FOCUS at SDSM&T: ‘Connecting the head and heart’

 

FOCUS missionaries at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology Newman Center Joey Fritz, Avery Hembrook, Michael Newsham, and Megan Henle. (Courtesy photo)

 

By Becky Berreth

According to a combined study, from St. Mary’s Press with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, approximately 13 percent of young adults between ages 18 and 25 are former Catholics. It also states that they desire a spiritual connection even though they do not consider themselves affiliated with the church. One way of encouraging a connection is to reach out to students on college campuses.

Enter Megan Henle, Avery Hembrook, Michael Newsham, and Joey Fritz. The four campus missionaries are part of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, better known as FOCUS, on the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology campus, Rapid City. They are tasked with helping engineering, geology, math, and computer science students navigate college faith life through friendship, Bible studies, and mentorship. SDSM&T is one of 19 new FOCUS campuses this academic year.

FOCUS is a Catholic outreach organization whose mission is to share the Gospel with college and university students. Missionaries are trained in church teaching, prayer, Scripture, evangelization and discipleship — inviting students to have a personal relationship with Jesus and accompanying them along the way. On the SDSM&T campus, it’s also about taking the analytical thought process of many of the students and connecting it to a relationship.

“It’s connecting the head and the heart,” explained Megan Henle, FOCUS team director in her fourth year of campus work. “Yes, it’s the analytical part, but then teaching them to live out the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Everything about us should be living out the intellectual and allowing the Holy Spirit to do what it wants with us.”

“I had to go through the process of connecting of my mind and my heart in my relationship with God and I knew that would be a big thing here,” agreed Joey Fritz, a third-year missionary.

Fritz majored in computer science at North Dakota State University, Fargo, N.D., and encountered FOCUS at a SEEK2015. He explained that faith was something he did out of habit until he heard a talk from Father Mike Schmitz at the yearly national conference presented by FOCUS.

“He said we were made not just for a relationship with God but added we are made for a deep intimacy with him,” he said. “My analytical side told me if the Eucharist is really Jesus then that’s the greatest source of grace on earth (going to receive him) so there should be nothing in my day that should stop me from that.”

“The girls I have been working with have so many questions. I have been focusing on trying to introduce them to a relationship with Jesus before answering the questions,” said first-year missionary Avery Hembrook, admitting that she does not think as analytically as the students — she majored in therapeutic recreation at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse — but she is happy to learn alongside the students. “I am not engineer minded so we challenge each other.”

When the missionaries first arrived on campus, they helped students move in and attended campus events, Newman Center Masses and other happenings. After this initial outreach, missionaries  begin to organize, facilitate, and train students to lead small group Bible studies. The goal is to bring students closer to Christ and to help students establish and/or deepen their relationships with Christ.

“Through the Bible studies I was able to take an extra step and go a little deeper on a regular basis. I didn’t have anyone challenging me until that moment,” said first- year missionary Michael Newsham.

He was active at his Newman Center at Washington State University, Pullman, Wash., but it was with the FOCUS missionaries who started on campus his third year that he began to understand his relationship with Jesus.

“I had weekly accountability. I had to make time to read scripture and get to know Christ better to build a relationship with him. I didn’t really understand that part of my faith life up until that point.”

Within those Bible studies, FOCUS missionaries welcome students into a discipleship program teaching them how to take the faith out to their friends, lead their own Bible studies, and teach others how to pray.

It was in Henle’s fourth year at Winona State University in Minn., when she began to realize what kind of  an effect this had on her faith life and her future. “My senior year I was leading a few girls, who were leading a few girls, who were leading a few girls, and I was able to see this beautiful reproduction of a life of prayer, virtue, and evangelization,” she said. “I was able to see that this might be something God might be calling me to do in the future — teach the faith.”

Fellowship is also an important part of the missionary’s time on campus. Events have included formations nights, men’s and women’s nights, camping, and coffee with the students.

“Events outside the Bible study with students is key to what we do. It allows us to get to know them outside the religious environment and build a relationship with them, so we can help build that relationship with Christ,” explained Newsham. “We make an invitation and have the patience to bear the fruit that only Christ can.”

 

‘We believe that Jesus is truly and really present’

By Fr. Michel Mulloy
Vicar General, Diocesan Director of Liturgy

 

Do you believe that we encounter Jesus in the celebration of the Mass? That might seem to be a strange question from the Director of Liturgy for the diocese. Well … yes, but I think the depth of our belief needs to be explored.

We believe that Jesus is truly and really present in the Communion we receive. It could be argued that this is the reason we come. I would not disagree. However, much happens in Mass before Communion and it is not unimportant. We are, throughout the Mass, encountering Jesus in the Word proclaimed, the priest presiding and  in the community, gathered.

The presence of Jesus throughout the Mass does not diminish the importance of Communion. Catholics have a unique awareness of the reality of the Lord’s presence in the sacred species, and that reality has drawn many Catholic into a deeper union with the Lord, has brought non-practicing Catholics back to their faith practice and has been a significant dimension of conversion for others. Still, if Mass were simply a matter of receiving Communion, we could simplify things quite a bit.

The presence of Jesus in the Communion we receive is grounded on our belief that Jesus, risen from the dead, is present all the time. Jesus is alive and active in our lives. The resurrection was not simply a historically significant event that we remember with fondness. It is a living reality he makes present to us today. Jesus continues his saving work in, with and through his church in the world today. Our belief in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharistic species is predicated on this deeper reality.

The risen Jesus continues to bring about the salvation of the world. As Jesus did once in history, so he eternally offers himself to God the Father in sacrifice, to free us from our sins and to bring us into union with God. At the heart of the celebration of the Mass is our desire and willingness to join our sacrifice to the sacrifice of Jesus. My coming to Mass and my participation in the whole celebration are how I concretely offer myself with Jesus to God the Father.

The listening, the praying, the attention, the singing, all my gestures and actions, all in celebration of the Mass are how I join the sacrifice of Jesus. Joining my sacrifice to the sacrifice of Jesus is not possible unless I am with him, that is, encountering Jesus. The whole of the Mass is giving expression to our desire to enter this encounter with Jesus.

We believe that by making this sacrifice with Jesus to the Father, we will also share in the resurrected life God gives to his Son. Communion is the gift of God the  Father to us. It is the deep encounter with Jesus we have been preparing for throughout the celebration of the Mass. The fact that Jesus is present to us throughout the Mass is the underpinning that makes communion so powerful.

When we embrace our belief that the risen Lord is present and active in our lives all the time, then the celebration of the whole Mass and our immersion in the celebration with our whole heart, mind and soul, are essential. It is through the whole Mass that we encounter Jesus, and in that encounter, receive the great gift of his life in our life through holy Communion. So, the question is important.

Do you believe that we encounter Jesus in the celebration of the Mass?

Silver anniversary of Totus Tuus vocation camps coming next summer

This WRC archive photo was taken in 2009. It shows the Boys Totus Tuus Camp held at Storm Mountain. Zane Pekron of Milesville throws a frisbee past Vocations Director Fr. Brian
Christensen during a game of ultimate frisbee. Adam Hofer in the yellow bandana and David Cordes, both of Rapid City, and Joseph Syman, from Spearfish, are also on the field. Today,
Fr. Adam Hofer is a parochial vicar at Blessed Sacrament Church, Rapid City, and Deacon Zane Pekron is a Theology IV student at St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.
(WRC photo by Becky Berreth)

 

Fr. Mark: Next summer, the Diocese of Rapid City’s Totus Tuus (“All yours”) Vocation Camps will be celebrating 25 years of bringing together middle school and high school youth from across the diocese. This is a way to help our young people hear the voice of Jesus and to encourage them not to be afraid to ask this question of the Lord: “Lord, what do you want me to do with my life?”

Totus Tuus has been a great blessing for our diocese in building and promoting a culture of vocations, and it has borne much fruit — not only in the number of priestly and religious vocations, but simply by helping our young people to seek a living and personal relationship with the Lord.

As we begin to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Totus Tuus, I asked Father Tim Hoag, founder of the camp as we know it, to share a bit of the history of this remarkable gift.

Fr. Tim: Totus Tuus Vocations Camps developed mostly through trial and error. Bishop Steven Biegler and I, while we were in seminary, recognized a need to develop a community of young men who were interested in priesthood.

We held our first vocations camp in 1989 at Camp Rimrock. Fifty-six middle school boys and girls attended. It was a great retreat. However, we took a four-year hiatus as both of us went off to theology school.

The summer of my diaconate year I sought permission from and the support of Fr. Arnie Kari, who was the vocation director at the time, to put on a vocations retreat. He gave us his blessing. Bishop Steven Biegler and Father Peter Kovarik, who were newly ordained, other diocesan seminarians and I put on a retreat at St. Martin Monastery.

It was a weekend retreat (Friday through Sunday) and was offered for high school and college-aged men. Father Tony Grossenburg attended this retreat and has shared that it was instrumental in his decision to go to the seminary the following year.

We learned from this retreat that the age spread of high school through college was too big, plus we thought a camp atmosphere would work much better than a retreat format. Also, the research provided by the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors highlighted that the first time a young boy begins to think about being a priest is in his middle school years. So, we decided to start with middle school boys with the hope of building the camp by later adding high school boys and young men as leaders.

From 1996 – 2011 it was held at various Protestant camps throughout the Hills because, at the time, we did not have our own retreat center. Camp was held at Camp Rimrock, the Wesleyan Camp, Atlantic Mountain Ranch and Camp Bob Marshall. Eventually, we settled on a permanent place in the schedule at Storm Mountain Camp. In 2012, we moved to our diocesan retreat center at Terra Sancta Retreat Center in Rapid City.

In those early years we had to prepare our meals and snacks for the camp. These were largely put together through volunteers from the cathedral parish where I was assigned as an associate pastor.

When the first sixth grade group had attended Totus Tuus for three years and were moving into high school we realized we needed to have a leadership camp to continue to build a community for these young men who were interested in seminary. We developed the high school leadership camp which was held two days prior to the middle school camp. Alongside diocesan seminarians, the boys from the leadership camp helped run the middle school camp.

When Father Brian Christensen became vocation director in 2002, we realized there was a need to encourage young girls to consider religious life. Thus, we developed Totus Tuus Girls. Father Brian and I really did not know how to put a camp like this together. Therefore, we turned to the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious to find young women religious who were willing to assist us.

Not knowing any better, we set the schedule for the first girls camp exactly as we had run the boys’ camp. About a half a day into the first camp, the sisters who had come to assist us met with Father Brian and me to revise the schedule. They wanted to add things we would never have dreamed of adding with boys.

For instance, they suggested an hour of preparation time to get ready for breakfast and an hour for lunch, allowing the girls to have time to visit. They also wanted to give the girls time for crafts. We would never have included crafts with the boys. Putting things like sharp objects (scissors), glue and the like into the hands of the boys didn’t seem wise.

In time, the sisters, in coordination with the vocations office, were designing the schedule and the talks for the girls’ camp During this time, the first fruit of Totus Tuus was received. Father Grossenburg, who attended that first retreat, was ordained.

Under the direction of Father Brian and Susan Safford, at that time a newly consecrated virgin, as well as Father Kevin Achbach who succeeded Father Brian as vocations director, the camp’s numbers increased. We also began to see more fruit from the camps.

Men who had attended the camp as middle school and high school boys were beginning to be ordained including Father Tyler Dennis, Father Jonathan Dillon and Father John Paul Trask. We have also seen the fruit of the girls’ camp with Rachel Wilhelmi (Sister Familiae) and Giovanna Julian (Sister Poveri) with the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará, and Audrey Blankartz (Sister Lucia Christi) with the Nashville Dominicans. We also have three seminarians who were Totus Tuus campers: Deacon Zane Pekron, Andrew Sullivan and Robert Kinyon.

This trend continues under vocation director Father Mark McCormick. Last year, the camps served 95 middle school and 38 high school young people.

Fr. Mark: If you or your children have any stories to share about the blessings of Totus Tuus in their lives, I would love to hear them. We can see the fruits of those who have chosen priesthood or religious life and have shared with us the impact Totus Tuus had on their decision, but it is harder for us to see how the camps have assisted young people in general to draw closer to the Lord and to listen to his call.

We are planning several events this summer to celebrate the gift that Totus Tuus has been to our young people, families, parishes and diocese. Help us to celebrate and live Totus Tuus in our lives.Back in the Day

 

Improving the lives of homeless individuals and families

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

 

Sexual misconduct policy and codes of conduct are in place

The sexual abuse crisis in the Church has been made far more horrendous by some bishops, who by their actions or their failures to act, have caused great harm to both individuals and the Church as a whole. The abuse of their power and authority to manipulate and sexually abuse others has caused devastating harm. The fear of scandal replaced honest concern and care for those who have been victimized by abusers. Again, we seek forgiveness from both the Lord Jesus and those who have been harmed in any way by these actions.

As a beginning step, the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in the aftermath of this scandal has undertaken some important initiatives to address the situation and its root causes. We must all continue to pray for healing in our Church, in particular for those who have been personally victimized. Be assured of my continued prayers for healing.

Over the course of the past few weeks, parishioners from across the diocese have questioned me regarding the extent of this issue in this diocese — if clergy sexual abuse is still happening in the Church, and what happens when an allegation becomes known. I thought that I would address some of these questions and share the good news of what the Diocese of Rapid City has been doing to protect our children and young people.

The John Jay College of Criminal Justice completed a comprehensive research investigation focusing on the causes and context of clergy sexual abuse in the American Roman Catholic Church between 1950 and 2010. Released in 2011, this was the  second of two studies done, and it reported that the vast majority of abuse cases occurred from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s. Ninety-four percent of all cases occurred before 1990 and seventy percent of clergy offenders were ordained as priests before 1970. They concluded that these numbers, as well as the style and type of abuse, were fairly consistent with other large organizations (i.e., public schools, boy scouts, etc.) with men who had unsupervised and unlimited access to minors during the last half century and most especially during the 1960s and 1970s.

I share this, not to denigrate the gravity of this issue in the Church, but to put it into a historical context. One could get the sense from the media’s reporting about the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report that wide-spread clergy sexual abuse is still happening across this country. This is simply not the case, even though we are deeply saddened by a recent allegation in our own diocese. The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, a comprehensive set of procedures for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy, was established by the USCCB in June 2002. This Charter includes guidelines for reconciliation, healing and accountability, as well as supporting survivors and the prevention of further acts of abuse in the American Catholic Church.

Since the implementation of the Charter, the Catholic Church in America has done more in seeking to protect children, young people and vulnerable adults than any other institution, public or private. In fact, beginning in the 1990s, the bishops of the Diocese of Rapid City have implemented zero tolerance policies toward any instance of sexual abuse of children and young people.

The Diocese of Rapid City adheres to the following procedures regarding the handling of any reports of allegations of sexual misconduct.

Any allegation involving a minor or vulnerable adult is taken seriously and investigated thoroughly. Allegations are referred to civil authorities.

The diocese has a policy dealing with sexual misconduct, as well as codes of conduct, for priests, deacons, lay employees, volunteers and youth activity participants.

The diocese has an independent review board made up of one priest and several lay people who make recommendations to the bishop regarding the credibility of allegations. They review every allegation that is made.

All clergy, seminarians, diocesan employees and volunteers who work with children and vulnerable adults undergo background checks every five years.

All clergy, seminarians, diocesan employees and all volunteers working for the Church are required to participate in safe environment training and recurrent training every five years. Over the past years, 2817 clergy, seminarians, diocesan employees and volunteers have participated in the safe environment training.

All children involved in our Catholic schools and all children involved in parish religious formation programs are taught to recognize, resist and report abuse of any kind. This training takes place yearly. On average, over the past five years 3836 children have gone through the safe environment training each year.

The diocese is audited annually by an independent company to ensure proper training and safeguards are in place and followed. We have been in compliance since the audits began.

I will ensure that the diocese remains vigilant and transparent in fulfilling its policies and procedures regarding reported sexual misconduct. In all of this, we must also never lose sight of those victim-survivors who have suffered because people in positions in power and authority have failed to act as the Gospel demands.

For survivors of sexual abuse, these days in the Church may re-open deep wounds. Support is available from the Church and within our communities. Anyone who has been a victim of sexual misconduct by a bishop, priest, deacon or lay person working for or volunteering for the Church is invited to contact the Victim Assistance Coordinator by calling 605-209-3418 for assistance and compassionate care.

To anyone who has been abused, if you don’t feel comfortable for any reason with the Church providing help, never hesitate to also contact local law enforcement.

With compassion and without judgement, the bishops of the United States pledge to heal and protect with all of the strength God provides us.

West River Catholic September 2018

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