By Deacon Marlon Leneaugh
Director of Native Ministries
Mahpiya Na Maka Okoigna is the Lakota name given for the Sioux Spiritual Center. The name means; “a place between heaven and earth.” The name was given by a Lakota Spiritual leader, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe who used the analogy of the power of the Sacred Pipe when raised up during a ceremony to Christ being lifted up on the cross and being suspended between heaven and earth. The SSC represents a place that supports both Lakota spirituality and Catholicism.
The SSC was opened in 1977 by Bishop Harold Dimmerling as a place to support the Permanent Diaconate Program and to develop Native leadership among the Lakota people. It is a diocesan facility and ministry and has been traditionally staffed by Jesuit priests since its beginning. They are responsible for administering the Ministry Formation Program and Diaconate Program for the diocese.
The work of the center is overseen by a Board of Directors comprised of the bishop, chancellor, Director of Native Ministry, Director of the SSC, Director of the Inculturation Project and eight appointed Lakota members from the five various reservations across the diocese. The bishop is responsible for appointing board members.
The facility has served the diocese well as a place to go for personal reflection and to take advantage of the many retreats that are offered. Hundreds of retreats have been held and thousands of people have come to love the center and the Jesuit priests who have served the people so well for many years. The center will always hold a special place in the hearts of many. The place is quite unique and one does not forget the times spent praying and basking in the love of the Father. Folks come away refreshed, renewed and spirituality uplifted.
After almost four decades of Jesuit leadership, the Jesuit Provincial has informed Bishop Robert Gruss that the Jesuits can no longer provide priests to staff SSC beyond June of 2017. This was unfortunate news, but yet not totally unexpected, due to the declining numbers of men entering the seminary.
Bishop Gruss has commissioned a team to study the situation and make recommendations. The committee consists of priests, deacons and lay people from across the diocese. The following are members of the Sioux Spiritual Center Planning Team and the telephone numbers where they can be reached.
Fr. Steve Biegler 787-5168
Fr. Ron Seminara 985-5906
Dcn. Cal Clifford 685-6893
Dcn. Steve McLaughlin 680-2936
Dcn. Marlon Leneaugh 343-3541
Jennifer Black Bear 747-2496
Rosalita Roach 964-3391
Veronica Valandra 867-5491
Bill White 455-2591
Ben Black Bear, III 747-2436
The committee will look at the purpose statement of the center, establish priorities, create a vision statement and address future funding and staffing issues. Presently the committee would like to hear comments concerning the center. If you have ideas or suggestions regarding the SSC, please contact one of the committee members. Your opinions, ideas, suggestions or comments are welcome and valuable to planning the future of the Sioux Spiritual Center.
Listed below is the current policy: The primary mission of the center is with and for the Lakota people of the Diocese of Rapid City and for the promotion of an inculturated Catholic Lakota Church. Thus our purpose is to work for the Lakota people as they develop their own church in their own style, a real Catholic Church rooted in Lakota culture and tradition.
Current Purpose: The purpose of the center is to provide a place where Lakota people of the diocese can come to pray and to provide a central location for the Ministry Formation Program.