Obituary — Father D. Craig Cower

Father D. Craig Cower, 90, of Rapid City, died Sunday, April 2, 2017 at Westhills Village Health Care.

Father D. Craig Cower

He was born March 2, 1927 in Roxbury, New York to Robert H. and Blanche (Hebert) Cower. During his senior year of high school, he went to St. Andrew’s Preparatory Seminary in Rochester, NY. Later he spent a year in what had been a Lutheran Seminary at Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY where his father was Superintendent of Campus Housing and Grounds. He then went on to St. Francis Seminary in Loretto, PA. He graduated from there and finished Theology at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN.

He was ordained for the Diocese of Rapid City, in Albany, NY, with 29 other young men in 1954. His first assignment was the old Cathedral and then was assigned to Ardmore-Edgemont-Oelrichs, Buffalo-Camp Crook-Cox-Vessey-Ralph-Redig-Drew, Faith-Opal-Plainview-Pedro, Wall & Scenic and retired in 1987 serving the parishes of Hot Springs and Oelrichs.

In 1991, he was appointed to be Executive Secretary of the Priest Retirement and Aid Association and in 1993 Vicar for Retired Priests. He served on numerous boards, including Black Hills Chamber Music Society.

He was preceded in death by his parents and brother, Rod.

Christian Wake Service will be at 7:30 pm on Tuesday, April 4, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Christian Funeral Mass will be offered at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 5, at the Cathedral with The Most Rev. Robert D. Gruss presiding. Burial will be in St. Patrick’s Cemetery (near Sioux Spiritual Center) near Plainview at 3:00 p.m.

(Fr. Cower’s Original Words….)

IT HAPPENED OVER THE MOUNTAIN FROM WHERE RIP VAN WINKLE SLEPT FOR 20 YEARS. IT HAPPENED IN ROXBURY-IN-THE-CATSKILLS OF NEW YORK STATE WHERE D. CRAIG COWER WAS BORN. Sunday Mass regularly lasted fifteen minutes, including the sermon—which was usually a tirade against Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) then President of the United States. And the priest bragged to the Protestants that he got his people out of church in fifteen minutes. Little seven-year-old Craig was hear to remark: “If I ever become a priest, Sunday Mass is not going to be like that!”

Rather a strange way for a vocation to begin. However, the idea continued through Public Grade School and High School. It wasn’t until his senior year that he went to St. Andrew’s Preparatory Seminary in Rochester, NY. Later he spent a year in what had been a Lutheran Seminary at Hartwick College in Onsonta, NY where his father was Superintendent of Campus Housing and Grounds- – a very interesting year. Next he went to St. Francis Seminary in Loretto, PA. The last five years saw him graduate from college and finish Theology at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN.

He had been studying for the Vicariate Apostolic of the Bahamas, West Indies, and would have been the first diocesan priest of what is now the diocese of Nassau, Bahamas. After much prayer and discernment, as ordination approached, his concern at being alone and the first to set the precedent for the diocesan clergy led him to ask to be released by his bishop.

When asked how he came to the Diocese of Rapid City, Father Craig answers: “It was very much God’s will inasmuch as I knew nothing about the diocese or Western South Dakota.” The maps he looked at then noted that Western, SD was “semi-desert”. He had also heard of Wall Drug because they had advertised for college summer employees. When Cower had graduated from college, it was Joseph Busch, former Bishop of Lead, SD and the Bishop of St. Cloud, MN, who gave him his diploma. When Busch died, at his graveside, McCarty told the rector of the seminary that if he had any unattached men to send them out to him. The rector told Cower about this and he wrote to Bishop McCarty. McCarty answered promptly and told Cower to call for an appointment. Cower reached him by phone at Oelrichs, SD where he had presided at the funeral of the last resident pastor there. Cower came out and was adopted by the diocese. Bishop McCarty, when he heard where Cower had been born said: You certainly came from a God-forsaken place!” McCarty has been in that area during the disastrous flu epidemic of 1918.

Cower spent that summer of 1953 at Camp Columbus in the Black Hills and was ordained for the Diocese of Rapid City in Albany, NY, with 29 other young men in 1954. His first assignment was the old Cathedral, where he lived in the upstairs back porch of the rectory. Fr. Muldoon could look in one window, Fr. Plante another, Fr. Cowley through the window of the door and all the parishioners through the other windows. There were no shades or curtains.

Next he was assigned to Ardmore-Edgemont-Oelrichs (54’ to 56’), then to Buffalo-Camp Crook-Cox-Vessey-Ralph-Redig-Drew Missions (56’ to 58’), Faith-Opal-Plainview-Pedro Missions (58’ to 70’), Wall & Scenic (70’ to 80’) and finally Hot Springs-Oelrichs (80’-87’), from which he retired for health reasons in 1987.

During his ministry in the Buffalo Missions, he was very much involved in consolidating some of the missions, moving the Vessey church & hall to a more central location and the Ralph and Strool churches to a Reva location. On the trip to Ralph to Reva, he straddled the roof-ridge across the prairies, using a stick to hold up the electric and telephone lines, not informed the men working to block the Strool Church before moving it onto the foundation. As a result Cower and a parishioner, Stan Lesselyoung, were almost crushed to death as the church fell and slid down the hill.

At Faith in 1962, Father Craig’s parents: Robert and Blanche Cower joined him to: “help him out for a year.” They stayed with him for twenty five years until he retired. The rule in the rectory was based on St. Paul: “He who does not work, does not eat!” He told them it was the Catholic teaching that martyrs went straight to Heaven when they died and that if they stayed with him for 25 years that would be the same as martyrdom. His mother took care of the rectory and his father did a tremendous amount of work at Faith and its missions and at Wall and Scenic. On their 50th wedding anniversary they were the first in the diocese to receive the Papal award: “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” (For Church & Pope) from Pope Paul VI.

During Cower’s tenure at Wall, a new church was built and it was there that he gave his art collection spanning eleven centuries to the Diocese of Rapid City in the custody of St. Patrick’s Church. There are 121 pieces in the collection. He left his two thousand volume library in the church and Public libraries at Wall. The church library was later moved to the St. Thomas More Library in 1996.

Twice he almost died in blizzards: Once on route 20 between Prairie City and Bison and once on I-90 near Wicksville. At the latter time he sprained his ankle and was reduced to crawling in the snow and froze his fingers. He said: “I wasn’t afraid to die, but I could imagine people going past my coffin and saying: “How stupid he was to leave his car!” “I just couldn’t die stupid!”

In his early days, assistants, as they were called, received $50 a month — sometimes! When he was transferred from the Cathedral to Ardmore it was October 15th. Msgr. Roach told him that Msgr. Biever should pay him for the month and Biever told him Roach should pay—he never/did get his salary for that month. When he was transferred from Ardmore to Buffalo it was the 15th of January; Msgr. Biever told him Fr. Murray should pay him and Murray said Biever should pay. And you guessed it, neither never did. It was the beginning of many months of the year that he did not receive any salary. Mass offerings kept him going. They were long distances in the Buffalo missions and most of the roads hardly more than trails. A pair of fence plyers were an absolute necessity to let down fences and go across the prairie to get through. The worst road was South of route 20 on the way to Drew—it had crushed flintrock on it and ate up the rubber tires of that day and spit them out. One Sunday he went through three spares.

In 1987, he retired while in the Hot Springs parish and he and his parents moved to different abodes in Rapid City. His father, Robert, died in 1998 and his mother, Blanche, came to live with him. His retirement years have been busy ones. In the early years he substituted in parishes all over the diocese from one-half to three-quarters of the weekends of the year, driving further than active priests. He still does spiritual direction and counseling from his apartment. Because there are people who are unable to participate in regular R.C.I.A. classes because of jobs, sickness, age, etc., he instructs them on an individual basis. In 1991, he was appointed to be Executive Secretary of the Priest Retirement and on numerous boards including the Black Hills Chamber Music Society. As his mother’s health continued to worsen, he curtailed and finally eliminated all weekend and weekday substitution. Since December of 1996 he has been the primary caregiver of his bedridden mother. His brother, Rod, who lives in Rapid City has had a whole series of major operations and Cower tries to help him as much as possible.

Commenting on his present lifestyle, Cower says: “How does one respond to fifty years that Mom and Dad gave to the diocese and to me.” What I do is a small token for all that they did. Besides, Scriptures have some great things to say about children who care for their fathers and mothers!

In regard to South Dakota and the diocese, he has to break into song with music from “My Fair Lady” “There is no place else on earth that I would rather live.”

Asked about fifteen minute Masses, Fr. Craig says “… at least a half-hour for weekday Masses and an hour for Sunday Mass… and if I have the opportunity EVERY MASS with song.”

The Diocesan Priority Plan — February 2017

Foundational Ministry: Social Services & Outreach

GOAL: Establish a task force to assess the needs of the Hispanic community and make recommendations to the Bishop by January 1, 2017.
While the predominant non-European ethnic group in our diocese is Lakota, the Diocese of Rapid City also includes a Hispanic/Latino Community that comprises about 5-10 percent of our Catholics. Many of these Spanish speaking parishioners have some English language capability but do not speak or read English well enough to fully participate in programs such as Veritatis Splendor Institute, Pastoral Ministry Days or other diocesan programs. In addition, very few others in western South Dakota speak enough Spanish to help facilitate better communications with Spanish-speaking Catholics.

The diocese has no office for Hispanic ministry. Father Janusz Korban serves as a chaplain for the Spanish Masses in Hill City and at Blessed Sacrament in Rapid City. Father Korban is originally from Poland. He received four months of Spanish language training in Mexico prior to taking on this ministry.

As a first step in establishing a Hispanic Ministry Task Force, Bishop Robert Gruss met with a group of interested individuals on December, 13, 2016. The group included Fr. Janusz Korban, Barbara Linares, Maria Munoz, Mary Ireland, Dr. Romeo Vivit and Jaime Munoz. They discussed the goal for Hispanic Ministry in the diocese and the possibility of bringing in a team to help start a program called V Encuentro*, which would provide education and support for local Catholics in Hispanic ministry. Bishop Gruss tasked the group with assessing the needs of the Hispanic Catholics in our diocese and creating a plan to implement V Encuentro in the Diocese of Rapid City.

Father Korban had already put together a group to look at ways to form and strengthen Hispanic leaders in our diocese through V Encuentro. The V Encuentro Committee met on January 29 to begin work on the needs assessment. M. Delores Munoz, Mary Ireland, Chava Correa and Cristina Cruz have joined several committee members working on this project. In addition to the experiences and familiarity that each member brings to this discussion, they decided to survey the Hispanics/ Latinos about the needs to make sure that everyone has a chance to be part of the process.

The survey is available in both Spanish and English, in paper form and online. The survey will be available through March 5. Online surveys can be found at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HispanaFeb2017 (Spanish language) or https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Hispanic2017 (English language) The committee will review the survey data and use it to prepare a prioritized list of needs along with suggestions and comments about how those needs might best be served. They will then present these findings and recommendations to Bishop Gruss by April 1.

* V Encuentro is an organization dedicated to supporting and educating leaders for Hispanic/Latino Catholics. It began under the USCCB to help bishops and communities work together in this ministry. In the context of this dialogue among the bishops and the community, we live a spirit of pastoral ministry illuminated by an ecclesiological communion and missionary vocation that seeks to reach out to those who find themselves estranged from the life and vision of the church. The main objective of the process of the Encuentro is to discern the way in which Hispanics/Latinos respond as church. Web address: http://vencuentro.org/.

Diocesan Pastoral Priorities: Funding the Mission

GOAL: Develop a Diocesan Facility Master Plan by March 1, 2017 to include:
• Plans for a new chancery building
• Plans for the Terra Sancta campus

The Priority Plan continues to unfold. Bishop Robert Gruss is moving forward to re-envision and if necessary realign the diocesan structure. He has contracted with the Catholic Leadership Institute of Wayne, Pennsylvania, to assist him with an assessment of chancery ministries.

Bishop Gruss said, “It is important that the diocese is able to do ministry as we want it done, as well as asking, ‘Do we have the staff to do it?’’

The assessment will begin by examining information on the roles, budgets and processes of diocesan ministries. A consultant from the Catholic Leadership Institute has already begun interviewing department heads via phone regarding strengths and needs of each ministry and office.

Once this is completed, Bishop Gruss will work with diocesan leadership to review the assessment along with the Priority Plan vision, mission and goals for the diocese to develop a plan for the chancery. This is similar to the Envisioning process that the diocese and many of the parishes have been working on since the Catholic Leadership Institute first began consultation with the diocese for the Good Leaders, Good Shepherds Program in 2013.

“By the end of May we should have a clearer vision of who we are, what we want to become and how to make any necessary changes,” said Bishop Gruss.

 

Employment Opportunity: Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry

Position Summary
To develop ministry opportunities, provide training, support and resources in the diocese for youth and young adult ministry. Click here for a full job description. 

Applicant Qualification
Practicing Catholic; Bachelor’s degree, preferably in theology, catechetics, or related field with a sound Catholic theology. Past experience in parish youth ministry helpful. Understands, supports and articulates the Catholic faith as taught by the Church. Love of youth and understanding of the developmental stages of middle and high school youth. Must have excellent organizational, communication, and leadership skills, and ability to relate to pastors, adult youth ministers, youth, and young adults. Requires energy and willingness to travel throughout the diocese, including some weekend and evening work.

Click here for an application.

Interested individuals should send a resumé and letter by e-mail or postal mail listing three professional references along with a completed application to”
Office of the Chancellor
Diocese of Rapid City
606 Cathedral Drive Rapid City SD 57701
msimonson@diorc.org 

 

Prayer for Vocations

In the Diocesan Priority Plan, Vocations is one of our foundational ministries and remains an important focus. An emphasis will be in promoting a culture of vocations, not only in the diocese as a whole, but in every parish and in every family. One of the core values in the Priority Plan is the family. Some of the behaviors under this value specifically address the truth that the seeds of a vocation to priesthood or consecrated life are grounded in family where couples are intentionally living their vocation to marriage. There has been much discussion regarding the need to increase the number of seminarians in order to maintain or even increase our current level of diocese.

To that end, it was felt that a new vocation prayer could assist in this endeavor. The new Prayer for Vocations reflects this focus in the Priority Plan and makes a connection to the mission statement of the diocese as well. Praying a new prayer gives us all the opportunity to pray these new words with a lively faith.

In time, they will be printed as prayer cards and made available in all parishes.

New Diocesan Prayer for Vocations

Invitation: We ask for God’s blessing on those discerning a vocation to priesthood, diaconate, marriage or consecrated life as we pray our Vocations Prayer:

Heavenly Father, Inflame our hearts with the fire of your love.
Inspire our families to eagerly say “yes” to the Holy Spirit,
as did Mary and Joseph.
Help our parishes become schools of prayer,
forming intentional disciples of Jesus who desire to live for him.

Assist us in building a culture of vocations,
creating an environment where all disciples
will seek your will for their lives.

Teach married couples to live their vocation
in the Spirit of Christ
so that their families may become a “domestic Church,”
reflecting the life of the Trinity.

Inspire young men and women to seek
a living encounter with your Son
so that they will courageously respond
to your call to priesthood or consecrated life,
giving themselves generously to the Church
in service of the Gospel.

We ask Mary, Mother of the Church and our Mother,
to intercede for us.

Pour out anew upon our diocese your Holy Spirit
and make us courageous witnesses of Christ’s love.
May our lives “attract and form intentional disciples
who joyfully, boldly and lovingly proclaim and live
the mission of Jesus Christ, leading to eternal life.”

We make this prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Diocesan Priority Plan — December 2016

By Teresa Spiess

At the First Friday Luncheon on December 2, Bishop Robert Gruss talked to participants about the Strategic Plan that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has approved for 2017-2022 (www.usccb.org/about/strategic-plan.cfm).

The December West River Catholic carried a brief story about the USCCB strategic plan on page 6: “U. S. Bishops’ strategic plan similar to diocesan priority plan.” What Bishop Gruss pointed out was the many connections between this plan, which he received at the USCCB meeting on November 15, and our own Diocesan Pastoral Priority Plan, which he published in his pastoral letter,

The USCCB plan is a reminder that the church is universal. We are connected by the mission of Jesus Christ with Catholics across our country. The common themes in the USCCB Strategic Plan and the Priority Plan of the Diocese of Rapid City are a source of hope and reassurance for our local church. We are in step with the wider church in America. Following our Priority Plan will help us to move forward in union with the church, inspired by the Holy Spirit, through the love of our Lord.

Structurally, the documents are a bit different. The USCCB plan has five strategic priorities, which are filled out with emphasis areas. The plan is backed up by operational plans for 34 committees, subcommittees and departments. The operational plans contain objectives and activities for fulfilling the priorities.

Our plan has six core values, three pastoral priorities and five foundational ministries. The core values are defined and behaviors to enforce the values are described. The pastoral priorities and foundational ministries have supporting goals.

The first strategic priority for the USCCB plan is evangelization. It was described as:

Evangelization

Open wide the doors to Christ through missionary discipleship and personal encounter.

The USCCB emphasis areas for evangelization are:

  • Go into all communities with the message of eternal salvation to awaken all God’s people through a personal encounter and relationship with Jesus. This call to discipleship should be addressed particularly to the marginalized and those most in need of Christ’s merciful love.
  • Inspire youth and young adults to enter into the joy of a sacramental relationship with Christ.
  • Rekindle the fire of Christ’s mercy, reconciliation, and healing among those who no longer attend or have left the Church.
  • Foster personal commitment among Catholics to faithful weekly participation in the celebration of the source and summit of our faith, the holy Eucharist.

Although organized differently, these ideas sound very familiar to those who have read the Priority Plan of the Diocese of Rapid City.

Core Values of the Diocese of Rapid City

Our core value of Prayer includes a call to daily prayer to renew a personal encounter with Christ and an encouragement for everyone to actively participate in Sunday Eucharist and celebration of sacraments.

Our core value of Stewardship is described as living a life of generous hospitality, lively faith and dedicated discipleship. Evangelization through invitation is the first behavior described for this value, which really touches on all of the emphasis areas in the USCCB priority.

Solidarity is the third value in our plan, and the behaviors described for Solidarity include reaching out to others, particularly those who are marginalized.

Our values of Mercy and Charity include the mercy, reconciliation and healing that the USCCB plan points to in “Rekindle the fire.”

In our value of Family we include the call for families to educate and form youth in the faith.

 

Pastoral Priorities of the Diocese of Rapid City

Our Pastoral Priority of Reconciliation goes even further in the call to “invite others to experience the good news of God’s love through an encounter with Jesus Christ.”

Forming Disciples is the Pastoral Priority that specifically speaks to that underlying event which prompts Catholics to participate in the life of the church, to seek a greater understanding of the faith and to share that good news with others.

Our third Pastoral Priority, Funding the Mission, is not something that the USCCB brings up specifically in their strategic plan, however it is included in their operational plan, and reflects the practical nature of South Dakota Catholics. In order for our plans to succeed, we need to know that they will be supported by the necessary resources.

 

Our Foundational Ministries

The USCCB priority of Evangelization is also directly or indirectly supported by each of our Foundational Ministries: Sacraments & Worship, Education & Formation, Governance & Finance, Social Services & Outreach, and Vocations & Evangelization. The quote from Matthew 28 which is listed under Vocations & Evangelization in our plan is a reminder to us that we are an evangelical people, called to share the Gospel with others. “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, teaching them to

observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

May Jesus, who has promised to be with us, bless these plans of the USCCB and of the Diocese of Rapid City, and plant his Spirit deep in us so that we may use these plans to build up his kingdom in the world around us and to live out our Sacred Mission: We, the Diocese of Rapid City, through the power of the Holy Spirit, are called to attract and form intentional disciples who joyfully, boldly and lovingly proclaim and live the mission of Jesus Christ, leading to eternal life.

(Note: Copies of Bishop Gruss’s Pastoral Letter, Through Him, With Him and In Him, as well as copies of the Priority Plan for the Diocese of Rapid City are available at parish and diocesan offices.)

 

 

Bishop’s Mass — helping raise money for SDSM&T Newman Center students

 

By Nancy Haugen
Director of SSM&T Newman Center

Have you ever wondered what the Bishop’s Luncheon at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is all about? Once a month, during the school year, students at the Newman Center plan and put together the luncheon for the bishop’s Mass. As a fundraiser for the center, all the proceeds assist our students in registration fees and travel expenses to the Fellowship of Catholic University Students conference that occurs every other year.

The bishop’s luncheon is an opportunity to hear, in a small group setting, Bishop Robert Gruss. Topics vary from month to month and offer great insight to true Catholic teachings from politics to daily living. The luncheon usually falls on the first Friday of each month, but this date may vary due to holidays. Make sure you check out the West River Catholic newspaper or the diocesan website — www.rapid

citydiocese.org — to verify the date. It begins with Mass at 11:15 a.m. and lunch is served at noon. Bishop speaks from 12:30-1 p.m. Cost for meal is $6.

The FOCUS conference, according to the website, helps college students strive “to live the Catholic faith in the midst of the secular world.” We hear from speakers who encourage and challenge us. The conference is five days long with more than eight thousand college students attending from around the United States. The conference offers fabulous speakers, amazing worship and great artists. All topics are geared to impact our young adults.

“Focus is a great opportunity for college students to deepen their faith with many other students at a time in their life where it’s easier to forget about the church,” said James Morris, a mechanical engineering graduate. “The talks and activities of focus engage you and you’ll leave with a new understanding of God. FOCUS was a great booster in my faith, and even two years later, my daily prayer life is a direct result of Focus.”

The Newman Center students encourage you to attend the Bishop’s Mass and Luncheon. It will brighten your day as our university students from the Newman Center serve you.

Featured image: School of Mines students prepare and serve lunch at the Bishop’s Mass. (WRC photo)