Join us, success can come through prayers

By Fr. Mark McCormick, Director of Vocations

& Shawna Hanson, Director of Stewardship

 

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.” John 15:7

 

“Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

 

Sometimes we think we read over these words of Jesus without really allowing them to sink into our minds and hearts. Do we truly believe that this is true?  And if so, do we act out of that truth? Fr. Mark shared with me recently, “Sometimes I just don’t think we take this seriously and become a beggar in prayer before the Lord.” Over the next couple of months, we are encouraging everyone to practice being a beggar before the Lord in a very particular way. In mid-June, 60 people from around the diocese joined the Office of Stewardship for a day-and-a-half training conducted by Chris Stewart and Tony Brandt of Casting Nets Ministries. At that training, we explored the diocesan Core Value of Prayer as well as the power of Invitation (one of the aspects of Generous Hospitality). And we were inspired to use what we were learning to help work and pray for the success of the 2018 Stewardship Summit. This year’s Summit is an evangelistic event designed to help and foster an encounter with the living person of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in a new way in people’s lives. We are committed to praying as many Memorares as possible between now and September for the success of this event. In Tony’s words, “a plethora.”

Why the Memorare? As we bring our desires before the Lord, who better than Mary to stand beside us and add her own intercession? The Memorare also has a long history in the church, dating back to the 15th century. St. Francis DeSales, a saint from the 16th century, prayed it daily and credited the Blessed Virgin with saving him from falling into despair or heresy during a very difficult time in the church. Another priest from about the same time, Fr. Claude Bernard, is well known for his promotion of the prayer. He credited his miraculous healing to the prayer and then printed over 200,000 leaflets containing the Memorare and distributed them widely. In more recent times, St. Teresa of Calcutta was an advocate of the prayer, often using it when she faced an emergency situation and most needed a miracle. Steven Minnis, President of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., is convinced Our Lady has blessed the school many times through this prayer. In 2007, when enrollment was dropping, he employed the Memorare Army to pray that more students be given the experience of a Benedictine College education. After the 30 members prayed over 1200 Memorares apiece, 1232 full-time undergraduate students enrolled for the fall. He also credits the school’s Memorare Army with assisting with many of the building projects undertaken in recent years.

Will you join us in praying 10 Memorares each day for the intentions of:

Bringing those the Lord desires to this year’s Summit
The successful planning of all of elements of the Summit
The speakers who will share their inspirational stories
An outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all who will come

 

New director continues ‘creating a culture of stewardship’

“My favorite part of the job is going into the parishes and meeting with the people,” said Shawna Hanson, recently appointed director of the Office of Stewardship. “You get to know so many wonderful people and see the good things they are doing. It’s a great grace to see how hard they work and how much they love Jesus.”

Effective July 1, the combined Offices of Vocations and Stewardship will be separated, with Fr. Mark McCormick retaining the Vocation Director duties, and his administrative assistant, Hanson, becoming the Director of Stewardship. “My role is to be of service to the churches,” said Hanson.

The Diocese of Rapid City is currently advertising for an assistant to work with both offices.

Hanson has worked in the Vocations and Stewardship Office for the past three years. She is a graduate of the University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyo., with a degree in personnel administration (human resources). Her prior work has included a number of part-time positions. In addition to working in personnel administration, she has done bookkeeping for homebased businesses, medical billing and tutoring of students in reading and spelling. She also ran a child care business. “Most of my energy and my primary focus have been on my family,” she said.

During her work in the Stewardship Office she has assisted with the Summit, an annual workshop to inspire people in applying the stewardship ideals to all aspects of their lives so it becomes “a Catholic Way of Life.”

The second part of the department’s agenda according to Hanson is a component of Bishop Robert Gruss’ Diocesan Priority Plan, Through Him, With Him and In Him. It calls for identifying Stewardship Parishes. To do that the Stewardship Office members assembled a group of parishioners from urban and rural churches to define “Characteristics of a Stewardship Parish.” The ideas became a booklet which outlines the attributes of a Stewardship Parish as well as self-assessment tools for parishes to use to help ascertain their strengths and weaknesses in the area of stewardship. Churches are enlivened beginning with the first phase — Foundational Parishes. “It means looking through our three lenses of stewardship — Hospitality, Faith and Discipleship,” she said.

Currently, Our Lady of the Black Hills Church, Piedmont, has been designated a Foundational Parish. It is now working through the second phase, looking at Generous Hospitality. Council members are finding their strengths in this area and the ways they would like to grow. St. Patrick Church, Lead, and St. Ambrose Church, Deadwood, as well as St. John Church, Ft. Pierre, are close to becoming Foundational Parishes and three others are looking in to it.

Foundational Parishes have active Finance, Pastoral and Stewardship Councils. They have clear mission and vision statements with goals for all areas of parish life; and they have an up-to-date census. These parishes follow the norms outlined by the diocese for financial record keeping and reporting. They have effective means of communication and parishioners take responsibility for parish programs.

Once Parish Finance and Stewardship Councils review the assessments and determine their church’s strengths and weakness, they talk to the Diocesan Stewardship Office staff. “We help them set goals,” she said.

At the diocesan-wide level, “our next step will be going deeper into the three lenses. This is not a program you go through, get your degree and move on,” she said. “If you listened to the speakers at last year’s Summit, Chris Stewart and Tony Brandt, their lives are peppered with stewardship — it’s the lens they look at life through, raise their children by, do their work, and interact with the church. Its everything.”

She will be continuing the goal of creating a culture of stewardship. “It’s a long journey to develop that,” said Hanson. In June the office sponsored “Ambassadors for Christ, A Stewardship Leadership Training.”

Live a life of holiness, live a life of happiness

At the end of February, Adam Johnson, a first-year theologian at St. Paul Seminary, was

Adam Johnson

installed as a lector. As reader and bearer of God’s Word, Adam will proclaim God’s Word in the liturgical assembly, instruct children and adults in the faith, and bring the message of salvation to those who have not yet received it. (From the Rite of Institution of Lector)

Andrew Sullivan, who also is a first-year theologian, at Kenrick Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, will be installed as a lector in April with our Bishop Robert Gruss presiding.

Adam’s pastor, Father Brian Lane from Blessed Sacrament Church in Rapid City, along with Adam’s parents, Mike and Kathy, were

Andrew Sullivan

able to attend this celebration of the Ministry of Lector. After the celebration, I sent a text to Adam, his parents and Father Lane congratulating Adam and asking them to send pictures from the installation, which they did.

Father Lane also texted a picture of the seminarian poster for the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul — 59 in all! A true vocation boom. I smiled as I read Father Lane’s text: “Why is our poster so small?”

“More work to be done. More invitations to be extended,” I replied.

One of the goals in our diocesan Priority Plan calls for the formation of a vocation committee in each parish or parish grouping to encourage and promote a culture of vocations.

Father Varghese Srambickal, a Vincentian priest from Kerala, India, describes a culture of vocation in this way: “God’s first call for every person is to simply follow him. You were created to be in relationship with God, and that is his greatest desire for you. As your relationship with God grows, he will continue to draw you deeper into this relationship, and call you to become more like Christ, to love him more, and to love others through service. In all these things, you will experience God calling you to a particular vocation.”

Building a culture of vocations, as we hear and pray our diocesan vocation prayer every Sunday in our parishes, begins by creating an environment where all disciples will seek the will of Christ. This is what the church means by the universal call to holiness. Fostering a culture of vocations in our lives, families and parishes begins with the call to holiness — a deep, personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ as our Lord, Savior, and friend.

Father Brett Brennan, author of “Save a Thousand Souls,” echoes this as well when he says that our primary vocation in life is holiness, and holiness is simply doing the will of God. When we live a life of holiness, we truly live a life of happiness. He goes on to say that “the primary and universal vocation of every person in the world is to be holy — to become like Jesus Christ. Christ-likeness is the only success recognized by God.”

As Pope Francis said: “to be a saint is not a privilege for the few, but a vocation for everyone.” He continued: “We must remember that holiness is a gift from God — it is not something we can achieve on our own.” Holiness, he continued, is living with love and offering Christian witness in our daily tasks that we are called to become saints… “Always and everywhere you can become a saint, that is, by being receptive to the grace that is working in us and leads us to holiness” (General Audience, September 2014).

The key to encouraging and promoting a culture of vocations begins in the family and is nourished and supported in our parish communities. We know the family is the primary community for the transmission of the Christian faith.

Our primary vocation, and the heart of building a culture of vocations in the parishes of our diocese is by living our faith with courage and joy. St. John Paul II said, “Our Christian communities must become genuine schools of prayer where the meeting with Christ is expressed not just as an imploring help but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion until the heart truly falls in love” (Novo Millennio Ineunte).

Our first step in encouraging and promoting a culture of vocations in our lives, families, parishes and diocese is helping our people to fall in love with Jesus. We must live our faith with courage and joy and be willing to share with others our personal friendship with Christ.

A powerful witness when thousands stand for life

January 17-21, I had the chance to make the pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. to March for Life with our diocese. Thirty young people and eight adult leaders made the pilgrimage together. We spent five days, drove 3,330 miles round-trip, and spent more than 56 hours riding a bus in order to proclaim — and to be living witnesses to our nation and to our world — that we stand for life.

We arrived late Thursday afternoon in time for a quick shower, Mass and dinner. That evening we attended the “Life is Very Good Youth Rally,” sponsored by the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. It was an amazing evening of praise and worship music, confessions, Eucharistic adoration, and an inspirational keynote address by Sr. Miriam James Heidland, a Sister of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. (To hear just how inspirational Sr. Miriam is, go to YouTube, type in her name, and you will have an opportunity to hear for yourself.) Her talk prepared our hearts to March for Life on Friday morning.

As we piled back onto the bus, our driver asked me, “How many people were at the rally?”

I told him, “I wasn’t sure, but it was pretty full.”

He replied, “It is quite a sight to see over 200 charter buses in a parking lot from all over the county. I bet there were over 10,000 people at that rally tonight given the number of buses we counted.”

There were more than 7,500, but it certainly looked and sounded like more than 10,000. It was amazing to see and witness this new generation of young people stepping up to defend a culture of life.

The call to promote a culture of life and not death is central to who we are as disciples of Christ. In Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life”), St. John Paul II said: “… we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the ‘culture of death’ and the ‘culture of life.’ We find ourselves not only faced with but necessarily in the midst of this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.”

For me, the March for Life was a surprising experience of prayer, joy and hope. Throughout the march there seemed to be moments of great silence where we pondered the reality of over 58 million infants who have been aborted since the Roe vs Wade decision on January 22, 1973 and yet, at the same time, there were groups carrying signs and banners, praying the rosary, singing and chanting about a culture of life, filling the parade route with sights and sounds of joy and hope — echoes of the “Life is VERY Good” youth rally, the night before. As we marched, I felt there was a cloud of witnesses overshadowing us with the Holy Spirit, who is the Lord and Giver of Life, encouraging us to be bold witnesses to a culture of life.

Here are some of the ways others on the trip experienced the March for Life:

“This was my second year attending the March for Life, and I am so grateful for the opportunity that I had to go! What brought me back again to this year’s march was the joy that I had experienced the previous year. The speakers who shared their stories all relating to the overall theme for the march touched me: Love Saves Lives. It was truly empowering to be around hundreds of thousands of people who have the same pro-life beliefs as myself.”
— Mary Kinyon, Cathedral of Our Lady Perpetual Help

“My experience on the March for Life was incredible. I met some amazing people and got to see what can happen when such a great number of great people come together to fight for the end of abortion. It was amazing to be a witness to the love and support that these people showed to others. I am proud to have been a part of this amazing experience and to have the opportunity to march for the lives of those who aren’t given the opportunity to live.”
—Kiah Trainor, Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

“A few years ago, my life was transformed by the birth of our third daughter, Blakely Anne. Diagnosed in pregnancy with numerous health issues, we continued to trust in God and his plan for her life. Although her life was short, it was not without meaning. It meant so much for me to be able to march in solidarity, with thousands of others from across the country, sharing love for the dignity of all human life.
“I was struck especially by the youth in our diocese who said ‘yes’ to participate in a pro-life pilgrimage. During our journey, we had the opportunity to pray, laugh, and share life together. I am filled with hope because we stand together supporting the beauty of all life and God’s unique plan for each one of us.”
— Jenny Scherr, adult leader/youth minister, Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

“When I got to the march, I realized that I wasn’t just standing up for the unborn; I was also standing up for the pregnant women who don’t know how they are going to have the child. They are scared and don’t always have the support they need. So being there showed that there are people out there that care for her well-being, even if we don’t personally know her.”
— Jadyn Zentner, St. Mary, Lemmon

“My March for Life experience was definitely one that I will never forget. I not only marched with some of my best friends, but I made new best friends along the way. My outlook toward life changed in so many ways for the better. About 500,000 people came to Washington, DC, to march for the same cause. Thousands of people held up signs to protest for not only the lives of unborn, but for the lives of every human being. God blessed me that weekend by making me witness the true beauty of all lives, and what our lives can do to impact others.”
— Jordan Miller, Blessed Sacrament, Rapid City

“One of the many things I took away from this trip was that, truly, all life is precious. Whenever abortion is brought up in conversation it’s easy to get wrapped up in ‘saving the babies’ (which is very important), but we often forget about the parents and how they are affected by abortion.

“During the march, people spoke about how abortion affected them. Their testimonies were heart breaking and impactful and really gave you a different view on things. It’s easy to blame and condemn the parent for the choice they made, but this is entirely the wrong way to go about it. We must be kind, compassionate and caring toward all who are affected by such a tragedy because more times than not they are suffering from a choice they made and they must live with that. I wish I could personally thank those who had the courage to stand up for the pro-life movement and share their story because they were so inspirational.”
—Thérèse Wilhelmi, Our Lady of Black Hills, Piedmont

“My experience in D.C. attending the March for Life rallies and the march itself was an incredible experience! We went to save lives but the Lord taught us to open our hearts to him so he can give us the graces to march strongly to save our brothers and sisters!”
— Taylor Murphy, Blessed Sacrament, Rapid City

“Attending the March for Life this year was definitely an unforgettable experience. Marching with hundreds of people from age 70 to even babies, all praying and standing up for something much bigger and so important leaves one feeling content with pure joy from God.”
—Hannah Dillion, St. John the Baptist, Custer

The March for Life is not just another “march.” For 45 years, it has been a powerful witness to the sanctity of life, to the culture of life. It will continue to be that witness so long as a culture of death grips our country. May we continue to pray for the strength to loosen that grip so all may enjoy their right to life.

 

Jesus or Satan: With whom will you stand this year?

Jesus or Satan: With whom will you stand this year?

As we begin this new year, we would be remiss if we did not take the opportunity to reflect and examine our relationships and how they influence the way we live out our lives as followers of Christ.

“Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response” states, “Becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ leads naturally to the practice of stewardship. These linked realities, discipleship and stewardship, then make up the fabric of the Christian life in which each day is lived in an intimate personal relationship with the Lord.”

Let us begin 2018 first by praying for a greater desire within our own hearts to truly live a life in union with Christ. Every time we celebrate the Mass, as we prepare to receive the Real Presence of Jesus, we pray, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

At the heart of who we are, there is a real thirst and hunger to open wide the door of our hearts and have our Lord Jesus Christ enter and completely heal us. Yet, at the same time, we struggle to do so because of temptation and the pattern of sin that continues to plague our lives leaving us empty, unfilled and unhappy.

This struggle is actually a spiritual battle that is being waged within each us, whether we want to believe it or not. At the center of this spiritual battle is the battle for our very souls.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, a former soldier, offers a powerful reflection of this reality in his Spiritual Exercises. In his “Meditation of the Two Standards,” he compares our spiritual lives with that of a soldier who must decide which standard (flag) to stand with, to be loyal to, to fight for.

The two standards are that of Jesus and of Satan. Jesus says in the Gospel of Luke, “Whoever is not with me is against me” (Lk 11:23). He invites us to place ourselves firmly under his standard.

Both because of the temptations of the Evil One and our own fallen nature, we have a tendency within ourselves to get stuck somewhere in between Christ and the world (Satan, our own ideas and plans and all that is not of God), wanting to have both. In the end, this prevents us from truly having to make a decision to follow Jesus, to give testimony and witness to his life within us.

The Greek word for testimony is martyria, meaning martyr, implying that at the heart of testimony there is not only a personal and first-hand knowledge of Jesus, but also a willingness on our part to risk it all for Christ — to be true light to the world.

We hear these challenging and uncomfortable words in the Book of Revelation: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, will I spew you out of my mouth” (Rev 3:15). This is the indecision that leaves us in the gap between standing under the flag of Jesus and coming under the flag of the world.

The question we are called to ponder and wrestle with in our lives is, “Who are you with? Team Jesus or Team Satan? Whose flag are you waving? Are you firmly in one camp or the other, or are you wavering somewhere between the two?”

Knowing the reality of living under these two standards is helpful in answering these questions. Under the standard of Jesus, we are ALWAYS drawn to the Advocate, the Good Father, the perfecter of human nature. We experience unity.

Where is the unity in your heart today? In John 17, Jesus calls us to oneness of heart: “The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (Jn 17:22-23).

On the flip side, the evil one always brings division and darkness. When we are tempted to keep hidden our fears, doubts, anger and sorrows and when our hearts are divided and restless, we are not standing under Jesus’ standard.

Likewise, when we come under the standard of Jesus we are all about courage and communion. However, when we follow the standard of Satan we are filled with inadequacies and have the tendency to isolate ourselves from family, friends and one another.

When we come under the standard of Jesus, we are filled with humility, happiness and hope. We experience a deep sense of joy being held by God the Father who loves, delights and rejoices in us. When we fall into the trap of coming under the flag of Satan, we are filled with disappointment, discouragement, doubt and despair. Despair is a dangerous place in which to be because we lose our sense of direction completely, of being called by God, who does indeed have a mission and purpose for our lives.

Lastly, when we come under the standard of Jesus, we experience belief and forgiveness rather than unbelief and unforgiveness, which are the marks of Satan’s standard. The enemy wants to keep hidden our fears, doubts, angers and sorrows. The enemy wants us to keep these to ourselves, rather than relating and bringing them to the heart of Jesus — the way, the truth and the life.

It is in our fears, doubts, angers and sorrows that the enemy plays around with us and begins to bind us, taking us down dead-end streets that only lead to emptiness, darkness and sadness within us. But when we are able to relate our fears, doubts, angers and sorrows to Christ, bringing them out of darkness and into the Light, he leads us to freedom, joy and happiness.

In this New Year, may you take some time to examine the movements your heart experiences and ponder more deeply what that says about who you stand with and which flag you are waving.

 

Put down your cell phone; become friends with our Lord

In the middle of November, I took five young men to a live-in weekend at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Minnesota. Our young discerners were able to enter into seminary life and spend time with our seminarians, as well as with those from other dioceses. They were able to get a first-hand experience of seminary life by participating in the life of prayer, study and formation; plus they were able to enjoy several games of Ultimate Frisbee and attend several college classes while they were there. It was a great weekend!

Winona is about 620 miles straight east of Rapid City on Interstate 90. It can be a long and boring drive. As a way to prepare them for the road trip, I drew their attention to this year’s theme for the Office of Vocations, “I Call You Friends” from John 15:15.

Jesus made it abundantly clear to the Apostles that they were to be his friends. Jesus showed his chosen friends that he was willing to lay down his life for them by sharing with them the life he had with the Father. The Apostles were privy to the thoughts and actions of Jesus, making them his true friends.

Because of our theme of friendship, I asked the five men to limit their use of cell phones, video games and watching movies on the long ride to the seminary. I encouraged them to use this time of grace and discernment to interact and get to know one another and the other students at the seminary.

Franciscan Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, the pontifical household preacher, says that the essence of friendship is founded on a common search for the good and the true. Our drive there and back was really grounded in this common search for the good news in our lives.

We all shared with one another something about ourselves, the desires of our hearts, the things we wanted the Lord to do for us on this weekend and what the Lord wanted to do for us. The Lord does amazing things when we are able to be even the least vulnerable with him and one another, especially as men.

One of my favorite parts of the trip home was the praise and worship music to which we listened. The young men spent a lot of time creating their own beat box versions of the songs. Listening to the different rhythms and sounds they were coming up with made the hours and the miles go by quickly.

I was thankful that I encouraged them to limit their use of social media on the trip. It would have been easy for them to put their earbuds in and to get lost in their own worlds, forgetting about the person sitting next to them, who has much to offer them in friendship, and who can assist them in finding the good and the true.

By asking them to limit their time on their cell phones, I actually freed them up to enjoy each other, with time for turning out toward one another rather than the turning in on themselves.

Henry Wadsworth Long-fellow said, “Time is the life of the soul.” In the prayer after Communion on Thanksgiving Day we hear, “Help us, we pray, to reach out in love to all your people, so that we may share with them the good things of time and eternity.”

Time becomes a true gift and a blessing, especially when we use it to build our relationship with Christ, the Church and one another. The Psalmist reminds us, “So you teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (90:12). The gift of wisdom, which we receive at Confirmation, strengthens our faith, deepens our hope, and helps us focus our life on Christ — to keep Jesus at the center of our lives. This, in turn, affects the way we relate to one another and the world.

Since this trip, I have been reflecting on the way we use our time. The time we spend in prayer, time with our family and friends, time at work, and time at play. Do we make the connection to use the time we are given to prepare for eternal life or do we waste our time, using it for our own selfish desires, without even thinking about life eternal?

Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, a pastoral letter of the U.S. bishops on stewardship, states: “A true understanding of stewardship begins with taking care of and sharing the gift of time. Stewardship of time involves the realization that none of us ‘owns’ time. Each of us is given only so much of it, and planning a careful schedule in order to have the time to work, to rest, to play, and to pray is vital in the stewardship of our physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual lives. How we spend our time is perhaps the clearest indication of our progress in the life of Christian discipleship.”

In this season of Advent and as we anticipate the Christmas season, with plenty of opportunities to be connected with family, friends, coworkers, neighbors and parish communities, look for opportunities to search out the good and true in one another. Make it a priority to become friends with one another in the Lord.

Be attentive to each other. Learn to put the cell phone down and to limit your consumption of media so you can focus on the things that matter the most — time and friendship in the Lord.

For Advent, focus on reconciliation

At the end of October, Jesuit Father Jim Kubicki, president of St. Francis Mission, led the chancery staff retreat. In the talks he shared with us, he focused on the diocesan vision statement: Reconcile — Make Disciples — Live the Mission. These six words are the foundation stones, the building blocks that will help to move our diocese in a new direction, helping us to reorient our lives to be reconciling disciples.

Father Kubicki said “the heart of the Gospel is reconciliation itself.” In 2 Corinthians 5:18, we hear that Christ was sent by the Father to reconcile us to him, and so now Christ gives us the ministry of reconciliation.

We are called to be a reconciling people, to not only extend forgiveness to one another, but also to receive forgiveness from others and to learn to forgive ourselves in and through Christ.

In 2006, speaking in Australia, Pope Benedict XVI said, “Commitment to truth opens the way to lasting reconciliation through the healing process of asking for forgiveness and granting forgiveness — two indispensable elements for peace.”

In our Pastoral Priority Plan, we hear this: “As God has reconciled us through Jesus Christ, so we will promote forgiveness and healing within families; within and between communities; among racial groups; with the Church. We will invite others to experience the good news of God’s love through encounter with Jesus Christ.”

To help us live out this vision of reconciliation in our parishes and diocese, we are called as parish communities to identify areas where reconciliation and unity are strong and areas where reconciliation is needed. Also, each parish or group of parishes were asked to submit to Bishop Gruss a plan which engages and promotes reconciliation and includes an implementation process that will help us live intentionally in the heart of the Gospel as Jesus did.

In October, the priests of our diocese were on retreat at Terra Sancta. Our director was Jesuit Father John Horn. He is the co-founder of the Institute of Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Omaha, and currently serves as professor of spiritual theology and spiritual director at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Florida.

Father Horn, like Father Kubicki, focused the priest retreat on the theme of reconciliation. One of the things Father Horn shared with us was a new guide for confession and receiving God’s mercy. As we approach Advent, we will have a number of opportunities in our parishes to ask, to receive, to grant forgiveness in and through Christ and to be those reconciling disciples that we hear about in Second Corinthians.

This new reconciliation guide bases our examination of conscience on the seven deadly sins: pride, envy, greed, gluttony, lust, anger and sloth.  Father Horn reminded us that these sins always lead us to isolation from Christ and one another. Living in isolation then leads to “bad fruit” — immorality, impurity … idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, fractions, occasions of envy … and the like” (Gal 5:19-21).

The guide suggests possible penances that focus on heavenly virtues which lead us out of isolation and into communion with Christ: humility/loving obedience, kindness/admiration, charity/generosity, temperament/self-control, chastity/purity, patience/forgiveness and diligence/zeal.

When we are living in communion with Christ, the good “fruit of the Spirit” is born in our midst, namely “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal 4:22-23).

This Advent could be a good time to use this new guide for penitents and priests, titled “Confession and Receiving God’s Mercy.” It would be a good addition to your parish’s reconciliation plan and one more resource for helping to fulfill the Diocesan Pastoral Plan.

This guide is put out by the Institute for Ongoing Clergy Formation at St. Paul Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota. I have ordered 5,000 of these guides. I know a number of parishes have already ordered them as well through the Office of Stewardship and Vocations, but if you or your parishes are interested, but have not already ordered some, please let me know and I would be happy to get them out to you.

I wanted to leave you with the Act of Contrition contained in this new guide. It speaks beautifully of this desire to live a life focused on reconciliation and mercy.

An Act of Contrition

Lord Jesus, to know You is eternal life. I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. I love You and I place my trust in You.

I am sorry for all my sins and for withholding myself in any way from you. Please forgive me and heal any pain I have caused others. I forgive anyone who has hurt me, and I ask You to bless them. In Your name, Jesus, I renounce anything in my life that is not of You that I have welcomed into my mind or heart. Wash me in mercy and fill me with Your Precious Blood and the Holy Spirit.

Father, of all my need for love and affection is found in Your embrace. May I never leave my home in Your heart again. By Your grace, I resolve to remain in Your shelter and abide in Your shade, where You restore to me the joy of Your salvation (Ps. 91, Ps.51). Amen.

 

Emulate Nicholas Black Elk as a model of faith

There are a lot of great things happening in our diocese. I see many ways that we are moving from having simply a culture of maintenance to developing a culture of mission in our parishes. The more we embrace our diocesan priority plan together, the more we will see the abundant fruit of living as missionary disciples.

To lay it before us again, our Sacred Mission as a diocese is: “We, the Diocese of Rapid City, through the power of the Holy Spirit, are called to attract and form intentional disciples who joyfully, boldly and lovingly proclaim and live the mission of Jesus Christ leading to eternal life.” We are called to keep before us our vision statement as well: “Reconcile — Make Disciples — Live the Mission.”

As I reflect on our mission and vision statements for the diocese, I cannot help but think about Nicholas William Black Elk Sr., who was a Lakota catechist in our diocese. I was excited to read in last month’s West River Catholic that Bishop Robert Gruss will be offering a Mass as he opens the cause for sainthood of Nicholas Black Elk, on at Saturday, Oct. 21, 4 p.m., in Holy Rosary Church, Pine Ridge, on the campus of the Red Cloud Indian School.

This Mass is for everyone in our diocese and not just for the Native American community. As the cause for Black Elk’s sainthood is being formally opened, I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 12:26, “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.”

This is great news for all the people of our diocese. We should be inspired by the story of Nicolas Black Elk who, after converting to Catholicism, spent his time building up the local church. As I read the story of Black Elk, I see our diocesan mission statement and vision statement come to life. I also see Black Elk as a faithful steward who lived stewardship as a way of life.

They say Black Elk watched and studied the Christian faith which grew out of his curiosity for Christianity. The life of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, who was canonized a saint by Pope Benedict the XIV, on Oct. 21, 2012, was a particular inspiration to him. In 1885, he signed the petition supporting her cause for canonization.

In 1904, he met a Jesuit priest who invited him to study Christianity at Holy Rosary Mission near Pine Ridge. I see in this the first lens of our stewardship initiative — generous hospitality: invitation, welcome and fellowship. There is nothing like a personal invitation. This personal invitation by this priest opened the door for Nicholas Black Elk to begin to understand the way of Christ, and on the Feast of St. Nicholas, Dec. 6, 1904, he was baptized.

In 1907, he was appointed as a catechist because of his love for Christ, his enthusiasm and an excellent memory for learning Scripture and Catholic teachings. Deacon Marlon Leneaugh describes Nicholas Black Elk as one might describe St. Paul: “He traveled widely to various reservations; preaching, sharing stories and teaching the Catholic faith with his ‘Two Roads Model’ of the catechism (the black road and the red road — the black road representing evil and the red road representing good).”

Black Elk’s two roads reminds me of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s teaching in the Spiritual Exercises on the meditation of the two standards (flags). As disciples, we are called to choose where we are going to stand — with Jesus or with the world. No matter what life the Spirit has drawn us to, once we are baptized and confirmed, we are called to stand in Jesus’ company under his flag, under his standard.

Deacon Marlon continues: “Black Elk’s mission was to build the faith among his people and to strengthen the relationships between native and non-native people. He did this by promoting his culture as he worked in the Black Hills and by promoting the message of Jesus Christ as love, peace and harmony that was revealed to him at an early age in the vision.”

His mission reminds me of our mission: to Reconcile — Make Disciples — Live the Mission. Today we continue his legacy when we call forth the power of the Holy Spirit to bring a new Pentecost among us as God’s people, native and non-native, working together as the Body of Christ.

Nicholas Black Elk also came to mind as I read the book “Return: How to Draw Your Child Back to the Church” by Brandon Vogt. In chapter six, Vogt talks about the importance of learning to equip ourselves in the faith. That was very much part of Black Elk’s conversion as he watched and studied the Catholic faith.

This, too, is at the heart of our stewardship initiative (lively faith: prayer, study and formation). Vogt contends that it is important that we equip ourselves, learning our faith through the study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Bible, but we also need to know our testimony and be willing to give it.

Nicholas Black Elk equipped himself to know the Catholic faith and to live it in the context of being Lakota. He also inspired others to live Christ by his own story.

This opening of the cause for sainthood inspires us to continue to equip ourselves with a solid understanding of the teachings of our faith and in the giving of our testimony to what Christ is doing in our lives.

After Oct. 21 Nicholas Black Elk will be called Servant of God. His consistent faith as a catechist and his teaching in joyfully living the Catholic way of life has become a beacon for all of us in our diocese and for the church as a whole. May he model for us a way of walking on the road with Christ, leading us to reconciliation and peace among all God’s people.

 

Young Black Elk photo from Marquette University Archives

Why being a Stewardship Parish is important

Over the last several months I have written about your parish becoming a Stewardship Parish. Much of what I have written has been about how to become a Stewardship Parish. In referring to our diocesan priority plan, Through Him, With Him and In Him: A Spiritual Guide to the Diocesan Priority Plan,” I have spelled out the process for becoming a Stewardship Parish in “The Characteristics of a Stewardship Parish.” Some readers – and maybe you’re one of them – are asking, “Why is being a Stewardship Parish so important? Our parish is fine.” I am glad people are asking that question.

Patrick Lencioni, in his book, “The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business” lists six crucial questions that need to be addressed for organizational health. They are:

Why do we exist?

How do we behave?

What do we do?

How will we succeed?

What is most important right now?

Who must do what?

It is important to note that Lencioni begins with the why question first — Why do we exist?

Simon Sinek, author, Columbia University professor and motivational speaker, says “very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief — WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care? People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”

Sinek’s thoughts remind me of the prayer by the late Jesuit Father General, Fr. Pedro Arrupé, who answers his why question in finding and falling in love with God:

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

The why is the fulfillment of our true desire and happiness which can only be found in finding and falling in love with God in an absolute way.

Our sacred mission statement for the Diocese of Rapid City addresses the why question as well. “We, the Diocese of Rapid City, through the power of the Holy Spirit, are called to attract and form intentional disciples who joyfully, boldly and lovingly proclaim and live the mission of Jesus Christ, leading to eternal life.”

The why is eternal life!

In Paul’s letter to the Romans we hear: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rm 8:28).

Jesus tells us what his purpose is — to love and serve God, and to love and serve others. “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mk 12:29-31).

In the 19th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, a young man approaches Jesus and asks him, “Teacher, what must I do to gain eternal life?”

Jesus, himself, asks him the why question, “Why do you ask me about the good?”

The rich young man kept all the commandments and desired to do good, yet Jesus has more in store for him than simply keeping the commandments. Jesus wants him to go further and deeper not only with his relationship with God, but with his brothers and sisters: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Why is being a Stewardship Parish so important? It is important because it helps us to focus our lives on Christ as the center of everything we say and do. It takes the focus off ourselves and puts the focus on the needs of our brothers and sisters, who come first, even before our own needs and desires.

Remember, stewardship is not a program; it is a way of life. Stewardship begins with a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, who reminds us of our own identity as beloved sons and daughters of the Father, and then sends us forth as missionary disciples who proclaim joyfully, boldly and lovingly the living Christ that leads us to eternal life.

In linking discipleship to stewardship, we are following Jesus’ examples. In Matthew 25:14-30 he describes a disciple in the terms of stewardship. The steward is the one to whom the owner of the household turns over responsibility for caring for the property, managing affairs, making resources yield as much as possible, and sharing the resources with others. The position involves trust and accountability.

The characteristics of a Stewardship Parish are meant to help us to be accountable not only to one another as missionary disciples, but also to our parishes and our diocese. The characteristics of a Stewardship Parish are meant to be a guide, a blueprint helping us to fall more in love with Jesus Christ by living a Catholic way of life through generous hospitality, lively faith and dedicated discipleship.

I welcome your questions and comments regarding stewardship in your life and that of your parish. Feel free to contact me at (605) 716-5214 x235 or mmccormick@diorc.org.