Silver anniversary of Totus Tuus vocation camps coming next summer

This WRC archive photo was taken in 2009. It shows the Boys Totus Tuus Camp held at Storm Mountain. Zane Pekron of Milesville throws a frisbee past Vocations Director Fr. Brian
Christensen during a game of ultimate frisbee. Adam Hofer in the yellow bandana and David Cordes, both of Rapid City, and Joseph Syman, from Spearfish, are also on the field. Today,
Fr. Adam Hofer is a parochial vicar at Blessed Sacrament Church, Rapid City, and Deacon Zane Pekron is a Theology IV student at St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.
(WRC photo by Becky Berreth)


Fr. Mark: Next summer, the Diocese of Rapid City’s Totus Tuus (“All yours”) Vocation Camps will be celebrating 25 years of bringing together middle school and high school youth from across the diocese. This is a way to help our young people hear the voice of Jesus and to encourage them not to be afraid to ask this question of the Lord: “Lord, what do you want me to do with my life?”

Totus Tuus has been a great blessing for our diocese in building and promoting a culture of vocations, and it has borne much fruit — not only in the number of priestly and religious vocations, but simply by helping our young people to seek a living and personal relationship with the Lord.

As we begin to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Totus Tuus, I asked Father Tim Hoag, founder of the camp as we know it, to share a bit of the history of this remarkable gift.

Fr. Tim: Totus Tuus Vocations Camps developed mostly through trial and error. Bishop Steven Biegler and I, while we were in seminary, recognized a need to develop a community of young men who were interested in priesthood.

We held our first vocations camp in 1989 at Camp Rimrock. Fifty-six middle school boys and girls attended. It was a great retreat. However, we took a four-year hiatus as both of us went off to theology school.

The summer of my diaconate year I sought permission from and the support of Fr. Arnie Kari, who was the vocation director at the time, to put on a vocations retreat. He gave us his blessing. Bishop Steven Biegler and Father Peter Kovarik, who were newly ordained, other diocesan seminarians and I put on a retreat at St. Martin Monastery.

It was a weekend retreat (Friday through Sunday) and was offered for high school and college-aged men. Father Tony Grossenburg attended this retreat and has shared that it was instrumental in his decision to go to the seminary the following year.

We learned from this retreat that the age spread of high school through college was too big, plus we thought a camp atmosphere would work much better than a retreat format. Also, the research provided by the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors highlighted that the first time a young boy begins to think about being a priest is in his middle school years. So, we decided to start with middle school boys with the hope of building the camp by later adding high school boys and young men as leaders.

From 1996 – 2011 it was held at various Protestant camps throughout the Hills because, at the time, we did not have our own retreat center. Camp was held at Camp Rimrock, the Wesleyan Camp, Atlantic Mountain Ranch and Camp Bob Marshall. Eventually, we settled on a permanent place in the schedule at Storm Mountain Camp. In 2012, we moved to our diocesan retreat center at Terra Sancta Retreat Center in Rapid City.

In those early years we had to prepare our meals and snacks for the camp. These were largely put together through volunteers from the cathedral parish where I was assigned as an associate pastor.

When the first sixth grade group had attended Totus Tuus for three years and were moving into high school we realized we needed to have a leadership camp to continue to build a community for these young men who were interested in seminary. We developed the high school leadership camp which was held two days prior to the middle school camp. Alongside diocesan seminarians, the boys from the leadership camp helped run the middle school camp.

When Father Brian Christensen became vocation director in 2002, we realized there was a need to encourage young girls to consider religious life. Thus, we developed Totus Tuus Girls. Father Brian and I really did not know how to put a camp like this together. Therefore, we turned to the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious to find young women religious who were willing to assist us.

Not knowing any better, we set the schedule for the first girls camp exactly as we had run the boys’ camp. About a half a day into the first camp, the sisters who had come to assist us met with Father Brian and me to revise the schedule. They wanted to add things we would never have dreamed of adding with boys.

For instance, they suggested an hour of preparation time to get ready for breakfast and an hour for lunch, allowing the girls to have time to visit. They also wanted to give the girls time for crafts. We would never have included crafts with the boys. Putting things like sharp objects (scissors), glue and the like into the hands of the boys didn’t seem wise.

In time, the sisters, in coordination with the vocations office, were designing the schedule and the talks for the girls’ camp During this time, the first fruit of Totus Tuus was received. Father Grossenburg, who attended that first retreat, was ordained.

Under the direction of Father Brian and Susan Safford, at that time a newly consecrated virgin, as well as Father Kevin Achbach who succeeded Father Brian as vocations director, the camp’s numbers increased. We also began to see more fruit from the camps.

Men who had attended the camp as middle school and high school boys were beginning to be ordained including Father Tyler Dennis, Father Jonathan Dillon and Father John Paul Trask. We have also seen the fruit of the girls’ camp with Rachel Wilhelmi (Sister Familiae) and Giovanna Julian (Sister Poveri) with the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará, and Audrey Blankartz (Sister Lucia Christi) with the Nashville Dominicans. We also have three seminarians who were Totus Tuus campers: Deacon Zane Pekron, Andrew Sullivan and Robert Kinyon.

This trend continues under vocation director Father Mark McCormick. Last year, the camps served 95 middle school and 38 high school young people.

Fr. Mark: If you or your children have any stories to share about the blessings of Totus Tuus in their lives, I would love to hear them. We can see the fruits of those who have chosen priesthood or religious life and have shared with us the impact Totus Tuus had on their decision, but it is harder for us to see how the camps have assisted young people in general to draw closer to the Lord and to listen to his call.

We are planning several events this summer to celebrate the gift that Totus Tuus has been to our young people, families, parishes and diocese. Help us to celebrate and live Totus Tuus in our lives.Back in the Day


Improving the lives of homeless individuals and families

Imagine providing a solution to the serious homelessness problem in Rapid City — helping homeless individuals and homeless families improve their quality of life, setting them up for success and long term stability. Shouldn’t that be the goal of every community which care about all of its citizens?

There is an initiative currently in progress in Rapid City to address this serious problem in our community. I do not know if everyone in our Catholic community is aware of this important initiative. This initiative is the work of the Rapid City Collective Impact, as stated on their website, “a community-supported initiative involving members of local government, nonprofits, faith-based communities, businesses, grass roots citizens and a backbone organization who share the common goal of improving quality of life in Rapid City. RCCI is a program of the Black Hills Area Community Foundation.”

Their work focuses on three priorities —food security, behavioral health and affordable housing/homelessness — by creating a campus that would serve homeless by providing transitional housing and connected services in one location. The campus, known as One Heart: A Place for Hope & Healing, will encompass the majority of the former National American University properties, spanning much of the 100 to 300 blocks along the south side of Kansas City Street. It will neighbor and complement Pennington County’s Community Restoration Center.

The mission of this transformation campus is to elevate the human spirit and the spirit of the Rapid City community, improving quality of life for all who live in Rapid City and “to make Rapid City the most caring community of its size.”

What follows appeared recently as an op-ed in the Rapid City Journal in support for this important initiative in our local community.

Our Obligation to the Homeless

What is the responsibility of the Christian community in response to the Gospel call to serve the least among us — the most vulnerable and often neglected?

Throughout the pages of the New Testament, we find a consistent response to the poor. The health and holiness of Christian communities rested on their willingness to aid those in need, adhering to the teachings of the Christian church about the right use of material goods. The “community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common,” (Acts 4:32).

St. Paul was always mindful of the obligation to serve the poor. He clearly stated that disciples should participate in God’s generosity by offering relief for Jerusalem Christians, (Rom 15:25-27, 1 Cor 16:1-4, and 2 Cor 8-9).

The clearest call comes from Jesus himself in chapter 25 of St. Matthew’s Gospel. “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs? Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me,” (Mt 25:45). Perhaps this clarion call will be the final exam we face on this side of life.

It is easy to look at homelessness in Rapid City as someone else’s problem — the city, county or faith communities. This is a complex, largescale social problem which presents many challenges for those who seek solutions. No one organization can solve it singlehandedly. As a Christian community, we have an opportunity to stand strong, city-wide, to provide innovative, effective, comprehensive, local solutions.

I believe that the Rapid City Collective Impact is an important initiative for meeting these challenges directly.  The initiative addresses three priorities: food security, behavioral health and affordable housing/homelessness. This community-supported initiative can be instrumental in improving the quality of life and building a more caring community.

When we invest in the most vulnerable of our community in a responsible way, we will achieve long-term financial savings for our local government and, at the same time, provide comprehensive services to our most vulnerable in a more humanitarian way, thus upholding their God-given human dignity. Consolidating services would also allow precious resources to be more efficiently utilized, thus practicing good stewardship.

I support the proposed transformation campus – ONE HEART. One location where the community could provide transitional housing and many other needed services for our homeless would be a valuable asset, not only for those among us in need of such services, but for our community itself. It is clear that when people beaten down by circumstances in life are given a chance and the necessary resources to turn their lives in a new direction, inspiring things happen. They discover their own dignity in a new way and grow in the confidence that they can become the persons whom God has created them to be.

I recall the challenging words of Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, whose aim was to live in accordance with the justice and charity of Jesus Christ, bringing hospitality to those on the margins of society – “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love least.”

I am deeply grateful for the business leaders whose leadership and support have led the way to bring this vision to life. Now Rapid City is graced with a great opportunity, from which we cannot turn away. Let us band together as a community and show compassion in a way that leads to a better quality of life for the least among us — the most vulnerable and often neglected.


Most Reverend Robert D. Gruss
Bishop of the Catholic
Diocese of Rapid City


Eucharistic prayer begins the center and high point of the Mass

The central part of the Eucharistic Celebration is the Eucharistic Prayer. Many think that the high point of Mass is Communion. Communion is very important. That moment of union with the Lord Jesus and one another is really the reason we are there. As important as Communion is however, it is not, according to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, (GIRM) the most important moment. The GIRM, in reference to the Eucharistic Prayer, says in paragraph 78, “Now the center and high point of the entire celebration begins, namely the Eucharistic Prayer, that is, the prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification.”

Jesus sacrificed his life to God the Father on the tree of the cross. His death was the culmination of a life of sacrifice. Jesus invited his followers to follow him. Following him means that we are to give our lives in sacrifice to God the Father as well. Better said, we are asked to join our sacrifice to the sacrifice of Jesus.  The response to Jesus’ sacrifice to his Father was the resurrection. God the Father gave life back to his Son. What our faith tells us is that this sacrifice and response in love between the Son and the Father is not just something that happened once in history. This is the eternal relationship of God the Father and God the Son, and this exchange of love is animated by the Holy Spirit.

Before Jesus offered his sacrifice on the cross he left us a way to enter his sacrifice. During the Last Supper Jesus gave us the Eucharist. He told us that the bread in his hands was his body and the wine in the cup he held was his blood.  He told us, as recorded in John’s discourse on the Bread of Life (chapter 6), that this bread and wine was his body and blood. He asks us in Luke’s gospel to “Do this in memory of me,” (Lk 22:19). Jesus asks us to continue to offer his body and blood to God the Father in the celebration of the Mass. Therefore, we speak of the Sacrifice of the Mass. We are remembering with bread and wine that becomes Jesus’ body and blood that he sacrificed his life to God the Father to free us from sins and bring us into relationship with the Father.

During the Celebration of the Mass, then, we are invited to not only remember and re-present the sacrifice of Jesus; we are also told that we must join this sacrifice. The GIRM says, again in paragraph 78, that…” the meaning of this (Eucharistic) Prayer is that the whole congregation of the faithful joins with Christ in confessing the great deeds of God and in the offering of Sacrifice.” We join our sacrifice to Jesus’ sacrifice and offer it with him to God the Father. We are, in this great action, present with Jesus, offering ourselves to God the Father. We believe that the Father hears our prayer because it is joined to Jesus’ offering and gives life back to us. Therefore, the communion we share is the culmination of Jesus’ sacrifice and therefore of ours as well. Thus, the Eucharistic Prayer is the center and high point of the entire celebration.

If you have any questions about the Celebration of the Mass or any aspect of our liturgical life, please send your questions to Father Michel Mulloy,

How does ‘all work and no play’ fit with Mass?

“The Mass is the most useless thing we can do, and by that, I mean it’s the highest thing we can do.” So says Bishop Robert Barron in his new film series on the Mass. I recently watched the first episode, and something that he said really grabbed my attention. “Mass,” he claims, “is the most useless thing we can do … Heaven is a place of utter uselessness. Mass, in its playful uselessness, is a great anticipation of Heaven.”  Now, before we all chuck our Sunday plans to come to church and head to the lake or the nearest pub playing the Sunday game, let me also point out that Bishop Barron also echoes the Second Vatican Council in reminding us that the Mass is the “source and summit” of the Christian life — in fact, the most valuable activity we could choose to engage in. So, the Mass is at the same time both useless and valuable.

We need a moment to wrap our heads around this.

The key here lies in the word “playful.” Bishop Barron defines play as an activity which has no purpose outside of itself; it is something done for its own end. Work, on the other hand, is always a means to another end. For instance, we work to get paid so that we can buy the necessities of life. In our society, we tend to think that work is more valuable than play, but  Bishop Barron challenges us, saying we have that backwards. We have impoverished the traditional meaning of play to mean something not important and not valuable, when it was once seen to signify the highest form of human activity. In the study guide that accompanies his series on the Mass, he writes, “We find our freedom in the things we do with no thought to utility, which is why our work may make us wealthy, but our play is what makes life worth living. Play, therefore, has the higher value.” Play is the highest form of human activity because, having no purpose outside of itself, it is free from utility and practicality. It is a good pursued for its own end, and is therefore more beautiful, more precious than work.

To say that this has caused me to look at things in a way I have never seen them before would be an understatement. My pragmatic, hard-working, task-driven, list-making German genetics are ready to launch into high rebellion, but the more I ponder this wisdom, the more I am intrigued,  because we do tend towards imbalance. We all seem to be frantically working at an increasingly faster pace without in some sense knowing why; we feel compelled, trapped in the pace of American life. We lose the joy in valuable work and even turn what we name play into work by pursuing it not for its intrinsic good but for some externally imposed prize or gain. This hinders our ability to be good stewards of our time, limiting our ability to love both God and our neighbor well. This is not the freedom Jesus has promised us.

I believe recapturing an appreciation for human activity which we pursue simply for its own end (play) can help us to put our work (necessary and good) in its proper place and perspective, and free it to serve the greater good. This in turn, frees us from the slavery we feel towards the tasks we engage in every day and helps us to order them properly. It can assist us in being good stewards of our time; receiving the time we have been given as a gift and striving to live each moment in God’s will and for his glory. Inspired by Bishop Barron’s wisdom, we can begin by fostering a deeper appreciation for the most important “play” we can engage in — the Mass. May we see the time we spend at Mass as the most valuable and highest form of human activity; not as a means to an end, but rather to simply be with the Almighty; to worship, to offer our love and our lives and to receive in return his gift of himself.

Sexual misconduct policy and codes of conduct are in place

The sexual abuse crisis in the Church has been made far more horrendous by some bishops, who by their actions or their failures to act, have caused great harm to both individuals and the Church as a whole. The abuse of their power and authority to manipulate and sexually abuse others has caused devastating harm. The fear of scandal replaced honest concern and care for those who have been victimized by abusers. Again, we seek forgiveness from both the Lord Jesus and those who have been harmed in any way by these actions.

As a beginning step, the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in the aftermath of this scandal has undertaken some important initiatives to address the situation and its root causes. We must all continue to pray for healing in our Church, in particular for those who have been personally victimized. Be assured of my continued prayers for healing.

Over the course of the past few weeks, parishioners from across the diocese have questioned me regarding the extent of this issue in this diocese — if clergy sexual abuse is still happening in the Church, and what happens when an allegation becomes known. I thought that I would address some of these questions and share the good news of what the Diocese of Rapid City has been doing to protect our children and young people.

The John Jay College of Criminal Justice completed a comprehensive research investigation focusing on the causes and context of clergy sexual abuse in the American Roman Catholic Church between 1950 and 2010. Released in 2011, this was the  second of two studies done, and it reported that the vast majority of abuse cases occurred from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s. Ninety-four percent of all cases occurred before 1990 and seventy percent of clergy offenders were ordained as priests before 1970. They concluded that these numbers, as well as the style and type of abuse, were fairly consistent with other large organizations (i.e., public schools, boy scouts, etc.) with men who had unsupervised and unlimited access to minors during the last half century and most especially during the 1960s and 1970s.

I share this, not to denigrate the gravity of this issue in the Church, but to put it into a historical context. One could get the sense from the media’s reporting about the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report that wide-spread clergy sexual abuse is still happening across this country. This is simply not the case, even though we are deeply saddened by a recent allegation in our own diocese. The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, a comprehensive set of procedures for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy, was established by the USCCB in June 2002. This Charter includes guidelines for reconciliation, healing and accountability, as well as supporting survivors and the prevention of further acts of abuse in the American Catholic Church.

Since the implementation of the Charter, the Catholic Church in America has done more in seeking to protect children, young people and vulnerable adults than any other institution, public or private. In fact, beginning in the 1990s, the bishops of the Diocese of Rapid City have implemented zero tolerance policies toward any instance of sexual abuse of children and young people.

The Diocese of Rapid City adheres to the following procedures regarding the handling of any reports of allegations of sexual misconduct.

Any allegation involving a minor or vulnerable adult is taken seriously and investigated thoroughly. Allegations are referred to civil authorities.

The diocese has a policy dealing with sexual misconduct, as well as codes of conduct, for priests, deacons, lay employees, volunteers and youth activity participants.

The diocese has an independent review board made up of one priest and several lay people who make recommendations to the bishop regarding the credibility of allegations. They review every allegation that is made.

All clergy, seminarians, diocesan employees and volunteers who work with children and vulnerable adults undergo background checks every five years.

All clergy, seminarians, diocesan employees and all volunteers working for the Church are required to participate in safe environment training and recurrent training every five years. Over the past years, 2817 clergy, seminarians, diocesan employees and volunteers have participated in the safe environment training.

All children involved in our Catholic schools and all children involved in parish religious formation programs are taught to recognize, resist and report abuse of any kind. This training takes place yearly. On average, over the past five years 3836 children have gone through the safe environment training each year.

The diocese is audited annually by an independent company to ensure proper training and safeguards are in place and followed. We have been in compliance since the audits began.

I will ensure that the diocese remains vigilant and transparent in fulfilling its policies and procedures regarding reported sexual misconduct. In all of this, we must also never lose sight of those victim-survivors who have suffered because people in positions in power and authority have failed to act as the Gospel demands.

For survivors of sexual abuse, these days in the Church may re-open deep wounds. Support is available from the Church and within our communities. Anyone who has been a victim of sexual misconduct by a bishop, priest, deacon or lay person working for or volunteering for the Church is invited to contact the Victim Assistance Coordinator by calling 605-209-3418 for assistance and compassionate care.

To anyone who has been abused, if you don’t feel comfortable for any reason with the Church providing help, never hesitate to also contact local law enforcement.

With compassion and without judgement, the bishops of the United States pledge to heal and protect with all of the strength God provides us.

Youth Rally 2018: ‘Going to the ends of the earth and sharing the good news’

By Becky Berreth

How does one live once we have encountered Jesus?

That is the question posed by this year’s Diocesan Youth Rally speakers Chris Padgett and Gina Bauer. The two will address youth sixth grade through seniors in high school at the Oct. 7 event held at the Terra Sancta Retreat Center.

“This year’s theme — The Road to Discipleship” — is based on Jesus’ walk with the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus,” said Craig Dyke, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the diocese. “This year, we are working from the experience of having had an encounter with Jesus — what do you do then? Stop and say ‘that was awesome,’ and go back to our old way? No! Once we encounter him, we walk with him, and along the road we talk to him, get to know him and his plan for us.”

“Missionary discipleship is a big deal in our church right now,” said Padgett. “The call to live out our faith is a very important call. Jesus himself talked about going out to the ends of the earth and sharing the good news. This road to discipleship is about learning how to fall more in love with Jesus and sharing that relationship with other people in a natural way. I feel that a lot of people think they have to be street corner preachers to do this, but they don’t; it’s caring for people, it’s loving the unlovable.”

“The hope is for each student to be filled with the desire to want to be a disciple and then go out into the world and make disciples,” agreed Bauer. “I will teach the youth what it means to encounter the Lord, know him intimately, and then share Christ with the world.”

This year, high school students will have the opportunity to live the call to share Christ by participating in the Teen Missionary Disciples Conference, the day before the youth rally. According to Dyke, the idea stemmed from the reality that a number of high school age teens who attend youth rallies, Steubenville Youth Conferences, etc., are ready to move from the experience of encountering Christ to more of an ongoing daily encounter with our Lord. “We will dive into what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ through prayer, fellowship, Scripture, the sacraments, and boldly witnessing to his presence in our lives,” explained Dyke. “Both speakers will give talks to inspire our teens to grow as disciples and share the good news of Jesus Christ.

“The teens who participate in the TMDC will play particular evangelizing roles for the youth rally that takes place the next day. All will have some role in the set up for the day — hospitality and welcoming, leading prayer experiences, lecturing, or serving at Mass, and opportunity to share their personal testimony at the youth rally.”

Padgett hopes to equip students attending both events with “resources we need in this difficult and dark time,” he said. “We are trying to do something that’s a little unconventional — we are swimming up-stream. This is a positive message and a place of encouragement.”

“Life is crazy,” agreed Bauer. “We need to take time to slow down and what better place than a youth rally!”

Registration forms for both events can be found online, www.rapidcitydiocese. org/yya or from your parish youth director. TMDC begins at 5 p.m. on October 6, and the Youth Rally begins at 9 a.m. on October 7. Cost for rally is $45, includes lunch and t-shirt. The cost for TMDC is $75 which includes overnight stay at Terra Sancta, youth rally, meals, and t-shirt. Scholarships are available for those in need. Registration deadline for both events is September 25. For more information call Craig Dyke or Linda Batman at 605-716-5214 or email or


Centenarian looks back on a lifetime of living her faith

By Laurie Hallstrom

In the past 100 years Mary Ellen Bennett has attended Mass thousands of times. These days a friend, Maria Nehl, calls her at 7 a.m. Sunday mornings and picks her up for 8 o’clock Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

Occasionally, they attend Latin Mass at the old cathedral, Immaculate Conception Church. She makes an

effort to remember the prayers she grew up with. She learned the “Our Father” in Latin and tries to pick it out of the Liturgy. “I can’t see well enough to follow a prayer book anymore,” she said.

Commenting on her faith life, she said, “You know that God is looking after you; he knows what’s going on.

“I felt that He was there to make sure things were going okay even when they didn’t seem to be going the right way. Whenever I was really ill, I felt confident things would be all right. I always had a backup in God.”

She has met many priests along the way. One of her favorites is Fr. Michel Mulloy who was her pastor at cathedral parish for 12 years. “I’ve always enjoyed him. He is positive, and suggests you shape up once in a while,” said Mary Ellen.

She was born in 1918. Her father, Tom McMahon, was a baptized Catholic but didn’t practice the faith until his wife became Catholic.

“My brother Bob was really sick and in the hospital in eadwood. That’s when mom (Mary) became a convert,” she said.

Mary Ellen was baptized as a toddler alongside her brothers Earl and Bob. Her brother John was born four years after her.

“I remember my first confession, no way would you get me in that little box,” she said. After her two oldest brothers went to confession, her mother and a priest, whose name has escaped her, spent the afternoon cajoling her to step into the small dark confessional, and eventually, she relented.

She doesn’t remember much about her first Communion other than that she and her oldest brothers took instructions from Fr. William Boyd.

Mary Ellen grew up on the family ranch her grandparents homesteaded in 1880. She attended Spring Creek rural school, two miles from her home.

For secondary education she attended the old Cathedral High School. “We drove from the ranch to the school every day,” she said.

During the first year his older siblings were all in high school, younger brother, John attended the Catholic elementary school. “After a year he returned to Spring Creek school; he was not ready to be a city person,” Mary Ellen said.

There were 13 pupils in her graduating class in 1935. They were taught by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary from Dubuque, Iowa. She attended the S.D. School of Mines and Technology for one year, and then studied one year at a teacher’s college, Spearfish Normal, now dubbed Black Hills State University. She taught in rural schools in Deerfield for one year and near Caputa for one year.

When she quit she returned to the ranch, “rode my horses and watched the cows grow.” She also travelled “here, there and everywhere” seeing relatives on both U.S. coasts and visiting her brother Earl as an engineering student in Omaha, Neb., and then when he was working in Pittsburg, Pa.

In 1950, Fr. David Buescher, Hermosa,   presided when she married Emmett

Bennett. She met Emmett when he came home from serving after WWII. Abroad, he served in Africa, India and Italy. In America, he was stationed in Washington state. He went to work for the U. S. Post Office and she became a homemaker. They had three children, Gary, Nancy and a little girl who died at age six months. Emmett passed away in 1997.

For most of their elementary education their children attended Perpetual Help Elementary school, later renamed St. Elizabeth Seton Elementary.

While she wasn’t registered in the altar society, she helped members setting up and serving at many, many wedding and funeral luncheons.

After years of attending Mass at Immaculate Conception Cathedral and when it became too small, at the Knights of Columbus Hall, she and her mother, Mary, attended the dedication of the new Cathedral, Our Lady of Perpetual Help,  on May 7, 1963.

She celebrated her centennial birthday on August 31 with an open house in her Rapid City home; on September 1 with a family luncheon at Terra Sancta Retreat Center; and on September 2 with a family day at the ranch south of town on Highway 79.

Today, she has a walking stick by the front door and a walker that is usually on the other side of the house when she needs it. Asked to impart some wisdom she said, “Just be glad each day comes.”

Mary Ellen Bennett, Rapid City, celebrated her 100th birthday on August 31. She is a parishioner at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Her paternal grandmother lived to age 101 and her mother lived to age 104.

 (WRC photo by Laurie Hallstrom)

Ringing bells is a choice, pure and simple

By Fr. Michel Mulloy, Vicar General

Smells and bells. That was a common and somewhat irreverent way of referring to symbols in the Catholic Church. We have always had the smells (incense) but for many years, except in the extraordinary form of the Mass, there were no bells save those hanging in the tower. In some parishes they are back to the delight of some and the consternation of others and there is confusion as to why bells during Mass are not heard in every parish or at the same time.

Historically bells have been rung for warnings, for reminders, for protection and for celebration. They also called people to prayer. Beginning in the 13th century bells were rung during the consecration of the Mass to remind people of this solemn moment. People out in the fields and those praying at Mass itself were encouraged to stop their work, to look up from their prayers and to adore the Lord present in his body and blood. This seems strange to us, but we must remember that the Mass was celebrated in Latin and at some distance from the faithful gathered so that they neither heard nor understood what the priest was praying. The bells reminded the faithful that the Lord was present in a unique way in the moment of consecration.

The advent of the liturgical reforms that sprung from the Vatican Council II, and the celebration of the Mass in English with the priest facing the people silenced the bells. The faithful could see and understand what the priest was praying. In the recent reform of the Roman Missal (2011) the use of the bells was renewed. It is stated this way in the General Instruction that governs our celebration of the Mass. “A little before the  consecration, if appropriate, a minister rings a small bell as a signal to the faithful. The minister also rings the small bell at each elevation by the Priest, according to local custom.” GIRM 150. This directive needs some explanation.

First the wording tells us that ringing the bells during Mass is optional. It has not been the local custom in our diocese and the phrase “if appropriate” leaves room for choice. Simply said the pastor has the option to ring or not ring the bells during the consecration. Second, because it is a choice the pastor can choose to ring the bell just before the

consecration and/or during the elevations. Pastors might do this differently. Third, it does not offer a directive concerning the number of times the bell is rung at each elevation. Finally, the mention of a “small” bell does not determine the size of the bells used for this occasion. Small here means a bell rung with one’s hand versus the bells rung in the tower of the church.

It is important in witnessing this return to a former practice to not make more of it than is intended. It is meant as a signal, a way of calling the faithful to attention and reminding them what is happening during this moment in the Mass. It is not a sign of better or worse, and the personal choice of the pastor or the individual faithful is not a mark of their holiness. It is a choice pure and simple with a noble tradition that pastors have the freedom to use or not use.


‘Questions raised deserve answers that are conclusive’

As we seek to address the crisis in the Catholic Church, the pain and confusion of this moment in her history is palpable. I have received many letters, both of support and challenge. I appreciate the lay faithful expressing their feelings and concerns. The pain and suffering goes far and wide. In the midst of this public scandal, many victims of sexual abuse by clergy will have to relive the abhorrent experiences again. As a church, as the body of Christ, it is important to keep them deeply in our prayers. “When one member of the Body suffers, the whole Body suffers,” (1 Cor 12:26). Most importantly our prayers are needed at this time.

Published reports about these criminal allegations and the lack of appropriate response by some bishops over many decades are deeply disturbing. The betrayal by church leaders runs deep in the hearts of victims and faithful Catholics, and rightfully so. These horrific actions bring deep sadness and shame to all of us who love the church so dearly, in particular the faithful bishops and priests who seek to live their priesthood with faithfulness and integrity. My sincere apologies and prayers go out to all victims and their families — anyone who has been affected by this scandal.

Where must we go from here? Throughout her history the church has faced many challenges, many crises. Each time she has had to look inwardly at her own weaknesses and flaws. This is nothing new, painful as it is. It has been painful each time it has occurred in the church’s history. It is very painful today for us who are living through this time in her history. This may be the greatest crisis the American Catholic Church has had to face throughout her history.

As I wrote in my last statement, because further questions have arisen in the released testimony from the former Papal Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, making serious allegations about the Archbishop McCarrick abuse case, I join my voice with Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Executive Committee in calling for the Holy See to conduct a thorough investigation that includes granting authority to a lay commission to examine the many questions that surround the case of Archbishop McCarrick.

As Cardinal DiNardo said on August 27, “The questions raised deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence. Without those answers, innocent men may be tainted by false accusation and the guilty may be left to repeat sins of the past.” A thorough investigation is necessary, one that is credible and done with the utmost transparency. The “truth” must be found. The only way through this is openness and honesty — that lead to effective reforms. Jesus assures us “the truth will set us free.” We shouldn’t fear anything. Truthfulness and transparency will lead to the path of purification and reform.

Perhaps right now, many Catholics may feel compelled to leave the church because of the scandal. Without denying this reality, I urge those who are considering this response to prayerfully reconsider, lest they fall into the desires of the Evil One. A better response is for each of us to renew our commitment to seek holiness in our lives, trusting that Jesus is intimately with us this moment.

Pope Francis, in Gaudete et Exultate, said that “Holiness is the face of the Church.” This “face” is not so pretty at this moment. We must remember that this “holiness” is meant for everyone. We are all called to seek holiness every day and to live a life of faith — courageously and with integrity, as beacons of light and hope, personally, in our families, in our parishes and in our communities. This  then, allows the world to see the true face of the church.

As Catholics, we believe that Christ has not and will not abandon his church. He promised to be with us always — and he is living with us through this crisis. He looks out over his beloved Bride, the church, and weeps with us. But we live in faith and hope that Jesus, as we surrender ourselves to him, keeping our gaze upon this “crucified One,” will lead us to a new place where the Gospel can be preached and lived with faithfulness and love, thus bearing new life in the world.

The sanctity of the church rests in Christ himself. I believe that Jesus is very present; he is fighting this spiritual battle with Satan. Perhaps that is why all of this is coming to light. “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed” (Jn 3:20). Perhaps Jesus has forced these things into the light. Only when things come into the light can he heal them.

The weakness of the church, a human church, can be transformed through Christ — and through prayer and repentance. This is something all of us can do and should do for the sake of our Bride, the church — for her healing. Our fasting and prayer can lead to healing, to purification, and to the necessary reforms.

The church is holy to the extent that her members are holy. The church’s conformity to Christ is complete only to the extent that her members are conformed to Christ. Each of us, as disciples of Jesus, are called to help lead the church through the challenges, through the sinfulness of our culture, to become more fully the church that Jesus Christ established.

In response to this, I invited all priests of the diocese to join me in offering a Mass on September 14, the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, and/or September 15, the

Memorial of our Lady of Sorrows, in each of their parishes in reparation for the sins of priests and bishops. During this Mass all victims — children and adults — who have suffered abuse at the hands of priests and bishops were lifted in prayer.

I have also encouraged my priests, and now all of you, to make Fridays for the next year a day of prayer and sacrifice for reparation for all priests and bishops who have so grievously wounded the body of Christ. Some suggestions might be:

  • Pray the Mass on Friday for this intention if you are able.
  • Pray a rosary or the Rosary of Our Lady of Sorrows.
  • Pray the Litany for the Abuse Crisis each Friday for nine Fridays and then repeat.
  • Offer a Holy Hour of Eucharistic Adoration on Friday.

Please consult your parish bulletins to find out what is being done in your parishes.

I also ask Our Lady, Our Mother of Mercy, to pour out her mercy upon our Church and our families, so that all victims may experience the healing love of her Son. We must never forget those who have been harmed by the church. May our prayers and sacrifices bring true healing, conversion and holiness to all.