Lively Faith: Duc in Altum

We have just finished up a wonderful 10 days of training with this year’s Duc in Altum Teams.  These 13 young people come from four different universities and three states.  But they came together over the course of the ten days to form a cohesive, positive and supportive group.

Over the course of the summer, we will have three teams in twenty parishes across the Diocese.  Each team brings with them enthusiasm, joy and a desire to bring Christ’s message of salvation to the youth and families they will serve.  They also have a few silly songs, games and skits packed away in their hip pockets as well.  In the Office of Vocations, we are so grateful for their generous service, their love of the Lord and their desire to give their best to this endeavor.  We truly are sending you a great treasure in these young people.

A word of thanks as well to all of the catechists who have helped us this past week – Susan Safford, Amy Julian, Marlon Leneaugh, Craig Dyke, Fr. Tyler Dennis, Fr. Jonathan Dillon, Fr. Adam Hofer, Denise McCormick, Mary Helen Olson, Elizabeth Hofer, Angie King, Robert Kinyon, Andrew Sullivan, Jenny Scherr, and Fr. Tim Hoag.  You all brought so much wisdom with you. Thanks to all of you, these young people leave here well prepared for the work they will do.

Lastly, we are grateful as always to the staff here at Terra Sancta for their generous hospitality!  The food was great and the patient and kind service in the midst of so many details is always such a blessing.

We look forward to hearing from you, please share your experiences with the Duc in Altum team in your parish this summer!

Love Saves Lives

Today (Wednesday), 38 people from the diocese, both youth and adults, are heading to our national capital in Washington, DC for the 45th Annual March for Life. We are heading to experience this great event because invitation and perseverance does pay off. The first lens of our stewardship initiative is generous hospitality, which is rooted in being people of invitation. In the past, I have heard different priests, lay ministers and chancery staff express a desire to send a bus of young people and adult leaders to the March for Life. For a while it seemed just talk. Two years ago, the talk grew into an invitation that was sent out to all the parishes. There were a few takers willing to make the trip to March for Life, however not enough to fill the minimum quota. Last year, still not enough to fill our own bus and so 10 of us joined up with the Diocese of Sioux Falls and traveled with them.  Today, we have our own busload.  This speaks to the power of an invitation and learning to persevere in the invitation. As intentional disciples who joyfully, boldly and lovingly proclaim the mission of Jesus Christ, we must never tire of extending an invitation to others to follow Jesus more deeply in their lives and we must not be easily discouraged, but be patient and persevere.

This year’s theme for the March is, “Love Saves Lives.” The call to promote a culture of life and not death is central to who we are as disciples of Christ. In Evangelium Vitae — The Gospel of Life, St. John Paul II said “. . . we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the ‘culture of death’ and the ‘culture of life’. We find ourselves not only faced with, but necessarily in the midst of, this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.”

In Through Him, With him and In Him: A Spiritual Guide to the Diocesan Priority Plan, Bishop Gruss, says: “if we are not currently living these values, meaning they are not part of our lives in very practical ways, we need to beseech the Lord’s grace daily, asking him to open our lukewarm hearts and teach us how to bring them into our lives. If we do not put these values into practice, then our light will not shine before others, so that others may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

As we head today to Washington DC, to March for Life, I am full of hope and joy that one day we all would truly become disciples of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life, in every aspect of what it means to be human, made in God’s image and likeness.  Pray for us as we put into practice in a very visible and tangible way our commitment to life, letting our light shine before others and giving witness and testimony to the power of an invitation to live and be Christ to others in our world.

“He makes us desire, then grants our desires.”


I am always amazed at how the Lord surprises us through the faith and inspiration of others. Last evening, the Office of Vocations put on a barbecue for those high school leaders who assisted in leading this year’s Girls Totus Tuus Camp, Fearless: Perfect Love Casts Out All Fear. (I John 4:18)

            After dinner, I asked the young women to reflect on the graces and blessings of Totus Tuus this past summer and then to name the desires of their hearts as they enter this new school year. I think it is important to ask one another, from time to time, to name the desires of our hearts. St. Therese of the Little Flower says that, “the good God never gives desires that He cannot fulfill” and Fr. Michael Scanlan, the former president of Franciscan University, says that “He makes us desire, then grants our desires…”

            One high school senior shared her desire for the school year. She said something like this, “At the end of May, when I graduate I will probably never see some of my classmates ever again. I do not want to waste this year.  I want to get to know all of my classmates better and to reach out to them in friendship. I am going to have to pray for a lot of courage to approach some of my classmates, especially the jocks, who like to hang out in packs. However, when I see one of them by themselves, I will approach and engage in a conversation with them as a way to get to know them more. I plan get a list of all of our classmates and pray for each one of them by name each day.” Wow, I can hardly wait to the end of May to see what a difference her prayers have made, not only in her own life, but in the lives of her classmates.

            Pope Benedict XIV said, “The renewal of the church is also achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believers.” Here you have a young believer who is willing to offer and sacrifice by praying for her classmates daily. Although she might not realize this, this young woman is very much working for the renewal of the church.  In today’s daily reading from the First letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, we hear, “Night and day we pray beyond measure to see you in person and to remedy the deficiencies of your faith.” I believe in one sense she is praying for the deficiencies of faith, in her class mates as well as in herself as she prays for more courage and strength to approach her classmates in faith and to get to know them better her senior year.

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

“If the only prayer you ever say is, ‘thank you’, that is enough”

As the summer comes to a close for the Office of Vocations from the many activities and events, this quote from the French educator Jean Baptiste Massieu comes to mind, “Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” The summer’s activities began when I attended training week at Broom Tree Retreat Center with our two Duc In Altum teams.  They then spent June and July crisscrossing the diocese teaching our children and youth in 13 parishes.  I launched into Girls and Boys Totus Tuus Camps with 39 High School leaders, 105 middle school campers, 25 religious Sisters from 13 different communities (Girls Camp) and 10 of our own priests (Boys Camp) participating in the weeklong camps, plus the 40+ disciples (volunteers) needed for a successful camp. Between camps, there were the two Steubenville High School Conferences in Denver, CO and Rochester, MN with over 100 youth and 25 Adult leaders participating from our diocese.  When I think of all of these things, my heart is overflowing with gratitude. The more I recall and relive these memories, the more my heart is overflowing with the abundant love that God has showered upon our children, youth and families this summer.

                Watching Michael Craven, who has a prosthetic leg, which he didn’t use when he climbed 2 of the three courses at Nora’s Wall at Sylvan Lake during Boys Totus Tuus, was an inspiration to everyone who watched and cheered Michael on— Amazing Grace. To see a young freshman from Lemmon, Kole Reede, a junior leader, lead his small group of middle schoolers in faith sharing and an Examen at the end of the night was a blessing. To see 8 of our young men and women come forward during the altar call at the Steubenville Conferences expressing a desire in their own heart to be open to the possibility that Jesus might be calling them to priesthood and religious life made this spiritual father proud.

                As your summer comes to a close and our children, youth, young adults, families and parishes prepare for another school year, take some time this week to recall and relive some of the graces you have received from this past summer. Let this grace flow from a grateful heart. As Meister Eckhart, the 14th century Dominican mystic, wrote, “If the only prayer you ever say is ‘thank you,’ that will suffice.”