Bringing the Priority Plan to life at home and in the community
—Reconcile—Make Disciples—Live the Mission—
Fr. John Hatcher, SJ
President, St. Francis Mission, Rosebud
Promoting forgiveness and healing among racial groups
Racism is an interesting and ambiguous term. How many races are there? Sounds like a question for the folks who built the of Tower Babel. That story is a way to explain the many divisions among peoples of the earth. Another way of talking about this is Original Sin — that weakening of human nature that allows the evil spirit to exploit human kind by tricking individuals into defining themselves as different and even better than other individuals. The fact is that there is only one race — the human race. Christ creates every human being in his own image. We are all more alike, spiritually, physically and intellectually than we are different.
Rather than talk about “racism” or “different races” we need to explore ethnic groups and the gifts that the Christ has given to us through them. Of course the major ethnic group in our diocese is the Lakota people who live on five reservations and in almost every community off the reservations. At the same time there is a Hispanic community and at least culturally different from each other, a prairie community, a city community and a small Air Force community.
My main experience has been with Lakota people. I was raised in the South for the most part, so I am familiar with segregation and the last gasps of “separate but equal.” What surprised me when I came to South Dakota was the depth of prejudice against Lakota people and their depth of prejudice against White people. I wish that after 41 years I could say that the situation has improved, but sadly that is not the case.
If I asked many White persons in West River to give me a profile of a Lakota person, what I would get is a profile with all negative stereotypes. And if I ask many Lakota persons to give me a profile of White people, I would also get negative stereotypes.
What is interesting to me is that if I introduced either group to the people in the other group that I know and work with, they would not find people who actually fit the stereotypes that they have in their minds. I know many prayerful, humble, kind, generous, hard working, and intelligent people in both groups. But often these people never meet one another.
Reconciliation means, “to make friends again.” This is not achieved simply by praying. Prayer is necessary to give us the courage we need to do something, namely, reach out to one another and break the pattern of prejudice. We are called to respect one another as persons fashioned in the image and likeness of Christ. We must actually go out of our way to meet persons from the other group and listen to their stories — the pain, the joy, the anger, the achievements and the failures. All of us need to ask and receive forgiveness for wrongs done but perhaps most of all for walling each other off and ignoring one another.
Recently, 90 people from communities around the Diocese of Rapid City came to St. Francis Mission on the Rosebud Reservation to attend the Pilgrimage Day of Mercy. Many people told me at the end of the day how much they enjoyed the experience and how welcomed they felt by the Indian community of St. Charles Church. They also got a taste for how the cultural gifts of the people enriched the Liturgy and their experience. Deacon Ben Black Bear spoke to them about the history of Catholicism among the Lakota. People participated in the Directions Song and the azilya (smoke blessing) and walked through a tipi set up at the Holy Door. It was only a taste of what the ancient relationship God established with Lakota people can bring to the Liturgy and theology of the church.
Where do we want to be in five years? If we can change our hearts and accept one another as equals in the eyes of God, if we can open our hands and accept the gifts of culture and persons created by Christ, if we can do the hard work of listening to each other and come to enjoy each others differences, the Church of Rapid City will be much healthier and much more joy filled.
Native Cultural Values
Envisioning Team members want to follow the example set by Jesus and promote healing in families, between communities and among racial groups in the church. They established a goal to identify areas where reconciliation is working well and where it could be improved.
The focus of Catholic Social Services Lakota Circles of Hope is on social and emotional development in a Lakota cultural context. According to Jim Kinyon, executive director of CSS, it will be offered in more than 20 schools next year. Religion cannot be taught in the public school system; however, cultural lessons can be. The goal is to have students develop a sense of self worth and develop a good self image. This helps to address any future developmental problems as the child moves into adolescence and adulthood. It is a prevention program — prevention from substance abuse, personal abuse, and other related mental health issues.
According to John J. Usera, Ph.D., Lakota Circles of Hope Program Evaluator and Researcher, “The program provides knowledge and coping skills to deal with situations and challenges they encounter daily in a Lakota cultural context. The lessons are presented using Lakota values, traditions, and practices as a framework for making good decisions.
“Each lesson begins with the students sitting around the medicine wheel which represents the four directions and the four aspects of a human being (intellectual, emotional, physical, and spiritual). Smudging is performed (azilya) to help purify a person and help individuals to be open and truthful in the presence of the Creator.
“Then the students begin the discussion of the topic for the day by using the traditional talking circle guidelines. The current evaluation and research of the program, have found the students to be more respectful of each other, open to their strengths and challenges, and to have an appreciation of their own self-worth and their connectedness to each other as brothers and sisters in one extended family (tiospaye).”
Deacon Marlon Leneaugh, director of Native Ministries, said, “The Lakota Circles of Hope curriculum was designed to help children learn values and see positive behaviors through lessons taught from a cultural perspective using Lakota materials and stories. Each lesson has a moral to the story that will help children be influenced with positive messages and examples. The curriculum uses topics that are relevant for children and youth today. It brings help and hope and an awareness of the risky behaviors confronting the young people. The lessons present alternative problem solving methods.
“If the teachings are validated at home with caretakers that know the Lakota language or culture, the material can be very supportive in changing behaviors and preventing children from becoming victims to many of the social ills present today.”
Barbara Linares is a member of the Latino community in the diocese.
She said all the events they have are open to anyone who wishes to attend. The Our Lady of Guadalupe Mass, will be held Dec. 12, at Blessed Sacrament Church, Rapid City, at 5:30 p.m. It is a bilingual celebration. During Lent the Latino community has bilingual Stations of the Cross of the Migrant Jesus at the same church.
“We are planning to do bilingual posadas during Advent this year,” said Linares. Posadas are part of Mexican tradition. Participants go to houses seeking room for Joseph and Mary — like the couple sought from the innkeeper in the Bible.
Linares said in the future they would like to have leadership formation programs and adult retreats with bilingual speakers.
Hearing the Call
In the Envisioning Team Five Year Statement of Vision, a high priority is placed on empowering people to grow in their relationships of love in the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral areas. Through prayer, people are able to discern their calling and live more fully their vocations to single, married, religious life or ordained ministry.
Fr. Mark McCormick is the director of the Office of Stewardship and Vocations. He remembers as a child driving home from Mass at Blessed Sacrament in Rapid City and his father would say, from time to time, “It would be great if one of my sons would become a priest and one of my daughters would become a religious sister.”
“These words of my father continue to echo in my own heart today,” said Father McCormick. He advises that the best way to create a culture of vocations in families is for parents to pray with their children about God’s desires and plans for them in their lives.
“Parents can assure their children that God does indeed have a mission in his kingdom reserved for them alone and God’s plan is far better than any plan they might choose for themselves,” he said.
He invites parents to be intentional in their conversations with their children about the universal call to holiness and the specific calls within that of a call to priesthood, religious life and sacramental marriage. “I encourage them to emphasize that God alone fulfills every the desire of the human heart and does so in all of these vocational paths,” said Father McCormick. “One practical suggestion for cultivating a vocation is to pray a prayer to know one’s vocation as part of the meal blessing.” A copy of this prayer and many other resources can be found at www.Gods-call.org.
He advocates inviting priests and religious sisters over for dinner and asking them to share their personal call to priesthood or religious life. Lastly, a family could pray a family rosary with the intention to know one’s vocation or break open the Sunday Gospel as a way to reflect together on the life-giving Word of God.
“My own discernment to priesthood really began by the gift of faith that my parents gave me by participating in Sunday Eucharist and, at times, daily Mass during Lent. It was being actively involved in the parish life at Blessed Sacrament Church as an altar server through high school and being involved in the parish youth group as well as diocesan activities and retreat programs. It was during these activities that caring adults at Blessed Sacrament would pull me aside from time to time and invite me to consider priesthood,” he said.
“Bishop Harold Dimmerling had a tremendous impact in my willingness to give seminary a try. After my fourth visit to Bishop Dimmerling, in a year while I was going to South Dakota State University in Brookings, he said to me ‘Mr. McCormick, I know you feel called to be a youth minister but I’m telling you I think you have a call to priesthood.’ In the end, I said yes to Bishop Dimmerling and gave seminary a try. He was right, it was in giving seminary a try that I discovered the Father’s invitation to be a priest of his Son, Jesus Christ. “
The Envisioning Team recognizes as a core value, the family as the domestic chuch, and that parents and guardians are the primary educators of the children in the Catholic faith. They encourage them to model a lively faith by attending Mass, praying daily and providing catechetical formation.
Director of Family Life Ministries, Amy Julian, said, “I came into the church when Gia was in pre-school, so she would come with me to daily Mass before school each day. Rather than push religious life, I pushed the idea of discernment, that God was calling her to a particular life for which she had been especially designed, and she should involve him in that decision. I pointed out the fact that to go into religious life, if she was called into marriage, would be just as sad as getting married if she was truly called to be a spouse of Christ. After that, I let my daughter make a decision.”
Amy and her husband Joe live near Beulah, Wyoming. Their daughter, Gia, was invested with the habit of Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara on December 7, 2015. She received the name Sister Maria, Madonna dei Poveri or Mary, Mother of the Poor.
Pat and Rosemary Trask, Elm Springs, have a son who is a diocesan priest, Fr. John Paul Trask, Spearfish. He was ordained July 2, 2015.
Rosemary said, “Our goal was to orientate home life to reflect the everyday routine of the ‘domestic church.’ The priests we saw each week were our heroes. We remembered them in our daily family rosary, which was our unity and protection. We sent our children to Totus Tuus Camps and we went as a family to parish missions and Marian Conferences. As a dad, and a former altar boy, Pat was defensive of that stepping stone to ordination as a male calling that reverenced God the Father.”
Marriage as a Vocation
In their Priority Plan core values, the Envisioning Team said the people of the Diocese of Rapid City, would support and promote the church’s understanding of marriage and family life. In his pastoral letter, “Through Him, With Him and In Him,” Bishop Robert Gruss explains the marriage relationship using the Trinity. On page 57, it says, “… the Trinity is a loving and life-giving communion of equal Persons. The one God in the loving inter-relationship of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
“Marriage, in this way, is a communion of love between co-equal persons, beginning with the love between husband and wife, extending to all members of the family.”
Living out such devout faith for a lifetime is particularly important when facing life’s challenges. Two couples, each married 50 years, were asked how their faith had strengthened their unions.
Marion and Darlene Matt, Philip, said they had always attended church together and they raised their family in the church too. “We have always had our family involved with us,” said Matt.
Darlene said faith was particularly important when their son, a 21 year old college student, was killed along with another boy in a car wreck during a snow storm.
They agreed prayer is an important part of life whether it is individual, family or silent.
“We are very close, we tell each other we love each other every day. One of things I really enjoy is sitting in church and holding his hand,” said Darlene. In service to their parish, Sacred Heart Church, they both work on flowers and trimming bushes.
Another couple, Bill and Linda Young, Custer, said faith has been an integral part of their marriage. “Faith is important from day one, in good times and difficult times.
“One thing that sticks out,” he said, “In the 1990s we attended a Retrouvaille Retreat.* It kept us on track with our faith and helped our marriage tremendously.”
He quipped the oft used maxim, “The family that prays together, stays together.”
Bill said, “Faith is more important now than everything else. In society today our children and grand children need good role models. Our faith has led us to do that.”
*Retrouvaille is a retreat ministry with follow-up sessions to help couples in hurting marriages, possibly separated or divorced.
Helping Right Here
As we, as Christians, strive to live life imitating Christ, the Envisioning Team calls us to the core values of solidarity and charity. Solidarity, it says in the Priority Plan is, “recognizinging and accepting all people as brothers and sisters; being responsible for the common good of all.”
Charity, the plan says, is “Loving God and others because God first loved us.
National and international collections are held frequently in the parishes, but what about loving and standing with people in this diocese?
Mike Davies, an Envisioning Team member, explained his parish is in a “sister parish” relationship with three churches on the Standing Rock Reservation. “In 1996, Our Lady of the Black Hills in Piedmont was remodeled to expand the worship space. During this time, there was discussion and concern about ‘focusing inward’ too much. Then-pastor (the late) Fr. Peter Kovarik and interested church members brainstormed possibilities to help others. It happened that one of Father Kovarik’s friends, Fr. Steve Biegler, was among the first diocesan priests, along with (the late) Msgr. William O’Connell, to serve on the Standing Rock Reservation. The parishes at that time included: St. Bonaventure, McIntosh; St. Michael, Watauga; St. Aloysius, Bullhead; Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Kenel; and St. Bede, Wakpala. The Piedmont Church began a mutual relationship to help, pray for and get to know each other. (Today the parishes supported include McLaughlin, Kenel, Bullhead and Wakpala.)
“Over the years, this has included mission trips, evangelization, pow-wows, teaching exchanges, building crews, priest exchanges, and most of all prayers and encouragement for each other to live and evangelize our faith. In addition, OLBH supports these parishes financially by giving about $7,000 annually to help pay for general costs. Piedmont parishioner Patty Cresalia is currently the head of the liaison group.
Cresalia said, “Lifestyles, comforts, and struggles are not the same everywhere and as we learn about the culture surrounding our parishes we are building an awareness through the support we share.
“The fruit borne of this relationship between OLBH and our four sister parish communities are that we share the gift of treasure and presence. We are no longer unknown or strangers, but we become connected in our desire to embrace faith sharing in our church family.”
Fr. Michel Mulloy is an Envisioning Team member and the pastor of those sister parishes in the northern part of the diocese.
He said, “McLaughlin and its missions enjoy the ministry of Sr. Jacque Schroeder and Sr. Brigitte Owamba-Shomba. Both sisters are from Franciscan Orders. They meet with and work with the people in our four parishes in the spirit of St. Francis.
“They provide a presence that is different from my priestly ministry and is unique to their calling. The diocese is helping with the salaries and health care expenses in this first year, but the additional expenses of food, housing and transportation are paid for in part through the generosity of Our Lady of the Black Hills in Piedmont.
“That parish has taken to heart the diocesan vision of “living the mission.” They are putting their own resources into fulfilling that vision and McLaughlin and its missions are sharing in their commitment. We are deeply grateful that they embrace the diocesan vision.”
The funds provided for the reservation parishes are crucial for serving those churches according to Colleen Keller, the McLaughlin bookkeeper.
She said, “The money goes into Lakota ministry. Every fiscal quarter I transfer $7,000 and divide it between our three parishes. (Masses are not offered at Wakpala.) It goes to pay for mileage for the sisters and Father Mulloy to travel out to the mission parishes, do a night with the rosary and things like that. It helps with the priest’s salary, catechetical supplies and faith formation for kindergarten to adults on Wednesday nights.
“We couldn’t make it without our sister parish.”
—Live the Mission—
Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry
For any Christian to truly live the mission he or she has to be called by Christ. They must be motivated by the love of Christ, and for that to happen the person has to fall in love with Christ in a real way. To that end we shape all our events and diocesan programs so that the Good Shepherd can reach his people and claim their hearts.
Through participation in Totus Tuus Girls and Boys Camps, Duc In Altum summer catechetical program, World Youth Day, TEC (Together Encounter Christ) Retreats, Steubenville Conferences, and other youth events and rallies, the young people of our diocese experience an opportunity to encounter the Lord and let him reveal the plan for each of their lives.
In all of the programs mentioned we include Mass, adoration, reconciliation, and various forms of prayer. Then we send them out to love their neighbor — not in theory — not just during the retreat/camp, but every day.
Especially through Totus Tuus we foster vocational awareness and the courage to answer the call. It is a beautiful thing to see teens at a Steubenville Conference, after a moving encounter with the Lord in eucharistic adoration, go up to the altar (in front of their peers) as a sign of their openness to a call to priesthood or religious life.