Bringing the Priority Plan to life at home and in the community
Bishop Robert Gruss’ pastoral letter, “Through Him, With Him, and In Him,” along with a copy of the Priority Plan of the Diocese of Rapid City and a bookmark, has been mailed to registered households in the diocese. Additional copies can be obtained at parishes. In this month’s WRC we will reflect upon the importance of reconciliation within families, how disciples embrace lifelong learning and the Gospel’s call to reach out in ministry.
Reconciliation in the Domestic Church
“As members of families, both our own and our parish family, we have experiences that pull us apart and create division. When we choose to hang on to those hurts, we remain separated from one another. That separation cripples our ability to become disciples of Jesus. His first invitation to his apostles after his resurrection was to forgive,” said Fr. Michel Mulloy, an Envisioning Team member from McLaughlin. “Forgiveness restores unity in the family and unity enables the love of God to be manifested in us.”
Envisioning Team member Mary Helen Olsen, is principal of St. Thomas More Middle School, Rapid City. She said one of the best tools the church gives us is the sacrament of reconciliation.
“Families who wish to grow in the virtue of mercy routinely practice seeking and offering forgiveness to each other. These families also seek forgiveness from the Lord in regular reception of the sacrament of reconciliation.” She added that it is helpful for parents to model for their children giving comfort and consolation to the sorrowful. Olsen said, “Finally, families can pray for the grace to grow in patience and charity with one another.”
Fr. Christopher Johnson, SJ, is an Envisioning Team member from Pine Ridge. He said, “Mercy is experiencing another’s suffering and reaching out with the heart. In injured relationships, love is wounded and misery results. Reconciliation heals relationships, better enabling us to live charity. Valuing charity and experiencing mercy draws us to reconcile. Seeking reconciliation within our families — society’s fundamental element — we more profoundly experience the love of God and we are strengthened to share that love with all the world.”
Among all the people we interact with, family members are the ones we are most likely to hurt or offend. Cathy Larsen, the director of Counseling at Catholic Social Services, Rapid City, said “One concrete way to improve communication and family relationships is to have family meetings. The meeting can open with prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to be present. Families might also consider a regular daily prayer time or weekly prayer night if they are very busy.”
She recommended a format from a website called “Positive Discipline.” It discusses sticking to a set time frame, making sure everyone feels safe to talk, and joint problem solving. It promotes listening to one another, respect, and modeling the actions parents want their children to emulate.
Make Disciples by Sharing the Faith
When we invite others, including our children, to develop a closer relationship with Jesus, the way to start is by creating a sense that people are welcome and belong in the church community.
“Generous hospitality keeps inviting others to seek a deeper relationship with the Lord and his church, regardless of where they are in their faith development,” said Envisioning Team member, Fr. Mark McCormick, diocesan director of the Office of Stewardship and Vocations. “Hospitality is about seeing the other person as another Christ. Hospitality keeps inviting people back to personally encounter Jesus in the midst of the church. If we are generous in our hospitality we provide different paths or doors that will help people to connect to Christ and the church. We are always moving them to be true disciple of Jesus.”
He referred to the Letter to the Romans where St. Paul writes that one of the true markers of being Christian is to “contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality” (Rom 12:13). Father McCormick said, “Offering and practicing hospitality is the way to open the door to others as Jesus has opened the door of faith to us. Offering and practicing hospitality fosters and nurtures the gift of being in relationship with one another as stranger and as friend. It allows for conversations to spring up between God’s people, hopefully, strengthening and renewing one’s relationship with Jesus. Where faith is shared, faith is strengthened.”
Education and Formation are foundational ministries, meaning they are present in every diocese, for the purpose of building up the body of Christ. In this diocese, kindling an interest in learning about the faith happens mostly in the parishes. Susan Safford is the diocesan director of the Office of Faith Formation and an Envisioning Team member. Her role is to educate catechists who minister as religious education directors and teachers in the parishes. In turn, they minister in settings varying from multi generational gatherings to the traditional classroom settings.
“God created us, became a man, lived and died for us because of his great love. Wanting all to know and share in his love, before ascending into heaven, the Lord called his disciples to ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’
“He founded the church and promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to protect and guide her. It is our own living in union with Christ and our love and zeal and joy in the Lord that sparks an interest in learning about the Catholic faith in others. And so, the mission of the church begins with my own growth in relationship with Christ.
“Sharing that faith then must start with relationship — building relationships with people, no matter their age, becoming friends with them. As St. John Bosco said in regard to working with youth, ‘Get them to love you and they’ll follow you anywhere.’ When people know that we love them, they want to be a part of that community. From there, an introduction to Jesus Christ — his love and salvation — will draw people closer to him through love. Growth in the relationship, conversation, and union with Christ through prayer moves the heart to fall more deeply in love with him. And so, learning how to pray — to speak to and listen to the Lord — is at the heart of growing in the faith.”
For almost 900 students, pre-K-12, education in the faith is enhanced by attendance in the Rapid City Catholic School System. Envisioning Team member, Barb Honeycutt, is the superintendent of St. Elizabeth Seton Grade School, and St. Thomas More Middle and High Schools, Rapid City.
Honeycutt said, “The family, being the domestic church, creates the foundation for a strong society. In Catholic school communities, solidarity is evident in the response of our people to those in need. Through the development of personal and academic excellence, our students gain the skills and practice the virtues that create in them the desire to accept the call to love and serve one another. Graduates leave knowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ calls them to use their talents for the common good of society. Furthermore, they are deeply committed to social justice, the care of the poor and the planet, and proud members of the church, ready to help at all times.”
LeAnn Wenger is a parent of three RCCSS students. “One of the tough things about being a Catholic convert, is that I don’t have the personal experiences to bring to my children as they have grown in their Catholic faith. I was fortunate enough to have met Father Mike Mulloy while he was serving in the town of Faith. He was the one who helped me find my ‘home’ in the Catholic Church.
“As a parent, I put all my trust in God and know that I am far from perfect. Parents are called to share the faith with their children, to teach them how to pray, to share the tremendous love God has for them, to help them enter into a relationship and union with Christ, to raise them up in the moral, liturgical, and sacramental life of the church.
“Parents give an example of virtue, faithfulness, and commitment to their children, and they help them to discern their own vocation from the Lord as he draws them to holiness.
“Called to solidarity with all people, the disciples of Christ desire all to come to share in the great love that we share in — knowing Christ Jesus our Lord, and so the mission of the church given by Christ extends to every person.”
The task of raising children in faith also takes place in homeschooling families.
Peggy Sue Mutchler, Keystone, is the mother of six. “I was raised like most Catholic kids; attending Sunday Mass and Wednesday CCD classes. We prayed the rosary and lit our Advent candles. My parents instilled in me a strong foundation of faith.”
She said she was open to the Holy Spirit when the opportunity to homeschool her children arose. “Through the grace of God, I have been able to intertwine faith into my children’s lives and schooling; to immerse them in the beauty of Catholicism has become a natural process.
“Faith has become our daily routine. The rosary is our morning start. Daily Mass is a bonus. We immerse ourselves in school curriculum that is Catholic based; history is read from a Catholic perspective, spelling and vocabulary teach us words like ‘transubstantiation.’ Catholic artwork is a staple in our home; whether purchased, or home-made.”
She said she has found support from members of their parish, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, as well. “The kids enjoy cantoring, lectoring, and altar serving at Mass.”
Live the Mission on Sacred Ground
The spiritual and corporal works of mercy are an important component of the Catholic faith. In the land west of the Missouri River there are three primary cultural backgrounds, Native Americans, white Anglo descendants and Hispanics. There are also a handful of people with roots in other traditions. Faith has been handed down in different ways in different traditions and while one might be versed in their own faith traditions, they could still be ignorant of traditions from another culture.
Maria Munoz, an Envisioning Team member, was one of three women who spoke with the West River Catholic on extending works of mercy to different cultures. She said as a member of the Envisioning Team she reached out to parishes in the diocese to determine the number of Hispanic parishioners being served. No one knew — questions of ethnicity are not on registration forms.
She said, “ Every parish should update their registrations to identify the diversity in the community. How many Hispanics or Vietnamese do they serve?”
Irma Lefaive, an Envisioning Team member from Ft. Pierre, said the forms should include more information on heritage that would identify Germans, Norwegians or French descendants.
She suggested an informative way to encounter other cultures. Lefaive said, “Have a monthly dinner that is ethnic in origin and along with the dinner have people dress in traditional regalia and bring their traditions. Maybe center it around a saint’s day that is particular to a culture.”
An Envisioning Team member who serves on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Veronica Valandra, said learning about other cultures works best when it goes two ways.
“As I reflect on ‘actions of mercy’ I think of the service groups that come to the reservation each summer to share their gifts by assisting the parishes with their vacation Bible camps. They in turn learn from us our cultural ways of worship and life. Taking communion to home bound, Wake Teams leading wake services and comforting the mourners, and the group planning the diocesan pilgrimage for the Year of Mercy here in October are all ‘actions of mercy.’ At the pilgrimage event, we will share with all people who attend an inculturated faith, incorporating the Lakota ways of prayer. Mercy is the Sacred Heart of Jesus, where we can share in God’s love through an encounter with Jesus Christ and live a good way of life as a Lakota Catholic.”
Two of the seven Spiritual Works of Mercy include feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Rapid City, has three groups that serve a meal at the Cornerstone Rescue Mission the second Sunday of each month. Each group serves quarterly.
Paula Clark, a Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help parishioner, is a member of a 2006 Renew group that has remained active.
“Our Renew group is one of three, that still meet, pray, study, etc., for Advent and Lent of each year. One of the other of these groups is headed by Teresa Treinen and she invited our Renew group to join theirs in providing a meal at the mission. We started serving mission meals as a combined Renew effort in June 2007.”
According to Clark, the group is funded by the Cathedral for most of the meal and the groceries are purchased.
“I can only speak for myself in that I usually leave the mission uplifted and realize how great it is that we are blessed and have enough. I love to serve rather than cook because I like the direct interaction with those we serve. Most of those receiving the meal are very grateful, complimentary, and they vocalize that.”
(Contributing to this article were Laurie
Hallstrom and Becky Berreth)
Fr. Steve Biegler, Vicar General, Envisioning Team Member
Pope Francis talks about “Personal Accompaniment in Processes of Growth” in his apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium 169-173).
According to the pope, it is meeting people where they are now and sharing their journey. That requires the virtues of
patience, and docility of spirit. The process is further explained by Bishop Robert Gruss in his pastoral letter, “Through Him, With Him and In Him,” on pages 55-56.
Father Biegler said, “The art of accompaniment is not an entirely new concept. You are on a journey with someone as people who are both trying to grow in the Spirit.”
In Evangelii Gaudium the pope quotes Exodus 3:5 wherein Moses sees the burning bush.
Father Biegler said, “The first thing Pope Francis teaches us is to remove our sandals — we are on sacred ground. I think what he means by that is we need to
recognize the sacredness of the other person’s journey. We are all on a pilgrimage with Christ to the Father. We are walking with
another person step-by-step to become more Christ like.”
According to Father Biegler docility of spirit calls for “really listening to what the Spirit is trying to do with this person. How is the Spirit calling them?”
He said a greater emphasis of Pope Francis is to “be patient.” This process is going to take time and compassion. It is a very
personal encounter, much more than counseling or therapy.
He said, “When you look at the life of Pope Francis, he is very personal with people. The art of accompaniment is deeply
personal in the context of faith.”
Father Biegler said the end of the pope’s explanation on accompanying people sums it up. “This is clearly distinct from every kind of intrusive accompaniment or isolated self-realization. Missionary disciples accompany missionary disciples” (Evangelii Gaudium 173).
Fr. Michel Mulloy, Director of the Office of Worship, Envisioning Team Member
Father Mulloy said, “In every sacrament Jesus is present, acting on our behalf, offering himself to God the Father and inviting us to offer ourselves with him. When we fully embrace the sacramental action of Jesus we are caught up with him into the presence of God the Father and the life of the Trinity.
“Celebrating the liturgy helps make us disciples. We are doing what Jesus first did when he was on earth and what he does eternally in his relationship with the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.
“The sacraments are a primary way to live out of discipleship. However, there are other ways of worship that can impact our journey of discipleship. Any liturgical action that is associated with the sacraments, like eucharistic adoration or the Liturgy of the Hours are extensions of our encounter with Jesus and thus deepen our relationship with him and our sharing in his discipleship. Other devotional prayers (the rosary, Divine Mercy, Scripture reading and meditation, traditional prayers, spontaneous conversation with the Lord, etc.) also assist in the discipleship journey in that they are moments of reaching out to God through Jesus. Any time we sincerely seek to attend to God through Jesus in the Holy Spirit, that is, any sincere prayer, continues our movement toward a deeper discipleship with Jesus.”
—Live the Mission—
Hope For New Life jail ministry volunteers bring their faith to men and women inmates at the Pennington County Jail, Rapid City. The group started in 2005.
Bill Gradoville, a group leader, said they get positive feedback from the inmates and he has been told it is the best attended volunteer activity in the jail.
“I do it because it is a corporal work of mercy. We (volunteers) get as much out of it as the inmates do. Sharing your faith makes it stronger. Also, it has given me a new outlook on those who are incarcerated — I have more compassion,” he said.
Currently, there are two separate sessions for men held on Wednesdays, and one for women is held the same evening.
“We explain that no matter what they have done, God will forgive them,” he said.
The jail requires a background check and an orientation session on jail policies before anyone can minister. In addition, the jail ministry has prayer partners — volunteers who pray for the intentions of the inmates. Jail ministers work in teams and usually serve two Wednesdays in a row. There is a team meeting at Catholic Social Services on the third Monday of each month.
Father Ed Witt, SJ, of St. Isaac Jogues Church works with the team. According to Gradoville, the group is working with him and other ordained clergy to establish regular Mass and Communion Services.
The group gives away Bibles, rosaries, prayer books and prayer cards. At Christmas they give away 500 to 600 bags of candy to inmates and guards.
To learn more about this ministry call the following Rapid City or
Piedmont parish representatives:
Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Bill Gradoville, 341-2721
Blessed Sacrament Church, Tony Galles, 348-2301
St. Therese Church,Jill Leberknight, 431-1926
Our Lady of the Black Hills Church, Brad Blauvelt, 343-6906, or 390-0683.