For this year’s seminarian poster, we highlighted Bishop Peter Muhich in the sanctuary of our Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, surrounded by the six seminarians in formation for our diocese.

The backdrop is graced with the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help overshadowed by the relief of the Holy Spirit in the baldacchino. Bishop Peter’s episcopal motto boldly proclaiming the words of Jesus in the Upper Room from John 13:15 in the foot washing discourse, “I have given you an example,” is a reminder that we too must imitate Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 11:1 we hear St. Paul echoing the same attitude, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.”

This is my seventh year as Director of Vocations and never before has a poster captured my thought and imagination as this one has. It is filled with powerful symbols, steeped in the beauty and richness of our Catholic faith. Taking the image to prayer has been very enriching for me.

I would like to share some of the ways my heart has been touched in hope that it will inspire and encourage you.

Bishop Muhich is at the center as our new shepherd, one who is called the successor to the apostles, who carries on the work of Christ and his Church through a threefold mission to teach, govern and sanctify our local Church – the Diocese of Rapid City.

It is interesting to note that the Greek word for diocese is “to keep house.” Thus, I am inspired to pray fervently for Bishop Peter that he keeps our Church in Western South Dakota in good order.

Bishop Peter is flanked on each side by three of our seminarians, each of whom has heard the voice of Jesus in his own heart. Each is discerning the possibility of priesthood by stepping out in faith, with courage and joy, to enter seminary formation.

In this photo I see the great joy and confidence they exude. These are men who are not afraid to say yes to Jesus. Their yes to Christ and the Church is written all over their faces.

I can tell you personally, as their vocation director, these men are not burdened or miserable or missing out on life; in fact, the opposite is true. By responding generously to Christ, they find themselves on an amazing adventure and they are full of enthusiasm and joy.

At World Youth Day in 1989, St. John Paul II said, “The personal discovery of Jesus Christ . . . is the most wonderful adventure of our life.”  As St. Paul had well understood when he wrote: “For me, indeed, to live is Christ.”

These men are also descendants of fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers who have encouraged their sons and grandsons to follow not their own wishes or desires for them, but to follow the invitation of Christ who has personally and intimately called them to discern a call to priesthood by entering the seminary.

This poster inspires me to continue to pray for our parents and grandparents, that they may continue to encourage their children and grandchildren to hear and to be open to the voice of Jesus who might be calling them to priesthood or consecrated life.

As I ponder this poster, I am also inspired to pray for the relationship between Bishop Peter and his priests. This past summer our seminarians, with parish priests hosting them in their summer assignments, reflected on several articles together. One of them was “The Spirituality of the Diocesan Priest as Found in the Writings of John Paul II,” by Msgr. Owen Keenan II. 

Keenan writes, “In his relationship to the Bishop, the diocesan priest finds much of the ‘content’ of his relationship with Christ, and, therefore, his priestly spirituality. . . . The priest must develop filial respect and fraternal love for his Bishop. Time must be mandated for the bishop and his priests to come together for fraternal occasions: meals, prayer, discussion. 

“Frank, kindred encounters are not only conducive to better relations, but are real opportunities for growing in love for the Lord in the advancement of this most necessary relationship.”

I continue to pray that I and all of my brother priests develop this kind of relationship with Bishop Muhich and I would ask that you keep that intention in your own prayer because the whole of the Church is enriched and strengthened by it.

The icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help has graced the sanctuary of our Cathedral since its dedication on May 7, 1963. It truly belongs to our whole diocese. On May 7, 2013, the Cathedral parish, along with our diocese, celebrated the 50th anniversary of its dedication. At that time, we remembered the 107 parishes from 100 cities and towns in Western South Dakota (some of them no longer here), the Benedictine Sisters of St. Martin’s, the Knights of Columbus and Catholic Daughters of America who were all part of the building of The Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Truly, the icon at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help belongs to all of us.

Mother Adela Galindo, founder of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, in a reflection to the seminarians at St. John Marie Vianney Seminary in the Archdiocese of Miami, said, “How many wonderful things happen in the hearts of seminarians when they entrust themselves to the maternal love and guidance of the Blessed Mother.

“I have seen many great things! The seminary is not so much a place, said Pope Benedict, but a significant time in the life of the follower of Jesus (Cologne, Aug. 19, 2005). The seminary is a time of formation, of communion, of intimate dialogue with Christ, of preparation for the mission. It seems to me that we could call the seminary the ‘time of Nazareth.’ And if it is, what better way to spend it than the same way Jesus did: under the maternal care of Mary.”

As we gaze at our seminarian poster, let us enter into this “time of Nazareth” and fervently pray, through the intercession of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, that many more men will answer Jesus’ invitation to be a priest in the Diocese of Rapid City. Let us pray that all of our children will seek the consolation and comfort of Mary’s arms in imitation of the child Jesus who, as depicted in our icon, fled to into the arms of his mother.

This image, under the relief of the Holy Spirit encircled with seven flames, reminds me of the unique relationship between Mary and the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel of Luke, we hear the powerful words of the Angel Gabriel, who said to Mary that there is nothing impossible for God.

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power the Most High will overshadow you.” Mary responds, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done according to your word” (Lk 1:26-38).

It is my urgent desire that when you ponder this year’s seminarian poster that it fosters a deeper encounter with the Holy Spirit in your life.  Like Mary, will you allow the Holy Spirit to come upon and rest upon you, again and again?

In seeing the seven flames surrounding the Holy Spirit, renew frequently the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit you received at baptism and that were strengthened at your confirmation. Pray constantly that the fruits of the Holy Spirit may be manifested daily in your life.

Invoke the power the Holy Spirit that our diocese may experience a new outpouring of men who say yes to seminary and experience the great grace of discerning a possible call to priesthood — for with God all things are possible!

Remember and pray often with Bishop Peter’s episcopal motto “I have given you an example.”  It is a great gift to the whole Church.

 

 

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