Despite scandal, faith still alive in young adults

I had a blessed surprise right before Christmas. I was celebrating Mass at St. Thomas More Middle/High School and three young adults, STM alumni home from college, came to Mass several days in a row at 7:15 a.m.

I was not expecting this, especially given the recent crisis in our church.  The constant barrage of news stories about sexual abuse by even high-ranking clergy, and how some bishops have mishandled the repeated allegations of abuse, have caused many to question both the church and her leaders’ ability to shepherd and lead.

To see three young college students home for Christmas break and at daily Mass roused in my heart a sense of hope and joy. I shared with them what seeing them at daily Mass did for my heart.

I asked them what it is like to be a believing, practicing young adult Catholic at this challenging moment in the church. All three shared that this has been a difficult time for them. Madison Feist said it has been hard to accept but, at the same time, she is grateful that the church is accepting the reality of the past and wants to make things better. 

Corbin Olson has found his own faith being tested and Dillon Johnson continues to pray for clarity in the church. He added, “The Eucharist gives me the strength to continue defending our Catholic faith, even in times of trial.”

In fact, all three shared with me that it is their love of the Eucharist that brings them to Mass.

“In the Eucharist, I am united with Jesus who brings me eternal joy. The Eucharist unites the world together, and when I receive the Eucharist, I think of family members, friends, faculty and all the people who have impacted my faith journey. Mass unites me to my foundation in Christ,” Madison said.   

Corbin added, “Christ’s light will always shine. I find myself looking for 10 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour to spend with our Savior in adoration, and I push myself to attend daily Mass because, in all of this, I am searching for his light. God is ever-present, but he is waiting for us to accept him into our lives. I have realized in the past couple of months that I have to make an effort to call on him in the easiest and most difficult of times. We must be willing to put absolute faith and trust in him.”

As I visited with these three young adults who are practicing their faith in these trying times in our church, my heart was drawn to our seminarians: What is it like to be in the seminary at this moment in time?

Max Vetch, a sophomore at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary, shared, “It is a strange thing to hear about these cases on the news or from other seminarians from their diocese, but it all kind of changes when it is from your own diocese. I am just as confused and angry as everyone else is. What is most frustrating is that these things happen in almost every diocese.

 “At the seminary, we are very aware of everything going on, even if we turn off the news and don’t look at social media. The faculty at IHM is very focused on making good, holy men, and this can only be done through a good awareness of self and the world around us.

 “So we visit about these things — both my brother seminarians and the faculty. We discuss it so that we can grow in holiness. Many people would think that these cases are a deterrent from the seminary, but for the men at IHM, I haven’t seen that at all. The seminarians at IHM are there to discern a vocation given them by God, and no problem or scandal can take that calling away.”

Robert Kinyon, a first-year theologian at the Pontifical North American College in Rome told me, “The recent sexual abuse crisis has been deeply saddening. On a number of different occasions, it has shaken my trust in the church, especially those who are in particularly authoritative positions.

 “Despite all the disheartening and frustrating news, Jesus Christ remains the same. He is still laboring to love me during every moment of every day. Jesus, the head, has not and will not abandon his body, the church.

“I am continuing my formation for priesthood because Jesus Christ continues to lavish his love upon me and his entire church, as broken and wounded as we may be. Before all else, we must tear open our hearts to receive an outpouring of his personal love.”

Father Paul Hoesing, dean of seminarians and director of human formation at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, shared with me his perception of the climate of seminary life at this time.

“I believe a very healthy, righteous anger has been awakened in these scandals. As a result, there has been no better time to address the tough issues of mental health, chastity and psycho-sexual development. 

“The scandals reveal what is at stake. Only a truly healthy priest can serve the people of God. The people of God are weary. They deserve good shepherds.

“The scandals reveal the need for a truly spousal life on the part of the priest — priests who are willing to lay down their lives for their bride, the church. Otherwise, the priesthood is seen as a strange or dangerous bachelorhood. 

“I see our young men eager to move into a new and vigorous courage in this regard. For the sake of the victims and the bride, the church, the men are responding with a new level of honesty and generosity in answering the question, ‘Where is your heart?’

“It’s been a privilege to witness the Spirit at work in this opportune moment for young men to respond more clearly and maturely.”

Despite the difficulties in our Catholic Church today, the faith is alive in the hearts of our young people and in young men studying for the priesthood, which should renew all of our hearts.

I am grateful for this early Christmas gift I received in the witness of Madison, Dillon and Corbin, our seminarians, Max and Robert, and the hopeful and challenging words of Father Hoesing.

FOCUS at BHSU: ‘Building a culture of missionary disciples

By Becky Berreth

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20).

“Everything we do is to make disciples of all nations,” explained third year FOCUS missionary Ben Acosta. “We teach students to have a sacramental life, to rely on prayer and the sacraments, to live an authentic friendship and to go out and teach others to do the same.”

Acosta, Sarah Knopik, Kim Herdering, and Andrew Noah will be helping the students at Black Hills State University, Spearfish, find that authentic friendship with Jesus as missionaries from the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.

FOCUS is a Catholic outreach organization whose mission is to share the Gospel with 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. BHSU is one of 19 new FOCUS campuses this academic year. They are working from the new Newman Center which was dedicated in September.

“We have real conversations with the students,” said FOCUS team leader and third year missionary Sarah Knopik. “We are being taught how to rely on God for all things and in turn do the same for the students.”

One of the first things the missionaries do on campus is begin leading Bible studies. Then, eventually, begin training students to organize and lead their own. The goal is to bring students closer to Christ and to help students establish and/or deepen their relationship with Christ.

All four missionaries first experienced FOCUS through a Bible study. As an undergraduate at North Dakota State University, Knopik became involved with a FOCUS Bible study her freshman year. From there she was invited into discipleship (one-on-one mentoring program) with another student.

“As I got more involved in my faith, I started leading my own Bible study, experiencing discipleship with other women, and going on missions’ trips,” she explained. “I felt that God was calling me to be his missionary, so I took the opportunity and ran with it.”

First year missionary Andrew Noah, joined a Bible study his freshman year at St. John University, Collegeville, Minn. By his sophomore year he was leading a men’s group in his dorm. After attending a leadership conference, he began to think about becoming a missionary.

“Being a theology major, I knew I wanted to do something with the church. Halfway through my sophomore year I thought maybe I should check this missionary thing out,” he said. “By my senior year it was apply to be a FOCUS missionary or go on with graduate work in theology. Here I am.”

It was through a Bible study that Kim Herdering, a first-year missionary who also attended North Dakota State University, was invited to attend a SEEK conference. At that yearly national conference — presented by FOCUS — she encountered the Lord in a new way and carried that through her college experience. Majoring in biology, with the intent to continue on with a career in medicine, she always felt called to care and serve people.

“I really love healing and maybe the Lord wanted to satisfy that desire not through physical healing but through spiritual healing,” she said. “Now I’m working with people’s spiritual needs which is really cool too.”

Ben Acosta was leading a Bible study on his own, not knowing that the University of Northern Colorado had a Newman Center. “I went to a pro-life event and met a FOCUS missionary and was plugged into and started doing things with the Catholics on campus,” he said.

However, he still was not sure if being a FOCUS missionary was in his future. “My senior year I had a few offers to teach and I turned down FOCUS initially,” he explained. “That is until Jesus intervened, and I said ‘yes.’”

All four are excited about the new Newman Center and being part of an expansion campus. The group attended Mass at both St. Paul Church, Belle Fourche, and St. Joseph Parish, Spearfish, when they first arrived in S.D. and have been welcomed by parishioners at both parishes.

“People are eager to learn more about us and who we are,” said Acosta. “I know Jesus was preparing the way, going before us. In a very real sense we are building a culture here — a culture of missionary disciples. A culture of love that is contagious, meant to conquer all and set the world on fire.”

We thank God for the gift of his Son, Jesus

By Fr. Michel Mulloy
Vicar General

At the heart of the celebration of the Mass is the kerygma. Say what? Kerygma?

Kerygma is a Greek word that means proclamation or preaching. It was the word used in the early Christian times to describe the first message of the fledgling community. Jesus, who suffered and died, rose again! It was the core teaching of the new church and remains so for us today. As such, it is at the heart of the celebration of the Mass. Okay, better back up.

During Mass, we are offering thanks to God the Father for what he has done for us. We thank him for the gift of his Son,  Jesus, who died on the cross and rose triumphantly to free us from our sins. We commemorate (remember with) Jesus sacrificing his life to God the Father. We join in Jesus’ sacrifice by our attention, our participation in the acclamations and our interior offering of our lives along with Jesus. This is what Jesus asked us to do. “Do this in memory of me,” Jesus said, and “I will be with you always.” His Word tells us that we will share in his victory over sin and death. That is the kerygma, the proclamation of this good news of salvation

Father John Riccardo, who is coming to lead us in the Summit next fall, takes the proclamation of the kerygma seriously. He teaches that there are four points to consider.

First, God created the world and all that is in it. God created you and me and God did so out of pure love. There was no need for God to do this. God simply loves, and his love is manifested in the creation of the whole world, including and especially human beings. We gather at Mass as his loved creatures.

Second, we sinned. The story of the fall reveals the great loss of God’s love. It reveals the reality of evil in our world, and Lucifer who is the king of this world. Lucifer and the fallen angels lost paradise in their rebellion. His only purpose in life is to steal from God what God loves more than anything. Lucifer seeks to steal us from God by tempting us to doubt God’s love. At Mass we are reminded of this in the Penitential Rite and the Lamb of God.

The third aspect of the kerygma is Jesus. God sent his Son to become one with us. Jesus came to wage war against Lucifer and his kingdom of death. Jesus was more than a moral teacher, more than a nice guy. He was the one who put on the armor of God’s love and went out to defeat the strong man and steal his possessions. Jesus came to fight for us. He did that by entering the very realm of the devil, death itself. He rose victorious and promised us that we would, too. The evil one cannot win if we are attached to Jesus. We thank God for his Son and his victory in the Eucharistic Prayer.

The fourth part of the kerygma is our response. What are you going to do in light of the proclamation of this good news? At Mass we are invited to “go forth …” The answer to that question is to have faith and to trust in God’s eternal and merciful love. The answer is the celebration of the Mass itself. We come up alongside Jesus, we put on the armor of his Spirit and we offer ourselves with Jesus to God the Father knowing — knowing — that we will triumph. Like I said, at the heart of the celebration of the Mass is the kerygma.

‘For Christmas, I want a new and purified church’


All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth, my two front teeth, just my two front teeth.  Gee, if I could only have my two front teeth, then I could wish you Merry Christmas.”

I would suspect that this little catchy tune would be familiar, at least to people my age. I clearly remember singing this as a little boy. Perhaps it may have been because I didn’t have two front teeth at the time. I don’t recall for sure.

This time of the year, as kids, we would also scour the JCPenney and Sears catalogs for what we really wanted for Christmas — making a list, checking it twice and then turning it over to our parents with the hopes that some of these dreams might come true. This was the season of Advent for us — preparing for the celebration of Christmas. I would suspect that it is what most children have done, at least back then.

We are only about a week from Christmas. How have we spent this season getting in touch with our true hopes, our dreams and desires that only the Lord can fulfill? What have we been letting the Lord do with us during this Advent season? Now that we are this close, what do we really want for Christmas? For most of us, we don’t need more material things. They just become luxuries — things that possess us — not to mention obstacles to a deeper faith and freedom. We don’t need things that bolster the consumeristic and materialistic culture. It is a shallow life!

My Christmas gift list is long. I want a deeper life in Christ. In other words, the “more” that he desires to give me. For Christmas I want Jesus to always be my deepest desire. I want a faith that can move mountains, literally. I want Christ’s message of love and peace, mercy and hope to penetrate my own heart and the hearts of all the people across the diocese entrusted to my care.

For Christmas, I want a new and purified church — one of openness, honesty, accountability and transparency. I want deep healing for all victims of sexual abuse, especially those harmed by clergy, that they will experience the healing love of Christ.

I want our young people to seek and discover the Lord’s vocation for their lives, leading to more priests and women religious in our diocese, but ultimately, leading to true happiness.

I want the Father to give this diocese a new Pentecost where the Holy Spirit enkindles the fire of his love anew in the hearts of all people of faith.

I want the New Evangelization to come alive so that our efforts will attract and form intentional disciples who joyfully, boldly and lovingly proclaim and live the mission of Jesus Christ, leading to eternal life.

For Christmas, I want the many, many Catholics who have left the church to return and be welcomed into the Father’s arms of mercy and love.

I desire a world filled with peace, where all strangers are welcomed and the life of each person is not only valued, but treasured; where respect and civility in our public and private discourse is the rule of the day; where religious freedom is completely restored as God meant it to be.

What a Christmas list! There’s more! The list could easily go on. People of faith know in the depth of their hearts that, in the end, the first Christmas has become the answer.

Christmas is the celebration of God coming into the world in his incarnate Son so that we no longer have to let the things of this world possess us. Christmas is God’s entrance into human history in a tangible way so that we can be possessed by him. When we fully embrace the meaning of Christmas, God becoming man restores the proper order of our human desires, and the world is transformed back into its original condition. The world becomes as it was meant to be. We become as we have been created to be. Our eyes are opened to God’s view of reality. What a gift for which to pray!

When this happens, we will love like Christ; we will bring peace to the world like Christ; differences will be reconciled; the suffering and lowly will be raised up; and a world divided by sin and death will be restored by hope and resurrection. What a gift for which to pray!

In the words of Pope Benedict, “Christmas has become the feast of gifts in imitation of God who has given himself to us. Let us allow our heart, our soul, and our mind to be touched by this fact!”

Let us all put this on our Christmas gift list this year and pray that our hearts will be open to receive it. Be assured of my prayers for you and your families. May your Christmas be filled with every grace and blessing!

Merry Christmas!

November West River Catholic 2018

Enjoy the November 2018 edition of the West River Catholic

Open PDF



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