(Left) Fr. Timothy Castor, Sturgis; Deacon Greg Sass, Piedmont; and Pastoral Ministry Days guest speaker Tom Corcoran, Parkville, Maryland; visit during a break. (Right) Fr. Michael White, pastor of the Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland, held a special session for clergy. Corcoran and Father White co-authored books on increasing attendance and participation at church.
(WRC photos by Becky Berreth)
By Laurie Hallstrom
Genuine spiritual renewal was the core premise during Pastoral Ministry Days. Speakers Fr. Michael White, pastor, and Tom Corcoran, assistant to the pastor, from Church of the Nativity, Timonium Md., addressed more than 250 people at the annual gathering. It was held April 3-4 at Terra Sancta Retreat Center, Rapid City.
During Father White’s tenure at his church, Mass attendance has risen from 1,400 people to more than 4,000 on weekends. He and Corcoran have written several books illustrating what did and did not meet the needs of the parish. “Rebuilt,” “Tools for Rebuilding,” and “Rebuilding Your Message,” are among their titles.
Prior to making changes in the Maryland parish, the men visited thriving evangelical churches to learn about their practices. They knew they had to change the weekend experience, including hospitality, the message, and the music. They came up with five steps to revitalize their church. To grow disciples, people need to serve, they need to give, to engage in small groups, to participate in prayer and the sacraments, and to share their faith or evangelize others.
“Why” is the most important component of ministry, according to Corcoran. “When you lose your why, you lose your way,” he said.
He cited The Great Commission, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19), as the answer to the question, “why?”
“Look at the church from the point of view of the people who are not attending,” he said. “What keeps people away from church is they don’t think they will be welcome.”
At his parish, welcoming begins in the parking lot with greeters directing drivers to spots. They are welcomed at the door by more greeters and hosts who help them find a place to sit.
He underscored the importance of children’s formation that allows the parents to focus on the Liturgy of the Word. At his church they have three programs — Kids Zone, All Stars and Time Travelers. All of which encourage the children to share their faith. He said empty-nesters and teens work well in that ministry. For children with disabilities the church has a buddy ministry — volunteers who sit with them during the children’s formation. Before the Liturgy of the Eucharist, hosts shepherd children back to their seats.
Another important component of ministry is music. “Music can reach people’s hearts,” he said, advising parishes to invest resources in skilled musicians — he acknowledged finding both talent and a heart for ministry is hard, but “the history of God’s people includes singing.”
Fr. Michael White said, “We are trying to advance the kingdom of God in our generation. This is the fundamental, indispensable work of the whole church.”
According to Father White the parish is more than a church building; it is a geographical term, your zip code including people you have never met. The majority of people not attending church are un-churched Catholics. He asked, “Who are the people not currently in the pews? What are they like? What language do they speak? How do they spend their time, their money? What is their culture? What do they think about God, faith and religion?”
While discussing ministry he said to ask the church leaders:
- Are we making a measurable difference in the community or simply serving our members?
- Are we mobilized for mission or
insisting on business as usual?
- Are we here to preserve our broken systems or are we willing to go where God is blessing?”
- Are we simply meeting or are we moving?
He told the story of Nehemiah, rebuilding the fire damaged walls around the city of Jerusalem, to make several points. Nehemiah was an educated, sophisticated Jewish man who first prayed to God for the king’s permission to rebuild the walls. Nehemiah surveyed the situation, then he tackled projects one at a time. He drafted teams to help him. Then, when his critics accused him of treason he redoubled his efforts.
“When we are making progress critics come forward, don’t be surprised,” said Father White.
By Laurie Hallstrom
“The people we serve on average make less than $1.25 a day. They are the poorest of the poor and they live in fragile situations,” said Dr. Carolyn Woo.
More than 800 people gathered in Rapid City for the Catholic Social Services Palm Sunday Brunch, the charity’s largest fundraising effort of the year. The guest speaker, Woo, served as president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services From 2012 to 2016. The international relief agency was established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington D.C., after World War II to help refugees. The agency will have its 75th anniversary in 2018.
Woo’s family emigrated from Hong Kong. She attended Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., where she earned her bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees and she was a member of the faculty. She served as dean of the Mendoza School of Business at Notre Dame University, Notre Dame, Ind., before joining CRS.
She said CRS partners with 1,200 organizations across the world and 600 of those are Catholic. Workers are active all over the globe in about 100 countries. In the countries where CRS workers are, they are not allowed to evangelize, or they would be killed. “Our role is to let people know what Catholicism is all about — it is by the way we love, by the way we treat each other. That is the good news. We are people who can love and care and we actually make the choice (to share) it,” she said.
“People ask if I am depressed with my work and I just want to say, ‘on the contrary.’ There is a lot of suffering, sometimes I feel like we are sent to the foot of the cross,” said Woo. “We are face to face with suffering people — children who are hit by shrapnel and have no access to care. We run into people who have been trafficked, women whose daughters were captured and sons were killed. We are often visited by women whose children died of malnutrition. There are a lot of crosses people bear. But I am not at all depressed.”
She explained that at the foot of the cross, after the horrific torture, the suffering and the crucifixion, the good news began.
Woo led a retreat with Sisters of the Holy Cross, Notre Dame, on the feast of the Annunciation, March 25. She shared that message about the invitation from God. “He invites not only Mary, but God invites us to be a part of the plan of salvation. He hopes sometimes we say ‘yes,’” said Woo. “God issues invitations each and every day, to make his kingdom known, to bring about salvation.”
In December, as she was finishing her work at CRS, she told her colleagues, “What is the work that we do? What is our role in God’s plan? We are the answers to people’s prayers. It sounds so arrogant — it is not meant to be. The reason I say that is the people we work with don’t have a home, food, or medicine. Sometimes they don’t have money and they pray, whatever religion they are, they say ‘God please send help, please send food and medicine, my child needs milk.’
“Somehow, when we show up that’s what we bring. It is more than formula, food, shelter, and medication; we also bring longer term solutions as you do in Catholic Social Services. We bring a way for people to find a new path, to rebuild their lives.”
Woo explained sometimes social work is tangible, someone needs something and it can be given to them. “Not all needs are tangible — the deep need of loneliness for example, low self concept or a sense of having no hope, those things are not always tangible; but we are sitting next to people (family and coworkers) who could benefit from kindness,” she said. “Prayers are made to God, we have a chance to be working as God’s answers.
“The fact that we are given a chance to be God’s answer to people’s prayers is really an incredible privilege,” said Woo. “I think that the whole idea of witness is making God real. Each of our roles is to make generosity and love real. When we do that we are emulating God. That’s how people come to believe in God.”
By WRC Staff
Courage and EnCourage support groups are getting started in the Diocese of Rapid City. Courage is a Roman Catholic Apostolate to people with same-sex attraction. Cardinal Terrance Cook founded it in 1980, in the Archdiocese of New York. The founding director was Fr. John Harvey. At the root of the ministry it says persons experiencing same-sex attraction must be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity as people created and loved by God. EnCourage, a ministry to family and friends of SSA individuals, was started in 1992 to provide peer support and spiritual growth for its members.
Like all single Catholics, members of Courage are urged to live chaste lives and participate fully in the sacraments of the Catholic Church. Courage proclaims that holiness and happiness are possible for its members who strive to know Christ profoundly and seek to follow him in the Gospel way of life.
The program requires compassionate chaplains to guide the ministry. Two priests from the Diocese of Rapid City, Msgr. Michael Woster, Spearfish, and Fr. Jim Hoerter, Faith, will be coordinating the efforts to start a chapter (or chapters) in western South Dakota. The two priests attended the Courage and EnCourage national meeting July 19-24, 2016, in Washington, D.C. “The Courage apostolate is a wonderful opportunity for those experiencing same-sex attraction in our diocese to know personally Christ is walking with them. Through community and the riches of the church, participants come to know Jesus’ very real concern, his friendship, joy and his call particular to their own life,” said Father
Hoerter. “Through Courage members can come to know Jesus Christ concretely. He is the One we desire in the depths of our being. He really is the ‘good news’ for all of us.”
Msgr. Woster said, “I was really impressed with the people I met at the national meeting in Washington. Some tended to be older, people who had gone through some pretty rough times, and maybe had gone through several relationships. Many were people who had some connection to spirituality or to the church earlier in their life. They went down one road after another and nothing worked out and they have found their way back. They found reconciliation, forgiveness, friendship, and support through Courage. Christ is real to them — they rely upon him.”
He said the people at the national meeting were strong Catholic Christians — many have been in Courage for several years. “I was touched in listening to many of their stories. They are wonderful examples of God’s love and God’s grace.”
“At the convention we learned Courage members love their priests. Fr. Jim and I felt very affirmed by Courage members. Our celibacy is a sign to them that living a chaste life and having chaste friendships are possible,” said Msgr. Woster.
While at the conference, Msgr. Woster also attended a joint meeting of Courage and EnCourage members. The EnCourage parents told how hard it was when they learned their son (or daughter) was questioning their sexually identity or experiencing SSA. They spoke of their confusion about how best to respond to them and their fears about their child’s future. The Courage members shared with EnCourage family members what they were looking for in their parents and siblings that would help support them and help them find healing and reconciliation.
“It was amazing to see the compassion and growth toward understanding between Courage and EnCourage members,” Msgr. Woster said.
The chaplains can be reached by phone. To protect anonymity, a contact number for the chaplains is given. Callers can leave a message, and a chaplain will contact the caller and give them ministry and meeting information as well as assistance in discerning if the ministry will be helpful to them.
Call Courage at 605-646-3363 or EnCourage at 605-519-8688. To learn more about this ministry go to http://couragerc.org or email email@example.com.
May the Lord be at your side as you shepherd the faithful in the Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyoming
Bishop Robert D. Gruss, the Clergy and People of the Diocese of Rapid City
Click here to see the special section from the West River Catholic.
It’s such a great life of journeying with people in their faith
By Laurie Hallstrom
When a diocese becomes vacant because the bishop has been moved, retired or deceased, the Holy See looks for a man whose gifts and experiences are best suited to serve the particular needs of that local church. In the case of the neighboring state of Wyoming, the priest selected grew up on a farm-ranch, has driven many rural highways, lived in a very similar climate, served on a Native American reservation, and worked in a post energy boom town where the mines were closed.
March 16, news spread quickly — Pope Francis named Fr. Steve Biegler, 58, Rapid City, as the ninth Bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming. The diocese encompasses the entire state.
Fr. Steve Biegler was born on March 22, 1959, in Mobridge. His family owns a farm-ranch operation near Timber Lake. His parents are Alfred (deceased) and Mary Biegler. He has six brothers and six sisters, including Rhonda Nickerson, who passed away July 9, 2010.
Growing up in Timber Lake, he attended Holy Cross Catholic School. He recalls that vocations were discussed at home. “My parents were always supportive if one of us were to have a religious vocation. I had a good family of prayer and faith and I see that as central to my vocation,” he said. “Fr. Jerry Scherer is my mother’s first cousin and he was close to our family. He stopped by a lot. With the school we had the Presentation Sisters out all the time and we would invite the parish priest, too.”
He graduated from Timber Lake High School in 1977. He attended the S.D. School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City for one year, 1977-78. “I took a day to think about life and seminary came to mind. I said, ‘Not right now, I’ll have to think about that.’ I was also considering ranching and having a family and those thoughts were part of considering the priesthood and celibacy,” said Bishop-elect Biegler.
Most of the next eight years, he worked on the family farm. “We had radios in the tractor, but I would often just turn the radio off. That was a really powerful place of meeting God in the beauty and quiet of nature,” he said, adding, “It was wonderful time for prayer and discernment.”
When he felt he needed a change, “I left for a little bit and went to Wyoming and worked with a construction crew filling in old underground coal mines around Glenrock near Casper. They had slurry of gravel and a compound similar to concrete. They were trying to stabilize those mines because they were caving in under the town.
“The priest in the town was the vocation director for the diocese, so I did end up talking to him a little bit,” said Bishop-elect Biegler.
He attended Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary and St. Mary College in Winona, Minn., from 1986-89 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. From 1989-1993, he attended the North American College in Rome where he received an STB or Bachelor of Sacred Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Rapid City at Holy Cross Church in Timber Lake on July 9, 1993.
“I went back to NAC as a faculty member from 2003 to 2006, and stayed another year, 2007, and finished a biblical theology degree,” he said. From the University of St. Thomas in Rome he received an STL (License in Biblical Theology).
In 2010-11, he served as Diocesan Administrator following the departure of then-Bishop Blase Cupich for his appointment as Bishop of Spokane, Wash., until the ordination of the current ordinary, Bishop Robert Gruss. “I had some experience of overseeing the diocese during that year, going out and doing confirmations — which a DA does, and I learned about the workings of the diocesan staff,” he said.
Bishop-elect Biegler said he will miss this diocese, family members, friends he has made at parishes where he served, and what he describes as “a great fraternity of priests.”
“For me, I’ve come to know that priesthood is where I belong and obviously it’s demanding but it’s so fulfilling, such a great life of journeying with people in their faith. So I’m excited to continue that journey. I’ll continue it there. I am looking forward to getting to know the people and priests as a bishop,” he said.
He already knows a few people in the diocese; his brother Royce Biegler and his wife, Kim, live in Gillette, and several nieces and nephews are in Wyoming. Fr. Steve Titus, the vocation director for the Diocese of Cheyenne was in Rome as a seminarian when Bishop-elect Biegler was a faculty member. Also, Fr. Andrew Kinstetter was a student at the School of Mines when Bishop-elect Biegler was the Newman Center Chaplain.
His episcopal ordination will be June 5. The West River Catholic will carry more details in the April issue.
(Editor’s note: Fr. Biegler is the second diocesan priest to be named a bishop. In 1978, Fr. Lawrence Welsh was named Bishop of Spokane. He later served as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis.)
By Bishop Robert D. Gruss
Diocese of Rapid City
Bishop Robert Gruss was a seminarian at North American College in Rome with Fr. Steve Biegler. As diocesan administrator he was the first from the Diocese of Rapid City to greet Bishop-elect Gruss when he arrived in Rapid City.
Fr. Steve was the only person I knew in the diocese when I came here. He was very helpful in being the history of the diocese for me. Being the administrator, Fr. Steve could fill in the missing links in my very limited understanding of the history of the diocese as well as the current challenges that I would be facing as I began my new ministry.
Fr. Steve is a very competent and gifted pastor. He has the many gifts necessary to shepherd the people entrusted to his care. I have always found him to be very wise and discerning. He has a good mind which allows him to look at a situation, dissect what needs to happen, and provide great insight into the solutions. He may not enjoy administration (many of us don’t, myself included), but I think he is good at it. He has many gifts which will be an asset as he begins this new assignment in his life.
The people of the Diocese of Cheyenne are getting an exceptional priest and pastor. Bishop-elect Biegler is grounded in a relationship with Christ which guides and directs his life and ministry as a shepherd. The folks in the Diocese of Cheyenne are getting one of the best! He will be a great blessing to his new diocese.
While I hate to see him leave the Diocese of Rapid City, I am honored and grateful to have Bishop-elect Biegler as a fellow bishop and a part of the Episcopacy. The church is enriched as a result of this assignment for him. I look forward to sharing this ministry of the wider church with him.
Anytime you lose a priest of his caliber, it is a great loss. He will be deeply missed in the Diocese of Rapid City, both as my vicar general and as a great pastor. And given the shortage of priests that we are currently facing, it makes this loss even greater. But just as the Holy Spirit led him to this new ministry in the Church, the Spirit will continue to provide for the Diocese of Rapid City. Of this I am certain.
I wish Bishop-elect Biegler only the very best in his new assignment and ministry. He will touch the lives of many people in the Diocese of Cheyenne just as he has touched the lives of many people here in the Diocese of Rapid City. He is such a gifted man and his deep love for the Lord and for the poor and less fortunate will envelop his life and ministry there as well. He can be assured of my prayers as he transitions to this new phase of his life and priesthood.
Isabel, St. Mary, Monday, Mar. 27—6 p.m.
Rapid City, Blessed Sacrament, Monday, Mar. 27—7 p.m.
Buffalo, St. Anthony, Monday, Mar. 27—7 p.m.
McLaughlin, St. Bernard, Tuesday, Mar. 28—7 p.m.
Gregory, St. Joseph, Wednesday, Mar. 29—6:30 p.m. CT
Martin, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Wednesday, Mar. 29—7 p.m.
McIntosh, St. Bonaventure, Thursday, Mar. 30—6 p.m.
Newell, St. Mary, Thursday, Mar. 30—6 p.m., Reconciliation Open House
Ft Pierre, St. John, Thursday, Mar. 30—6:30 p.m. CT
Rapid City, St. Isaac Jogues, Thursday, Mar. 30—7 p.m.
Belle Fourche, St. Paul, Saturday, Apr. 1—1 p.m., Reconciliation Open House
Murdo, St. Martin, Thursday, Apr. 6—6 p.m. CT
Spearfish, St. Joseph, Saturday, Apr. 8—1 p.m., Reconciliation Open House
Dupree, Sacred Heart, Palm Sunday, Apr. 9—4 p.m.
Eagle Butte, All Saints, Palm Sunday, Apr. 9—4 p.m.
Faith, St. Joseph, Palm Sunday, Apr. 9—7 p.m.
Enjoy the February edition of the West River Catholic
Statement from the Roman Catholic Bishops of South Dakota
The Most Reverend Robert D. Gruss, Bishop of Rapid City, and the Most Reverend Paul J. Swain, Bishop of Sioux Falls, announce their intention to establish the South Dakota Catholic Conference (SDCC). The Conference will serve as the official voice of the bishops of South Dakota on issues of public policy, providing explanations of Church teaching and their practical application.
A state Catholic conference, which most states have established including those in our neighboring states of North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and Montana, monitors, responds to and educates Catholics about proposed public policies that impact life and the dignity of the human persons, religious liberty and other issues which affect the rights of Catholics to practice their faith both personally and in the public square.
The South Dakota Catholic Conference will follow the development of public policies and communicate with public officials in all branches and at all levels of governments not only during a legislative session but throughout the year. Among the tasks of the Conference will be to focus on issues that are of common concern among Catholic organizations, other faith-based communities, and secular agencies to promote the common good.
“Through advocacy and education based on Catholic moral and social teachings, the Conference will allow Catholics to become better informed about and comment on the public policy issues of the day not only before the legislature but in all of government”, said Bishop Paul Swain.
“It is our hope that the South Dakota Catholic Conference will help all Catholics in our state to become better informed on public policy matters and thereby be able to respond as faithful Catholics and faithful citizens,” said Bishop Robert Gruss.
Those interested in the position for the Executive Director are encouraged to contact the Office of Human Resources of the Diocese of Sioux Falls.
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.
606 Cathedral Drive
Rapid City, SD 57701
Chancery Annex at Terra Sancta
2101 City Springs Rd Ste 200
Rapid City, SD 57702
Terra Sancta Retreat Center
2101 City Springs Rd, Ste 300
Rapid City , SD 57702
Victim Assistance Coordinator