By Teresa Spiess
December is a time to reflect on what has happened and to look with eyes of hope on what is yet to come.
The people of our diocese have been talking about Bishop Robert Gruss’s pastoral letter, “Through Him, With Him and In Him,” in study groups and adult formation sessions, hearing our priests speak about the priority plan in their homilies and praying for the work of the priority plan in shaping the future of the Church in our area — nudging us, perhaps, to get off our couches and to step into the mission field to accompany others on their journey into faith.
Let’s take a look at the progress we are making in the diocese toward some of the goals included in the priority plan.
Parishes are working on evaluating reconciliation in their parishes — what is working in their parish and what could help them to further foster reconciliation between individuals, families and communities. The reports and parish plans indicate that the Evenings of Reconciliation and other discussion groups on the subject have been fruitful.
For example, St. Joseph in Spearfish, St. Paul in Belle Fourche and St. Mary Star of the Sea in Newell reported, “the evening (of reconciliation) was a prayerful time taken seriously by those present. In our areas of discussion on reconciliation we found that identifying what was going on was an important first step. From there we tried to move on to how can we be a better instrument of God’s reconciling love. Most important, for participants, the desire was there for reconciliation in our personal life, family, parish and community along with the willingness to take positive action.”
Sacraments and Worship
Father Michel Mulloy, Director of the Office of Worship for the Diocese reported that thirteen individuals have accepted his invitation to join the Diocesan Liturgical Commission. The commission will meet in January to begin their work. A survey for all parishioners about their experience of liturgy in the diocese will be among the first items on the agenda for the newly formed commission. Expect to see it in your parish next fall.
There are three goals with January 1, 2017, due dates in the Foundations Ministries of Education and Faith Formation and Vocations and Evangelization.
Foundational Ministry: Education and Formation
Distance Learning Opportunities, (Through Him, With Him, and in Him, p. 111) Provide 3-5 ongoing opportunities for formation for catechists and parishioners in a distance learning format by January 1, 2017. This past spring Susan Safford, diocesan director of the Faith Formation Office, assembled a committee to help plan formation for catechists and parishioners in a distance learning format.
Obviously, many of our small, rural parishes are several hours from the Chancery and lack the staff and resources that are available in Rapid City. The Listening Sessions held throughout western South Dakota clearly indicated that a greater effort was needed to bring opportunities for faith formation to the places where our parishioners live and pray.
The faith formation committee identified online resources available from organizations including the Augustine Institute and Ascension Press. They are looking at ways to better use Real Presence Radio (89.9 and 94.7 FM) as well as KINI Radio (96.1 FM) in Rosebud to reach out with good Catholic content, both on-the-air and online. The committee is looking for ways to make the program FORMED.org, more accessible to parishes through grant possibilities and group discounts. FORMED has been called “Netflix for Catholics” and offers movies, audio presentations, study programs, and eBooks from trusted Catholic apostolates for an annual fee paid by the parish.
The office of faith formation is working with the diocesan communications office to get the word out to parishioners about the availability of resources and opportunities for faith formation. This month there was a list of Advent materials and resources posted on the diocesan website at www.rapidcitydiocese.org/faith-formation/. Keep an eye out for future suggestions.
Faith on the Road continues to grow as well. This outreach team from the diocese travels to provide onsite formation
opportunities on a number of themes for Catholics of all ages, including youth ministry, vocations outreach, family nrichment and adult formation. A list of possible topics was provided to parishes in August. Pastors and parish directors of religious formation can schedule a visit from the Faith on the Road team by contacting the Office of Faith Formation. The office is also compiling a list of talented local speakers who could add to the presentations that the office is already bringing to parishes.
Pastoral Priority: Vocations and Evangelization
(Through Him, With Him, and in Him, 120-124)
Forming Parish Vocations Committees
Each parish or parish grouping will form a vocations committee to encourage and promote a culture of vocations by January 1, 2017.
In April of 2016, Rhonda Gruenewald, author of “Hundredfold: A Guide to Parish Vocation Ministry,” conducted workshops in Ft. Pierre and Piedmont. Participants were given practical information to help them create a culture of vocations in the parish. A follow-up workshop is scheduled on March 18, 2017.
Several parishes have taken this information and formed vocations teams. These parishes have begun to promote vocations in various ways.
- Blessed Sacrament had a big celebration for Priesthood Sunday — there are some great photos of this event on the Vocations Facebook page, facebook.com/ GodsCall.
- Spearfish had a pie social to welcome Fr. John Paul Trask as their new parochial vicar.
- Custer parishioners presented Fr. Grant Gerlach with a coupon book when he arrived as their new administrator, including offers for “a picnic lunch with our family” or “one hike in the hills with our family” and other similar, hospitable invitations.
- Piedmont has borrowed the priest and sister cutouts from the vocations office and set them up for kids to have their picture taken. They also invited Fr. Mark McCormick, diocesan vocations director, to speak to parents and grandparents about encouraging vocations.
- Parishioners in Bonesteel are making up photo cards for each priest in our
diocese with their name and address. Parishioners will be invited to take one and send the priest a card on their birthday and ordination anniversary and to pray for them.
The Vocations Office provided all parishes with a resource packet for National Vocations Awareness Week and Priesthood Sunday. The vocations website (Gods-call.org) provides access to resources. Shawna Hanson and Father Mark McCormick are excited about the work of parish vocations teams and hope to see more teams established in the coming year. Consider visiting with your pastor about this opportunity to foster vocations to the priesthood and religious life in your community!
Relational Ministry Training
Train and form 10-15 people from each parish or parish grouping in relational ministry and sharing the joy of the Gospel of Christ through witness and testimony by January 1, 2017.
Staff of the Vocations and Faith Formation Offices are working together with a committee to find ways to increase relational ministry in the diocese. The goal for relational ministry is to: “provide training for people in the local parish communities to become evangelizers in answer to their baptismal call.” (Through Him, With Him, and in Him, p. 120-124)
The committee is considering how best to identify people from around the diocese who already have a natural sense of relational ministry and provide training to prepare them to train others.
In addition, Bishop Gruss has formed a delegation to participate in a national Convocation of Catholic Leaders in Orlando, Florida, hosted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops next July. Delegates will form an evangelization team and bring back tools and the spirit to influence parish and diocesan communities, and to form the Church of the missionary option envisioned by Pope Francis. Delegates include Father Steve Biegler (Cathedral Pastor and Vicar General), Susan Safford (Director of Faith Formation), Amy Julian (Director of Family Life Ministries), Father Mark McCormick (Director of Stewardship and Vocations), Dionne Eastmo (Blessed Sacrament Church, Rapid City), Vincent and Val King (St. Isaac Jogues, Rapid City), Whitney and Laurie Driscoll (St. Joseph, Spearfish), Bill White (Christ the King, Porcupine), Ben and Jenny Black Bear (St. Charles, St. Francis), Ron Brown Otter (St. Aloysius, Bullhead), Sr. Jacque Schroeder OFM (St. Bernard, McLaughlin) and Father Michel Mulloy (St. Bernard, McLaughlin).
Be Part of the Process
As part of your end-of-year reflection and goal-setting process for the coming year, consider using available resources for furthering your own faith formation and spiritual growth through programs offered through your parish or through the diocese. Pick up a Lighthouse CD from your church, listen to a Catholic podcast, visit a Catholic website or prayerfully re-read Chapter 2 of the Bishop’s book. Take time to consider how God might be calling you to participate in the mission and ministry of the Church in your local community. Offer to be part of your vocations ministry team to promote religious and priestly vocations. Pray for the others you encounter in your daily life and find ways to help them encounter the love and mercy of God through your own words and actions. Build positive relationships that help you to grow in faith and to be strengthened and encouraged to share faith with others in ways both profound and simple. Taking any of these steps will help to renew your own faith and to bring the fire of God’s love to our families, parishes and communities.