The Summit: Let us reach for a vibrant faith together

This past summer I was invited to go rock climbing with Anders family. This was the first time I’d ever been rock climbing and honestly, I was quite nervous, especially when Cameo turned to me, “Okay, Father Mark, it’s your turn.” Shortly after her invitation, I was harnessed and ready to begin the climb, an ascent up the face of a 50-foot granite wall. This was a bad idea.

Climbing to the summit was a challenging experience. Several times I thought that I’d climbed far enough, but upon looking down the Anders’ children kept cheering me on, “You can do it Father Mark, you can do it!” I finally reached the summit and the panoramic view of the beautiful Black Hills was an incredible sight. Although my body was tired and fatigued, my heart was filled with joy. The arduous ascent was well worth the final prize.

We all need encouragement as we move through life, particularly as we walk this Christian journey. Likewise in life we are met with granite walls that seem insurmountable. However, those painstaking climbs often reap the greatest reward. So too, as a diocese we look forward with desire to grow as disciples, deeper in love with the Lord. Christ’s first disciples labored tirelessly for his kingdom, some to the point of death. We are called to this same mission of love.

Our hope with this new Stewardship plan is very simple — to promote the Catholic Way of Life through hospitality, faith and discipleship. Perhaps your parish has begun to pray our diocesan stewardship prayer, “The Prayer of a Faithful Steward.” For me, the prayer stirs my heart to ask for the grace to live life more abundantly and it invites me to fully participate in building the kingdom of God. The prayer also reminds me to model the “yes” of Mary by seeking and responding to the Holy Spirit, the foundation of the life of the Christian disciple.

Bishop Robert Gruss believes that pursuing this Catholic Way of Life is the true path to discipleship, a path that will lead to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. Who doesn’t want a more vibrant, intimate relationship with Christ? To help all of us grow in this way of life, Bishop Gruss has called for an annual conference on stewardship titled, The Summit. This first stewardship conference will be held June, 12-13 at the Terra Sancta Retreat Center. To promote the Summit, Bishop Gruss recorded a DVD segment to personally invite every person, every family and every parish in the diocese to come. To view this video, visit ardship/. I hope you take the time to watch it if you have not yet seen it.

As a way to help us understand this call of stewardship, this path of true discipleship, Bishop Gruss asked that we read, pray and reflect on the Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on Stewardship — “Stewardship: A Disciples Response. This letter on stewardship describes discipleship as such, “Discipleship requires the surrender of ourselves through grace and choice to Jesus Christ. Mature disciples make a conscious, firm decision, carried out in action, to be followers of Jesus Christ no matter the cost to themselves. A disciple is both a learner and a companion of Jesus Christ, as well as one open to the movement of the Holy Spirit towards a gracious generosity of heart. The authentic disciple regards all he or she is and possesses as gifts and blessings and realizes the need to share those gifts and blessings with others for the sake of the kingdom of God.”

The Summit is an invitation to foster a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. By participating in The Summit, individuals and entire parish communities will be given simple and concrete tools to grow in their life of discipleship. The Summit is for all of us, to encourage, to inspire and even to challenge us to reach for the heights of discipleship. In the Gospels, Jesus tells his disciples “Do not be afraid.” Likewise, I encourage you, “Do not be afraid!” Come to The Summit to see what the Lord has in store for you. You do not have to be an expert or insider. You just need a simple thirst for the Lord. We are on this journey together and we need the support, prayer and friendship of one another to ascend.

What can you expect at The Summit? You can expect time to pray, to learn and to meet other people from across the diocese that have the same thirst and desire as you. The presenters at The Summit are from our local parishes. They will present on a wide variety of topics including: the Eucharist, intentional discipleship, creating strong families, writing a stewardship and parish mission statement. To see all of the sessions that will be offered or to register, click on The Summit link at In the words of Bl. Pier Georgio Frassati, “Verso l’alto” — toward the heights!

Saint John Paul II encouraged the faithful to get to know Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, whom he called, “The Man of the Eight Beatitudes.” Pier was a normal young man who loved the outdoors.  He grew up in Turin, Italy, during the early 1900s. Pier Giorgio Frassati showed that we can all be holy by living our friendships, studies, sports, occupation and service to the poor by being in constant relationship with God. One phrase he commonly used was “verso l’alto” meaning toward the top. His life was a constant striving to reach the summit of eternal life. May we not be afraid to strive toward the summit in Christ.