Fr. Columban Bregenzer, OSB
Preserving a Catholic Community By Kathy Cordes, Diocesan Archivist
Interview with the Very Reverend Fr. Columban Bregenzer, OSB, VG, on August 12, 1941, titled Easter Sick Call. Some license was taken to correct grammar, terminology and it includes two interviews. In his own words, “the following story illustrates the difficulties under which the early missionaries were forced to labor.”
After conducting the strenuous Easter Holy Week services at St. Martin Convent I was called in the later afternoon of Holy Saturday, to accompany the doctor to a distant ranch on a sick call. We traveled in the usual conveyance of that time, a spring wagon with a horse.
It was close to midnight by the time I had completed the religious rites and I desired to return immediately. I knew that penitents would be waiting for me Easter morning, but the fatigue of the horse and condition of the roads, for it had begun to rain, made my return impossible until morning.
The sick calls in those days were awful working conditions. When the people came to get the doctor, I, Father Columban (as I wish to be called), went out with him. When it snowed, once, I got so lost so I let the reins loose and the horse went home. Sometimes, a team was hired at the livery stable for me.
In 1902, with Bishop Stariha as first prelate, there were five priests, including myself to take care of the 41,000 square miles. The country was full of cattle men who came in once or twice a year to get supplies and then went to holy Mass and communion — those days the church was packed!
The best that the family could offer me for my lodging was the garret and a sack of straw. The scurrying of the mice over my body was not conducive to sleep. As early as possible I was on the road and reached Sturgis about eight o’clock in the morning.
The sisters had been waiting for two hours for holy Communion; the soldiers from nearby Fort Meade crowded the church waiting for a chance to make their Easter duty. After giving holy Communion to the sisters and hearing the confessions of the soldiers it was time for the ten o’clock high Mass. After Solemn Vespers in the afternoon I could finally seek much needed repose.
I was not the first Benedictine in the Hills. Father Joachim came here in 1892. My Abbot told me that he wouldn’t leave me here longer than holy week. He also did not tell me about the size of the field, or about traveling to Lemmon and Faith. I came out to a little church. Yet, I said “you ought to have a holy man for this work.” Little did I know, that weeklong assignment would turn into 39 years!
Fr. Columban was hailed for his charity, his sense of justice, and his great desire for unity. His efforts as a priest of God and the spiritual guidance he gave his parishioners was an inspiration to the entire community and the surrounding settlements.
On September 10, 1988, Father was entered into the South Dakota Hall of Fame. This award was posthumously accepted by Sr. Marmion Howe.
The history of our own diocese remains fruitful and continues to bear fruit as the Gospel of St. John commands, “your fruit shall remain” (Jn 15:16-19).
In 2016, Bishop Robert D. Gruss, wrote Through Him, With Him, and In Him: A Spiritual Guide to the Diocesan Priority Plan. Our sacred mission — why we exist as a diocese — is expressed very powerfully in our priority plan:
“We, the Diocese of Rapid City, through the power of the Holy Spirit, are called to attract and form intentional disciples who joyfully, boldly and lovingly proclaim and live the mission of Jesus Christ leading to eternal life.”
In our priority plan we have six core values that will decide how we are to communicate and behave as a diocese. Those core values are prayer, stewardship, solidarity, mercy, family and reconciliation.
We also have our foundational ministries: Sacraments and Worship, Education and Formation, Governance and Finance, Social Services and Outreach and Vocations and Evangelization.
This past month I have been reflecting once again on the call that all of us have in building a vibrant culture of vocations in our families, parishes and diocese. In my prayer I felt moved by the Holy Spirit to return to our diocesan priority plan, in particular the section on Vocations and Evangelization, (pages 120-125).
We hear in our priority plan that promoting vocations is the responsibility of all of us. It must involve everyone. This compelling quote from the Code of Canon Law, of all places, explicitly speaks of this responsibility that we are all called to embrace:
“The duty of fostering vocations rests with the entire Christian community so that the needs of the sacred ministry in the universal church are provided for sufficiently. This duty especially binds Christian families, educators, and in a special way, priests, particularly pastors. Diocesan bishops, who most especially are to be concerned for promoting vocations, are to teach the people entrusted to them of the importance of the sacred ministry and of the needs for ministers in the church in order to encourage and support endeavors to foster vocations, especially by means of projects established for that purpose” (Paragraph 233).
Bishop Gruss states that in “dioceses where vocations are flourishing, there resides a culture that has created an environment for young men and women to view the priesthood and religious life as a viable way of life and to view sacramental marriage as a vocation centered in Christ.”
The bishop continues that “such an environment has, in some way, awakened the hearts of these young people. At the heart of this environment is relational ministry.”
Invest in young people
One aspect, then, of a vibrant culture of vocations is a community willing to invest their lives and hearts in young people.
Several weeks ago, I was in Rome visiting Robert Kinyon, who is a second-year theologian at the North American College. Robert and I made several day trips to celebrate the Eucharist.
One of our stops was to the Sanctuary of Saint Maria Goretti in Nettuno; the other trip was Bolsena — Orvieto, the place in which a eucharistic miracle took place in 1263. A German priest, Peter of Prague, celebrating Mass at the tomb of St. Christina, had barely spoken the words of consecration when blood started to seep from the consecrated host and trickle over his hands onto the altar and the corporal. These were powerful places which encouraged some great conversations.
In one of our conversations Robert shared his desire to become another divine physician-Christ. Robert said too many people see the priest as simply a counselor or social worker rather than the divine physician of the soul. In Robert’s words:
“The priest is an Alter Christus (another Christ) who is called to live in complete conformity with Jesus and work as Christ in the world. Christ’s mission was fundamentally salvific. Every action he performed whether it be counseling, feeding, healing, or teaching was directed toward the eternal salvation of the people with whom he interacted.
“So, too, it ought to be with the priest. Having received a special order from God, the priest participates in Christ’s work. His job is to serve as a bridge between God and humanity. Nowhere is this more evident than in the administration of the sacraments where God dispenses his divine life to his chosen people through the hands of the priest.”
Becoming a divine physician
As the Gospels attest, Jesus was a healer of body and soul. He came to bring life. He came to wage battle against sin and death. So, too, in a real way does the priest in whom, through his ordination and the power of the Holy Spirit, he makes present the very body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.
It is through ordination and the power of the Holy Spirit that the priest, in the name of Christ, forgives sins, reconciling the human heart back to Christ. It is how he brings healing to the sick through the sacrament of anointing. The priest is truly the divine physician of the soul.
In addition to investing our lives and hearts in young people, we must also present a compelling vision of priesthood, religious life and marriage. We must speak clearly, boldly and creatively, both by example and by words, the fullness of the beauty of these vocations given to us by Jesus.
By Fr. Michel Mulloy
(This month the following column addresses the temporary changes made to the celebration of the Mass in the Diocese of Rapid City because of the concerns raised by the viral flu. These changes do not affect the celebration of the Mass in the Extraordinary Rite. Those who attend the Latin Mass will see no changes. However, it is good to appreciate these temporary changes in the Novus Ordo.
Earlier this month, your pastors read for you a letter that I prepared offering temporary guidelines for the celebration of the Mass. These were put in place in response to recent concerns about the viral flu that has been reported here and throughout the world. Similar temporary changes in the celebration of the Mass have been announced in many dioceses in the United States and around the world. Two aspects of these directives are worthy of reflection.
We have suspended the distribution of the blood of Christ as a precaution against the spread of illness through the sharing of a common cup. This action does not diminish the fullness of our reception of the Lord at this sacred time of the Mass. The church has long taught that when we receive under the form of bread or under the form of wine, we are receiving the whole Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity. Although receiving under the form of bread and wine was practiced in the early church, for many centuries the faithful only received under the form of bread. In the United States the option to receive under the form of wine was granted many years ago. This was done as a fuller sign of communing with the Lord. Nonetheless, the church has always taught that receiving one species is receiving the Lord. This is evident in that the reception of the blood of Christ has always been optional except for the priest. In addition, those who are gluten intolerant only need to receive Christ under the form of wine. For those for whom this form of communion is necessary, please visit with your pastor about being able to receive from the cup. In the same way that some parishes have low gluten hosts on a separate plate for distribution to those who need that, certainly provision can be made for an extra, perhaps smaller cup to be placed on the altar for those who need to receive the Lord in that manner.
This temporary restriction can perhaps serve as a reminder for us to be deeply grateful for our faith and the opportunity to regularly receive Jesus in Holy Communion. It can even remind us to pray for people in those dioceses where Mass has been suspended all together.
Another provision we have temporarily enacted is a verbal exchange of the Sign of Peace to limit physical contact. This is not intended to diminish the significance of this ritual. The Sign of Peace was reintroduced to the celebration of the Mass following the Second Vatican Council. Some have misunderstood the reason for this ritual and perceived it as a distraction from the preparation for receiving our Lord in communion, but the Sign of Peace is about offering and accepting the peace of the Lord before receiving him in the Eucharist. The priest offers us this peace as he says, “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” We respond and are then invited to offer the peace of Christ to one another. This is not a light-hearted social greeting. We are offering each other the peace of Christ and receiving Christ’s peace from those around us. This is a wonderful way to prepare for the reception of the Lord in Holy Communion, to enter into the unity that he desires for us to embrace — with him and with one another. Perhaps this temporary restriction on physical contact can help us to better appreciate what this ritual is all about as we sincerely turn to look at another and deliberately offer them the peace of Christ with the words, “I offer you the peace of Christ” or “Christ’s peace be with you.”
These changes are temporary. In adjusting to them we are invited to open our hearts to all that the Lord will continue to teach us as he guides his church in our diocese. Parishes will be notified when the temporary measures are lifted.
In the years since 2002 when the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was implemented in our diocese and throughout the United States, we have made progress in our efforts to respond to the victims of abuse. There is more that can be done, and we know that we need to stay vigilant and work continuously to improve our efforts. One such improvement will be implemented in the United States this month. It will specifically address the need for accountability for the bishops of our country.
Pope Francis met in February 2019 with the heads of the bishop’s conferences throughout the world to discuss the abuse crisis and especially the need to create a way to hold bishops accountable for alleged abuse and/or intentional interference in investigations into alleged abuse by others under their authority.
Following that meeting the Holy Father released his apostolic letter, Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the Light of the World”), commonly referred to as Vos estis. With the document, the Pope called all conferences of bishops through the world to develop third-party reporting systems specifically for allegations of abuse involving a bishop or of a bishop intentionally interfering in a civil or church investigation into an allegation of sexual abuse. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has established the Catholic Bishops Abuse Reporting Service or CBAR. It is important to understand several things about CBAR.
The system, although set up by the bishops of the United States, is not monitored by them. An independent firm called Convercent Inc. has been contracted to create and oversee the reporting process.
Reports made through this service will be sent promptly to appropriate church personnel and, as warranted, civil authorities for investigation purposes. The reports will otherwise remain confidential. Callers are not required to provide a name or contact information, although they may choose to do so to facilitate the process. Once a report is submitted, the caller will be given an access number which will allow them to receive updates on the progress of the case they have shared.
This reporting system may be used to report the actions or inactions of living U.S. Catholic bishops. Allegations of abuse involving a bishop who has died or other church personnel should be reported through the diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator, Barbara Scherr, who can be contacted by calling the VAC cell phone 605-209-3418. Victims of sexual abuse (or any other crime) should contact local law enforcement.
It is also important to understand that the only reports that can be filed through CBAR are those that involve sexual abuse of children or vulnerable adults or the intentional interference in a civil or church investigation into an allegation of sexual abuse. Other complaints about the bishop — such as parish assignments, church closings, diocesan administration or homily contents — should be addressed directly to your bishop (or diocesan administrator) and not through CBAR. It is important to hear this and understand it. The bishops of our country are focused on and concerned about abuse victims. Our bishops want abuse victims to be heard and to receive the church’s offering of justice, mercy and healing. If a variety of other complaints come in, it will prevent the bishops from focusing on those who have been victims of abuse.
Once a report is submitted to CBAR, it will be sent to the metropolitan in the province where the accused bishop, active or retired, is living. The Catholic Church divides the world into dioceses. Dioceses are then grouped into provinces for governance purposes. Each province has an archbishop who is also called a Metropolitan. Our province includes the dioceses in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. Our Metropolitan is Archbishop Bernard Hebda of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. (If the report concerns the archbishop himself, the report will be sent to the bishop in the province who has the most seniority by virtue of ordination.)
Upon receiving a report, the Metropolitan will determine if the case falls within the Vos esti provisions. If not, it will be referred to the proper authorities within the church. If it does meet the provision of Vos esti, the Metropolitan and qualified staff will conduct an initial assessment. If an investigation is warranted, the Metropolitan will send an assessment to the appropriate authority within the Holy See. Within 30 days, the Holy See will determine if a formal investigation is warranted. If so, it will authorize a bishop to oversee the investigation. If an investigation is ordered, it will be undertaken by qualified experts, including lay persons. Normally, the investigation must be completed within 90 days of receiving the order from the Holy See. The conclusions of the investigation will be sent to the Holy See, since it is the Holy Father who disciplines bishops. Once the Holy See receives the conclusions of an investigation, the Holy See will initiate the appropriate process that will lead to a final judgement.
CBAR is a church system. As with all cases of reported abuse, those who receive the reports from CBAR are required to report to and cooperate with civil authorities.
Allegations against U.S. bishops may be reported through CBAR (800-276-1562). This information will also be available on the diocesan web site, from the victim assistance coordinator (605-209-3418)) or the diocese offices (605-343-3541).
Please continue to pray for me as I will for you. May the Lord send you a new bishop worthy of your love! God bless you all!
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Victim Assistance Coordinator