and this document contains those results. Additional reports on each Deanery’s responses and each parish responses who participated are also available by contacting Father Michel Mulloy at the chancery, 605-343-3541 or by contacting your pastor.
This questionnaire was part of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan. It was one of the goals under the foundational ministry of Sacraments and Worship. The Liturgy Commission of the Diocese will use this information to chart its work into the next two years.
Father Gerald N. Scherer was born in 1919 in a little farmhouse near Timber Lake, South Dakota. He was the third of six children born to Simon A. Scherer and Mary C. Ditter. He attended grade school in a one-room country school near their farm, then went to high school at St. Joseph’s School in Timber Lake, graduating in 1936.
From 1936 to 1940 he helped his father operate a lignite coal mine near Firesteel, SD. When his father died in a mining accident in 1940 he took over the operation of the mine and ran it until 1943 when the underground supply of coal was exhausted.
After spending a year working in an aircraft factory as an arc-welder in Wayne, Michigan, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. In 1947 he was discharged from the service, and that fall he entered St. John’s University at Collegeville, Minnesota, graduating with a BA degree in 1950.
In the fall of 1950 he entered the Seminary at Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, for theological studies. He was ordained to the priesthood there on May 8, 1954 by then-Archbishop Amleto Cicognani, who was the Apostolic Delegate to the United States before later being named a Cardinal and appointed as the Vatican’s Secretary of State.
Father Scherer’s first assignment in the Diocese of Rapid City was as assistant pastor at the Cathedral Parish in Rapid City. From there he was sent as assistant pastor to Buffalo, South Dakota, where he helped attend to St. Anthony’s Parish and its six outlying missions.
In January 1956 he was appointed by Bishop McCarty as rector of Witten, Hamill and Dixon-Iona. While pastor there he helped with the remodeling of all three churches. In 1960 his residence was transferred to Winner, where he helped out with the school and sports program while still taking care of the missions at Witten, Hamill and Dixon.
In 1965 he was appointed as pastor of Murdo with a mission at Draper. During these years he held the additional position of Diocesan Director of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.
On September 14, 1967 he was appointed pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Gregory, and in 1970 he was again reassigned as pastor of St. Mary’s in Lemmon, where he continued to work at the diocesan level organizing parish catechetical programs, training catechists and using a mimeograph to publish the materials he had written, bringing a new approach to teaching the faith to children and youth.
In 1974 Father Scherer was appointed as Rector of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Rapid City, where he served until 1983. During this time he put his building know-how to good use, designing the present chancery, which opened in 1975.
From 1983 to 1994 he served as pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Custer with a mission at Hermosa. During this time, he build a new rectory in Custer, doing much of the work himself.
Father Scherer retired in 1994 to the private home he built near Hermosa. His “hermitage” was used at times for private retreats by many in the diocese. He continued to assist pastors with weekend pastoral support and to host retreats and workshops at his home until 2000, although he enjoyed visiting relatives in warmer climates during the winter months.
In 2011 his Hermosa home was sold and Father Scherer moved to Casa Maria Priest Retirement Home, where he lived until 2013, when he moved to Here’s a Hart Assisted Living. In 2014 he celebrated his 60th Anniversary of Priesthood in May, and that November moved to Bella Vista Golden Living Center, where he received skilled care until his death on August 1, 2017.
606 Cathedral Drive
Rapid City, SD 57701
Chancery Annex at Terra Sancta
2101 City Springs Rd Ste 200
Rapid City, SD 57702
Terra Sancta Retreat Center
2101 City Springs Rd, Ste 300
Rapid City , SD 57702
Victim Assistance Coordinator