Life is not dull in the driver’s seat. For all of you that are wondering or curious, it has been a great ride thus far. The challenge is non-stop. There is something new each day. Thanks for the privilege of serving you as the diocesan administrator. Let me share some observations from this side of the desk. As the pastor of the diocese, I have grown in my appreciation of the people of western South Dakota. My first concern is the welfare of the people, and my prayers are offered for our ranchers and farmers. I have heard and, to some degree, understand the struggle of rural life these days. The unusual weather, matched with low prices, is cause for not a little concern among those of you reading this who treasure our western way of life. I do not pretend to have any answers and I am grateful for the efforts of Catholic Social Services to offer counseling to those who find themselves struggling to cope. Please know of my prayers for you. (See p. 17) I have visited with priests, deacons and their wives in three of the five deaneries in our diocese. I will visit the priests in the other two deaneries this month. I have grown in my appreciation for the dedicated ministry of our clergy and the deacons’ wives. They really do love our people and they want to serve them. Although the struggles that we are all experiencing in the universal and local church have taken their toll, the priests, deacons and their wives understand their communities and want to work together with all of you to realize the vision that our former bishop left planted in our hearts and minds. To be sure, we have problems to address, but we also have much to be grateful for. The clergy of the diocese have helped me to see that once again. This past weekend, 584 of my good friends from the diocese and I were privileged to participate in the Summit. This yearly gathering was developed by the Stewardship Office of the diocese. This was our 5th Annual Summit. Father John Riccardo and two of his associates treated us to a whole new way of looking at the gift of salvation that Jesus Christ won for us. The talks were inspiring and challenging. It was a joy to rub shoulders with the many who came, to find out how things are going in the diocese, and to spend time in prayer together. Once again, I was reminded of the wonderful diocesan family that I am privileged to lead. The success of the Summit is due in large part to the hard work of the chancery staff, particularly the Office of Stewardship. As I now relate with these Catholic leaders in a different role, hopefully listening better than I have in the past, I am appreciative of their insights and their desire to reach out to our whole diocese. I have been very impressed with their awareness of ministry issues throughout the diocese and their enthusiasm for making disciples in all our parishes. I feel blessed to be working with them in this new capacity. On the bricks and mortar side of diocesan life, the remodel of the Pastoral Center is in full swing. Along with Rick Soulek and Margaret Simonson, I don my hard hat for visits to the site about once a week. By carefully considering each aspect of the project and prioritizing essentials, we have been able to carve about $300,000 from the initial remodeling cost estimates. The construction manager is conscious of our need to make this a cost-effective project and they are constantly looking for ways to save some of your hard-earned contributions. None of these cost savings will compromise the functionality of the new Pastor Center. It will be simple and yet beautiful. Looking ahead, I will be spending time away from the diocese for a previously scheduled pilgrimage to the Danube River Valley in Europe. I will lead a group of 18 friends from South Dakota and Minnesota as we explore the shrines along this winding waterway. That will be followed by my first-ever trip to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops fall meeting. I know it means long hours in meetings, but the truth is, I don’t mind meetings. I have grown in my appreciation and respect for the bishops of our country and the world. They carry a heavy load and I am looking forward to being with them, observing their collegial interactions, offering what support I can, and mostly sharing their ministry. Like I said, life is not dull. It is blessed. Keep praying for our new bishop. God will bless us when it is the right time with the right man to shepherd us. Until then … on we go.