Happy 50th Father Dan Juelfs
Fr. Dan Juelfs is known in the Diocese of Rapid City for wearing cowboy boots and riding a motorcycle. On Sunday, June 11, he will celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving for his 50th anniversary of priesthood.
Called Fr. Dan by most people, he grew up on a farm/ranch near Ralph and at St. Anthony Church he received Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation. Fr. Dan said he considered the priesthood in high school although it was not really his intention at that time. “I planned on attending the School of Mines for an engineering degree but decided that I should at least give the seminary a year to see what happened’” he said. “I stayed all eight years.”
His advice to a young man considering priesthood? “Give the seminary a try. We don’t go to seminary because we know we have a vocation to priesthood; we go to find out if we have that vocation,” he said. “There is no shame in finding out you are called to something else, but you won’t find out if you are called to priesthood without checking it out.”
He was ordained a deacon June 9, 1972, and a priest June 8, 1973, both at St. Isidore Church, Ralph. In his half-century of ministry, he has served in 26 parishes in Perkins, Corson, Butte, Ziebach, Meade, and Pennington Counties. Along the way he had some other interesting ministries. In 1973, while serving in Rapid City he was instrumental (along with the late-Fr. Dale Kutil) in purchasing a house for a Newman Center and serving as director of the center.
He was the priest for Marriage Encounter weekends for a few years then he became moderator of the diocesan Marriage Tribunal in 1991. In 1993 Sr. Kathleen Byrne, PBVM was appointed moderator. Fr. Dan studied Canon Law at St. Paul University in Ottawa, Canada, from 1996 – 1998 where he earned his JCL, a degree in Canon Law. In 1998 he was appointed the single clerical judge for the Diocese of Rapid City. “It was sort of a natural progression although I would not have considered the Tribunal if I had not been asked,” he said.
In Rapid City he became a Fire Chaplain. “It started when I joined the Newell Volunteer Fire Department and found the guys turning to me after a monthly meeting to talk about something that had happened on an ambulance run,” said Fr. Dan. “When I moved to St. Therese Church in 1990 the person who had administered the Fire Fighter I exam in Newell was a St. Therese parishioner. She knew the Rapid City Fire Department was looking for a chaplain and she referred me to the chief.
“Coincidentally they were just putting together a Critical Incident Stress Response Team to work with crews after a tragedy and I was on the first team that trained for Pennington County. It basically grew from there. I saw it as a way to help people who have experienced difficulties and are looking for some kind of help.” He was appointed vicar general by Bishop Blase Cupich and reappointed by Bishop Robert Gruss. Bishop Gruss and Fr. Dan took a trip to Uganda in 2012. “We were there for ordinations that year. Five priests and eight deacons were ordained in a four-and-a-half-hour ceremony,” he said.
“That was my first real experience of being in a developing nation, outside of my time in Mexico studying Spanish,” he said. While electricity and medical supplies were in short supply, the biggest necessity seemed to be clean water. He recalled seeing small girls carrying water containers from the tank at the Chancery office and taking them home every day.
He was eligible for retirement in 2016 while he was a pastor on the Cheyenne River Reservation. Due to the shortage of priests, he continued to serve at Eagle Butte and its seven mission parishes. He followed that assignment by being the parish administrator in Wall and then Lemmon along with their affiliated parishes.
In 2021 he retired from parish work, but he stayed on the Marriage Tribunal as Defender of the Bond for another year. Cards may be sent to him at Casa Maria, 12641 Sturgis Rd., Piedmont, SD 57769.