Preserving artifacts that were made here, used here, and remain here

Fr. Eugene Buechel, SJ, is shown in an undated photo from the Buechel Memorial Lakota Museum archives.

Featuring the Buechel Memorial Lakota Museum, St. Francis Mission

Fr. Jacob Boddicker, SJ

(Editor’s note: The first part of this series ran in the May 2020 West River Catholic, highlighting the Heritage Center at Holy Rosary Mission, Pine Ridge. Part II is a highlight of The Buechel Memorial Lakota Museum, St. Francis Mission on the Rosebud Indian Reservation.)

We are in a unique position to visit this phenomenal museum and appreciate the contrast between our archives and a museum.

In 1947 a Jesuit missionary priest named Fr. Eugene Buechel (beak-ull), celebrated his fiftieth anniversary in the Society of Jesus. That same year the Lakota Museum was built in St. Francis, offering a means of displaying the massive collection of Father Buechel’s. Today, seventy years later, the museum still stands. It has grown since his death in 1954 with continued donations of items entrusted to the safekeeping of the St. Francis Mission.

Father  Buechel was born in Germany in 1874, entering the Society of Jesus in 1897. From 1902 to 1904 he taught at the boarding school in St. Francis before going to St. Louis to finish his training for the priesthood, which occurred in 1906. He would move between Rosebud and Pine Ridge reservations before returning to the St. Francis in 1929, remaining there until his death.

He dedicated his life to two pursuits: evangelizing the Lakota people and seeking to share the treasures of our faith with the native people of this land, and doing all he could to learn and preserve their culture, primarily by means of photography, artifact collection, and linguistic study.

One of his greatest accomplishments was the compilation of the first Lakota-English dictionary, containing over 30,000 words, including rare and archaic words nearly lost or forgotten in recent years. As he continued to learn from the Lakota people, they saw his love for their culture and desire to preserve it for future generations, leading to the donation of many personal items; the museum’s collection of authentic beadwork, clothing, weapons and other items dating as far back as the mid-1800s, before the establishment of the Rosebud Reservation.

It is thought that the museum contains one of the largest collections of Native American artifacts outside of major institutions like the Smithsonian and various universities. The collection is possibly the only  such collection still present among the culture to which its items belong: the items were made here, used here, and remain here.

Next to the museum is a small wooden church named Holy Family. It was originally located on the prairie northeast of Parmelee, and was closed in the 1940s. In the 1970s it was moved to its current location, repaired, and repurposed as an addition to the museum. On display within are a number of artifacts showcasing the Catholic faith of the Lakota people on the Rosebud. This tiny church represents the thirty or more small churches that once dotted the reservation, which once included Tripp and Melette counties, in addition to Todd county.

In November Father Boddicker tells what the museum has to offer.

Just simply listening to the Lord no matter what

Rob & Natalie Hrabe

Editor Laurie Hallstrom of the West River Catholic interviewed deacon candidates for Podcasts. The men are  preparing to be ordained a permanent deacon on Oct. 8. Here is a partial transcript of her talking with Rob Hrabe is a parishioner at Blessed Sacrament parish in Rapid City.

WRC: Can you tell me about your wife and family?

Rob: My wife Natalie and I have been in Rapid City since 2003. We were originally from Kansas. We’ve been married 35 years and we were high school sweethearts. I was in the military — Air Force for 22 years and that’s how I ended up here in South Dakota. I have two daughters and four grandchildren.

WRC: Let’s talk about your family of origin. What were your parents like? How many brothers and sisters did you have?

Rob: I was the youngest of seven. My mother was a convert (to the faith). My father passed away when I was about four years old. … my mom was a woman of great faith and she kept the family together. We always went to the Catholic Church where she was a faith-filled Catholic. She really taught us everything we know.

WRC: Can you tell me about other ways that God has worked in your life since you began your deacon formation?

Rob: In the diaconate formation we went through a lot of courses where we learned how to meet people where they are and how to relate the faith to others. Those kinds of things change the way we relate to the church.

WRC: What’s the one thing you’ve learned since you started formation that’s really stuck with you?

Rob: Just simply listening to the Lord. No matter what you do. I was one who was always very busy. I had a lot going on in my life and I had of activity — work and things like that. I kind of had my faith life separate from the rest of my life. I went to church on Sunday, but the rest on my life was my own — if you think of it that way. Once I began to spend time in silent prayer — not trying to ask for anything or do anything — just listen for the Lord’s voice in my life. That was a game changer. That changed the way I think, even at work. I spend time listening to the Lord and listening to where the Lord wants me to go rather than just making my own decisions.

WRC: What advice would you give someone considering becoming a deacon?

Rob: Listen to the Lord. Spend a lot of time in prayer. It’s not something that you are necessarily made to do. You are called to it. If you feel that sort of call, just explore that and listen to what the Lord has to say in your life. Spend time in silent prayer and you will be able to ultimately discern that. You’ll know, for sure, when it’s time or if it’s not the right thing for you. You’ll know if you just listen well enough.


I’ve really been able to develop the habit of prayer

Rich & Mary Helen Olsen

Editor Laurie Hallstrom of the West River Catholic interviewed deacon candidates for Podcasts. The men are  preparing to be ordained a permanent deacon on Oct. 8. Here is a partial transcript of her talking with Rich Olsen is a parishioner at cathedral parish in Rapid City.

WRC: Tell us a little about your family?

Rich: My wife is Mary Helen. She’s the principal at St. Thomas More Middle School. I have three children. Charlie is in Omaha, married two children. Katie lives in Los Angeles, and Joey and his wife have two children in the twin cities area.

WRC: Didn’t you have a military career?

Rich: I spent 31 years in the air force. That’s what brought us here to Rapid City 33 years ago. I started off flying B-52 bombers and then came to fly the B-1 bomber here at Ellsworth. Finally, in 2013 I retired and settled here and started engaging in our life more in Rapid City at that point.

WRC: Where did you grow up?

Rich: I’m an air force brat. I was born in Greenville, Mississippi, in 1957. Dad was a fighter pilot in the Air Force. We traveled all over the place. I grew up in a Presbyterian home, and I think, was formed as a very good Christian. I think. I hope. And then I went to college, met Mary Helen, and we got married in 1979. I started my time as a Catholic on Holy Saturday in 1979. I started in the air force in 1980.

WRC: What prompted you to consider the diaconate?

Rich: It really started years back when I first encountered the deacons of the diocese. I was impressed with the quality of the men and their spirituality. And of course, the idea that they were ordained as ministers in the church and yet still lived in the secular world. To have that dual identity really intrigued me. … so, it was something I prayed about and considered for many years.


Rich: The importance of prayer. I had a prayer life before I started into discernment for deacon formation. The work at building the habit of praying the Liturgy of the Hours really started to get me into a closer relationship with the Lord. … so many times, we’ve asked the Lord for help with a problem or a dilemma and we pray, and we pray and we say, ‘Please Lord, help us.’ Once we were done, once that problem was resolved, we say, ‘Thanks God! We’re done. We got it now. Call you next time.’  Whereas, I’ve really been able to develop the habit of prayer — the sense not only do I have to pray, but that I want to pray.  I want to spend that time engaged with the Lord in conversation in just a continuous mode during the day.


I could see that God was forming me

Bill & Terri White


Editor Laurie Hallstrom of the West River Catholic interviewed deacon candidates for podcasts (see schedule at right). The men are  preparing to be ordained a permanent deacon on Oct. 8. Here is a partial transcript of her talking with Bill White, a parishioner and Pastoral Assistant at Christ the King Church in Porcupine on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

WRC: Can you tell me about your wife and family?

Bill: I’m married to my lovely wife Terri,  we have five kids and a lot of grandkids.

WRC: Didn’t you have a military career?

Bill: I was a member of the South Dakota National Guard for over 38 years, almost 39. I worked full time as a maintenance supervisor for over 31 years.

WRC: Can you tell me what you do at your church?

Bill: I’m the pastor assistant, so I’m the one in the office. I do home visits and I do some maintenance — mow some of the cemeteries a few times a year. I do whatever needs to be done. And, I prepare for the liturgy.

WRC: Let’s start at the beginning of your life. Where did you grow up?

Bill: I grew up in Rapid City. I was a cradle Catholic. I went to St Isaac Jogues when it was down by Rapid Creek before the (June 9, 1972) flood. Growing up I was an altar boy very early in life, age 7, and I thought I was a professional mourner. They would always check me out of school for funerals.

WRC: Was there a moment that you clearly felt the Lord acting or speaking with you?

Bill: You know, I had a chance to reflect on that during our canonical retreat and I kind of did a lifelong examen. I didn’t concentrate on where the Lord wasn’t present, but more on where he was present in some of the people who touched me throughout my life. … He was forming me my whole life. A guy doesn’t realize that early on. I would say I would never see me doing this, even 10 years ago, but when I went back and started writing down the names and some of the things that happened in my life, I could see that God was with me and he was forming me.

WRC: So, when did you start thinking about the diaconate?

Bill: It was in March of 2013. I was at work and I was on my computer and for some reason I checked into the diocese website and it went to a Canku Wakan retreat. I’d never been to one so I started getting interested and for some reason it went straight to a page about Deacon “Heavy” Garnet. It gave me a story about him, and his near fatal accident that changed his life. I could really see myself in that story. That’s when it hit me, so I went home and told Teri “I think I’m supposed to become a deacon.”

WRC: Is there anything you’re looking forward to once you are ordained a deacon? What would you like to do?

Bill: I just want to do what God has intended for me. I am sure I’m in the right spot and this is where he wants me. I continue to pray and grow, and my formation just begins after I am ordained. I’ll look for direction.


‘There is no replacement for allowing God to be in the driver’s seat’

Bishop Peter Muhich as a young priest. (Courtesy photo)

(Editor’s note: This is the annual vocation issue for the West River Catholic. Pages 8-14 feature deacons, deacon candidates and seminarians. Bishop Peter M. Muhich was interviewed by Editor Laurie Hallstrom on his personal vocation.)

WRC: Fr. Mark McCormick, the diocesan vocations director, keeps reminding us that vocations begin in the home. How does that resonate with you?

Bishop Muhich: My vocation began in the home. I grew up in an active Catholic family, where going to church and doing things in the parish were just a normal part of daily life. Praying before and after meals, praying at bedtime, those were regular things.

My parents created an openness in their children’s lives to have a relationship with the Lord.Without that, I’m not sure you could ever discover a vocation. My parents never pushed religious vocations, but they honored priests and religious and they knew that they were important. Like every Catholic boy I think I was fascinated by what the priest was doing at the altar — my parents remember that better than I do.

WRC: When did Jesus get you thinking about a call to holy orders?

Bishop Muhich: It was in ninth grade when I started thinking about that more. We were part of a (charismatic) prayer group at that time and it started to occur to me that maybe God was calling me. I’m not a part of a prayer group today, but I think it opened up a more personal level of prayer. It wasn’t a dramatic thing, it wasn’t a big change in my life, it was a thought — maybe I should be a priest?

WRC: What did you like about going to seminary?

Bishop Muhich: I really loved studying theology, church history, and scripture. We had great priests who were professors (at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn.) I always enjoyed getting to know them and having good deep conversations with them and seeing the way they were living their priesthood.

WRC: What attracted you to studying in Belgium?

Bishop Muhich: The Catholic University of Leuven is the oldest Catholic university in the world with a continuous history. There were ones founded before Leuven, but they were shut down during the French revolution or some other period of history. It’s been there since 1425 and I thought it would be really cool to study there. We were between bishops at the time I graduated from St. Thomas, so, I lobbied and lobbied and lobbied and wore the vocation director down and the diocese finally agreed to send me to Leuven. I was very persistent.

WRC: What did you enjoy about being a parish priest?

Bishop Muhich: I really enjoyed being a parish priest and being with people at all stages of life. You see the whole trajectory of a person’s spiritual life and their  earthly pilgrimage.

WRC: Do you have any words of advice for a young person considering seminary or religious life?

Bishop Muhich: Keep asking God to show you the way, there is no replacement for allowing God to be in the driver’s seat with that. Don’t be surprised if it takes some unexpected turns. That happens, because God is preparing you in the perfect way for whatever he wants you do. Enjoy the adventure, continue to ask God to be the Lord of your life.

WRC: What do you want people to know about you as you go out into the parishes?

Bishop Muhich: I am a parish priest, that is my background, parish life is something very familiar to me. I’m just excited to see what God is doing here. The first year for a new bishop is a lot of watching, listening and learning.

WRC: COVID-19 has made it an odd year to begin your ministry here. Do you think things will get back to ‘normal’?

Bishop Muhich: We will need to pay special attention to bringing people back to the practice of their faith after all these unusual circumstances. Be praying and thinking of ways we can do that — forming parish committees for simply calling our parishioners and saying “hey we know you probably haven’t been able to come to church, we want to make contact with you and invite you to come back when it’s safe to come back.” I think we are going to have to do a lot of that. Committee members could even visit and say, “now we have these things going on in church and we want to tell you about them.”

We are moving through very unusual history; we haven’t had a pandemic in a hundred years, and we live in a time when there are so many things competing for our attention. We should not be surprised it’s going to take work to invite people back.

WRC: What is happening in your ministry now?

Bishop Muhich: I am enjoying visiting, I went to churches in five different parish clusters, last weekend. That was a big swing through the prairie — Faith and Eagle Butte, Timber Lake, Trail City, Isabel, Lemmon, and Buffalo.

WRC: How do you want to be addressed?

Bishop Muhich: People just don’t know what to do with the “h” in the middle of my name; it stymies them. So, Bishop Peter is fine in normal conversation.




WRC e-Edition August 2020

West River Catholic July 2020

West River Catholic June 2020

What’s your pandemic story?



Preserving a Catholic Community
By Kathy Cordes, Diocesan Archivist

Has your prayer life strengthened? Has your family bonded like never before? Have you watched Mass at your parish on social media? A few of our greatest blessings during our quarantine time — priests on social media, Mass and being able to watch multiple homilies on any given day, talks concerning discernment and other areas of prayer-life, the Quarantine Quiz by the Office of Faith Formation, walking with the saints, learning how Star Wars relates to my faith and watching a priest humbly ironing altar linens!

These memories we create now in this 2020 pandemic are of great significance for our future history and for our archives.

The diocesan archives move has been completed and renamed the St. Anthony of Padua diocesan archives. St. Anthony is an archival patron saint, definitely mine! For example, while trying to locate a letter from the era of the 1960’s, I often say the little  prayer my grandmother taught me …. “Tony, Tony come around, somethings lost and can’t be found.” Do you do this, too? St. Anthony does come around, many times. This quarantine has been a boon to the archives as I am able to put, dare I say organize, the archives in working order after the Chancery merge and move.

Did you see the recently released “Walking the Good Red Road: Nicholas Black Elk’s Journey to Sainthood?” This docu-drama has been very well received. I have had many, many calls from all over the United States and Canada.

After talking with these Black Elk enthusiasts from all over the country, it has really come to light how blessed we are during this pandemic time to have internet and social media to connect with each other. While we pray daily for those suffering or those who have lost a loved one, we must remember past pandemics, when people were without the privileges of modern technology. The influenza pandemic in 1918 or the polio epidemic in which schools closed in South Dakota circa late 1940s … we must preserve the history that belongs with these events.

We must write our stories, photograph and share our stories so that future generations will be able to garner knowledge and valuable information. Future archivists and genealogists will be able to research and find answers to their questions, because of us.

Our parishes were recently asked to send in their pandemic plans to promote the gospel during these trying times. So, please, send YOUR story along with your parish story to the archives. Preserve your family and our church history. The archives are the foundation of our Catholic Church history.  Just like 1948, 2020 will be a year to remember.