Imagine providing a solution to the serious homelessness problem in Rapid City — helping homeless individuals and homeless families improve their quality of life, setting them up for success and long term stability. Shouldn’t that be the goal of every community which care about all of its citizens?
There is an initiative currently in progress in Rapid City to address this serious problem in our community. I do not know if everyone in our Catholic community is aware of this important initiative. This initiative is the work of the Rapid City Collective Impact, as stated on their website, “a community-supported initiative involving members of local government, nonprofits, faith-based communities, businesses, grass roots citizens and a backbone organization who share the common goal of improving quality of life in Rapid City. RCCI is a program of the Black Hills Area Community Foundation.”
Their work focuses on three priorities —food security, behavioral health and affordable housing/homelessness — by creating a campus that would serve homeless by providing transitional housing and connected services in one location. The campus, known as One Heart: A Place for Hope & Healing, will encompass the majority of the former National American University properties, spanning much of the 100 to 300 blocks along the south side of Kansas City Street. It will neighbor and complement Pennington County’s Community Restoration Center.
The mission of this transformation campus is to elevate the human spirit and the spirit of the Rapid City community, improving quality of life for all who live in Rapid City and “to make Rapid City the most caring community of its size.”
What follows appeared recently as an op-ed in the Rapid City Journal in support for this important initiative in our local community.
Our Obligation to the Homeless
What is the responsibility of the Christian community in response to the Gospel call to serve the least among us — the most vulnerable and often neglected?
Throughout the pages of the New Testament, we find a consistent response to the poor. The health and holiness of Christian communities rested on their willingness to aid those in need, adhering to the teachings of the Christian church about the right use of material goods. The “community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common,” (Acts 4:32).
St. Paul was always mindful of the obligation to serve the poor. He clearly stated that disciples should participate in God’s generosity by offering relief for Jerusalem Christians, (Rom 15:25-27, 1 Cor 16:1-4, and 2 Cor 8-9).
The clearest call comes from Jesus himself in chapter 25 of St. Matthew’s Gospel. “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs? Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me,” (Mt 25:45). Perhaps this clarion call will be the final exam we face on this side of life.
It is easy to look at homelessness in Rapid City as someone else’s problem — the city, county or faith communities. This is a complex, largescale social problem which presents many challenges for those who seek solutions. No one organization can solve it singlehandedly. As a Christian community, we have an opportunity to stand strong, city-wide, to provide innovative, effective, comprehensive, local solutions.
I believe that the Rapid City Collective Impact is an important initiative for meeting these challenges directly. The initiative addresses three priorities: food security, behavioral health and affordable housing/homelessness. This community-supported initiative can be instrumental in improving the quality of life and building a more caring community.
When we invest in the most vulnerable of our community in a responsible way, we will achieve long-term financial savings for our local government and, at the same time, provide comprehensive services to our most vulnerable in a more humanitarian way, thus upholding their God-given human dignity. Consolidating services would also allow precious resources to be more efficiently utilized, thus practicing good stewardship.
I support the proposed transformation campus – ONE HEART. One location where the community could provide transitional housing and many other needed services for our homeless would be a valuable asset, not only for those among us in need of such services, but for our community itself. It is clear that when people beaten down by circumstances in life are given a chance and the necessary resources to turn their lives in a new direction, inspiring things happen. They discover their own dignity in a new way and grow in the confidence that they can become the persons whom God has created them to be.
I recall the challenging words of Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, whose aim was to live in accordance with the justice and charity of Jesus Christ, bringing hospitality to those on the margins of society – “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love least.”
I am deeply grateful for the business leaders whose leadership and support have led the way to bring this vision to life. Now Rapid City is graced with a great opportunity, from which we cannot turn away. Let us band together as a community and show compassion in a way that leads to a better quality of life for the least among us — the most vulnerable and often neglected.
Most Reverend Robert D. Gruss
Bishop of the Catholic
Diocese of Rapid City
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.
Last October 21st was an important day in the history of the Diocese of Rapid City. On this day, during the celebration of the Mass at Holy Rosary Church in Pine Ridge, a decree was read formally opening the cause for beatification and canonization of Nicholas Black Elk, Sr. I would like to update you on what has happened since that momentous day.
At the November 2017 USCCB meeting, as required by canonical procedures, I made a presentation to the American bishops seeking their prayerful support to move forward the process for beatification and canonization of Nicholas Black Elk. Following that procedure, their unanimous approval was made public and since then I have been amazed and inspired by the interest in this cause from all across the country and throughout Europe.
Since the opening of the cause, I have received a number of letters and phone calls from people in various parts of the country sharing with me the impact or influence that Black Elk has had in their lives as they have studied his life or through intercessory prayer. In addition, numerous film producers have contacted me expressing interest in creating a film or documentary on his life.
In recent months, we have secured a postulator in Rome, Fr. Luis Escalante, who is experienced in working with the process and procedures and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, bringing an expertise that is not available locally. Bill White of Christ the King Parish in Porcupine will assume the role of Vice Postulator. Part of the process is to formally appoint the Officials of the Inquiry. Fr. Joseph Daoust, SJ, has been appointed Episcopal Delegate, Fr. Dan Juelfs as Promoter of Justice, and Teresa Spiess as Notary.
To assist in searching out and gathering all the published writings of the Servant of God Nicholas Black Elk, those not yet published, as well as all historical documents, a Historical Commission is appointed. Members of this commission are Mark Thiel, Archivist at Marquette University where many records about Nicholas Black Elk are kept; Fr. Michael Steltenkamp, SJ, author of two books about Black Elk — “Black Elk: Holy Man of the Oglala,” and “Nicholas Black Elk: Medicine Man, Missionary, Mystic;” and Ken Stewart, Archives Research Administrator for the South Dakota State Archives/South Dakota State Historical Society.
Two Theological Censors must also be appointed. Their role is to examine the published writings of the Servant of God — his own works or by others — to verify that there is nothing contained in them contrary to faith and good morals. The names of the Theological Censors must remain secret.
An important aspect of the cause is to verify the heroic virtues and the reputation of holiness and intercessory power of the person being considered for beatification and canonization. This takes place through the testimony of witnesses. These include eyewitnesses, that is, those who have had direct and immediate knowledge of the Servant of God, i.e., blood relatives and other relations as well as others who have received information about Nicholas Black Elk from those who have had direct and immediate knowledge. The witnesses are bound by an oath to tell the truth and to keep secret their role in this process.
There are other particulars that are a part of the process, but because of limited space here I have outlined the basic process. In the coming months the Officials of the Inquiry will be completing their work, bringing together all of the required documentation — Acta (Acts) — necessary to move this cause forward. Upon completion, the Acta are then sent to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. Then the diocesan phase of the process is completed.
An important aspect of this whole process on a local level is cultivating an interest in the life of the individual being promoted for the cause of beatification and canonization. This has begun in our diocese with the prayer cards and the posters of Nicholas Black Elk highlighting some aspects of his life. A website is being developed to promote his cause as well as provide historical information on his life. A Facebook page promoting the cause will also be up and running in the near future.
This is an important opportunity for the Diocese of Rapid City. I would ask that you keep this cause in your prayers. If you have not already begun to do so, please use Servant of God Nicholas Black Elk as an intercessor in your lives. We never know how the Lord will use those prayers of intercession. On this page is the prayer that has been created for this process. Hopefully it is found on prayer cards in your parishes. Let it find its way into your daily prayer life.
I believe that the church’s special recognition of Black Elk’s saintly life will provide the Native American faith-community and peoples everywhere the example of a very special person whose presence to others is worthy of imitation. As a model, he showed how the Native American culture could enrich the Body of Christ, integrating the two traditions, thereby bringing a richness to both.
This Catholic missionary and mystic holy-man of the Oglala Sioux would be a welcome symbol to all Native Americans, leaving a legacy of someone who sought the Sacred, who lived the Gospel in everyday life, and who inspired others (Native and non-Native) to do the same.
Servant of God Nicholas Black Elk, pray for us.
Heavenly Father, Great Spirit! Behold us, who stand before you singing our song of thanksgiving for Servant of God, Nicholas Black Elk. Faithfully he walked the Sacred Red Road and generously witnessed the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ among the Native American people. We humbly ask you to hear the prayers we plead through his intercession. We ask Holy Mother Church to recognize his sanctity by acknowledging his presence among the company of Saints and as one to imitate in his zeal for the Gospel. Open our hearts to also recognize the Risen Christ in other cultures and peoples, to your glory and honor through Christ our Lord. Amen.
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.
At the State Knights of Columbus Convention a couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of preaching at the Mass celebrated on Friday evening at St. Joseph Church in Spearfish. During the homily I asked the congregation the question, “How many think you are holy?” I have asked this question before in other settings and the response is always the same — not more than a very few people raise their hands. The reason for this is either they are very humble, or they do not understand what holiness really looks like. Isn’t this the call of all Christians?
Seeking holiness is first and foremost the call of a disciple of Jesus. Chapter Five of the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium (the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) takes up this idea that all who believe in Jesus Christ regardless of their vocation in life are called to holiness. The Core Values outlined in the Diocesan Priority Plan stem from this very call — the call we must accept if we are to be living witnesses of Jesus Christ in the world.
I bring this up as a way to encourage people of God across the diocese to read Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate – The Call to Holiness in Today’s World. This short document was released on March 19, the Solemnity of St. Joseph. It was not meant to be a treatise on holiness, defining it in some way. Instead, the Holy Father is re-proposing for all of us “the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time. For the Lord has chosen each one of us ‘to be holy and blameless before him in love.’ (Eph 1:4).” (#2)
It is easy, with all of the distractions and noise in our world today, to forget or even dismiss this call as unattainable. So often people relate holiness as perfection, thinking that this is the reality of the saints and not the average Christian. How far from the truth! Pope Francis relates, “We should not grow discouraged before examples of holiness that appear unattainable … We are all called to be witnesses, but there are many actual ways of bearing witness.” (#11)
In this apostolic exhortation, Pope Francis relates a story about Cardinal Francois-Xavier Nguyên van Thuân’s witness to holiness during his 9 ½ years of imprisonment in North Vietnam, which began in 1976. If you are interested in his story, read “The Road of Hope: A Gospel from Prison.” I would also recommend a short spiritual memoir entitled “Five Loaves and Two Fish.” that shares a bit about his life during his time under house arrest.
During his imprisonment, Cardinal Nguyên van Thuân refused to waste time waiting for the day he would be released. Instead, he chose “to live the present moment, filling it to the brim with love.” He decided to live his life in prison in this way: “I will seize the occasions that present themselves every day; I will accomplish ordinary actions in an extraordinary way.” (#17)
If we do this, led by God’s grace, then the holiness of God becomes the heart of our every action. There are a couple of other points that I would like to highlight from Gaudete et Exsultate in reference to the call of every disciple of Jesus. The first regards our mission. In my Confirmation homily this year I share with the students who are being confirmed that the Spirit defines our life and leads us to our own personal mission for Christ. This is at the heart of this Sacrament of Confirmation.
Pope Francis reiterates this, “A Christian cannot think of his or her mission on earth without seeing it as a path of holiness, for ‘this is the will of God, your sanctification’ (1 Thes 4:3). Each saint (each of us) is a mission, planned by the Father to reflect and embody, at a specific moment in history, a certain aspect of the Gospel.” (#19) I wonder how often we see ourselves as a mission in our moment in history.
The second point that caught my attention is the call of each of us to be a message to the world. “Every saint (every one of us who seeks to live a life of holiness) is a message which the Holy Spirit takes from the riches of Jesus Christ and gives to his people.” (#21) Since this is the case, what is the message of our life that is being given to his people?
Yes, holiness is for each of us. We must not be afraid of holiness. “It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy. On the contrary, you will become what the Father had in mind when he created you, and you will be faithful to your deepest self.” (#32)
The Holy Father expounds on two enemies which present false paths to holiness that are present in our culture today — Gnosticism and Pelagianism. These will be countered by a genuine understanding of holiness, which he presents through an interpretation of the Beatitudes. These instruct us in how to be holy and are at the heart of this exhortation.
Seeking holiness is not easy. Pope Francis describes how holiness comes through the daily struggles each disciple of Jesus faces. He notes that this spiritual combat is not only with worldly values and our own weaknesses, but is also with a very real enemy, the devil. To aid in that fight, the Holy Father concludes his exhortation by addressing discernment and “recognizing how we can better accomplish the mission entrusted to us at our baptism.” (#174) And this mission, of course, is to be holy. And, yes, this mission is attainable.
“In the end, it is Christ who loves in us, for holiness is nothing other than charity lived to the full. As a result, the measure of our holiness stems from the stature that Christ achieves in us, to the extent that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we model our whole life on his.” (#21)
To access the document: http://w2.vat ican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhor tations/documents/papa-francesco_esor tazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsul tate.html.
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.
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