‘Bless you in your 2020 yellow-brick-road journey’

My first conscious awareness of 2020 was the song, “We’re Off to See the Wizard.” No kidding. I woke up with that song running through my head. There was Dorothy in her ruby slippers, skipping down the yellow brick road with her three companions. I dressed and skipped (no, not really) to the chapel for my morning routine of prayer.

At first, I wondered if this wizard song had anything to do with my impending visit to Rome. True, I do have “new slippers” in the form of a new cassock. I am excited to meet Pope Francis, but not because I want something. Rather, I hope to listen to his wisdom and experience and that of the various leaders of the Vatican offices to learn and grown in my own ministry. Rome is not emerald, but rather more of a mixture of stony white and various shades of tan, orange and dirty pink.

I quickly dismissed these ideas as misguided, but as the song persisted in my head, I contemplated further the image of these four wandering misfits on the yellow brick road. Nothing in life is coincidental.  God speaks to us in many ways if we have expectant faith.

Dorothy and her companions wanted a brain, a heart and courage, along with a return to Kansas. More deeply, the travelers wanted 1) to see clearly and understand, 2) to feel deeply and know love, 3) to have the willingness and resolve to act, and 4) to find the way home. In this first prayer of 2020, I examined my own need for renewal as I pondered these four desires.

Like the scarecrow, I want a brain that understands. I want to see clearly and to know what it is that God wants for me and from me. A significant dimension of the spiritual journey is understanding. Understanding by itself is insufficient, but it is, at the same time, essential. How often have you wanted to understand and did not, or had a moment when suddenly you did understand and then felt rather foolish about having missed the point? God wants us to understand. God wants us to see with the kind of clarity that will propel us into a relationship with him and with one another.

Like the tin man, I want to feel deeply and to love. My heart can be filled with bitterness, anger and envy. I can hold grudges in a self-righteous determination to “get my way.” I suspect you might identify with that smallness of heart that leaves us shriveled and stingy and lonely. Do you want something more? I want to reflect more deeply, to open my heart more honestly. I want to feel the hurt and release my pain into the eternal embrace of God’s gracious love and experience that love which flows from God’s heart into ours. I want to open my heart to the depth of God and discover in me the ability to love as God loves.

Like the cowardly lion, I also want to have the courage to act, to do something, but only with and through that understanding and selfless love of God. Do you find yourself fearful and trembling, at least inside, not knowing if and when and how you should do something? Or do you find yourself charging in without a clear understanding or a genuine compassion, only to be ashamed of your thoughtless and uncaring comment or action? I want to have genuine courage and to speak the truth with deep kindness in a way that calls both me and the other to a new response.

Finally, and above all, I share Dorothy’s desire to go home. I really do want to be in heaven when my yellow-brick-road journey is complete. My deep longing to be an understanding, loving, courageous disciple is rooted in the ultimate goal of life with God. Do you find yourself longing for that kind of peace and security that is never ending, to be cherished for being you? Heaven is our true home and I want to live my life in response to God’s gracious invitation to live with him so that I can find a new and glorious home — not the Emerald City, but the heavenly Jerusalem.

So, 2020 has begun. We in the Diocese of Rapid City are mostly likely off to meet, not a wizard but a new bishop. When that will be, I don’t know. In the meantime, as we travel down the road, I pray that you will receive the gift of understanding to know and see what it is that God desires for you. I will pray that you will receive a heart of overflowing love that will allow you to meet each person with kindness and truth. I will pray that you will, with understanding and love, have the courage to live your discipleship in the Lord Jesus and make the choices that make a difference in our small corner of the world. Above all, I pray that your desire for our heavenly home will increase and that all we say and do will be led by that desire to be with God now and forever. I would ask you to do the same for me.

Thank you and God bless you in your 2020 yellow-brick-road journey.

Building a lively culture of vocations in families

One of my desires for this new year is to work more closely with parents in building a lively culture of vocations in their family life. My hope is to encourage parents to have more intentional conversations with their children on how God continues to call each one of their children to a life of holiness, filled with the grace and power of Jesus in the Holy Spirit. 

These types of conversations are only effective if they are rooted in a life of prayer. Prayer opens the hearts of parents and their children to hear the voice of Jesus who says in Mt 4:19, “Come, follow me.”

Wouldn’t it be amazing if all of our children had the support they needed to truly discern their vocation, whether it would be marriage, priesthood, consecrated life or the single life, with dad and mom taking the lead?

From my experience, a majority of our young people simply assume that marriage is their vocation without praying or having intentional conversations with mom and dad about the possibility God is calling them to anything else.

Father Brett Brannen, a vocation director and former seminary rector, wrote a book titled “A Priest in the Family: A Guide for Parents Whose Sons are Considering Priesthood.” He wrote it because he encountered in his ministry so many seminarians and priests who shared that a parent or family member actively tried to talk them out of becoming a priest. 

He would often say to young men: “Would you like to become a priest?” Usually the answer was: “I don’t think so, Father.”

Then he would say, “But would you become a priest if Jesus asked you to?” And the answer is always the same: “Yes, Father, if Jesus asks me to become a priest, I will do it.”

Therefore, part of the challenge is to help our parents and children encounter the presence of Christ and to begin to hear his voice together. In this way we can begin to combat the challenge Father Brannen identifies; namely that many young people don’t consider a religious vocation because they don’t hear Jesus’ invitation.

Having families listen together also addresses another equally serious challenge. Year after year, in surveys of newly ordained priests, over half report that their families opposed the idea of priesthood when they first expressed interest.

One of the reasons is that priesthood does not fit a parent’s vision of the good life for their children. Parents, too, need to hear the reassuring voice of Jesus reminding them that he loves their children, too, and only wants the best for them.

As I begin this new year with the desire to work more intentionally with parents, I thought sharing these Six Vocation Mythbusters for Parents from Vianney Vocations would be a good beginning:

Parents, please make a commitment during 2020 to be open to the possibility that your children might have a calling to the priesthood or religious life. Consider that such a calling is part of God’s plan for them — a plan that needs your nurturing and support.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me for ideas on how you can help your children discern their vocations. I look forward to working with you in providing them with the guidance they need.

Vocations Myths Busted

MYTH #1 “He’s too young”

Many parents, when their young son expresses an interest in seminary, will dispense well-meaning advice: “Get some life experience first — and at least a college degree — then think about seminary later.”

Mom and dad envision that with a nice girlfriend and a good job; the idea of priesthood will fade away. The problem is, they may be right. That’s why it’s crucial that when God moves the heart of a young man to explore the priesthood, parents should trust God that the timing may be right.

True, in some cases an 18-year-old may not be mature enough to enter seminary right out of high school. But many are ready. College seminaries are places of joy, camaraderie and deep spiritual growth.

Even if your son goes to college seminary and eventually discerns he is not called to priesthood, don’t think he’ll have to “make up for lost time.” Thousands of former seminarians look back on their seminary days with great affection and gratitude!

MYTH #2 “He’ll be so lonely”

This is an easy myth to dispel. Priests are surrounded by people! After all, their job is to bring Jesus to people and people to Jesus. They are continually working with parish staff, youth and a myriad of people who come to them for spiritual advice.

Seminaries are very deliberate in teaching men how to form good, healthy relationships with people in their parishes and the priests of their dioceses. Sure, there can be lonely moments — but the same is true in any vocation, including marriage. Most priests have healthy friendships with brother priests, lay people and family that keep them grounded and connected.

MYTH #3 “Celibacy is impossible”

For couples who enjoy a healthy sexual relationship, it can be difficult to imagine their son choosing “life without a wife.” Society would have us believe that celibacy is impossible or, at the very least, unreasonable.

The truth is that sexual love is indeed one of God’s greatest natural gifts, but that thousands of saints have experienced tremendous joy living the supernatural vocation of celibacy. Seminaries offer superb formation in how to live celibately with peace and joy.

MYTH #4 “I won’t have grandchildren”

When a mother of a priest was asked at her only child’s ordination if she was sad she would never have grandchildren, she responded, “It’s not about me.” She was simply grateful that her son had found God’s will for his life.

Many parents of priests are surprised to find that they gain “spiritual grandchildren” — thousands of people whose lives have been profoundly influenced by their son’s priesthood. There is a special joy in meeting people who exclaim, “You’re Fr. Jacob’s mother? He’s such a great priest!”

MYTH #5 “I’ll lose my son”

Some parents think that if their son becomes a priest, they’ll never see him. One young priest laughed at this idea: “When Thanksgiving rolls around and my brothers and sisters are busy with their children and in-laws, guess what? As a priest, I don’t have any of those ties. It’s me carving the turkey with mom and dad!”

His point is that diocesan priests are able to spend a healthy amount of time with family. If the priest’s assignment is far from home, in the Internet age, social media and Skype make it easy to keep in touch.

MYTH #6 “He’ll be unhappy”

This is the “umbrella fear” that encompasses all the others. It’s also the easiest to dismiss, because the facts prove otherwise. A number of studies about happiness invariably find one profession ranked number one: clergy.

There is a recent book, based on a very large study, titled “Why Priests Are Happy.” The author, Msgr. Stephen Rosetti, finds that 92% of priests report being happy, and that the key factor in this happiness is an “inner peace.”

Clear vision for the diocesan archives


Preserving a Catholic Community By Kathy Cordes, Diocesan Archivist

(Writer’s note: These firsts do not encompass the of history of the five Indian Reservations in the Diocese of Rapid City.)

History will be made in 2020 with the first Catholic Pastoral Center in our diocese. Following are lists of the firsts we have recorded. Unfortunately, the claims for these firsts are not well documented and many dates contradict one another. These make for interesting history discussions. We would love for someone to say — “hey, wait a minute our marriage was the first recorded in …” and then we could record it as the diocesan’s firsts.  

From the Dakotas to New Dakota Territory to Lead City to Diocese of Lead City and finally, to the Diocese of Rapid City – The recorded first priest, diocesan or religious order; the first Mass, low or high Mass; first church (framed, wooden or structure).

The first West River Catholic issue was published in May 1973. Publisher: Bishop Harold J. Dimmerling, Editor: Fr. William J. O’Connell. The diocesan cathedral was dedicated on May 7, 1963. Ten years later to the day the first issue was published. It was “to serve as reminder to everyone that the Blessed Virgin plays an important part in our spiritual life.”

The first Mass in Rapid City was celebrated on Christmas Day, 1883 by Rapid City’s first resident pastor, Rev. Alfred Vigeant in the first church of any denomination to be built in the new town. St. Mary Catholic Church (framed) was constructed beginning in 1881. -Excerpt from Rapid City in Retrospect, published 1982.  

The first resident Jesuit Catholic priest in 1876 was Father Bernard Mackin, SJ. He was reportedly the first priest buried in St. Ambrose Cemetery. Interestingly enough, the first cemetery – St. Ambrose, the Catholic section (also called Mount Moriah) was established in Deadwood in the early 1880s. -St. Ambrose Parish 100th Anniversary booklet 1877-1977.

St. Ambrose was the first Catholic church in our diocese. Fr. John Lonergan presided at the first public low Mass in Deadwood on May 20, 1877. -The Black Hills Daily Times, Dakota Territory, 1877.

The first Mass reportedly was said in Kendall, Dakota Territory, in 1683 by a French missionary priest. Among the fur traders, he paused to say Mass for any group he came across. -Typewritten statement, author unknown. 

The first Spanish speaking missionary, Rev. Pedro Morante, was in charge of the Spanish mission people in the Black Hills. 

The first grammar school was named St. Martin Academy in honor of Bishop Martin Marty.

The first hospital, St. Edward Hospital was opened 1878 in Deadwood and staffed by Sisters of the Holy Cross. 

“In order to make this (these firsts) as interesting as possible I would appreciate any news clippings, photos, written historical remembrances that parishioners might have which would help tell the history of our diocese.” Fr. Eugene Szalay, May 1973, wrote in the first column “Heritage In the Faith” published in first West River Catholic newspaper. 

The well-known mantra of all archivists as reiterated in Fr. Szalay’s message above, of yesteryear and for the future, we must preserve and report history and send it to the archives! 

St. Joseph School in Gregory formed a rhythm band which made its first public appearing in Gregory May 2, 1929. — Dedication booklet, 1969 St. Joseph Parish

West River Catholic January 2020

West River Catholic December 2019

Enjoy the December 2019 West River Catholic

Who’s minding the store? What’s next?

By Fr. Michel Mulloy There are two questions I get asked a lot these days. Who is running the diocese? Have we heard anything about a new bishop?
The first one is easy to answer. When a bishop is installed in a new diocese as Bishop Robert Gruss was, or if a bishop dies, the College of Consultors are required to meet and select an administrator to run the diocese until a new bishop is ordained or installed. A bishop who has been transferred to a new diocese can request that another bishop be named administrator if there are special circumstances that warrant that choice. In our diocese the administrator was chosen from the priests working in the diocese now.
Once the consultors met, the name of the priest they selected was sent to the apostolic nuncio in Washington D.C. The nuncio is the pope’s representative in America. For us that is Archbishop Christophe Pierre. The nuncio acknowledges the receipt of the name that is put forward and sends it on to Rome. In this instance, I was elected and I am grateful for the trust placed in me by the consultors and priests of the diocese in asking me to be the diocesan administrator.
A diocesan administrator does what a bishop did with some exceptions. An administrator cannot begin anything that has not been previously approved by the former bishop. The administrator cannot ordain or bless the holy oils. Finally, an administrator cannot make any changes in priestly assignments for one full year.
The answer to the second question is a bit more complicated. The Catholic Church divides the world into dioceses. The dioceses are grouped into provinces for governance purposes. Every province has an archbishop. For us, our province consists of the dioceses in the Dakotas and Minnesota. Our archbishop is in St. Paul/Minneapolis. Each year, bishops in the province are asked to submit names and qualifications of priests in their diocese who would be potential bishops. These names are collected and shared with all the province bishops. At the annual meeting they vote on which names should be sent the nuncio.
After receiving this list of names, the nuncio conducts his own investigation regarding the suitability of each candidate on the list. In addition, when a diocese is without a bishop, the nuncio investigates the situation and needs of that diocese. The broad consultation includes former bishops of the diocese that is vacant, key diocesan personnel and bishops from the province and the country. This takes some time to complete. Once the situation and needs of the diocese are understood, the nuncio will narrow the list of candidates from those he has received from the province or elsewhere in the country. Another round of consultation will happen concerning each of the proposed candidates on the nuncio’s short list. All this material is collected and reviewed by the nuncio who interprets the information. He prepares a list of three names ranked by preference and sends that list to the Congregation for Bishops in Rome.
The Congregation for Bishops in Rome reviews the paperwork to ensure it is in good order. A full report is made to the members of the congregation who meet twice a month. The congregation discusses the appointment and votes. They may follow the recommendation of the nuncio, choose another candidate not on the nuncio’s list or even ask for a new list of names.
Once the three names have been approved by the Congregation for Bishops, the prefect of the Congregation presents the recommendations to the Holy Father. The Holy Father reflects on their recommendations and informs the Congregation of his decision. After the Holy Father has selected a candidate, the Congregation notifies the nuncio in America who in turn contacts the candidate and asks if he is willing to accept the appointment. The candidate can say yes or no to the request to be ordained a bishop.
This process can often take six to eight months or sometimes longer from the time the diocese becomes vacant until a new bishop is appointed. Once the candidate accepts the appointment, he has three months to be ordained a bishop and take possession of his new diocese.
So the short answer to the second question is no, we have not heard anything about a new bishop. We probably won’t for six to eight months or longer. Please pray the “Prayer for a New Bishop” that your pastors distributed. Pray too for those of us who are charged with keeping the diocese afloat in this transition.