‘My heart is filled with deep gratitude’

Blessings to all of you as we find ourselves midway through the summer. This is the time of the year for me when three meaningful days come into play within thirty-four days — my birthday, the anniversary of my priesthood ordination and the anniversary of my episcopal ordination. These three events are monumental occasions of grace and blessing for me.

We all have a personal history to share. In a similar way that the Old Testament stresses a special relationship between God and his chosen people, Israel, my personal history tells a wonderful story of God’s love and presence leading me to this moment in time and history. As I come to the end of five years as the Bishop of Rapid City, it has given me pause to prayerfully reflect back upon the journey. Like God’s relationship with the Israelites, there are so many ways in which the Lord has embraced me in love and mercy, leading me back on the path when I have gone astray, giving me encouragement when I have doubted my vocation, loving me when I didn’t deserve it, and blessing me with the gift of the priesthood and the episcopacy.

These last twenty-two years as a priest, as I have stepped out in faith and trust, have brought me clarity regarding my true identity, a priest of Jesus Christ. As I have engaged a life of prayer, encountered Jesus in the sacramental life of the church, experienced him in the sacred ministry of loving others, I have been drawn more deeply into a living relationship with him. This relationship has fueled the ministry to which I have been called, both the priesthood and the episcopacy. These encounters with the Lord and with his people have given me great insight into the saving mystery of Christ’s love for us. The paschal mystery has come alive.

As I approach the anniversary of my episcopal ordination, July 28, my heart is filled with deep gratitude for many things, but one in particular is having been sent to Rapid City to be your shepherd. It hasn’t been without its challenges and burdens, but these five years have been filled with many graces and blessings, too numerous to count. I have thoroughly enjoyed this time with all of you. I still struggle some days to grasp what it means to be a bishop — it has been on-the-job-training. Some days I wonder if I am doing what I am supposed to do or if I am doing things the right way (as if there is a right way) or if am I providing the leadership the diocese needs. I realize that these are only human reactions to this position.

But as I pray daily for my ministry and for those with whom and for whom I minister as shepherd, I feel guided by the hand of God as I entrust it all to his care. This is the grace of surrender. I will continue to remain in this posture of surrender, placing it all in the Lord’s hands — for my sake and yours.

In this experience, as I look at the many great things that are going on in the diocese (though at times it may feel like too much), I am confident that the Holy Spirit is alive and seeking to awaken the hearts of God’s people to the “more” which he desires for all of us.

These past five years have been filled with experiences of love and support for me, God’s loving support as well as the love and support of all of you. I am deeply grateful and cannot thank you enough. Any accomplishments that have taken place over these years are the result of this love and support. No bishop can accomplish anything on their own. In fact Jesus has said, “Apart from me, you can do

nothing” (Jn 5:15). But also without the help and support of the people of God, little fruit will be born from any efforts I have put forth. Again, I am deeply grateful for all we have accomplished together.

We must keep moving forward together into the future as well. The Lord has great plans for each of us, individually and as the body of Christ. Let each of us place each day into the hands of our loving, caring and merciful Father with great trust and confidence so that we might receive the “more” that he wants to pour out upon us and the diocese.

Many thanks to all of you for a wonderful five years, for your prayers, your love and support. I am deeply grateful, and again, I feel richly blessed. I look forward, with great anticipation to what the Lord Jesus has in store for us, but also to walking forward in faith with all of you. Ad multos annos!

In this Year of Mercy, may the Father, who is rich in mercy, bring you a wellspring of joy, tranquility, and peace.