St. Joseph Parish, Cherry Creek: 125 years of parish life on the Cheyenne River

In 1891, a Benedictine missionary living on Standing Rock Reservation would travel to Cherry Creek to say Mass but due to the long distance it was not very often. Records show the first Mass in Cherry Creek was at the Little Bear Cabin. The first priests to attend to St. Joseph Church came from the Cheyenne Agency. In 1892, a new priest to the Cheyenne Agency arranged for a church to be built. Lumber was hauled from Pierre. The church was completed in 1893 and served as the location for the Indian Congress that year. Mass was said monthly or as often as a priest could travel to the town.

It was during this time, Indian Catechists were introduced to the parishioners. The catechists would gather people for prayer and religious instruction on Sundays when no priest were available. I

n 1911, Father John Vogel, a diocesan priest, was assigned to Eagle Butte and its missions. He never drove a car, instead, he used saddle horses (Specky and Spotty) and a buggy to travel around to communities saying Mass and giving religious instruction.

Father Vogel was beloved by the Cheyenne River people. He was given the Indian name Zintcala (Bird). Later, in the early 1980s, a church hall was built at Cherry Creek. It was name “Zintcala Hall.”

When Father Vogel left the area in 1937 the Priests of the Sacred Heart (SCJ) were asked by the Diocese of Rapid City to serve Cherry Creek and the other missions since they had already taken on the rest of the reservation. Since the early 1980s, sisters from several religious orders provided religious studies for children and served as part of the reservation ministries. In 1990, a “Team Ministry” approach was set up between the priests, deacons and sisters that lasted until the early 2000s. In 2004, due to a lack of vocations, the SCJ priests could no longer minister to the reservation and the diocese again began ministering to the missions of Eagle Butte. In 2017, after accepting an invitation by Bishop Robert Gruss, the Holy Spirit Priests from India came to minster to the Cheyenne River Parishes joining current pastor Father Dan Juelfs.

(Historical information courtesy of Marquette University, Diocese of Rapid City, Crusading Along Sioux Trails, letters and other resources.)

The road to priesthood: ‘You are exactly where God wants you to be’

Zane Pekron

Age: 25
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.

Help in answering important Catholic questions

In a January article in the West River Catholic, Father Michel Mulloy described how the Diocesan Priority Plan and Stewardship Initiative are actually two sides of same coin.

“The Diocesan Priority Plan and the Stewardship Initiative  are two ways of expressing the same mission. First of all both are grounded in a relationship with Jesus. A relationship with Jesus is what drives us and shapes the rest of our life,” he wrote. “At the heart of being a disciple is meeting Jesus. Once this happens, everything in life flows from and leads to that relationship. We encounter Jesus in prayer, in the sacraments and in those who have already encountered him.”

The important questions we must constantly ask ourselves are these:

  • How are we encountering the person of Christ and what difference is our relationship with Jesus making in our lives?
  • Are we more loving, more forgiving, more joyful, more truthful, in our actions and in our words?
  • Do people see Jesus in us?
  • Are they attracted to Jesus because of the way we live out our lives in love?
  • Have we truly trusted our lives to Christ?

These are the questions that the Stewardship Initiative and the Diocesan Priority Plan continue to lay before our eyes and our hearts. Do we know Jesus and have we given our total life to him?

There are some alarming statistics that say we do not know Jesus as we should personally know him as our Lord, Savior and friend. For instance, Sherry Weddell in her book “Forming Intentional

Disciples” writes: “The majority of adult Catholics are not even certain that a personal relationship with God is possible.”

Pope St. John Paul II in “Catechesi Treadendae” (On Catechesis in Our Time) writes: “It is possible for baptized Catholics to be still without any explicit personal attachment to Jesus Christ; they only have the capacity to believe placed within them by baptism and the presence of the Holy Spirit.”

Brandon Vogt in his book, “Return: How to Draw Your Child Back to the Church,” reports that 79 percent of former Catholics leave the church before age 23 (Pew Research) and 50 percent of millennials raised Catholic no longer identify as Catholic today, i.e., half of the babies you’ve seen baptized in the last 30 years, half of the kids you’ve seen confirmed, half of the Catholic young people you’ve seen get married.

The Office of Stewardship is fighting back against these alarming statistics that hinder and plague our families, our parishes and our diocese when it comes to knowing and living Christ in our lives. By lifting up the Diocesan Priority Plan and the Stewardship Initiative, the Office of Stewardship is working to help form the Catholic imagination in Western South Dakota.

Bishop Robert Morneau, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, remarked: “Whoever forms the imagination forms a culture.” At this point, it seems that the secular media is doing a much more effective job of forming our imagination than Christ and his Church are doing. This seriously impedes people’s ability to develop a personal relationship with Jesus.

As a way to support families, parishioners and parishes in our diocese living Christ more intentionally, we will be

hosting a Stewardship Leadership Training, Friday and Saturday, June 15 and 16, at Terra Sancta with Chris Stewart and Tony Brandt of Casting Nets Ministries.  You might recall that Chris and Tony were here for last year’s Summit and their presentations were very well received.

Chris and Tony have generously agreed to develop this training specifically for us as a way to help all of us understand and implement the Stewardship Initiative and the Bishop’s Priority Plan, and through them help our parishes become more vibrant and meet more fully the needs of the people in our communities.

In addition to giving participants practical tools to help them in their role as parish leaders, this training will be directly tied to the Summit Conference to be held Friday and Saturday, Sept. 21-22. Participants will be asked — and trained — to personally invite other parishioners to the Summit.

The Summit is being re-designed to focus on encouraging a personal encounter with Christ. It will include inspirational talks, adoration, Mass and generous times for confession, as well as a healing service.

Those leaders who participate in the training in June will be encouraged to accompany parishioners to the Summit and also to provide follow-up afterward by inviting participants to become more involved in the parish — to attend a Bible study, prayer group or class in the parish which will help them to deepen their discipleship.

Seize every occasion to act in a loving, holy way

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 tations/documents/papa-francesco_esor tazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsul tate.html.

Fr. Mark’s Musings

Holy Spirit Novena

A Novena to the Holy Spirit is offered online by the TransCanada Province of the Spiritans by clicking here.

As we approach the great Feast of Pentecost, Bishop Robert Gruss would like the whole diocese to join together to prayi for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit all across our land – the Holy Spirit would inflame our hearts with his power and grace.  Those who wish to pray this novena in preparation for Pentecost (May 20) would begin on Friday, May 11.  A link to the Novena to the Holy Spirit can be found above.

The Holy Spirit is the unseen moving force of God in the world — unseen but not unheard. It was the Holy Spirit who inspired the prophets of the Old Testament to lead the people to God. It was the Holy Spirit who inspired the evangelists to write the Gospels and Epistles. It is today the Holy Spirit who guides the faithful: “and I will send the Holy Spirit to inspire you.”

Spiritans are happy to offer you this novena, to be prayed May 11-May 20,  so that you may pray to and invoke the Holy Spirit daily for the seven gifts: Wisdom, Understanding, Right Judgment, Courage, Knowledge, Reverence, and Wonder and Awe.

Prayer of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit

O Lord Jesus Christ, before ascending into heaven you promised to send the Holy Spirit to finish your work in the souls of your Apostles and Disciples. Grant that I may be open to the work of that same Spirit within me.

Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom
that I may not be attached to the perishable things of this world but seek the things that are eternal.

Grant me the Spirit of Understanding
to enlighten my mind with the light of your divine truth.

Grant me the Spirit of Right Judgment
that I may choose the surest way of pleasing God.

Grant me the Spirit of Courage
that I may bear my cross with you and that I may overcome all the obstacles that oppose my salvation.

Grant me the Spirit of Knowledge
that I may know God and know myself.

Grant me the Spirit of Reverence
that I may find the service of God sweet and attractive.

Grant me the Spirit of Wonder and Awe
that I may be filled with loving reverence towards God and may avoid anything that would displease him.

Mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of your true disciples and animate me in all things with your Spirit

Redirect resources to mental health care and reduce suicides

One of the most important social issues that we face in the State of South Dakota is record number of suicides that affect not just the individual families, but those communities in which the suicide takes place. The impact on those affected is difficult to measure, but these tragic experiences are a deep source of pain and suffering to so many people.

Whether we have been personally

affected or not, this issue bears the attention of all of us.

Below is an editorial on suicide that I submitted to newspapers across the State of South Dakota. It was recently published in the Rapid City Journal. In case you missed it there, I wanted to share it with all of our West River Catholic subscribers.

Imagine coming home to discover that your child, perhaps a 12-year-old daughter or a 16-year-old son, has taken their own life. I can’t imagine such an experience. But too many parents in communities across South Dakota have experienced this tragedy. Many priests and ministers serving in our communities agonize over the number of funerals resulting from suicide.

While it is true that Native American suicide rates in South Dakota are twice as high as the suicide rate for white South Dakotans, it is important to remember that almost 80 percent of all suicide deaths in South Dakota are white. The reality is that South Dakota’s children and young adults (under age 24) of all races end their lives at double the rate of youth nationwide.

Over the past 25 years, annual suicide numbers have doubled in this state and in the past five years, suicide has reached epidemic levels in South Dakota. Final numbers for 2017 have not been released, but the South Dakota Department of Health says it will exceed 173 suicides, a record high set in 2015. Rural areas suffer significantly higher suicide rates than urban areas, both nationwide and in South Dakota.

Research indicates our farmers and ranchers have the highest rate of suicide of any profession.

While the loss of life at any age is tragic, it is especially so for youth. The losses caused by suicide go beyond actual deaths. For every suicide death, approximately six people will be severely impacted. These “survivors” often experience complicated grief and recovery which impact their productivity in school or the workplace. Statistically, for every successful suicide, there are approximately 25 attempts. Many attempts result in permanent loss of health, medical costs and lost productivity in school or employment. While these economic factors may seem insignificant compared to the loss of life and grief borne by survivors, they do suggest that investing in prevention and treatment programs will relieve significant social costs.

We know that addiction and mental illness are contributing factors to suicide among all races and in all communities. For too long, we have relied upon the criminal justice system to deal with the behavioral challenges caused by addiction and mental illness. Ultimately, jails and courts are not equipped to handle the underlying issues associated with mental illness and addiction. This type of intervention is not a “treatment” program and is the most expensive response and the least effective.

Wouldn’t a more effective solution be to redirect some of our criminal justice and law enforcement resources into alternative treatment services, instead of prosecuting those with mental illness? Too often, access to basic mental health services is lacking in places most impacted by this suicide epidemic, our rural areas.

More funding for prevention efforts is needed to combat the root cause and help deter this problem among our youth. Prevention programs that target reservation schools and communities should be given funding priority over lower risk communities.

While all of us should make it a priority to pray for those who have taken their lives or have lost a loved one to suicide, prayer alone however, is not enough. As parents, pastors, educators, service providers and political leaders, we all have roles to play in addressing this epidemic and finding solutions. In the words of Sitting Bull of the Oglala Sioux, “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.”

We must engage our elected officials, asking, “What is the State’s suicide prevention plan?” Fighting epidemics should be a priority and behavior health losses are no exception. This epidemic that has our children taking their own lives is unacceptable.

Easter Triduum 2018

Parents are the first line of protection against child sexual abuse

By Charlotte Verhey

As a parent raising three children in the 1980s, 90s, and 2000s, most of what I knew about child sexual abuse and neglect came from what I was taught as an educator. Incidents in the news, or various media sources, have shown us more and more on this issue and we have tried to work through possible solutions. Today, through my involvement in the Diocesan Safe Environment Program, and continually doing more research, that knowledge has thankfully grown considerably.

For the past fifteen years, the Catholic Church has integrated into church life the principles and procedures from the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Our call as Catholics is to follow Christ’s teachings and the Tradition of the church. These teachings model for us our actions in the area of helping those that have been victims and survivors of sexual abuse, and lead us to do all we can to prevent abuse from happening.

As part of our Diocesan Safe Environment Program, we include and promote ways that parents can be part of the learning. We know the importance and influence parents have on your children’s lives. Parents, as the first and primary educators for their children, are instrumental in helping prevent child sexual abuse.

An informational sheet available through the National Children’s Advocacy Center, shares well-referenced information on this topic.1 Knowledge about sexual abuse helps protect children. Lack of knowledge leaves children vulnerable.2

Why are parents the right people to teach their children about sexual abuse?


  • Influence children’s knowledge and vaules.
  • Teach children the facts.
  • Have more influence on children’s decisions about sex than their friends.3

How do you talk to children about sexual abuse?

  • Start at an early age.4
  • Keep discussions developmentally appropriate, with an awareness of normal behaviors.
  • Repeat the message.5
  • Promote healthy sexuality by teaching respect and value of body and gender.6
  • Teach correct names for body parts, to reduce children’s vulnerability.6
  • Establish touching boundaries so children understand they can say “no” to unwanted touch.6
  • Establish privacy rules in the home and away from home.
  • Talk about secrets/tricks/threats that a perpetrator may use to keep children from telling.7
  • Educate children beyond “Stranger Danger” because approximately 90 percent of sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows.7
  • Give children permission to tell about anything happening to them.

What do you do if a child discloses sexual abuse?

  • Stay calm and listen to the child.
  • Tell the child you believe him/her and are glad they told you.
  • Tell the child that what happened is not their fault.
  • Report the disclosure to professionals for investigation and help.
  • Do not ask a lot of questions. Do not conduct you own investigation.

Parents, you are always encouraged to attend the adult safe environment training held in your parish or one nearby. You are also invited to participate in the two safe environment lessons that are presented to the children and youth in the parish’s faith formation program. These lessons change annually to provide developmentally, appropriate information to our youth. You are also urged to read the quarterly Safe Environment Newsletter sent to the pastor and parish safe environment coordinator as part of our on-going learning. If you have not yet done so, I also encourage you to explore the pages of our Diocesan Safe Environment Website at https://www.rapidcity

How can we help you? If you have thoughts, concerns, or questions that may help us provide more information or support to you as parents, please contact me and share them. I may be reached by email through or by phone at 605-343-3541. My regular office hours are Tuesdays and Wednesdays 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Thursday 8a.m.-noon mountain time. Together we will have greater success for our children and families!

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Make a commitment to yourself and your children to learn something more to prevent abuse from happening in our community. Please see the “Prayer for Healing Victims of Abuse” at the left. During April, please pray for all those who have been victims/survivors of abuse. Thank you.