Bishop Steven Biegler, Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyoming
By Laurie Hallstrom
The Catholic Social Services Annual Gathering honored Bishop Steven Biegler from the Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyo., with the Founder’s Award, Oct. 22 in Rapid City. He is a former priest of the Diocese of Rapid City. The award is in remembrance of the late Msgr. William O’Connell who was instrumental in founding CSS.
Three people gave testimonials on Bishop Biegler’s behalf. His mother, Mary Biegler of Mobridge, recalled a car-horse accident that her son Steven was injured in, when he was 11 years old. As the horse and car collided, he was thrown up on the car roof and into the ditch. The horse went through the windshield and was killed. He was taken by ambulance to Mobridge where he was diagnosed with a broken collar bone and the skin had been scraped off his right elbow. Mary said an old army doctor pulled out glass shards and scrubbed gravel from his scalp. “Through this whole time, I was comforted with hope that nothing really bad had happened. I had faith that was given to me by parents and my grandfather. … Our faith is a wonderful thing; we all belong to the family of God,” she said.
His brother, Marty Biegler, of Timber Lake, explained the importance of family, “You have generations, Steve, of good family. The family worked hard, and they worked together.”
Fr. Brian Christensen, pastor of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Rapid City recalled shenanigans that went on between their brother priests and then-Father Biegler was in the thick of the pranks. Father Christensen pointed out that as priest, Father Biegler and Msgr. William O’Connell were the first diocesan priests to minister on a reservation following the Sacred Heart Fathers leaving the Cheyenne River Reservation. “Over and over again you have been a model to us of commitment, work and dedication,” said Father Christensen.
Bishop Biegler was also the keynote speaker for the event. He began his speech recalling his relationship with Msgr. O’Connell. In 1990, Bishop Biegler was a seminarian studying in Rome and Msgr. O’Connell took a sabbatical there. “I really got to know him for the first time,” said Bishop Biegler. He went on to recall the number of times their paths crisscrossed and how Msgr. O’Connell was a mentor to him. “In God’s providence we walked together, and I cherish those years,” said Bishop Biegler.
He said Pope Francis chose the parable of the Good Samaritan, for the center of his encyclical, Fratelli tutti (All brothers), answering the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Bishop Biegler said we have become accustomed to looking the other way when we see the poor and vulnerable in the world. He said Pope Francis has warned us repeatedly about indifference and he invites us to learn from Jesus’ compassionate gut reaction and tender mercy toward marginalized people.
Following Bishop Biegler’s speech, CSS Executive Director Jim Kinyon explained the organization’s ministry during the difficult days of the pandemic. He thanked the audience for their continued support.