Parents are the first line of protection against child sexual abuse

By Charlotte Verhey

As a parent raising three children in the 1980s, 90s, and 2000s, most of what I knew about child sexual abuse and neglect came from what I was taught as an educator. Incidents in the news, or various media sources, have shown us more and more on this issue and we have tried to work through possible solutions. Today, through my involvement in the Diocesan Safe Environment Program, and continually doing more research, that knowledge has thankfully grown considerably.

For the past fifteen years, the Catholic Church has integrated into church life the principles and procedures from the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Our call as Catholics is to follow Christ’s teachings and the Tradition of the church. These teachings model for us our actions in the area of helping those that have been victims and survivors of sexual abuse, and lead us to do all we can to prevent abuse from happening.

As part of our Diocesan Safe Environment Program, we include and promote ways that parents can be part of the learning. We know the importance and influence parents have on your children’s lives. Parents, as the first and primary educators for their children, are instrumental in helping prevent child sexual abuse.

An informational sheet available through the National Children’s Advocacy Center, shares well-referenced information on this topic.1 Knowledge about sexual abuse helps protect children. Lack of knowledge leaves children vulnerable.2

Why are parents the right people to teach their children about sexual abuse?


  • Influence children’s knowledge and vaules.
  • Teach children the facts.
  • Have more influence on children’s decisions about sex than their friends.3

How do you talk to children about sexual abuse?

  • Start at an early age.4
  • Keep discussions developmentally appropriate, with an awareness of normal behaviors.
  • Repeat the message.5
  • Promote healthy sexuality by teaching respect and value of body and gender.6
  • Teach correct names for body parts, to reduce children’s vulnerability.6
  • Establish touching boundaries so children understand they can say “no” to unwanted touch.6
  • Establish privacy rules in the home and away from home.
  • Talk about secrets/tricks/threats that a perpetrator may use to keep children from telling.7
  • Educate children beyond “Stranger Danger” because approximately 90 percent of sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows.7
  • Give children permission to tell about anything happening to them.

What do you do if a child discloses sexual abuse?

  • Stay calm and listen to the child.
  • Tell the child you believe him/her and are glad they told you.
  • Tell the child that what happened is not their fault.
  • Report the disclosure to professionals for investigation and help.
  • Do not ask a lot of questions. Do not conduct you own investigation.

Parents, you are always encouraged to attend the adult safe environment training held in your parish or one nearby. You are also invited to participate in the two safe environment lessons that are presented to the children and youth in the parish’s faith formation program. These lessons change annually to provide developmentally, appropriate information to our youth. You are also urged to read the quarterly Safe Environment Newsletter sent to the pastor and parish safe environment coordinator as part of our on-going learning. If you have not yet done so, I also encourage you to explore the pages of our Diocesan Safe Environment Website at https://www.rapidcity

How can we help you? If you have thoughts, concerns, or questions that may help us provide more information or support to you as parents, please contact me and share them. I may be reached by email through or by phone at 605-343-3541. My regular office hours are Tuesdays and Wednesdays 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Thursday 8a.m.-noon mountain time. Together we will have greater success for our children and families!

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Make a commitment to yourself and your children to learn something more to prevent abuse from happening in our community. Please see the “Prayer for Healing Victims of Abuse” at the left. During April, please pray for all those who have been victims/survivors of abuse. Thank you.


Black Bears discuss local needs in D.C.

By Becky Berreth

Catholic advocates visited Capitol Hill in early February hoping members of Congress were ready to listen to their push for a federal budget that makes the needs of poor and vulnerable people a priority.

Coming at the end of the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, their visits took on greater urgency as Congress faced a Feb. 8 deadline to pass a budget deal or approve another stopgap spending measure to keep the government operating.

Ben and Jenny Black Bear, St. Francis Mission, served as the South Dakota delegation for the week-long gathering “Building Community: A Call to the Common Good. A Catholic Message to Congress.”

“It was really exciting. We were able not only to represent South Dakota but the tribe as well,” said Ben.

The group was given instructions to contact their state senators and representatives before arriving in Washington, to meet with them about programs deemed the most vulnerable: Medicare and Medicaid; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps; The Emergency Food Assistance Program, or TEFAP; and international humanitarian and poverty-reducing assistance.

Other “asks” included a path to citizenship for 1.8 million young adults who were brought illegally into the country as children; increasing the value of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, a primary vehicle that helps finance new affordable housing projects; and maintaining “strong and vibrant investments” in diplomacy and overseas development that leads to peaceful societies.

The Black Bears were surprised at how open the state delegation was to their visit. “We were able to meet with Senator John Thune for about 40 minutes. We hit the talking points that were given to us in addition to the work being done at the St. Francis Mission. We were able to talk about the Catholic faith and how we are trying to bring people to the faith and our work with the youth group.”

“He was very open to what we had to say. Toward the end, he was asking what our reservation needs,” added Ben. “I was throwing ideas out to help families.”

“Representative Kristi Noem was just as open to us and even offered to come down,” said Jenny. “One of her staffers even emailed us to find out when a good time to come visit would be.”

In addition to the Capital visits, participants heard testimonies and stories from groups working to build community and strengthen the common good for programs that help those living in poverty at home and abroad.

While the Black Bears found the presentations informative, one stood out in their minds. “One of the presentations that we had to endure was about the Pine Ridge Reservation,” said Ben. “They talked about how bad things were on the reservation. I had to stand up at the end and tell them we are products of the reservation. We told them about our youth group and different fundraisers they were doing, gave them information on our alcohol recovery program, and what we are doing on the reservation for the community.”

“People came up to us afterward and were handing us their cards — they wanted to know more. We teach religious education to 280 kids a week. We are doing great things; it’s not all what they saw in the presentation,” added Jenny. “One of the women that was there said that it was really sad until Ben stood up and spoke about the  good things which are happening.”

“We are boots on the ground. We are working on another fundraiser for the youth; we’ve got 25 people who will be baptized next week; we do sacramental prep for confirmations and RCIA,” added Ben.

In a panel discussion, Sr. Patricia Chappell, executive director of Pax Christi USA and a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, said that encounter and understanding can be served by spreading the tenets of faith found in the church’s “strongest resource,” Catholic social teaching.

“These principles actually apply to the dignity of every person regardless of how we as a society, sad to say regardless how we as a church, often have classified people by race, sexual orientation, gender, income levels, philosophy as well as theologies,” Sister Chappell said. “But this Catholic social teaching is the foundation, is the mandate by which we as Catholic Christians need to operate from.”

She also called for the church to be on the ground day in and day out listening to people’s struggles and challenges. If the church takes such teaching to heart, she explained, differences among people will lessen and the unity of the body of Christ will be strengthened because no one will be pushed aside.

“It was a great opportunity for everyone to meet and go to the capital with the same message. We are Catholics and proud and we are out there. We all have the same message and we are advocating together,” said Jenny.

“We are Catholics on the reservation that are doing things not only spiritually, but health-wise, family-wise. We are helping our community thrive using the Catholic faith,” added Ben. “For us as Native Americans we should be up there too. We are doing something positive on the reservations — helping our youth carry on there to the next generation.”

(Portions of this story were drawn from Catholic News Service coverage of the 2018 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering)

Live a life of holiness, live a life of happiness

At the end of February, Adam Johnson, a first-year theologian at St. Paul Seminary, was

Adam Johnson

installed as a lector. As reader and bearer of God’s Word, Adam will proclaim God’s Word in the liturgical assembly, instruct children and adults in the faith, and bring the message of salvation to those who have not yet received it. (From the Rite of Institution of Lector)

Andrew Sullivan, who also is a first-year theologian, at Kenrick Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, will be installed as a lector in April with our Bishop Robert Gruss presiding.

Adam’s pastor, Father Brian Lane from Blessed Sacrament Church in Rapid City, along with Adam’s parents, Mike and Kathy, were

Andrew Sullivan

able to attend this celebration of the Ministry of Lector. After the celebration, I sent a text to Adam, his parents and Father Lane congratulating Adam and asking them to send pictures from the installation, which they did.

Father Lane also texted a picture of the seminarian poster for the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul — 59 in all! A true vocation boom. I smiled as I read Father Lane’s text: “Why is our poster so small?”

“More work to be done. More invitations to be extended,” I replied.

One of the goals in our diocesan Priority Plan calls for the formation of a vocation committee in each parish or parish grouping to encourage and promote a culture of vocations.

Father Varghese Srambickal, a Vincentian priest from Kerala, India, describes a culture of vocation in this way: “God’s first call for every person is to simply follow him. You were created to be in relationship with God, and that is his greatest desire for you. As your relationship with God grows, he will continue to draw you deeper into this relationship, and call you to become more like Christ, to love him more, and to love others through service. In all these things, you will experience God calling you to a particular vocation.”

Building a culture of vocations, as we hear and pray our diocesan vocation prayer every Sunday in our parishes, begins by creating an environment where all disciples will seek the will of Christ. This is what the church means by the universal call to holiness. Fostering a culture of vocations in our lives, families and parishes begins with the call to holiness — a deep, personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ as our Lord, Savior, and friend.

Father Brett Brennan, author of “Save a Thousand Souls,” echoes this as well when he says that our primary vocation in life is holiness, and holiness is simply doing the will of God. When we live a life of holiness, we truly live a life of happiness. He goes on to say that “the primary and universal vocation of every person in the world is to be holy — to become like Jesus Christ. Christ-likeness is the only success recognized by God.”

As Pope Francis said: “to be a saint is not a privilege for the few, but a vocation for everyone.” He continued: “We must remember that holiness is a gift from God — it is not something we can achieve on our own.” Holiness, he continued, is living with love and offering Christian witness in our daily tasks that we are called to become saints… “Always and everywhere you can become a saint, that is, by being receptive to the grace that is working in us and leads us to holiness” (General Audience, September 2014).

The key to encouraging and promoting a culture of vocations begins in the family and is nourished and supported in our parish communities. We know the family is the primary community for the transmission of the Christian faith.

Our primary vocation, and the heart of building a culture of vocations in the parishes of our diocese is by living our faith with courage and joy. St. John Paul II said, “Our Christian communities must become genuine schools of prayer where the meeting with Christ is expressed not just as an imploring help but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion until the heart truly falls in love” (Novo Millennio Ineunte).

Our first step in encouraging and promoting a culture of vocations in our lives, families, parishes and diocese is helping our people to fall in love with Jesus. We must live our faith with courage and joy and be willing to share with others our personal friendship with Christ.

‘Bring God’s redeeming love into the world’

Many people have very special days or periods of time in their lives that are not only significant, but because of their meaning, are celebrated each and every year with great intention and anticipation. Those could be birthdays, anniversaries or other events that are meaningful in the sense that they bring deep joy, happiness and fulfillment. These celebrations help us recall in a special way something personal, something life-giving or perhaps something life-changing.

For the Christian, a disciple of Jesus Christ, those special days are Holy Week — Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday. For the Christian, Holy Week is the most important and the most significant week in the church’s liturgical year. And the summit of the week is the Easter Triduum — the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, the celebration of the Lord’s passion on Good Friday, and the great liturgy of the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night. Though celebrated over three days, they are liturgically for us one day unfolding the unity of Christ’s Paschal Mystery.

About five weeks ago we began a season of grace. Our Holy Father has encouraged us to “once again turn our eyes to (the Father’s) mercy. Lent is a path: it leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God’s children.”

So now we find ourselves on the cusp of Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum. It is a week like no other in the church. From the very beginning of time, God has desired to share his love for humanity, to share the fullness of his Trinitarian life with us — that deep love between the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit. And he wants this even more so after the fall of Adam and Eve, where sin entered into the world. He wants fallen humanity to come to know the depth of his love. Because of this desire, he sent Jesus to show this love for us and to save us from sin, reconciling us to the Father so that we could be partakers of this divine life shared between the Father and Son, not just when we die, but here and now, in this current age. Holy Week, and in particular, the Sacred Triduum, not only expresses this reality, but makes this love real for us once again.

In the Passion narrative from St. Mark, we read, “Peter followed at a distance …” We also read that when Jesus returned from prayer, he found his apostles asleep. We can be like Peter sometimes, following Jesus at a distance. We don’t want to get too close to him. Is it because we are afraid of what he may ask? Is it because we fear getting too close? Is it because he doesn’t excite us too much? Is it because we are not convinced of what he offers to us? Is our faith asleep, like the disciples who were asleep in the garden? Will we remain close to Jesus all week?

Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Letter, The Joy of the Gospel, extended to us a challenging invitation:  “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her since no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord” (The Joy of the Gospel, #2).

The celebration of Holy Week is all about accepting this invitation. I hear people often say that they wish they had a deeper relationship with the Lord. But often they do not make use of the opportunities available to them. No amount of casual contact with God will draw us into this mystery of love.  No amount of routine contact with the Lord can bring about this deeper encounter.

During the first Holy Week, 2000 years ago, Jesus achieved victory over sin and evil. During this Holy Week, he wants to extend that victory into our lives, into the parts of our lives that still need it, that still haven’t learned how to live the paradox of Palm Sunday. Jesus knows what he wants to say to each one of us this week, uniquely and individually. So we cannot follow at a distance, like Peter.

In drawing us close to him, Jesus wants to share with each of us the benefits of the cross, personally and intimately. In doing so, we will come to experience that the crosses we carry are not empty burdens with little value, but that every cross we carry can be an opportunity to bring God’s redeeming love into the world and to embrace the grace of suffering for which we see new meaning and hope.

We can never come to fully understand or grasp the depth of Christ’s love for us, but each time we enter into this sacred week as a response to his saving love, we experience more deeply the benefits of this mystery — a love that transforms the suffering and sin in our own lives, allowing us to participate in his Paschal Mystery.  This is precisely why each year Holy Week is a gift to us, to be unwrapped and opened.

It is my hope and prayer that all of us will make this Holy Week the greatest priority of our lives, entering into the mystery of Christ’s love. It is my hope and prayer that our churches will be filled to capacity during this Sacred Triduum — a faith community gathered, celebrating and giving thanks for this profound love. We will discover anew the joy of Christ’s unlimited love amidst the most profound sorrow and deepest joy in our lives.

My friends, let us not watch at a distance, but give Jesus the time and attention he deserves. Let Jesus speak to you in the quiet of your hearts as he unfolds the mystery of his love for you — because whatever he shares will be exactly what you most need.

Have a blessed Holy Week and a joy-filled Easter.

Pastoral Ministry Days 2018: ‘The harvest is plentiful, the laborers are few’

By Becky Berreth

“The family is the first seminary,” said Fr. James Mason. “It’s a seedbed of vocations. Your first call is to be a beloved child of God through baptism.”

“Children are born seeking love and goodness,” agreed Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP. “When the people through whom God gave them their own distinctive life, witness to them the virtues of unconditional love and untiring goodness, a child grows up with a holy confidence in God and in self.  Through the virtues, he/she learns self knowledge and is able, through prayer, to determine one’s vocation.”

Pastoral Ministry Days is March 18-20, at Terra Sancta. This year’s conference, “Harvest,” has a focus on “creating a vibrant culture of vocations in our parishes.” Keynote speakers are Fr. Mason, president and rector of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, Shrewsbury, Mo., and Sr. Bogdanowicz, OP, vocation director of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, Ann Arbor, Mich.

The conference officially begins on Monday morning, March 19, and ends the afternoon of March 20. There is also a Holy Hour and hospitality on Sunday evening, March 18, along with an opportunity for early check-in.

Fr. Mark McCormick, diocesan director of vocations, said the theme for this year’s conference came from the Diocesan Priority Plan. “It says that parishes are encouraged to have a vocations committee to build up the culture of vocations. It’s about building that culture in our diocese and in our parishes — beginning with the family. Moms and dads talking to their children saying God has a plan for you.

“We want to answer the question, what does it mean to build a culture of vocations in our own lives — personal, family, parishes, diocese — so that when a young person grows up, praying for their vocation isn’t something foreign to them it’s something done as a family.”

According to Fr. Mason, vocations are more than being called to the priesthood or religious life. “When we are talking about vocations we are talking about a call to holiness,” he explained. This isn’t primarily about priests and religious. It’s about holiness. We are talking about evangelization and the vocations will naturally come out of that. We live a priestly life and invited them into it. We didn’t have a program.”

“Our faith is a constant,” added Sr. Bogdanowicz. “Knowing this, parents need to begin imparting the beauty of the faith to the children while even in the womb by praying aloud for these little ones. … All the prayers and efforts will lead to an increase of knowledge, wisdom and spiritual graces that will strengthen the church in the world today, beginning with the parents and families at this conference.”

“I invite you to come and lend your heart to what the speakers have to say,” said Fr. McCormick. “We want to create this culture where everyone growing up knows that God has a plan, a purpose to their lives.”

Online registration, the flyer, and a schedule can be found at

Everyone is encouraged to register online, if possible, for purposes of accuracy of materials. Cost is $75. If you are unable to register online, you can also register by calling the Terra Sancta Retreat Center at 605-716-0925, and staff can register you over the phone. Contact Susan Thompson or Susan Safford at 605-716-5214 if you have questions.


New Lay Ministry Formation Classes slated to begin next fall

By Deacon Greg Sass

Are you in charge of a ministry at your parish? Has your pastor invited you to more fully participate in the life of your parish? Are others coming to you, looking for guidance, because they see you as a leader? Do you have an interest in growing in prayer and learning more about ministry?

If you answered yes, or even maybe, to any of those questions, you should consider participating in the Lay Ministry Formation program.

While the Lay Ministry Formation program has always operated under the authority of the local bishop, in 2017, the leadership responsibility transferred from the Jesuits to the Diocese of Rapid City. Specifically, I am now the coordinator for the Lay Ministry Formation program. Because of the transition, no new classes have been started recently. In January, discussions began to start new Lay Ministry Formation classes in the fall of 2018. If you are interested, begin by speaking to your pastor about your interest. If they, or you, have questions, please contact me at the main Chancery, 605-343-2541, ext 2228 or

The Lay Ministry Formation program prepares people for lay ministry in their parish. Most men and women who are drawn to the program are already involved in some ministry. They apply because they are increasingly aware God is calling them to leadership in ministry, under their pastor’s direction, and also to be available to assume a public role in their parish as their pastor and they decide.

The program draws people who want to grow in prayer and learn about ministry, not for their own sake but also because they have been inspired by the Holy Spirit with a desire to help build up the faith life in the parish. They want their growth to occur prayerfully in a study and sharing with other learners and in dialog with their pastor. The focus is on developing skills to share one’s faith, and in the process, also learn more about the Catholic faith. They trust God will give them the grace they will need to assume leadership in ministry.

During the spring of 2003, after repeated invitations from my pastor and a fellow parishioner, I finally responded reluctantly, “Fine, I’ll go.” What they were inviting me to do was simply attend an informational meeting about the diocese’s Lay Ministry Formation Program. In preparation for this meeting, I loaded myself up with a long mental list of reasons I was NOT going to actually apply for the program.

When I arrived at the meeting, there were about 30 others in attendance from various parishes in the area. The Director of the Ministry Formation Program, at that time, Fr. George Winzenburg, SJ, started with a brief introduction of himself and his Associate Director, Fr. Tom Lawler, SJ. He then asked each of us to introduce ourselves and to briefly share what parish we were from and a little about ourselves, such as our family, our work and our involvement in the parish. Next, he explained why we were specifically invited by our pastors — we were either in leadership positions in our parishes or our pastors saw us as future leaders. The presentation then proceeded with an overview of the program, the format of the sessions and the expectations.

Father Lawler brought up possible concerns, then he provided a reason each could be overcome. As he continued down his prepared list of concerns, I realized, his list was exactly the same list I had in my head. By the time he finished my questions were answered. I applied for the program.

What I didn’t know at the time was the history of the Lay Ministry Formation program in the diocese. In May 1971, some members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), submitted a proposal to then-Bishop Harold Dimmerling. It outlined a program of developing lay leaders among the Native Americans on the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Reservations. The proposal was based on a program recently approved by Bishop Robert Whalen of the Diocese of Fairbanks for the Eskimos. That program’s goal was to develop native clergy.

Once Bishop Dimmerling approved the program, Fathers John Hatcher, SJ, and Patrick McCorkell, SJ, began writing lessons for the projected three-year program. It wasn’t long before it became apparent, what was needed on the reservation, was a program for ordaining permanent deacons. The petition by the United States episcopal conference to the Vatican had been approved just a few years prior by Pope Paul VI, on August 30, 1968. On May 31, 1975, using the formation program developed by the Jesuits, Bishop Dimmerling ordained Steven Red Elk, Reno Richards, and Max Plank to the permanent diaconate. Deacons Red Elk and Richards were “the first Indian Permanent Deacons to be ordained in the United States.”

In 1990, the Permanent Diaconate Program was expanded to include lay ministry. The program began to offer formation for those who were called to be Pastoral Assistants, CCD coordinators, Directors of Youth Ministry, Directors of Care for the Elderly, Sick and Dying, Prayer leaders for Priestless Sundays and devotions, and other important ministry needs for the diocese.

If you are being called by the Holy Spirit to become a Lay Minister, don’t be like me and resist the invitation of the Holy Spirit. It can change your life, for the better.


Rock Bottom — the Social Justice Commission examines addiction, prison and suicide

Fr. Gary Ternes, Diocese of Sioux Falls

By Laurie Hallstrom

Who are the addicts, inmates, and suicides of today? They are our family and friends. They are the flesh of Christ as we are the flesh of Christ.

This was the message of the Diocese of Rapid City, Social Justice Commission 2018 Winter Workshop, “Rock Bottom, Addiction — Prison — Suicide,” held January 20, at Terra Sancta Retreat Center, Rapid City.

Several experts in these fields addressed aspects of the topics throughout the day.

Bishop Robert Gruss opened the conference with prayer, and reminded people, “Many solutions are connected to the life and dignity of the human person.” He then referred to Pope Francis’ messages that say the church needs to be close to people on a difficult journey, bringing them back to God.

Amy Julian, director of Family Life Ministries, an Ex Officio member of the Social Justice Committee and one of the organizers of the event, introduced the second speaker, Jim Kinyon, executive director of Catholic Social Services, Rapid City. He has concluded solutions to these problems are not going to come from the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C. or even the state capital in Pierre.

“For young people ages 1-24 years old, suicide is the leading cause of death in South Dakota compared to the third leading cause of death nationally,” he said. He offered statistics saying in rural areas, with farming, fishing or forestry, rates are higher than in metropolitan areas.

Two of the hardest hit counties in the nation for deaths by suicide are in South Dakota — Corson, and Todd, according to statistics he drew from a state suicide surveillance report. He said depression and alcohol abuse are the strongest predictors of suicide.

“Our ministries need to step forward and say, ‘I know who you are — a child of God,’” said Kinyon.

Awareness and prevention training is available through Catholic Social Services, 605-348-6086, website

Attorney General for the State of South Dakota, Marty Jackley, spoke next; he advocates swift and certain consequences to stop drug abuse. He has a proposal for the state legislature: “It is to take every distribution and manufacturing penalty and change it so a judge, instead of sentencing up to 10 years, could sentence up to 15 years. The other component is mandatory minimum sentencing. We should have a system where the mandatory minimum is applied to the drug dealers if they are not willing to say where they got the drugs.”

His office has a website that links the public to treatment options, a call to action, awareness in schools, and an anonymous tip line — text 82257. He said 80 percent of the cases prosecuted in Minnehaha County (Sioux Falls) have a drug connection.

Jackley said the state law passed in 2012 mandating sudafederin cold medicine purchases be tracked through an electronic reporting system has virtually eliminated manufacturing in the state.

“If you don’t believe there is a (meth) epidemic go talk to any police officer. If we can reduce meth we are going to reduce violent crime and the effects on families,” he said. “Prevention and treatment are your best and cheapest options.” He concluded by saying he supports specialty courts like Drug Courts which monitor offenders very closely.

Dr. Michael Huot, Rapid City, has a specialty in pain management. “At the end of the day, addiction is when someone makes a choice, and they make that choice over and over again despite terrible things happening to them or their family,” he said.

Addiction is divided into two categories, substance addiction — the most common form is alcoholism and behavioral — the most common type is compulsive shopping, according to information provided by Huot. In 2016, 22 million Americans needed addition treatment and two million of those received it. It is not an uncommon problem, he added; half the population is affected by the actions of addicts.

“When people have addictions their brain slowly changes, neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to adapt) decreases and makes it harder and harder to kick it. They get hardwired,” he said. “The rewards-stimulus outweighs the long-term consequences.”

He showed a slide of a heroin-addicted brain beside an average person’s brain, noting 10 days after quitting there is very little brain activity, and 100 days after quitting there is more. As time goes on brain function improves and regular aerobic exercise can help increase brain activity, too.

Discussing risk factors, he said, “Adolescents are very vulnerable to addiction because their reward system develops faster than their cognitive center.” He posed the possibility of every high school student taking a drug test before chemicals affect their brain’s development and the outcome of their lives.

He cited a significant study of 17,000 adults on Adverse Childhood Experiences — physical or emotional abuse or neglect, sexual abuse, witnessing violence in the home, and a parent who is incarcerated or suffering from a mental illness. It found 40 percent of people answered two or more of the ACE questions positive; 12.5 percent answered four or more items positive. The study also showed health problems associated with the positive responses. The toxic stress in the home causes children to act out and is frequently misdiagnosed as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Doctor Huot explained efforts to help classroom teachers identify the difference.

Then he addressed opioid overdoses. In South Dakota, 57 people died from opioid overdoses in 2016. He said locally they have formed a multidisciplinary team to see who is prescribing pain medications. The team held a summit detailing how to prescribe, who is at risk, and how to prevent doctor shopping.

Doctor Huot said since the summit there is a downtrend in opioid prescriptions. “We should be putting as much money as we can in addiction treatment for long-term savings,” he said comparing the difference between a working person contributing to society versus one who is incarcerated or receiving financial aid,” he said

Relapses can happen in recovery, “We should not judge these people, but support them,” he said.


For the past 15 years, Fr. Gary Ternes has been in prison ministry for the Diocese of Sioux Falls. He has also worked in parish ministry and with patients with a mental health condition in Yankton.

The people he serves in prison are from every corner of S.D., and others who were arrested here. South Dakota has around 4,100 prisoners in several locations. Father Ternes contrasted that with North Dakota, which has a similar population, and 1,700 people in prison. He pointed out that Native Americans comprise less than 10 percent of the S.D., population, yet they are 30 percent of the male inmates and 50 percent of the female inmates.

Noting changing policies which have reduced the number of mental health patients, he drew a correlation between the decrease in patients and the increase in inmates. “In the 1960s we had 2,000 patients at the state mental hospital and 300-500 prison inmates. This year we have 4,100 prison inmates and 200 state mental patients.”

According to Father Ternes, the best guarantee for someone doing well after prison is having some support to go back into. “If you are in for more than a year it’s a pretty exceptional family that stays with you. Most of our folks don’t have many people left,” he said. “The real punishment of prison isn’t just the bad food or bad clothing. It isn’t just the rules and regulations. It’s separation from family and society.”

He said three programs are working well that can use volunteers.

Residents Encounter Christ is similar to the Teens Encounter Christ retreats. Another program that is very active in prisons is M2 (man-to-man) — or in Pierre, W2 (woman-to-woman) — a person from the community makes regular weekly or monthly visits. The third is the Alternatives to Violence Program. It’s a Quaker program active in many prisons. He said, “I can put you in touch with people who can train you in starting these programs.”

South Dakota Supreme Court Justice, Janine Kern, spoke on problem-solving courts in the state. In 2017 they served 467 people.

She became the state’s first drug prosecutor in 1988. In 1996 she was appointed a judge in the 7th Judicial Circuit in Rapid City. “I saw I was immersed in a sea of human suffering and need,” she said. “I was trying to deal with addicted people who were coming in front of me. From the bench, I could see addiction was enormously devastating to the community.”

A primary contributor was early onset alcoholism, including in the womb. “We need to do much more prevention for fetal alcohol syndrome and pregnancy abstinence. The second thing I saw was lack of a father figure and third the lack of a high school diploma. Anytime investment in abstinence, education and mentoring she said would make a difference. She cited statistics saying crime and imprisonment have grown exponentially in S.D. Between 1977-2013 the prison population increased more than 500 percent, higher than the national average.

Neither jail nor treatment alone work. Criminal justice reform began in Miami. It started with a judge, one treatment person and an attorney, 25 years ago. Faced with building two new prisons, Senate Bill 70 brought about criminal justice reform by funding specialty courts. The 2007 Northern Hills Drug Court was the first in the state. State specialty courts include Drug, DUI, Veterans, and soon will include a Mental Health Court.

She read a statement that said “Drug Courts are not soft on crime, they are smart on crime. … it is far more challenging to complete Drug Court than to complete a prison sentence.”

She said there is no better way for an addict to get clean. They see the judge and other team members every week and are held profoundly accountable. Specialty courts combine medical monitoring, support meetings, behavioral interventions, moral reasoning, new skills and strategies, and relapse prevention.

Kaye Haggerty of Allentown, Pa., spoke on her daughter’s drug treatment at Comunita Cenacolo. It is a Catholic community way of life that began in Italy, has expanded to Medjugorie and is getting started in the U.S. It was founded by Mother Elvira Petrozzi as a “School of Life.” It excludes modern technology and calls for manual labor and a great deal of prayer. It serves women ages 18-30 and men ages 18-40. Participants stay at least three years.

Lent —a time to fast from certain things and to feast on others

We have entered into the season of Lent, a season of grace. The Lord invites us to enter into a very powerful period in the liturgical year in the church. On Ash Wednesday, the Prophet Joel gave us these words of encouragement: “Even now, return to me (the Lord) with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning: Rend your hearts, not your garments … for gracious and merciful is he” (Jl 2:12-13).

The invitation has been extended — return to me and rend your hearts. In other words, tear open our hearts and seek the merciful love of the Father. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, encouraged, “In this season of grace, we once again turn our eyes to his mercy. Lent is a path: it leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God’s children.”

Jesus presented to us the activity of the Lenten season, something far beyond the externals of the scribes and pharisees. Our Lenten activity must be rooted in an attitude of the heart, the interior place of our souls, that inner sanctuary of our relationship with Christ. “Rend your heart.” This is where true conversion takes place, where Christ’s heart and our hearts come together in a quite intentional way for us.

Like those coming into the Church at Easter, all of us are called to be converts, to be looking at our lives and our sinfulness in the light of grace, the light of God’s grace. In response to this season, many people will take on different Lenten practices. Whatever disciplines of Lent we embrace, we do it joyfully in order to thank God for his mercy and to open ourselves more to God’s overflowing life that surrounds us each moment. Our efforts to change and to grow in holiness are not made to earn God’s saving love for us. Rather, they are a consequence of it. I can’t imagine what life would be like without the love and mercy of the Father, whose mercy never tires of forgiving us and always gives us the chance to begin anew.

In this season we are called to fast and abstain. In this culture of excess, it seems easy to give some things up for a few weeks. In doing so, how is this or that practice helping me to become more prayerful, more generous, more holy? Our Lenten practices will only lead to conversion and life in abundance if they are connected to our relationship with Christ — Jesus leading us through conversion. If not, then our fasting from food and drink will be a mere diet and our almsgiving will be merely giving money away.

But Lent can also be more than a just a time for fasting. It should also be a joyous season of feasting — a time to fast from certain things and to feast on others. Perhaps you will find these suggestions I came across many years ago helpful. It was written by William Arthur Ward.

Lenten Litany of Fasting and Feasting

Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ within them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of life.
Fast from thoughts of illness; feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility; feast on non-resistance.
Fast from bitterness;  east on forgiveness.
Fast from self concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal truth.
Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from suspicion; feast on truth.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow; feast on the sunlight of sincerity.
Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.
Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that undergirds.
Fast from instant gratifications; feast on self denial.
Fast from worry; feast on divine order.
Trust in God.
And finally, fast from sin; feast on the abundance of God’s mercy.

The joy in doing this type of fasting and feasting is that these practices truly lead to rending our hearts and to conversion. And this conversion is a turning from those things that do not give life and a turning to God, who gives life to us in abundance. As you keep your gaze on the Father’s love and mercy, may this season of Lent be filled with every grace and blessing.


A powerful witness when thousands stand for life

January 17-21, I had the chance to make the pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. to March for Life with our diocese. Thirty young people and eight adult leaders made the pilgrimage together. We spent five days, drove 3,330 miles round-trip, and spent more than 56 hours riding a bus in order to proclaim — and to be living witnesses to our nation and to our world — that we stand for life.

We arrived late Thursday afternoon in time for a quick shower, Mass and dinner. That evening we attended the “Life is Very Good Youth Rally,” sponsored by the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. It was an amazing evening of praise and worship music, confessions, Eucharistic adoration, and an inspirational keynote address by Sr. Miriam James Heidland, a Sister of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. (To hear just how inspirational Sr. Miriam is, go to YouTube, type in her name, and you will have an opportunity to hear for yourself.) Her talk prepared our hearts to March for Life on Friday morning.

As we piled back onto the bus, our driver asked me, “How many people were at the rally?”

I told him, “I wasn’t sure, but it was pretty full.”

He replied, “It is quite a sight to see over 200 charter buses in a parking lot from all over the county. I bet there were over 10,000 people at that rally tonight given the number of buses we counted.”

There were more than 7,500, but it certainly looked and sounded like more than 10,000. It was amazing to see and witness this new generation of young people stepping up to defend a culture of life.

The call to promote a culture of life and not death is central to who we are as disciples of Christ. In Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life”), St. John Paul II said: “… we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the ‘culture of death’ and the ‘culture of life.’ We find ourselves not only faced with but necessarily in the midst of this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.”

For me, the March for Life was a surprising experience of prayer, joy and hope. Throughout the march there seemed to be moments of great silence where we pondered the reality of over 58 million infants who have been aborted since the Roe vs Wade decision on January 22, 1973 and yet, at the same time, there were groups carrying signs and banners, praying the rosary, singing and chanting about a culture of life, filling the parade route with sights and sounds of joy and hope — echoes of the “Life is VERY Good” youth rally, the night before. As we marched, I felt there was a cloud of witnesses overshadowing us with the Holy Spirit, who is the Lord and Giver of Life, encouraging us to be bold witnesses to a culture of life.

Here are some of the ways others on the trip experienced the March for Life:

“This was my second year attending the March for Life, and I am so grateful for the opportunity that I had to go! What brought me back again to this year’s march was the joy that I had experienced the previous year. The speakers who shared their stories all relating to the overall theme for the march touched me: Love Saves Lives. It was truly empowering to be around hundreds of thousands of people who have the same pro-life beliefs as myself.”
— Mary Kinyon, Cathedral of Our Lady Perpetual Help

“My experience on the March for Life was incredible. I met some amazing people and got to see what can happen when such a great number of great people come together to fight for the end of abortion. It was amazing to be a witness to the love and support that these people showed to others. I am proud to have been a part of this amazing experience and to have the opportunity to march for the lives of those who aren’t given the opportunity to live.”
—Kiah Trainor, Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

“A few years ago, my life was transformed by the birth of our third daughter, Blakely Anne. Diagnosed in pregnancy with numerous health issues, we continued to trust in God and his plan for her life. Although her life was short, it was not without meaning. It meant so much for me to be able to march in solidarity, with thousands of others from across the country, sharing love for the dignity of all human life.
“I was struck especially by the youth in our diocese who said ‘yes’ to participate in a pro-life pilgrimage. During our journey, we had the opportunity to pray, laugh, and share life together. I am filled with hope because we stand together supporting the beauty of all life and God’s unique plan for each one of us.”
— Jenny Scherr, adult leader/youth minister, Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

“When I got to the march, I realized that I wasn’t just standing up for the unborn; I was also standing up for the pregnant women who don’t know how they are going to have the child. They are scared and don’t always have the support they need. So being there showed that there are people out there that care for her well-being, even if we don’t personally know her.”
— Jadyn Zentner, St. Mary, Lemmon

“My March for Life experience was definitely one that I will never forget. I not only marched with some of my best friends, but I made new best friends along the way. My outlook toward life changed in so many ways for the better. About 500,000 people came to Washington, DC, to march for the same cause. Thousands of people held up signs to protest for not only the lives of unborn, but for the lives of every human being. God blessed me that weekend by making me witness the true beauty of all lives, and what our lives can do to impact others.”
— Jordan Miller, Blessed Sacrament, Rapid City

“One of the many things I took away from this trip was that, truly, all life is precious. Whenever abortion is brought up in conversation it’s easy to get wrapped up in ‘saving the babies’ (which is very important), but we often forget about the parents and how they are affected by abortion.

“During the march, people spoke about how abortion affected them. Their testimonies were heart breaking and impactful and really gave you a different view on things. It’s easy to blame and condemn the parent for the choice they made, but this is entirely the wrong way to go about it. We must be kind, compassionate and caring toward all who are affected by such a tragedy because more times than not they are suffering from a choice they made and they must live with that. I wish I could personally thank those who had the courage to stand up for the pro-life movement and share their story because they were so inspirational.”
—Thérèse Wilhelmi, Our Lady of Black Hills, Piedmont

“My experience in D.C. attending the March for Life rallies and the march itself was an incredible experience! We went to save lives but the Lord taught us to open our hearts to him so he can give us the graces to march strongly to save our brothers and sisters!”
— Taylor Murphy, Blessed Sacrament, Rapid City

“Attending the March for Life this year was definitely an unforgettable experience. Marching with hundreds of people from age 70 to even babies, all praying and standing up for something much bigger and so important leaves one feeling content with pure joy from God.”
—Hannah Dillion, St. John the Baptist, Custer

The March for Life is not just another “march.” For 45 years, it has been a powerful witness to the sanctity of life, to the culture of life. It will continue to be that witness so long as a culture of death grips our country. May we continue to pray for the strength to loosen that grip so all may enjoy their right to life.