Curia Corner — Servant of God Nicholas Black Elk, Pray for Us

A look inside the shrine to Nicholas Black Elk that Red Cloud students created. It is on a little patch of land outside of the school in Pine Ridge. (Photo courtesy Red Cloud Indian School)


Preserving a Catholic Community by Kathy Cordes, Diocesan Archivist

Diocesan update on canonization cause

“We are basically waiting for the thumbs-up from the Holy Father, Pope Francis!” says Fr. Joe Daoust, SJ. “I am hopeful that Nicholas Black Elk is declared Venerable soon!” 

Now that the final reporting from our diocese was sent to Rome in June of this year, in hopes of continuing the canonization cause, the Black Elk working group has begun the task of promoting and furthering the cause of sainthood.

Members of that group are Fr. Luis Escalante, procurator for the cause; Fr. Michel Mulloy, diocesan administrator; Vice -Postulators Fr. Joe Daoust, SJ, Bill White, Veronica Valandra and myself; Mark Thiel, Marquette University; Fr. Andre Benso, Italy; Joyce Tibbits; and Black Elk family descendants Myron Pourier, Penny Wolters, and Mitch Desera. We all are dedicated to promoting this cause, awaiting miracles to flow forth, and to see Black Elk become the first male Native American canonized saint in the U.S.

Many people are still learning the levels of deep respect that Native Americans have for family values.

Black Elk’s headstone reads, Chief Black Elk 1858-1950. At one of our group meetings, it was

explained that the word chief has other meanings to the Lakota. Although never technically a chief — someone who is a leader in the military, designated by rank, etc. — Ben Black Elk, Nicholas’ son, and his family bestowed the honor of chief to Nicholas because he was a humble Lakota and because of people’s devotion to him.

Black Elk is alive and well across the country, in South Dakota, at Red Cloud Indian School, and on the Pine Ridge Reservation. We must continue to bring that education and excitement to the world around us. The children at Red Cloud have built a shrine/grotto to Black Elk on a little patch of land outside of the school in Pine Ridge. They also have several school activities planned. Bill White is developing a talk for school children. 

John Corry, a layperson from St. Katherine Drexel Parish in Beaver Damn, Wis., promotes Nicholas Black Elk at every Mass he can. “I have a spiritual affinity, for some reason to Nicholas Black Elk,” he says. “I believe in the communion of saints, so I always add Nicholas and ask him to pray for me.” He goes on to say that he prays for Black Elk intentions for several others who are having health challenges. “Miracles happen everywhere, why not here in Wisconsin?” he said.

How can you help further the cause for Canonization of Nicholas Black Elk?

1) Pray. Through your prayers for the successful carrying out of this canonization process and by praying to him for his help in any distress so that all can walk the good red road toward God.

2) Evangelize. Spread the devotion to him as an exemplar of Native American

holiness, bringing the gifts of the Holy Spirit in indigenous spirituality forward in the church. 

3) Donate. You can help the Nicholas Black Elk Fund in the diocese of Rapid City which was established to help cover the costs of carrying this process forward at under the “Make a Gift” tab. Please designate your gift to Nicholas Black Elk.

“Nicholas — pray for us as we open our hearts to recognize the risen Christ in other cultures and peoples, to your glory and honor” (from prayer for the Canonization of Nicholas Black Elk).

What does a Vice-Postulator do?

Once Nicholas Black Elk is declared venerable the vice-postulators will represent the Postulator, Father Luis Escalante, in carrying out any investigation and anything necessary to further the cause of Nicholas Black Elk. This includes talking a closer look at miracles and items attributed to Black Elk. Vice-postulators can include people from the diocese and other interested parties from across the U.S.


Sacred Heart, White River, celebrates 100 years of history

Masses in White River began as  early as 1885 and were offered in private homes and mission churches by missionary priests from surrounding states and the Jesuit priests based out of St. Francis Mission. St. Ignatius Catholic Church, described as “up on the hill west of town,” in the Sacred Heart Centennial Booklet, was where many Catholics in White River attended Mass until 1920.

“For twenty years the Lakota people celebrated their faith before Sacred Heart even existed, and for decades after the small town of White River would boast two Catholic Churches,” Father Jacob Boddicker, SJ, said during his homily at the centennial celebration, November 3. “The Diocese of Lead canonically established the parish of Sacred Heart with the purpose of serving the Catholic ranchfolk in the area, as well as the growing Catholic community within the limits of White River itself.”

Construction on the new church began in 1919 with several Catholic men from the parish digging the basement. Catholic Extension provided a $1,792 grant.

The first baptism in the church was held November 23, 1919 even through the building was not complete. The first marriage was April 16, 1920, and the first Communion class received the sacrament April 23, 1922. Six priests served the parish and its missions at Wood, Cody and Berkeley at different times until 1938 when the church was attended by the priests of St. Francis Mission.

In 1949, the building was completely renovated. Eight stained glass windows were installed and a new group of statues purchased through the donations of parishioners.

In 1950, a shrine in honor of the Sacred Heart was built on the church property using petrified wood and rock from the Black Hills.

In 1957, a new crucifix was added and a new altar and organ were installed. The parish underwent another renovation in 1976.

The parish hall was orignally a tent used by the Altar Society who served meals for the bazaars, celebrations, and the annual Frontier Days beginning in the 1920s. These meals were served from the tent until 1936 when the group was able to purchase an old building that would serve as a parish hall for 33 years. Water was drawn from a cistern with a pail and rope for all the cooking and cleaning needs and thrown out the back door once it was used. The ladies also cooked on an old wood range with a reservoir of the side for heating water. Later a kerosene stove was purchased and a hand pump installed. In 1969 the building was razed by members of the parish to make way for a new hall that was built on the original site, and still servers as the hall today.

In December of 1966, the new priest decided, with consultation, to close Sacred Heart and have everyone worship at St. Ignatius. After further discussion with the bishop, it was decided it would be unwise to close the parish.

In 2005, the “Faith Formation Initiative’ committee was established to discuss the witness of the faith in White River. Due to declining attendance at St. Ignatius Church, an alternating Mass schedule between the two parishes was developed.

The two parishes, along with Our Lady Of Good Counsel, Wood, became known as the “White River Catholic Faith Community.” The Faith Initiative Committee was reactivated to serve both parishes, to replace the dissolved parish councils. Both parishes retained a finance council.  The last scheduled Mass at  St. Ignatius Parish was in May 2011.

“Praise God that Jesus, in his great mercy, came here a century ago … and praise God for our Lakota brothers and sisters,” Father Boddicker said,  “who cleared the path for Jesus in this land, and all the others: they planted the seeds of faith in the ground beneath our feet, in the hearts and souls of their children, grandchildren, and beyond that have lasted a hundred years. The next hundred years, brothers and sisters, are in your hands, and in your hearts; let us carefully and joyfully pass on this inheritance for generations to come!”

(History adapted from “Sacred Heart Centennial” booklet and diocesan archives.)



St. Francis Mission; celebrate the Centennial Mass at Sacred Heart Parish, White River, November 3. Father Brian Paulson, SJ, the provincial of the Upper Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus; Father Jacob Boddicker, Associate Pastor; and Father James Kubicki, SJ, president of the St. Francis Mission; celebrate the Centennial Mass at Sacred Heart Parish, White River. (Courtesy photos)

Church Music — After the parish was built, a small organ was purchased in the 1920s and a small four person choir was assembled. As time went on, a Boy’s Choir consisting of 16 boys under the age of 12 was started, in addition to a Young People’s Choir. A new organ was installed in 1957. In 1981, a folk hymnal was purchased for a folk choir that predominately featured guitar accompaniment. (Above) The Boy’s Choir from 1938.

Diocesan Youth Rally — You were put on earth so people can know God through you

By Becky Berreth

“You can have everything you ever want but you still have a gaping hole in your heart if you don’t have God,” speaker Jackie Francois said to a group of 110 middle school students and parents. “It doesn’t matter what your circumstance is. If you don’t have God in your life as the foundation of your life, you’re always going to be missing something. Always.”

Francois was one of the speakers at the Diocesan Youth Rally held in October at the Terra Sancta Retreat Center. Francois and Chris Mueller teamed up to address more than 200 middle and high school aged students from across the diocese. The day included Mass, adoration, games, and witness testimonies from seminarians and fellow students. Francois spoke to the middle school session about love and being open to putting God at the center of your life.

“God wants more than one hour a week. He wants all of you,” she continued. “The most powerful words you can say are ‘I need you.’ If you wake up every morning and say, ‘God I need you because I can’t do this on my own.’ God will say, ‘Okay I will be with you always. I will never forget you.’” 

At the end of her session, Francois pointed to an image of the crucifix and

reminded the middle school students that his death was a wedding proposal to all of mankind.

“You have two options — you can either say, ‘I’m going to live for you and die for you’ or you can say, ‘no thanks.’ There is no maybe.

“Love is not just about feeling good. Love is a sacrifice. Real love is saying I want what’s best for you and as a Christian, what’s best for you is heaven,” she said.

During the men’s session, Mueller addressed strength and encouraged both middle school and high school students to be a defender and stand against hell.

“As men we’ve been given strength. We were not made to sit ideally by and be quiet. We were meant to stand tall and bring our strength,” he said. “Does that mean we dominate and we bully? No. We were meant to be protectors. We were meant to be like God.

“As men, we were given anger. We tend to think that’s terrible, but no your anger was given to you for a purpose,” he continued. “Jesus shows us who we are supposed to be.”

Using Adam and Eve, he explained how the devil took a small truth and made it seem extreme by convincing Eve that it was only one tree and it wouldn’t matter if you ate from that one tree.

“When Adam took the apple from Eve, he chose her over the Lord. The devil made man submissive,” Mueller explained. “What Adam should have done is grabbed the snake and choked the life out of him.”

The session concluded with a group discussion that focused on thinking about where they can help each other stand up to the devil and mirror God. 

“Where are you holding back your strength? How can I bring my strength to it? What are you allowing to happen that you know you shouldn’t? You were not put on the earth to be passive,” Mueller asked.

“Don’t be like Adam and watch Eve eat the apple,” he said.


Eighth graders Zak Juelfs, Piedmont, and Weston Rathbun, Rapid City, face off during a game of “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Cups.” (WRC photo)

Msgr. O’Connell: ‘Strike while the spirit is hot”

This past summer, I had a number of grace-filled moments in which my eyes and heart were opened a little bit more to the movement of the Holy Spirit.

I prayed with some of our middle and high school youth at Totus Tuus, our weeklong summer vocational camp. And praying with our seminarians and college students who were involved in our Duc In Altum program, I was able to see and hear firsthand how the Holy Spirit was drawing these young hearts to Jesus.

I was leading our youth at boys’ Totus Tuus this summer and we were praying with the story of blind Bartimaeus (Lk 18:35-43). One of the campers shared with all of us that in prayer he realized, in a new way, that he was made in God’s image and likeness.

I asked how this made him feel and he said, “Happy.” I told him to close his eyes and thank God for this new insight he received in prayer. Another camper shared that he realized God was carrying him in his hands and that everything was going to be alright. 

These are two simple examples of how our young people encountered the presence of God when praying with the Scriptures as a group this summer.

In July, we took three buses of young people and adult leaders to the Steubenville Youth Conference in St. Paul. Again, my eyes and heart were opened a little bit more to the movement of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our young people.

On our way home from the conference, a number of our youth shared with their peers how they had heard the voice of Jesus speak to their hearts that weekend and how they felt the warmth and abundant love of the Holy Spirit being poured over them.

A number of our young people stepped out in faith when the priest chaplain, Father Agustino Torres, a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal, invited them to run to the front of the stage if they have thought about being a religious sister, brother or priest. Many of our young people rushed the stage with fervor and joy. To see them was truly a grace-filled moment for me. My heart was truly consoled by the Lord’s presence.

On our way back, several of our young people pulled me aside and said, “Father Mark, when is the next seminary live-in weekend? I really want to go. I felt Jesus in my heart this weekend and the idea surfaced about being a priest.”

When they mentioned this, I could see joy-filled tears welling up in their eyes as they shared this desire rising in their hearts with me. I knew they had experienced the Lord and this desire came from him.

For some of them this was the first time they felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit — the voice of Jesus in their hearts, nudging them to consider priesthood. I asked them what grade they were going to be in this coming fall. They told me ninth grade.

My initial reaction was to say to them, “Call me in two or three years, when you are a junior or senior.” As a vocation director, it has been my custom to only take 11th and 12th graders to the seminary live-in weekend, although in the past I have taken several sophomores on a case-by-case basis.

The more my eyes and heart were open to these grace-filled encounters these young people were having this summer, the more I prayed about opening the live-in weekends to freshmen and sophomores, too. 

I could hear the voice of the late Msgr. William O’Connell saying to me, “Strike when the Spirit’s hot, Fr. Mark.”

These young people have encountered in a real way the presence of Jesus, who is inviting them to pray about priesthood and religious life. This time, I didn’t have the heart to say to them, “Wait! And I will call you in two years,” as I have done in the past. 

My decision was affirmed for me as I read a recent study from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA). Surveying the 481 men ordained to the priesthood in 2019, the CARA study shows that the average age when they first considered a vocation to priesthood was 15 and 16 (typically freshman and sophomores). 

In the past, I have taken three to five young men with me for the Immaculate Heart of Mary live-in weekend. However, this November, by opening the door to freshmen and sophomores, our numbers have almost tripled.

As we continue to build a culture of vocations in our families and in our parishes, it is important to note that the CARA study also highlighted that “three in four (75 percent) responding ordinands participated in eucharistic adoration on a regular basis before entering the seminary.

“More than seven in 10 (73 percent) responding ordinands prayed the rosary, almost half (47 percent) attended prayer group/Bible study, two in five (38 percent) participated in high school retreats or in Lectio Divina (36 percent), and three in 10 participated in college retreats (30 percent).”

My eyes have been opened “a little more” by watching young people experience Jesus in prayer and then acting to support and encourage them to explore what they have experienced. Clearly, the Lord is speaking to large numbers of young men as they spend time with him in adoration. 

Let’s continue to be attentive to what the Lord is doing and celebrate and encourage what happens when one’s eyes and heart are opened a little more.

Fr. Mark McCormick, vocations director, driving a van of students to look at seminary life in 2018. (Front row) Joe Hanson, who now a seminarian. (Second row l-r) Thomas Dillon and Joey Fritz. (Back row) Branko Fistrovic. (File photo)

Entering silence we open ourselves to the presence of the Lord

“Quiet, please! Can we have a moment to pause and reflect?” These phrases come to my mind during many of the Masses I celebrate throughout the diocese and even in my recent trip to Europe. I am referring to the pace of praying at Mass. We move from one prayer and action to another with little or no pause. This is not true in all parishes but is, nonetheless, a common occurrence.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) invites us to pause at specific times during the Mass. These moments occur just after the introduction to the Penitential Act; just after the priest invites the congregation to pray before the Opening Prayer (the Collect); during the Liturgy of the Word (after the first reading, the second reading and the homily); and following the reception of Communion. Many of these moments of prescribed silence are frequently ignored. You might be asking what difference that makes. Let me venture an explanation grounded in our understanding of the Mass and my own experience.

The general guidelines for the celebration of the Mass are deliberate and purposeful. There is a reason for each aspect of these guidelines. According to the great spiritual masters of the Catholic tradition, silence is the place where God speaks to our hearts. That is not the only way God can reach us, but it is indispensable.

If the purpose of the Mass is to encounter Jesus risen and present to us, then silence is an essential element of that encounter. By entering silence at certain times, we are being invited to open ourselves to the presence of the risen Lord. We are invited into a relationship with Jesus that is a true dialogue. We believe that Jesus wants to speak to us, and the silent moments are among the key ways to allow that communication to happen.

During the Penitential Act, we are asked to acknowledge our sin and reminded that Jesus is waiting to offer his mercy. Before the Collect, we are invited to pray, and to bring our petitions to the Lord, knowing that he wants to receive them and respond. We allow Jesus to speak to us in the scripture readings and the homily, but also in the silent pauses which allow that message from him to sink into our hearts. After all of us have received Christ in Holy Communion, we are asked to be still — to be present with the Lord so that he can truly enter our lives and transform us. Taking this time to truly be silent will open the doors to a fuller encounter with Jesus. I know this on a personal level, and at any Mass where this silence is missing, I experience a sense of loss at the absence of that encounter.

In the liturgy, silence means stillness, no sound and no movement. As meaningful as it can be at times, background music is not silence and lacks the solitude that pure silence offers. Certainly, silence can be uncomfortable for those who are not used to it. To a certain extent that would be all of us in our culture.

We are a people whose lives are filled with noise and movement. When we first encounter significant silence in the Mass it might be uncomfortable or even jarring. There is a need for formation — to explain that the moments of silence are carefully chosen and deliberate. It is also important for each of us to be prepared for the encounter that silence is intended to facilitate. Those who are responsible for liturgical ministry must be trained in the mechanics of how this silence is structured during the Gathering Rites, the Liturgy of the Word and the Communion Rite. Above all, it is important to simply do it. Be silent.

Some months ago, the Diocesan Liturgy Commission developed a video that explains the purpose and value of silence in the Mass. The video also suggested ways to develop this practice in the parish setting. It is available on the Office of Worship page of the diocesan web site. I would encourage pastors, lectors and all the faithful to review this presentation. I would encourage parish liturgy committees and liturgical ministers to explore this aspect of the Mass. Work together to figure out how to best achieve these moments of silence and explain them to the people in the pews.

The Diocesan Liturgy Commission also produced a worship aid for silence in the Mass. These were made available for pastors to use in their parishes and can be downloaded from the Office of Worship web page.

I would invite you to make Sacred Silence a priority in this Year of the Eucharist. This is an essential element in the encounter with the risen Lord that is at the heart of this yearlong effort. Once you become accustomed to these silent moments in the Mass, you will cherish them. Then, when you are in a setting where the words all run together, you will, like me, hear yourself say, “Quiet please! Can we have a moment to pause and reflect?” And you might add, “I think Jesus wanted to share something with me in that silent moment, and I lost it.”

Links to the video and the prayer cards are on the liturgy page:

Speak up and sing out — believe in what you are doing

By Fr. Michel Mulloy

Eucharist — Part III

In the love relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Jesus eternally offers himself to the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. We come to Mass to join our sacrifices to Jesus’ eternal sacrifice. 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.

Priest and people are joined to Jesus Christ in baptism. We receive the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when we gather for Mass, we are Jesus Christ present. The priest is Jesus leading his body, the people. He continues his sacrifice in, with and through us, each in our distinctive roles. The simplest way to express how we join the sacrifice of Jesus is with the following phrase. We make room, speak out and believe in 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 dispositions, interests, needs and wants. Being attentive to one another can be self-sacrificing in that we tend to be self-serving. Making room is both physical and internal. We also make room in our lives for one another by wanting to be present and by participating with the community in the action of the Mass.

We speak out. Through the responses and prayers, we give ourselves. We pray in a way that manifests our conviction and belief. We mean what we say. We also speak out to support one another. 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 all know the challenge of being attentive to someone when they are speaking to us. Our mind wanders. 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. The effort put forth to really listen is participation in the self-sacrifice of Christ.

We sing out. Singing is praying. This is an area where many of us need to be challenged. We think of the music as “extra,” something that isn’t necessary to the Mass. Singing and music are essential liturgical action. Our voices joined in song, elevate our spoken prayer and enhance our self-giving.

Some say, “I can’t sing.” They mean 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 means bending our stubborn wills and accepting that singing is important. Singing, like speaking and listening is essential for joining our sacrifice to Christ’s.

All this activity at Mass is sacrificial not simply by our doing it but more importantly by our belief. It is essential that I believe that Jesus is present, that he is offering himself to God the Father, and that I am participating in his sacrifice through understanding what is happening and consciously engaging in the sacrifice of the Mass. 

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.

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.