We are asked to give ourselves in liturgy

In the eternal love relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Jesus continues to offer himself to the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. We come to Mass to join our sacrifice to that of Jesus. Jesus offers himself to his Father through us. Amazing isn’t it, to realize that at Mass as we join ourselves to Jesus in his sacrifice, we are caught up into the very life of God.

So how do we join the sacrifice of Jesus at the Mass? The first response might be to focus on the role of the priest. He is Christ present at Mass leading us, the body of Christ. We say “the priest offers (that is sacrifices in) the Mass.” The priest is self-sacrificing in his role and so is the whole assembly.

We are all baptized, joined to Jesus Christ and we receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is present in us. We are his body. He continues his sacrifice in us. The simplest way to express how we join the sacrifice of Jesus is with the following phrase. We make room, speak out, listen up, sing out and believe that is what we are doing.

We make room in our lives for each other. That is as literal as it sounds, but it is also attitudinal. We are asked to slide down in the pew, to look at each other, to smile, to greet one another. We come to the Mass from a variety of backgrounds, dispositions, interests, needs, and wants. We need to be attentive to each other. This can be self-

sacrificing in that we have a general tendency to think “me first.” Making room is both literal and internal.

We are invited to speak out. Through the responses and prayers, we are asked to give ourselves. We speak these prayers in a way that manifests our conviction and belief. We mean what we say. We also speak out to support one another. There is strength in numbers. We encourage others by our enthusiasm to voice their own prayer if they can hear us. Some might prefer to pray quietly. There are moments for silence in the liturgy. However, when we are called to

vocalize a prayer, we are self-sacrificing in our willingness to be heard.

We listen up. There are several times when listening attentively can be a real sacrifice. We focus on the proclaimer, the presider or the cantor. We must not only hear what they are saying but take it in and let it sink into our lives. We all know the challenge of being attentive to someone when they are speaking to us. The mind wanders. The effort put forth to really listen is participation in the self-sacrifice of Christ.

Finally, we sing out. Singing is praying. We join our voices together in sung prayer. This is an area where many of us need to be challenged. We think of the music as an “extra”; something that isn’t necessary to the Mass but singing and music are essential liturgical action. Our voices joined in song, elevate our spoken prayer and enhance our giving of self. Some say, “I can’t sing.” They mean that they do not have a good singing voice. We also have different speaking voices and different capacities for hearing. If my voice is not as pleasing as another’s, should I not speak the prayers at Mass; if I do not listen as well as another, should I not listen at all? No. Why then do we decide not to sing if our voice is not wonderful? For some self-sacrifice will come in bending our stubborn wills, in accepting that singing is important. Once we understand that singing, like speaking and listening is essential for joining our sacrifice to Christ’s, we will sing.

All of these ways of activity in the Mass become conscious not simply by our doing it, but more importantly by our believing. Conscious participation involves knowing why we do what we do. It is believing that my participation in the Mass is a genuine sacrifice. My sacrifice is joined to Jesus’ sacrifice through my faith.

With this basic understanding of what we are doing in the Mass, I will, in the subsequent months, look at each part of the Eucharist and explore how we encounter Jesus in his sacrifice during the Mass.

‘Departure brings about a big hole in my heart’

Please continue to pray for me as I will for you. May the Lord send you a new bishop worthy of your love! God bless you all!

Exodus 90 Spiritual Exercise

The first part of January we had more than 60 college students from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and Black Hills State University that took two buses to Indianapolis for the SEEK Conference, in Indianapolis, Indiana, which is put on by FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students).

It was through the dedication and hard work of the FOCUS missionaries evangelizing and constantly inviting college students to SEEK that we were able to take this many people from these two small universities in Western South Dakota. God is good! 

SEEK was a five-day gathering of thousands of college students from around the country who met to learn more about their faith, to share in friendship, to be encouraged in their unique vocation and to experience the love and hope that comes from a real, personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ in his church. The theme for this year’s conference was “Encounter Something More.”

From my experience, those who went to SEEK or those who have encountered someone who went to SEEK are still “Encountering Something More” — in the person of Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit two months later.

In Matthew 7:20 we hear, “By their fruit you will know them.” For me personally, this fruit can be seen in the six small groups made up of 20-plus college students and young adults, three FOCUS missionaries, two priests, and one director of campus ministry participating in Exodus 90.

Exodus 90 is a spiritual exercise — at times it feels more like a spiritual boot camp — that is rooted in the great story of the movement from slavery to freedom in the Book of Exodus. Exodus 90 is comprised of four pillars: prayer, asceticism, fraternity and 90 days.

The Exodus 90 program makes prayer foundational in this spiritual journey. Each man is called to do a daily holy hour with at least 20 minutes of contemplative prayer, listening and pondering on the word of God. St. John of the Cross calls contemplative prayer “Silent Love.”

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we read that it is in silent prayer coming before the face of God that “we let our masks fall and turn our heads back to the Lord who loves us, so as to hand ourselves over to him as an offering to be purified and transformed” (No. 2711).

As part of the prayer pillar, each man is also encouraged to pray the morning offering, go to daily Mass if at all possible, pray at meals, frequent confession, pray during Eucharistic adoration and pray a daily Rosary. One of the great fruits of the prayer pillar is that I offer Mass at 6 o’clock on Saturday mornings and usually have two or three that will show up, which always warms my heart.

The second pillar, asceticism, helps participants acquire self-discipline. This self-discipline gives men back their interior freedom — the freedom to give up “the things of this world” so as to receive in exchange a blessed freedom which allows us to love our “neighbors” and our God.

The goal of asceticism is to give us the strength to reorder our life. In the catechism it speaks of repentance in this way: “Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all of our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance towards the evil actions we have committed” (No. 1431).

The ascetic disciplines within the Exodus 90 program include: cold showers, no alcohol, no desserts and sweets, no eating between meals, no soda or sweetened drinks, no television or movies (without the permission of the fraternity), only music that lifts the soul to God, no televised sports (without the permission of the fraternity), computer and phone for research and communication purposes only, regular and intense exercise, no major material purchases (without the permission of the fraternity), fasting on Wednesday and Fridays by eating one regular meal and two smaller meals while abstaining from meat, and minimum of seven hours of sleep each night.

The small group/fraternity that I am a part of decided at the beginning of Exodus 90 journey that if one of us falls or breaks one of these ascetic disciplines that we all agreed to sleep on the floor. To be honest, sleeping on the floor has been a difficult and a challenging one for me, more so than the cold showers every day — so far it is been six nights on the floor.

Small group fraternities are a real gift to the Exodus 90 program. These fraternities build a band of brothers who help to keep each other accountable in this intense journey to freedom. These fraternities meet three times a week, allowing each brother the opportunity to give a self-report for accountability and to receive encouragement from the brotherhood.

Why the 90 days? It is the length of time needed to re-learn or reboot the spiritual life. Researchers have found that it takes about 90 days for the brain to reset itself. That is why most rehabilitation programs, including Alcoholics Anonymous, use the 90-day model. There is a saying in AA, “90 meetings in 90 days.”

Prayer. Asceticism. Fraternity. We are discovering these are indispensable practices that build one on another as they lead us to true freedom and a transformed heart in Christ.

Pastoral Center plans take shape


May 15, Chancery employees Mark Hazel, facilities director; and Deacon Greg Sass, Director of the Permanent Diaconate and Lay Ministry Formation; review the preliminary plans for remodeling the former credit union. (WRC photo)

At the end of March, Bishop Robert Gruss purchased the building vacated by a local credit union. (WRC photo)

Susan Safford, Michael Wilhelmi, Dottie Borowski, Tammi Williams and Dionne Eastmo check out the future copy/server spaces. (WRC photo)

Living the Mission 
By Fr. Michel Mulloy, Vicar General

In January the West River Catholic broke a story about the new diocesan pastoral center. The Diocese of Rapid City purchased the former Black Hills Federal Credit Union building on the east end of Main Street in March. Although the original plans, developed before the Living the Mission Campaign started in the diocese, called for a new Pastoral Center to be built on the campus of Terra Sancta, Bishop Robert Gruss did not stop looking for a suitable facility that would house the chancery staff. The credit union building has adequate space.

The credit union has moved to their new location. The bishop, vicar general, Chancellor Margaret Simonson and the Chief

Finance Officer Rick Soulek have been meeting with ARC International, an architecture firm. The diocese also hired Rangel Construction to manage the renovation. This group is working on the plans for remodeling this newly acquired facility so that it will best accommodate the chancery staff. The first draft of the renovation plan was shared with the full chancery staff to receive their input. Once the design is complete, the remodeling will begin. The projected date for the construction to commence is mid-August.

The building has two floors and a half basement. The basement  will  be  used  primarily for housing the archives of the diocese. These are all the records, both historical and financial, dioceses are required to keep.

The first and second floors will have enough offices for the chancery staff, currently about 40 employees, as well as a few extra offices for possible expansion of one department or another. Most of these offices are already in place. A section of the second floor that was previously filled with moveable cubicles will be converted to permanent offices.

The second floor will also have a small chapel. There are two reasons for this. First and foremost, a place to gather for Mass and prayer is a strong reminder to the chancery staff that our work is grounded in our diocesan mission to attract and form disciples of Jesus who want to live and proclaim the Gospel. In addition, the chapel will be used for daily Mass and times of prayer for the staff.

To accommodate meetings and committee work, the new pastoral center will have conferences and meeting rooms. Some of these already exist and some will be added during the remodeling process.

The design is simple and functional. This will be the place from which the bishop and his staff reach out in service to the diocese, that is, to all of us. Plans include ways to reflect the whole diocese in the artwork of the new Pastoral Center.

As you think about and reflect on your contribution to the Living the Mission Campaign, realize that the bishop and his staff are working to use the gifts that have been offered well. The diocese needs a new pastoral center and the purchase of this credit union facility will allow us to realize that aspect of the case elements in the campaign in a cost-effective way. 

Central Plains Commission established to best minister in prairie area

The Central Plain Commission is examining the spiritual needs of 14 parishes.

By Father Michel Mulloy, Vicar General

A couple months ago, a group of parishioners for the parish clusters of Eagle Butte, Timber Lake and Faith began meeting. Bishop Robert Gruss asked that the central area of the diocese go through a process of reflecting on how to best serve the needs of the parishioners in that area. This same process was employed across the northern tier of the diocese (the parish clusters of Buffalo, Lemmon, and McLaughlin) a few years ago. The result was a renewed vision of ministry and a reorganization of the alignment of the parishes in that area.

The Central Plains Commission has met three times. There are a total of 18 lay representatives for the three parish clusters as well as three pastors. I am facilitating the process. The first order of business was to develop a mission statement, so the commission members had a clear understanding of their task. We engaged this process by looking at the Diocesan Priority Plan. Any ministry in the diocese, whether in a commission like this one, or in an individual parish, must be guided by the mission statement, values and foundational ministers of the whole diocese as expressed in the Priority Plan. The Central Plains Commission’s mission statement is:

The Central Plains Commission will use our faith, knowledge of our communities and our commitment to develop a plan for bold, effective ministry in our area of the diocese, to meet the spiritual needs of all and to

inspire and motivate their  joyful living of the mission of Jesus Christ.

In addition to crafting this mission statement, the commission has begun to collect data about the 14 parishes that make up this area. This data includes the number of parishioners and their involvement in the life of their parish and the diocese. We are also trying to understand future needs.

The commission has had conversations about the faith life of the parishioners in these 14 parishes.  They have begun formulating what bold and effective ministry looks like and exploring the spiritual needs of the parishes that are represented on the commission. We have also begun assessing ways the individual parishes already have meaningful ministry and where it is lacking.

The commission members are listed here. You are welcome and encouraged to visit with them to understand their work and to have your questions answered regarding creating and implementing a plan for bold, effective ministry in the central plains for all who live in that part of the diocese. Your input will be most appreciated.

Lynn Hahne, Trail City

Jim Keller, Trail City

Bryan Gill, Timber Lake

Marlene Biegler, Timber Lake

Marcia Lindskov, Isabel

Mary Harris, Isabel

John D. Lemke, Dupree

Twila Schuler, Dupree

Nila Woodward, Dupree

Bud Neigel, Eagle Butte

Dean Schremp, Eagle Butte

Sylvia Mowrer, Promise

Ryan Tate Dennis, Red Owl

Dannie Arneson, Red Owl

Deacon Larry and Valarie Brown, Faith

Bob and Jennifer Orwick, Mud Butte

Fr. Brian Lane, Timber Lake Cluster

Fr. Bryan Sorensen, Eagle Butte Cluster

Fr. Janusz Korban, Faith Cluster

What is the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

By Fr. Michel Mulloy, Vicar General

The Year of the Eucharist will begin on June 23, 2019.  I thought it would be good to share with you some insight concerning the celebration of the Eucharist.

I think we need to begin by asking, why do I go to Mass? Years ago, a professor answered that question in a way that was clear and simple. We go to Mass to encounter God. We are seeking an experience of God. The bishop’s pastoral letter reminded us that God is also seeking an experience with us. We often speak of this desire on our part and on God’s part as encountering Jesus. So how do we encounter God (Jesus) in the Mass? The answer to that question will take a while to unpack but it is worth the journey. We begin in the depth of God as Jesus revealed God to us.

In our faith tradition, our understanding of God is that there is one God in three divine persons. There has been a lot of ink spilled over trying to explain that understanding. Every explanation is bound to be incomplete in some way and yet each explanation can open new insight for us as well. This is the insight I have learned over the years. For some of you reading this, my insight will be familiar. For others it will be new. For all of us, I believe it bears repeating.

I believe that Jesus told us two things about God. First, in God there is real relationship. In other words, within the life of God there is a dynamic dialogue, an interaction, a communication between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Second, Jesus told us that this real relationship is so complete and so intimate, that there is a total oneness in Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There are parameters for thinking about and speaking about the Trinity. So, what does this relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit look like? How can we characterize it in a way that makes sense?

To answer this question, we need to look at Jesus’ life. God became man in Jesus of Nazareth. We can then assume that the way Jesus the Son related to God the Father in his life on earth reflects the relationship within God. Jesus’ life is best understood as sacrifice. In his life and ministry on earth, Jesus sacrificed himself to God the Father. This was made clear in his death on the cross. His words in the garden express the essence of his life. “Father … not my will but yours be done,” (Lk 22:42). Jesus’ relationship to the Father was one of sacrificial giving.

Jesus lived this life of sacrifice through, with and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit, Jesus was conceived. Through the Spirit, he was gifted with wisdom and teaching authority. The Spirit descended on him at his baptism and he lived his public life in the power of the Holy Spirit. Finally, in his death, he gave us his Spirit. The Holy Spirit enabled and empowered Jesus to give himself to the Father.

The Father’s response to his Son’s sacrifice was to give life back to the Son. Both at Jesus’ baptism and at the transfiguration, Jesus is revealed as the beloved Son. The Father’s pleasure in his Son’s life and teaching enlivened Jesus’ life on earth. Ultimately, the Father gave life back to his Son in the resurrection.

The relationship of God reflected in Jesus is one of mutual giving. The Son sacrifices his life to the Father. The Father responds by giving the Son new life. The Holy Spirit empowers this exchange as the advocate, the counselor, the guide.

If this is confusing, I would encourage you to read it again. Our understanding of God is vital for us to understand how we encounter Jesus and his Father in the Eucharist. We will continue these reflections in the coming months of the Year of the Eucharist. Consider clipping this article out and saving it as a reference for future months.

God’s plan turns out much better than we can imagine

St. Thomas More High School students Ian Krump, Patrick Kellar, Rose Wingert and Liam McGuire mix cement for a new sidewalk at the Mustard Seed Community in Jamaica. (Courtesy photo)


This past Holy Week, I was blessed to be part of the St. Thomas More Mission trip to the Mustard Seeds Communities in Jamaica. One of the great lessons I had to relearn once again is that I need to trust God completely in his plan for our mission trip.

No matter how much we organized and planned out our trip, in the end, God’s plan would turn out much better than we could have imagined. It takes eyes of faith to see God’s plans unfold before us and one thing is for certain: “There are no coincidences with God.”

We left for Jamaica on Saturday, April 13, and spent over seven hours in the Rapid City airport waiting for the thunderstorms in the Dallas area to subside. We finally made it to Dallas that evening but missed our flight to Montego Bay, Jamaica. The earliest they could re-book us was Monday morning. We prayed as a group in the Dallas airport asking that Jesus and Our Lady would provide for a way out of the predicament in which we found ourselves.

We ended up staying at a hotel and renting four vans for our unplanned “layover” in Dallas. Mary Casey, one of the adult leaders, received a text message from a friend of hers encouraging us to go to the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas for Mass, and we decided to go to the Abbey for Palm Sunday Mass after viewing beautiful pictures on their website, even though it meant driving past a parish only minutes from our hotel.

When we reached the Abbey, Abbott Peter happened to catch sight of us as we were coming in. He made sure to officially welcome us at the opening of the Mass and then had Father Anthony give us a tour of the Abbey afterward. Father Anthony’s parents, who happened to be at Mass as well, went and bought donuts for us while we were taking a tour of the Abbey.

As an extra bonus to our time at the Abbey with the monks, we were treated to three amazing vocational testimonies by Father Anthony, Brother Christopher and Abbott Peter. It was truly a grace-filled time at the Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas and so unexpected. Thank you, Lord!

St. Thomas More High School has been sending students on mission trips to the Mustard Seed Communities for the last six years. Mustard Seed Communities began in 1978 as a home for a handful of children with disabilities who had been abandoned to the streets of Jamaica.

Today, MSC provides loving and lifelong care to over 600 children and adults with disabilities, children affected by HIV/AIDS, and young mothers in crisis across Jamaica, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

As we started the trip, I asked our students and adult leaders to name a desire of their hearts, to ask from Jesus a grace that they wanted him to do for them while on this mission trip. Alissa Stephens, a junior, shared this desire of her heart:

“I began to pray about what it was that God wanted me to get from this trip. Eventually, I realized what I desired was a deeper appreciation for the dignity that exists in every human being that I encounter.

“Throughout this trip, I spent numerous hours with the mentally and physically handicapped residents of the Mustard Seed Communities, and it was through doing this that I was able to see God’s love constantly at work in them and in all the members of the mission team.

Stephens continued, “Prior to the trip, I struggled with being able to look at a certain people around me and see God in them, but now it is much easier for me to recognize God’s presence in almost every person that I encounter.

“This trip was an amazing opportunity for me to serve others and at the same time,  grow in my own spiritual life. I can’t wait to continue spreading this newfound love that I acquired while in Jamaica.”

Spreading this newfound love is at the heart of a missionary disciple who has encountered the person of Jesus. Pope Francis writes in his encyclical “The Joy of the Gospel”:


At the end of the mission trip, we presented each of our young missionary disciples with the Mustard Seed Cross as a reminder to them to proclaim and live Jesus Christ and to see Christ in one another. The Mustard Seed Cross is indispensable to its mission and graces each of their community chapels. They describe it in this way:

“The transparent figure of Jesus represents the risen Christ and the barbed wire cross stands for the sufferings of the world. This unique work symbolizes the hope the resurrected Christ brings to those who may feel trapped by the barbed wires of fear, poverty, injustice, illness, or despair. It is particularly vivid when viewed as dawn breaks during early morning prayer in the Chapel. In the darkness, the cross is the only part that is visible, but as the light grows the body of Jesus becomes more apparent, reinforcing Christ as the light amidst the darkness of our lives and as Light of the world.”

When we returned from our mission trip, I noticed that several of our students were wearing their Mustard Seed Crosses to school, among them Joe Hanson and Michael Eastmo. I asked Joe, who will be entering the seminary this fall for our diocese, about the wearing of the Mustard Seed Cross. Joe responded, “I haven’t taken it off. It serves as a constant reminder to me of our trip and why I went on it.”

I pressed Joe a little bit and asked, “Why did you go?” He replied, “I went on this trip to have the opportunity to serve the most vulnerable in Jamaica, but also to help open my eyes to the presence of Christ in those that I am able to serve. This trip really taught me to see Christ in the people that I am gifted with the opportunity to serve.”

Besides hanging out with the residents, we also engaged in several work projects: painting some residents’ homes, building a sidewalk, hanging doors, putting screens on windows and purchased and built two personal energy transportation hand carts.

In visiting with Mary Casey, who has coordinated several of the St. Thomas More mission trips and helped this past year, she said she would be willing to be the contact person and help to coordinate any groups  looking for a mission trip experience. She can be contacted at: mcasey@rccss.org.

In the words of Pope Francis: “So what are we waiting for?”