March 15, 2018

This past week I have been reading a book by Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D. entitled The Holy Spirit, Fire of Divine Love. As I read a subsection in the second chapter titled, Koinonia — Fellowship, the lens of generous hospitality: invitation, welcome and fellowship came alive to me.

In our stewardship initiative, we are called to have hospitality events, fellowship gatherings that not only bring the parish community together, but also the community in which we live together. We extend our hospitality beyond those who attend Mass because the pastor is responsible for everyone that lives within the geographical boundaries of a particular parish (Catholic and Non-Catholic alike) and he relies on the help of parishioners to fulfill this responsibility.

Sometimes we get stuck in thinking of fellowship as a simple gathering of coffee and donuts following the celebration of the Sunday Mass. We seem to settle for this type of fellowship. However, Fr. Stinissen, goes way beyond coffee and donuts on Sunday mornings.  He expresses fellowship as the fullness of love, which is made up of both agape and eros love. He says, “In fellowship, one shares everything in common. Nothing is just yours. ‘All that is mine is yours’, you say. ‘And all that is mine is yours’, answers the other. You empty yourself of what is yours in order to fill the other, and this is agape. But by the fact that the other empties himself of what he is in order to fill you, eros is also satisfied.  ‘I am yours’, says agape.  ‘You are mine’, says eros. Is that not what love repeats for all eternity?  ‘I am yours — you are mine’, together, is the fullness of love: koinonia.”

He goes on to say that the Holy Spirit is fellowship. The Holy Spirit “creates community; he brings together. Almost every prayer in the Catholic liturgy ends with in unitate spiritus sancti (in the unity of the Holy Spirit). It is the spirit who incorporates us all into the Body of Christ and makes us one.”

By contrast, I remember hearing in one diocese about a parish that has separate plates, glasses and cutlery for their different parish organizations that they do not share. This is a clear example of not living this radical fellowship, but all of us should be challenged by Fr. Stinisson’s reflection.  I suspect that all of us, upon reflection, will see ways that we do not embrace this definition of fellowship in our families and in our communities.

As we enter the fifth week of Lent let us pray, fast and gives alms freely and generously so that our hearts might be changed and we truly become one Body in Christ, living fellowship — kononia with a heart awakened and moved by the Holy Spirit.

Fr. Mark

March 9, 2018

This past Friday and Saturday, the Office of Stewardship hosted the Come, Holy Spirit Lenten Retreat as a way to promote the lens of lively faith through prayer — the spiritual formation of the heart.

The retreat was put on by the Community of Beatitudes out of Denver, Colorado. One of their charisms is praying with Israel.

“Bringing to completion the promise made to our fathers in the first covenant, Christ admits all who embrace salvation into the inheritance of Israel. Like the apostle Paul says, the Church is in some ways grafted into the root of Israel, the olive tree. The unveiling of the plenitude of the mystery of Christ to Israel is essential, because it concerns the definitive union of all the people of Israel and the eschatological vocation of the Church. We wait for the moment in which the Glorified Christ will be all in all, for ourselves but also for the chosen people, and can only pray with fervor for the hastening of the day when Jesus will be fully revealed as Messiah to Israel” (Book of Life 11).

As a way to lift up this “praying with Israel,” the Community of Beatitudes will do Israeli folk dancing as a community. This dancing is done on Sunday, the day of resurrection, the Lord’s Day.  As a way to end a retreat on Saturday evening, the Community of the Beatitudes taught us Israeli folk dancing.Here is a bit of dancing from the retreat:

Israeli folk dancing is circle in nature and usually based on a number of biblical images, especially from the Psalms. One dance emphasized Mary stomping on the head of the serpent, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was a great way to end the retreat, with great laughter and joy as we learned to dance in and with the Lord, praying for the day when Jesus will be fully revealed as Messiah to Israel.

Israeli dancing also brought me back to the beginning of our stewardship initiative when we were encouraged to incorporate monthly hospitality events into parish life as a way to build up the body of Christ in our parishes. As we were dancing last Saturday night Israeli style, I thought this would be a great hospitality event for parishes. It is definitely stepping out of the box a bit and certainly goes beyond coffee and donuts.

I am interested in hearing what hospitality events your parish has been doing of late.

March 2, 2018

Last week, Adam Johnson, a first-year theologian at St. Paul Seminary, was 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 Gruss presiding.

Adam’s pastor, Fr. Brian Lane from Blessed Sacrament Church in Rapid City, along with Adam’s parents, Mike and Kathy, were able to attend this celebration of the Ministry of Lector. After the celebration, I sent a text to Adam, his parents and Fr. Lane congratulating Adam and asking them to send pictures from the installation, which they did.

Fr. 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 Fr. 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.

This year’s Pastoral Ministry Days, is on creating a vibrant culture of vocations in our parishes. This year we have two great speakers: Fr. James Mason, President and Rector of Kenrick Glennon Seminary in St. Louis and a priest from the Diocese of Sioux Falls, and Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP, Vocation Director for the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist out of Ann Arbor, MI.

The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist is one of the fastest growing religious orders in our country. A relatively new order that was founded in 1997 with four sisters, the order now has 96 members. The average age is 26, and more than 20 postulants are expected to enter next year; the largest group ever.

Our theme for this year’s PMD is Harvest: The Harvest is Plentiful but Laborers are Few, taken from Matthew 9:37. PMD is coming up very soon, March 18-20 but there is still time to sign up! You can register online:

This should be a great PMD and one that will give some concrete tools, ideas and suggestions to help all of our parishes and families build and create a vibrant culture of vocations in our diocese.

February 22, 2018

An image of a single parishioner in an empty church was used to lead off a recent article by Fr. Jack Bentz, S.J., in America Magazine entitled, Dear regular Mass-goers: The Seats at the End of the Pew Aren’t For You. Fr. Bentz who is the vocation director for the Oregon Province Jesuits and the chaplain to Gonzaga University’s law school and the men’s basketball team. Because of this, he spends a great deal of time on the road and this gives him the opportunity to visit different parishes throughout the country on the weekend.

He commented on a common phenomenon in most Catholic parishes, “the experience of being the unwelcomed stranger in a strangely familiar land.” He says that most parishes had greeters that were smiling at the doors of the church with bulletin in hand and there was usually an invitation made from the pulpit to welcome all visitors. One parish in particular even handed out shiny little gift bags with a ballpoint pen and a coffee cup, bearing the name of the parish.

Fr. Bentz said that he appreciated being officially welcomed, greeted and even receiving a gift from a parish, but he felt like that type of hospitality was not working. He still didn’t feel welcomed.  Why not? “Because I had to climb over people to get into a pew. Seriously. This happened time and again and in churches that were empty except for the ends of the pews firmly held against all newcomers.” Fr. Bentz goes onto say, “The more parishes I attended, the more people I had to crawl over, the more time I had to think: What scares us about sitting in the center? The wooden pew is just as hard, the view is much the same and we won’t suddenly hear an improvement in the music by sitting on the aisle. Perhaps it is because we know we should be at Mass but are unwilling to really commit. We want to be close to an exit so we can make a quick getaway. So we sit with one foot in the pew and the other in the parking lot.”

I know that sometimes it is necessary for parents with small children to stay at the end of the pew in case they need to leave with their child and I also know that sometimes people sit on the end of the pew because they are serving as Lector or Eucharistic Minister, but I also see Fr. Bentz’ point, and I am sure most of us have experienced it and or have at least seen this phenomenon happen in our own parishes weekend after weekend, except perhaps in our smaller rural parishes.  People tend to gravitate to the ends of the pews and leave the middle empty perhaps without realizing how unwelcoming this can be.

Fr. Bentz alludes to the fact that “every weekend, in every Catholic Church in the United States, new people arrive hungry for a community to call home. Is this parish for them? Is this pew for them? They come from other denominations, from other faiths and from other parishes. If they cannot find a place to sit, they will not be back. And we will never have a chance to speak the saving Word to them, because, in spite of the official welcome, they understood this was not going to be their church. It was already taken by the guardians at the end of the pew. The end spots on a pew are for those who arrive after us.

As we continue to work on becoming stewardship parishes through generous hospitality, lively faith and dedicated discipleship, perhaps Fr. Bentz’ s article will inspire us once again to look at how our parishes are doing with generous hospitality. Are we encouraging our parishioners to develop the attitude that, “the end spots on the pew are for those who arrive after me?”

To read the article in its entirety:

February 16, 2018

This morning, as I was driving to get the oil changed in my car, I was listening to Real Presence Radio and they were talking about the shooting in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen were killed, fourteen young people, three adults, and fourteen were injured in this horrific and senseless act of violence. In Romans 12:15 we hear, “when one mourns we all mourn.” So our hearts are heavy as we pray and mourn for the youth and adults that were killed in this high school shooting, and we remember their parents, families and classmates who struggle to get their minds and hearts around this tragedy of death.

As I was listening to this story, there was this ray of hope that was surfacing and illuminating the darkness of such evil permeating the community of Parkland, Florida. The radio hosts were telling the story of a young junior named Daniela Menescal, who was injured in the shooting herself. This is what Daniela said in referring to the shooter and herself, “In the back of his mind, God is with him and I know that we all deserve a second chance, and that even for all that he caused, we forgive him. I forgive him.” Amazing words from this young person who was part of this tragedy.

I believe in Daniela’s heart she recognizes the power of sin in her own life and how Jesus has given her numerous second chances to follow him. Sin is universal, we all struggle with sin, including myself. I, too, go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently because I know my own sinfulness. I realize that my own patterns and habits of sins have caused, not only damage to myself and to my relationship with Jesus, but also have hurt my brothers and sisters who I am called

In today’s first reading from Isaiah, we hear about fasting and the type of fasting that the Lord desires of us — “releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn in your wound shall quickly be healed.”

Daniela is a reminder to us of what it means to follow Jesus Christ by “breaking every yoke”, especially the yoke of unforgiveness by extending forgiveness even to one who has taken 17 innocent lives. Daniela understands that, “when we refuse to forgive someone for harm done to us, we are adding another wrong to the first. That solves nothing at all. We are increasingly the quantity of evil in the world, which has quite enough as it is. Let us not join in the propagation of evil. St. Paul tells us,” do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Philippe, Interior Freedom)

Jesus is calling us, even in our sinfulness, to be that light that breaks forth like the dawn to bring healing to our wounded humanity and our world. Be not afraid to be the light and to follow Christ with your whole heart. Be inspired by Daniela’s witness.

Fr. Mark

February 8, 2018

Last evening I was able to be part of the Rite of Admission to Candidacy for Holy Orders for Andrew Sullivan, who is a first year theologian for our diocese and studying at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis.  Bishop Walter Nickless of the diocese of Sioux City, Iowa was the presider. As part of his homily he read the instructions for the Rite of Candidacy itself:

“Dear brethren in Christ, our brothers, stand here today in the presence of the Church, recommended to us and to you for admission among the candidates for holy orders.

Christ gave this command: “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest.” Our brothers know the Lord’s concern for his flock, they see the needs of the Church and they feel ready to respond generously to the Lord in the words of the prophet: “Here I am, send me forth.” They put their hope in the Lord, trusting that they may answer his call faithfully.

This call from the Lord should be recognized and understood from the daily signs which reveal God’s will to discerning people. When God chooses people to share in the ordained priesthood of Christ, he moves and helps them by his grace. At the same time, he entrusts us with the task of calling suitable and approved candidates and of consecrating them by a special seal of the Holy Spirit to the ministry of God and of the Church. By the sacrament of holy orders, they will be given part in our ministry of service to the Church, and build up by word and sacrament the Christian communities to which they will be sent.

Our brothers have already begun their preparation so that later they may be called to ordination by the bishop. Day by day, they will learn to live the life of the Gospel and deepen their faith, hope, love, and compassion. In the practice of these virtues, they will gain the spirit of prayer and grow in zeal to win the world to Christ.

Urged by his love and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, they have come here to declare their desire to bind, themselves to the service of God and of humankind.”

I saw theses instructions come alive several times in the last several days as the seminarians prayed as a group, Lectio Divina, on this Sunday’s gospel from Mark (1:40-45, the cleansing of the leper). It was in the spirit of fellowship and trust, that not only the seminarians, but also the priests on staff, including the Rector, Fr. Mason and Vice Rector, Msgr. Mikesch shared the fruits they experienced while praying with this gospel text.

One of the seminarians shared that during his prayer with this gospel passage he asked the Lord to heal the leprosy of his own heart. What he heard from the Lord was, “I choose not to heal this particular part of your leprosy, but instead invite you remain with me in it.” He recalled an experience he had this past summer while working in a parish in Omaha visiting with a woman dying from cancer. They both prayed fervently that the Lord would heal her and restore her completely from cancer. However, this past fall she died. The great grace he received from this experience was that, even though the Lord didn’t heal her of her cancer, she is a woman of such great faith that he witnessed how she was able to remain in and with the Lord in her suffering. This is truly and inspiration and gift to him. Father Mason shared that in his own life he also has begged the Lord to remove the leprosy of his own heart.

This experience of group Lectio Divina, which the seminarians do several times throughout the week, calls to my mind the importance of, not only praying the Word by myself, but also with others. As the Church proclaims in the Rite of Candidacy,  “Day by day, they will learn to live the life of the Gospel and deepen their faith, hope, love, and compassion. In the practice of these virtues they will gain the spirit of prayer and grow in zeal to win the world to Christ.”

As we approach the season of Lent, I encourage you to pray with the Sunday gospel with a group of people, perhaps it’s around your kitchen table with your family, or a group of friends in your neighborhood, or parish.

The Office of Stewardship which promotes and encourages the Catholic way of life, by living a life of generous hospitality, lively faith and dedicated discipleship can help you with a very simple format that we learned several years ago at Pastoral Ministry Days from Msgr. Richter. I am more than willing to send this simple prayer card to you if it is not already available at your parish. Then all you have to do is to invite your family or others to your house, reserve a room in your parish hall or go to a local coffee house and pull people together to reflect on the Sunday Gospels of Lent.  Let your heart be set on fire this Lent, letting Jesus speak His word to you, as I have seen it speak to the seminarians and faculty at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.

Fr. Mark

January 31, 2018

This week the Vocations Office received a donation for the Adopt-A-Seminarian fund along with a story written by Wendy Pitlick of St. Patrick’s in Lead.  The story of how St. Patrick’s raises money each year for the Fund speaks to me of the kind of generosity of spirit that is such a part of a Catholic Way of Life.  I wanted to share the story with you:

A plate full of sugar cookies from the St. Patrick’s Cookie Fair can not only be a conversation piece at a Christmas party, an edible gift for a friend, or a sweet treat for the family, buy many of the beautifully crafted sugar cookies have been shellacked and saved to be used as tree ornaments.

That’s because every year the Loeffen family – longtime parishioners at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Lead – donate 140 dozen of their sweetest and most beautiful creations, to be combined with hundreds of other tasty treats from other parishioners.  The Loeffen family cookies – created with love by Kim, Rita, Mary, Nancy (Butler), Shannah and Kaitlin – have gained a reputation for being the most creative and beautiful cookies around, and people drive for miles to make sure they get some.

Mickey Mouse peeks out from underneath Santa hats.  Olaf skips through some evergreen branches.  Angels sparkle just like the stars, and the Christmas trees look like they probably belong as an ornament on the real thing.  With more than 100 cookie cutters to choose from, every year the family brings something just a little different.

“We love that people love our cookies!  It’s one of our big contributions that we do for the church,” Rita Loeffen said.  “We have people so excited about the cookies.  People tell us they look like professional cookies.  One gentleman here in Deadwood saves one cookie every year.  He shellacs it and puts it on his tree.”

Rita said that making the cookies has become a family tradition.  The ladies of the family begin baking cookies in the beginning of November.  They then spend Thanksgiving week, and every week thereafter until the cookie fair in mid-December, decorating until the wee hours of the morning.  “Sometimes we have cookies everywhere!  We might have 10 dozen cookies all sitting around in different spots, in different stages,” Rita said.

Hundreds of hours of work culminate each year with the annual cookie fair, where the Loeffens join with other friends and parishioners who also contribute between six to 10 dozen cookies of their own.  The night before the fair opens, volunteers assemble pre-ordered plates of cookies, and last year the church sold about 200 pounds worth of pre-ordered sweets.  “The pre-orders are out of this world,” Rita said.  “People love to give those as gifts because we put them on a really fun plate and then they are all sealed.  You can also take them home and put them in the freezer.  A lot of people like to take them to Christmas parties.  They are a conversation piece.”

After the community has selected their sweet and artistic cookie trays, the St. Patrick’s Altar Society uses the money earned to make a “sweet” donation to the seminarian fund.  This year they gave $2700.00.  “This is a great way to raise money for the seminarians,” said Mary DeMarcus of St. Patrick’s.  “It is so important that we support them.

My thanks to these generous parishioners!

January 26, 2018

In last week’s musings, I pondered the power of an invitation and the fruits which come from being persistent in extending, always inviting others to become intentional disciples who joyfully, boldly and lovingly proclaim and live the mission of Jesus Christ. We must never tire of extending an invitation, giving others opportunities to follow Jesus more deeply in their lives.

This was reaffirmed for me on Tuesday when I decided to celebrate the optional Memorial for St. Marianne Cope (of Molokai). To be honest, I didn’t know the story of St. Marianne Cope, but I found her story very moving. She was Beatified on May 14, 2005 and Canonized on October 21, 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI.

It was this part of the story that reminded me again of persistent invitation: In the early 1880’s King Kalakaua of Hawaii sent over 50 letters to religious orders asking for help in caring for and extending aid to those who suffered from leprosy and were isolated to the island of Molokai. In answer to his plea, King Kalakaua received more than 50 letters declining his invitation to come to Molokai. His fortitude of continuing to extend the invitation finally paid off as his invitation landed on the desk of Mother Marianne Cope, the Superior General of the Franciscan Sisters of Syracuse, New York.

Mother Marianne Cope responded yes to King Kalakaua’s invitation even though she did not know where this yes would lead her and her community. Mother Marianne extended the same invitation to her sisters and thirty-five sisters responded yes to her invitation. In the end, Mother Marianne and six sisters left for Hawaii in 1883. In 1888, Mother Marianne moved to the leper colony on Molokai. Mother Marianne and her sisters spent 30 some years taking care of the lepers of Molokai, and miraculously she never contracted leprosy herself.

St. Marianne said, “My heart bled for the children and I was anxious and hungry to help put a little more sunshine into their dreary lives.” St. Marianne Cope brought the sense of beauty into the life of community by introducing cleanliness, pride, and fun. She provided bright scarves and pretty dresses for the women as a way to restore their dignity and beauty, despite the way they felt about themselves because of their leprosy and the isolation they felt.

This is a beautiful story of the persistence of King Kalakaua of Hawaii, who kept inviting others to participate in the caring for those who felt abandoned and isolated from families, friends and community. I also reminds us that when we are able to say yes to the Lord, the Lord does amazing things and our work always produces great fruit. The fruit begins with an invitation to invite others to share in our way of life, the life of Christ.

Let us never tire of extending an invitation, no matter how many times we have been declined and feel rejected. It is the Holy Spirit that opens the door for one to say yes to the Lord. Our ministry, our job is to extend the invitation as the Lord has extended it to us and leave the response to Him, who moves the heart to say yes.

Fr. Mark

January 17, 2018

Today (Wednesday), 38 people from the diocese, both youth and adults, are heading to our national capital in Washington, DC for the 45th Annual March for Life. We are heading to experience this great event because invitation and perseverance does pay off. The first lens of our stewardship initiative is generous hospitality, which is rooted in being people of invitation. In the past, I have heard different priests, lay ministers and chancery staff express a desire to send a bus of young people and adult leaders to the March for Life. For a while it seemed just talk. Two years ago, the talk grew into an invitation that was sent out to all the parishes. There were a few takers willing to make the trip to March for Life, however not enough to fill the minimum quota. Last year, still not enough to fill our own bus and so 10 of us joined up with the Diocese of Sioux Falls and traveled with them.  Today, we have our own busload.  This speaks to the power of an invitation and learning to persevere in the invitation. As intentional disciples who joyfully, boldly and lovingly proclaim the mission of Jesus Christ, we must never tire of extending an invitation to others to follow Jesus more deeply in their lives and we must not be easily discouraged, but be patient and persevere.

This year’s theme for the March is, “Love Saves Lives.” 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.”

In Through Him, With him and In Him: A Spiritual Guide to the Diocesan Priority Plan, Bishop Gruss, says: “if we are not currently living these values, meaning they are not part of our lives in very practical ways, we need to beseech the Lord’s grace daily, asking him to open our lukewarm hearts and teach us how to bring them into our lives. If we do not put these values into practice, then our light will not shine before others, so that others may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

As we head today to Washington DC, to March for Life, I am full of hope and joy that one day we all would truly become disciples of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life, in every aspect of what it means to be human, made in God’s image and likeness.  Pray for us as we put into practice in a very visible and tangible way our commitment to life, letting our light shine before others and giving witness and testimony to the power of an invitation to live and be Christ to others in our world.

Januar 10, 2018

In the gospel reading fro january 10, from the Gospel of Mark, we hear how Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. We are told that the disciples immediately told Jesus about Simon’s mother-in-law, who was down and out with a fever. The fever was so severe that she was unable to offer them hospitality.  Jesus drew near to her, grasped her by the hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she waited on them, extending to them generous hospitality.

This gospel story reminds me of lively faith as we have come to know it in our diocese, through the lenses of prayer, study and formation. This gospel teaches us to be people of prayer, where we are called to intercede and to bring the needs and concerns of our brothers and sisters before the Lord.

It seems that one of the constant happenings in my life is people brining to me the prayer requests of a family member, a friend, a neighbor, who is struggling in some way with a physical or emotional illness or simply having a difficult time at the moment and could use some prayers.

In the past, I would ensure them of my prayers for them and then I would move onto the next thing, the next meeting, the next appointment. Keeping so busy that at times it would forget to pray for them. And then the inevitable would seem to happen and I would run into them and they would say thanks for the prayers, Fr. Mark they meant a lot to me and my family or friend.

When this would happen I’m sure I had a sheepish look on my face and I would think to myself, “Oh crap! I forgot to pray for them.” Has this ever happened to you?

The disciples teach us an important lesson about interceding for someone in need of our prayers. They immediately told Jesus about Simon Peter’s mother in-law and Jesus immediately approached her grasped her by the hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she extended hospitality to them by waiting on them.

Thanks be to God my practice has changed. Now when people approach me about praying for them or a loved one; I, like Jesus, try to immediately stop what I am doing and began to pray with the person, whether it’s in church, my office, Dunn Brothers, Safeway or the doctor’s office. I know this can be a little frightening or scary for some of us and yet it should be so much a part of us that it becomes a normative way of acting as disciples of the Lord, whose faith is alive in Christ Jesus.

I would like to share with you a simple method of praying with/and over people. There are just six steps and they build on one another. You and I, like Simon and Andrew, James and John, are called to bring those who are hurting to Jesus’ attention. He is the Divine Physician. We simply acknowledge God as the Merciful Father, we acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord, Savior Redeemer and friend.  We acknowledge the Holy Spirit as the Lord and giver of life. We ask the person what they are praying for; what is the desire of their hearts; what they are asking of the Lord. Then we simply speak of their need, their desire to the Lord. Afterward we pause; we enter the silence for a few moments to see if the Lord wants us to speak to them further, if so we speak what’s in our heart, if not we simply conclude with an Our Father, the Hail Mary or Glory be. We assure them of our prayers and we do all of this on the spot.

Let me know how this prayer practice works for you! Be not afraid!

Praying over and with People

Six Simple Steps

  1. Acknowledge God
  2. Acknowledge the person
  3. Invite Jesus to minister to the person at their point of need
  4. Pray for their intention
  5. Listen and share what else, if anything, the Lord is asking me to share or to pray with the person.
  6. Conclude the prayer by praying a prayer that you both know, e.g. Glory Be…

Fr. Mark

January 4, 2018

As we begin this New Year I thought it would be thought provoking and inspiring as well to hear what individuals might be doing as part of their New Year’s resolution. We usually think of New Year’s resolutions as something we do individually and not so much collectively and or collaboratively. It would be interesting to see if there are any parishes, stewardship committees and vocations committees that have made a New Year’s resolutions as a whole.

A New Year’s resolution is usually defined resolving to change an undesired trait or behavior, to accomplish a personal goal or otherwise improve one’s life in some way.

I read that only 8 percent of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions, usually because they were too ambitious and the goals they set for themselves were too restrictive. I also wonder if New Year’s resolutions fail because it’s more about human effort instead of allowing and giving permission for Jesus to be a part of one’s New Year resolution, letting Him lead and guide the way.

I also thought about New Year’s resolutions in light of our understanding of virtue. In the Catechism we read, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8) The paragraph goes on to define virtue as a “habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions. The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.” (paragraph 1803)

Seeing New Year’s resolutions in the light of virtue, trusting in the work of the Holy Spirit, would only increase the chance of one being successful in one’s New Year’s resolutions, giving them power to truly transform their life (parish and diocese) in Christ.

To help us get the ball rolling, here are Pope Francis’ suggestions for New Year’s resolutions from 2016:

  1. “Take care of your spiritual life, your relationship with God, because this is the backbone of everything we do and everything we are.”
  2. “Take care of your family life, giving your children and loved ones not just money, but most of all your time, attention and love.” 
  3. “Take care of your relationships with others, transforming your faith into life and your words into good works, especially on behalf of the needy.” 
  4. “Be careful how you speak, purify your tongue of offensive words, vulgarity and worldly decadence.” 
  5. “Heal wounds of the heart with the oil of forgiveness, forgiving those who have hurt us and medicating the wounds we have caused others.” 
  6. “Look after your work, doing it with enthusiasm, humility, competence, passion and with a spirit that knows how to thank the Lord.” 
  7. “Be careful of envy, lust, hatred and negative feelings that devour our interior peace and transform us into destroyed and destructive people.” 
  8. “Watch out for anger that can lead to vengeance; for laziness that leads to existential euthanasia; for pointing the finger at others, which leads to pride; and for complaining continually, which leads to desperation.” 
  9. “Take care of brothers and sisters who are weaker … the elderly, the sick, the hungry, the homeless and strangers, because we will be judged on this.”
  10. “Making sure your Christmas is about Jesus and not about shopping.”


December 30, 2017

On Wednesday evening, with an invitation from Fr. Timothy Castor and the parish community of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Sturgis, we held an Andrew dinner for high school youth and young adults. Andrew dinners are built around the passage from John 1:38- 41. John the Baptist pointed out Jesus to Andrew and another disciple as he said “Behold, the Lamb of God.” Andrew in return finds his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah.” Andrew brings Simon to Jesus. Like Andrew, the Lord is asking us as priests and followers of Jesus to bring others to Him so that they may discover their vocations as well.

In my prayer Wednesday night as I was preparing for bed I was filled with gratitude for the generous hospitality that I experienced at the Andrew dinner. It began with Fr. Timothy’s invitation to host the Andrew dinner at his parish several months ago. As I was packing up from the Andrew dinner, Fr. Timothy said to me: “As a priest, it’s been a dream of mine to see a priestly vocation arise in my parish and to have some small part in making that happen. It’s a great opportunity to share my love of priestly ministry and the joy of my vocation.”

I experienced the generous hospitality of a grandmother, a father, a mother, and a family with children, who prayed in front of the Blessed Sacrament for over three hours offering prayers for vocations and for the success of our Andrew dinner. These faithful prayers reminded me of the quote from Pope Francis, “Behind and before every vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life there is always strong and intense prayer from someone: a grandmother, a grandfather, a mother, a father, a community. … Vocations are born in prayer and prayer, and only in prayer, can they persevere and bear fruit.”

The Knights of Columbus at St. Francis Assisi parish served the meal — a filet mignon steak dinner with all the fixings, which included a beautiful and festive table set to highlight the joy of the Christmas season.

We concluded the evening with Benediction and a chance to venerate the relic of St. John Vianney. It was a great evening filled with prayer, food, conversations and vocational stories.

I’ve included two pictures that help tell the story of our Andrew dinner at St. Francis parish of Assisi in Sturgis. The picture with Bishop Gruss and those who attended the St. Andrew dinner are gathered around the relic of St. John of Vianney, which belonged to Bishop McCarty, who was Bishop of the diocese of Rapid City from 1948-1969. The reliquary was restored recently, thanks to a handful of generous donors – one more example of generous hospitality.

Pope Benedict the XVI is quoted as saying that it’s not surprising that, where people pray fervently, vocations flourish. May many more of our young men experience Andrew dinners in the parishes across the diocese.

December 21, 2017

Yesterday, I came across a video of Fr. Adam Hofer, the Parochial Vicar at Blessed Sacrament Church in Rapid City on Facebook.  Fr. Hofer is sitting around the manger scene inviting and welcoming people to participate in the Christmas Masses at Blessed Sacrament. He has a warm and joyful disposition about him as he invites people to gather around the Manger to welcome Emmanuel into their lives, families and world. It is a short 47-second video with a simple greeting of welcoming parishioners, guests and really all to Blessed Sacrament Parish for the Christmas Masses.  Check it out. Well done Fr. Hofer!

I also noticed this post on Facebook this week: “Blessed Sacrament Church. St. Thomas More Students did an excellent job in decorating the parish hall for Christmas Eve. Thank you.” (8 pictures included in post.)

Posted on Instagram:  “Father Dillion took kids out caroling on a hayride, met with first communicants, and ended the night with adoration, a lesson on Lectio Divina, and confession (almost 2 hours). Great night in Bonesteel!”

The St. Francis Christmas play in Sturgis is on Facebook:

Benedictine College posted a beautiful video for Christmas of a live nativity scene and Sr. Joan Kolbe Kjerstad plays the role of Mary:

As parishes work through the process of becoming a stewardship parish, the first phase or tier is to become a Foundational Parish.  One of the characteristics of a foundational Parish is: “Our parishes use a variety of communication methods that are useful and effective for the unique culture of the parish.”

The use of parish webpages and social media for your parishes can be a great way to form your parishioners in the faith and to attract new ones or those who have left the faith for a time, encouraging them to come back.

As our Office of Stewardship visits with pastors and stewardship committees about becoming stewardship parishes, we encourage parishes to have to have current and up-to-date webpages. Here are some webpages that we think are pretty good:

Thinking about all of this week after seeing Blessed Sacrament Rapid City, Immaculate Conception in Bonesteel, in St. Francis in Sturgis on Facebook and Instagram I came across 19 reasons* you should include visual content in your marketing. Here are a few that I think apply to the marketing we do and evangelization in our parishes and diocese.

  1. 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text. (Sources: 3M Corporation and the Zabisco)
  2. 40% of people will respond better to visual information than plain text. (Source: Zabisco)
  3. Publishers who use infographics grow in traffic an average of 12% more than those who don’t. (Source: AnsonAlex)
  4. Posts with videos attract 3 times more inbound links than plain text posts. (Source: SEOmoz)
  5. Visual content drives engagement. In fact, just one month after the introduction of Facebook timeline for brands, visual content — photos and videos — saw a 65% increase in engagement. (Source: Simply Measured)
  6. Pinterest generated more referral traffic for businesses than Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn combined. (Source: Shareaholic)
  7. 85% of the US internet audience watches videos online. The 25-34 age group watches the most online videos, and adult males spend 40% more time watching videos on the internet than females. (Sources: comScore and Nielsen)
  8. Over 60 hours of videos are uploaded each minute on (Source: YouTube)
  9. 700 YouTube videos are shared on Twitter every minute. (Source: YouTube)
  10. Viewers spend 100% more time on pages with videos on them. (Source: MarketingSherpa)
  11. 25 million smartphone users stream 4 hours of mobile video per month. 75% of smartphone users watch videos on their phones, 26% of whom use video at least once a day. (Sources: Ooyala and Ipsos)
    *19 Reasons You Should Include Visual Content in Your Marketing. Written by Amanda Sibley @AmandaSibley