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The peace found in discerning...when God calls you in another direction  
Friday, January 16, 2015  3:05 PM
Interested in learning more about discernment and vocations? Here is how in the Diocese of Sioux Falls in college, and I just wanted to see if the Lord was calling me to be a priest,” said Anthony Christenson who grew up in Watertown.

“After much prayerful struggling I realized that if Christ laid down His life for me, then the only sufficient response on my part would be to offer my life to Him,” said Cheryl Shaeffer.

“I always thought about it, from St. Joseph’s school on,” said Pierre native Jamison Rounds.

“When in the 8th grade, I asked my parents if I could attend an informational weekend at the Minor Seminary in Sioux Falls. I attended the weekend and felt drawn to consider a call to the priesthood,” said Virgil Klein, who grew on a farm near Dell Rapids and lives there now.

“I attended Mount Marty College and in getting to know the Sisters of Sacred Heart Monastery I realized that I needed to see if it was right for me,” said Mary Bitterman, now a member of St. Paul, Armour.

Each of those highlighted in this story spent time in the seminary or in a religious community considering their vocation. Each ultimately, and for reasons unique to them, discerned that God was calling them in a different direction.

That they made the decision to take time in their life to deeply discern God’s call has meant life-long impact not only on them, but on the life of the Church. Having the time and space is essential, along with quiet, said Sister Penny Bingham, OSB, prioress at Sacred Heart Monastery, Yankton.

“In our monastery in general and in our Peace Center (retreat center) specifically, we try to provide an environment of peace that allows us to more easily hear God’s word. Sometimes people want individual guidance with their discernment, and so we try to provide that, as well as discernment retreats, with some focused on discerning one’s vocation to any state in life, and some designed specifically for those discerning a call to religious life,” she said.

“Discernment is the way to know God’s call to each of us concerning our vocation and yes, this takes time, solitude and guides assist one in listening,” adds Sister Janice Klein, president of the Presentation Sisters, Aberdeen. “The discerner needs information and facts about religious life, actual experiences with sisters and the inner freedom in order to respond to the call they are hearing.”

In this story, each participant speaks with joy about the time spent they spent and the value of the experience.

“Most of the time when I say or hear the word ‘listen’, I think of ‘listen . . . with the ear of your heart’ which is part of the prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict,” Bitterman said. “This was part of my training then and I apply it to being a mother who listens with the ear of her heart to one of the many stories that my kids want to share.”

She spent seven years affiliated with Sacred Heart Monastery in Yankton. She was known as Sister Mary Frances but struggled with feeling genuine about the title. Ultimately, despite feeling that leaving might be considered failure, Bitterman knew God was taking her another direction.

“Once I did make the decision to live the single life I felt a peace within,” she said. She was seven years single, but now has been married seven years and is mother to son Andrew and daughter Catherine.

“The four years that I spent in Winona, Minnesota are among some of the best years of my life,” Klein said. “The seminary life was really great and we as a community did a lot of things together. Daily prayers and meals together bound us as a family. We taught CCD in parishes surrounding Winona and led several TEC retreats. I have fond memories of climbing the many trails in the bluffs that surrounded the college campus. We had great spiritual leaders at the seminary who led by example,” he said.

He said the first thought that priesthood might not be his call came about the time he transitioned from college to theology. Several of his brothers already had families. “When I would be home for the holidays or breaks, I recall seeing how happy they were and thinking that maybe I am being called to the married life.”

But his discernment was not over.

“After my first year of major seminary, I was beginning to know that I was not being called to the priesthood. However, I returned to the seminary a second year so that I could prayerfully consider the vocation that I was being called to. My spiritual director was very helpful in guiding me through the discernment process,” Klein said.

Despite the fact that national statistics show only about one third of those who attend seminary eventually become priests, it is still a common misperception that going to seminary means you are in for life. Thus those discerning away from priesthood or religious life are often concerned about disappointing family or the community or diocese which has been supporting them.
Klein said he knew the sacrifice made by his parents to send him to the minor seminary.
“Discernment of one’s vocation is not something that is always easy and can be a real struggle and must be considered prayerfully,” he said.

“I recall the feeling of ‘peace’ that I felt after I made my decision despite the fact that I would have to communicate my decision to my parents and family. In the end they were supportive of my decision.”

Despite Shaeffer’s thought that offering her life to God was the proper response for her, the reality was that she was already in love with her high school sweetheart.

“I informed him early on that there was no future for us because I would be entering the convent as soon as I graduated from high school. However, I soon realized how deeply I loved John and I wanted nothing more deeply than to marry him and raise a family with him. But I had vowed to God that I would give my life to Christ,” Shaeffer said.

“I tried desperately to be a good and obedient religious; yet in my heart of hearts I yearned to be a wife and mother... I was not at peace,” she said. “After five years I slowly came to realize that it wasn’t just MY will that I leave and marry John---it was also God’s will.”

“At last I was blessed with that peace that surpasses all understanding,” she said and has never regretted the choice she made. She quickly adds “But with equal sincerity I must say that I never regretted entering religious life. It was a chapter in my life that was full of blessings and it was the best preparation for marriage that I could have asked for.” She and John, Parker natives, have lived their entire married life in Flandreau and are long time active members at Ss. Simon and Jude.

The search for peace is a constant in nearly every vocation story.

“I met with Father Mason (James, diocesan vocation director then), and while I didn’t feel an intense call to the priesthood, I didn’t have a good reason not to go to the seminary. I wanted to figure out this priesthood thing once and for all. I attended Cardinal Muench Seminary in Fargo, ND,” said Christenson.

“I was there for one year. I never truly felt at peace about being a priest. I wanted to feel at peace, and I was open to it, but I just never felt at peace,” he said.

The time needed to listen to God’s call and direction is essential. Sometimes it is difficult just getting the space and prayer needed to make the decision to try the seminary or convent. Retreats are often where that time is found and for Rounds it was at Blue Cloud Abbey.

“Finally, I went to Bishop Carlson (Robert, now Archbishop of St. Louis), and he said 'Give me two years. Just to listen,'” said Rounds. Rounds spent the first year at St. John Vianney Seminary in St. Paul, and the next two years in Rome. Between the first and second Rome years he did a 30-day silent retreat.

“My peace seemed to come back to family and marriage,” Rounds said. “I went back to Rome and I believe that was when my spiritual director, now Archbishop Hebda, gave me an article on discernment. I devoured it. I was still unsettled and uneasy, but I was thinking it was time to leave, and time to follow a calling to marriage. I came home over Christmas and talked with Bishop (Carlson), and returned to Rome to finish the semester. But by the end, it was clear it was time to go.”

Discerning that a person does not have a vocation to the priesthood or religious life does not mean leaving behind what was learned and discovered, nor the relationships formed.
“I still have a love for silence and solitude,” Shaeffer said. “I avail myself to annual retreats and spiritual workshops. After being gone from the Heights in Aberdeen for 47 years, I still look forward to reconnecting with the sisters when I travel to Aberdeen. They welcome me back with open arms and loving hearts.”

Klein said, “In my discernment process I learned to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. I learned to trust in God and seek His intercession. To this day, I pray often for guidance from the Holy Spirit in my faith and daily work.”

“My parents stressed living their faith, praying and helping others and I learned from their example. My desire to help/serve others is something that was also a part of my seminary years and I tried to pass that on to my daughters and hope that they learn from my example,” he said.
He and wife JoEllen have three daughters; one is Sister Marie Estelle, a professed member of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart, Los Angeles. Daughters Erin Fernandez and Theresa Kutz are married.

Rounds said he draws on his seminary experience every day. “I have a morning prayer and accountability partner still. We try to face time for morning or other prayer whenever possible. I am one semester short of my full theology degree (STB), and am working to find a way to finish it. I would like to devote more and more of my time to theology and ministry as I get older.”

After seminary and college, Christenson worked for a year and then became a college missionary with FOCUS. He mow serves as Advancement Director for Newman Catholic Ministry in the Diocese of Sioux Falls. Now married and the father of two he said “I still reflect back to my silent retreat on a regular basis, as well as my prayer, and discernment during my year there. They really stressed the love of God the Father during my time there, and I still draw from times of prayer that brought me closer to Him.”

Another highlight often found among those who spent time in a religious community or seminary is extremely active and faithful parishioners. Among those in this article you will find lectors, religious education teachers, Altar Society presidents, Knights of Columbus and Catholic Order of Forester members, organists and choir members, parish and finance council members and much more. And beyond parish activities they are also active and leaders in their civic communities.

And based on their experiences, here is the advice they give:

Shaeffer: “Go to God in prayer. Be open to where God might be leading you. Don’t be afraid that you might make a mistake or make a wrong decision. As long as you are sincere in your desire to love and serve God----all will be well.”

Christenson: “My biggest piece of advice to anyone thinking about entering the seminary is just do it! You have nothing to lose, and so much to gain.”

Rounds: “I wish every man could experience two years of seminary. If you are considering it, GO. You will never be punished for listening. If you are not called to priesthood, you can still use what you gain to serve. If you are open and humble, the experience will completely transform you. Oh, and you don’t have to be perfect to go to seminary.”

Bitterman: “I know that Sacred Heart Monastery has ‘Come and See’ weekends which allow young women a chance to experience a religious community. It would be a good opportunity to unplug and take time to listen to God. It doesn’t matter which vocation you choose as long as God’s a part of the decision.”

Klein: “If one feels that they might be called to the priesthood or the religious life, they need to check it out and prayerfully consider what God may be calling them to. Understand that entering a seminary/convent does not mean that you will be ordained a priest or be a professed religious. Rather, it must be looked at as a process to learn more about one’s self, the call from God, and the direction that their life will take them. There is no shame in checking out the seminary/convent and discovering that God is calling them to another vocation. In fact, I admire those who have the courage to overcome any obstacles to discovering God’s call for their life.”

Diocese of Sioux Falls Vocations Director, Father Shaun Haggerty, understands the discernment process well, and supports those who have worked to understand where God might be leading them. His personal experience, which includes his twin brother, Shane, contributes to this understanding.

“God worked through him to help me go to the seminary. He was the holy one; I was not. Everyone in my family thought he would be the priest and I ended up being the priest,” Haggerty said.

“When I was in the seminary, some of the seminarians who inspired me the most, or I learned from the most, were men who later left the seminary. Though they left the seminary, they left a mark on my vocation and the entire ministry I do today. When we are generous with God, he does not waste our time. Our actions not only impact ourselves but others. Certainly my brother would say the seminary was the best time spent of his young adult life, but it not only benefited him, it also benefited me and those I minister to.”

Interested in learning more about discernment and vocations? Here is how in the Diocese of Sioux Falls

100 S 9th Street, Milbank, SD 57252 
Sr. Barbara Moerman, DSMP, Superior 
Sr. Mary Walker, DSMP, Administrator 
432-3171-tel * 432-3187-fax * srbarbaram@sbcglobal.net
506 N Summit Ave, Sioux Falls, SD 57104 
Mother Caridad Morales, Mother Superior 
(Perpetual Adoration Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament) 
336-2374-tel * 336-2374-fax * adoratrices571@yahoo.com
221 5th Street West, PO Box 67, Alexandria SD 57311 
Mother Marie Therese of the Child Jesus, OCD, Mother Prioress 
(Discalced Carmelite Nuns) 
239-4382-tel * 239-4676-fax
10 28th Ave SE, Watertown SD 57201
Sr. Marlene Minnaert, OSB, Prioress (Benedictine Sisters) 
882-6633-tel * 882-6600-main tel * 882-6658-fax * prioress@dailypost.com 
417 W Ash Ave, Mitchell SD 57301 
Sr. Loretta Von Rueden, OSF, Sister Leader (Franciscan Sisters) 
996-1410-tel * sistersofstfrancis@mit.midco.net
1500 N 2nd St, Aberdeen SD 57401 
Sr. Janice Klein, PBVM, President
(Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary) 
229-8419-tel * 229-8412-fax
1005 W 8th St, Yankton SD 57078 
Sr. Penny Bingham, OSB, Prioress 
(Benedictine Sisters) 
668-6000-main# * 668-6001 * 668-6153-fax * pbingham@mtmc.edu 
103 Church Lane, PO Box 204, Marty SD 57361 
Sr. Miriam Shindelar, OSBS, Community Leader 
(Oblate Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament) 
384-3305-tel * osbs@cme.coop
Office of Vocations
523 N Duluth Ave, Sioux Falls
Rev. Shaun Haggerty, Director 
605-988-3726 frshaunhaggerty@sfcatholic.org ` 

125 years of Catholic schools and education - a legacy of faith  
Friday, January 16, 2015  2:53 PM
Catholic education has played quite a role in our 125 year legacy. Even before our diocese was formed by Pope Leo XIII, Catholic education was taking place in our state. Bishop Marty started a school in Yankton, the Benedictine sisters moved to Zell, and the Presentation sisters were called to Aberdeen. These educators were called to meet the spiritual, physical, social, and academic needs of Native American and immigrant children. Over the years, countless numbers of religious and lay teachers have met the needs of children through Catholic education across our diocese. Hundreds of thousands of students have been given the gift of learning, practicing, and sharing their faith.

St. Teresa Catholic School in Huron opened its doors to students on November 11, 1929, staffed by the Presentation sisters. In a letter found in the cornerstone of that building, Father D. F. Desmond wrote, “This school, so long sighed for, so long prayed for, after many futile attempts, was begun to be erected June 1, 1929.” Father Desmond had purchased the land for the school 32 years earlier and construction had begun in 1921; but due to difficulty obtaining building materials and financial help, the school was not completed until 1929. Similar stories of sacrifice and hard work can be found in the history of Catholic schools across our diocese.

There have been many changes in Huron since the Presentation sisters first opened the doors of St. Teresa School. In 1961 the school was renovated and the name was changed to St. Martin Parish School. More recently three parishes have come together as one and built a beautiful Parish Life Center to house the Holy Trinity Catholic School and religious education programs. Our school enrollment has nearly doubled in the last ten years and we are serving a new and diverse population of students and families. Like the religious sisters who first came to South Dakota, we are working with new populations of immigrant and refugee students.Fifty percent of our preschool and pre-kindergarten students speak Spanish or Burmese as their first language and we are blessed at every grade level by Hispanic/Latino students who bring a diversity of culture and traditions to the classroom and our practice of the Catholic faith.

Although many things have changed over 125 years in our Catholic schools, the most important thing, our mission, has stayed the same. Our vision for the students at Holy Trinity Catholic School is that “In partnership with families, we strive to prepare our students to be faith-filled leaders and life-long learners dedicated to serving the Church and community.” All of the Catholic schools across the diocese have similar visions for their students. We are all striving for the same thing - students who live and share the Good News as disciples of Christ! It is what inspires us as we look into the faces of our students and accept the responsibility of guiding them in our faith.

As we celebrate 125 years as the Diocese of Sioux Falls we feel drawn together with the other schools in the diocese through our common mission and goals. This is why we are so excited for the opportunity to share in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with all of the Catholic school students in the Sioux Falls Diocese on January 21, 2015 in the Sioux Falls Arena. Yes, the logistics of traveling, eating lunch, and even bathroom breaks are a bit stressful, but the idea that we will be able to join our voices, hearts, and faith with hundreds of other students in the celebration of the Eucharist brings an overwhelming sense of joy. This opportunity will uplift our students in the moment, show them the real presence of Jesus, and stay with them for a lifetime. It will be a gift for our students. We cannot imagine a more fitting experience for our Catholic school students during this 125th Celebration of A Legacy of Faith.

Raising money for Be Free Ministry in Watertown  
Friday, January 16, 2015  2:49 PM
Several sisters from Mother of God Monastery, Watertown, recently spent an afternoon participating in a 5K walk/run to raise money for Be Free Ministry that helps victims of human trafficking.

Sister Teresa Ann monitored the HOPE display and talked to participants. (HOPE is a group of local residents in Watertown that meets monthly at the Benedictine Multicultural Center to pray and find ways to create awareness and assist victims of human trafficking on a local level.)

Along with Father Denis Meier, Sisters Eileen Brick and Terri Hoffman (pictured at right, left to right) walked.

White parish celebrates annual cemetery Mass  
Friday, January 16, 2015  2:42 PM
St. Paul Parish, White, recently celebrated their annual Cemetery Mass at Fairview Cemetery, White.

Mass was followed by a soup supper social at the church.

Father Andrew Dickinson, pastor, (pictured) celebrated the Mass with 35 parishioners in attendance.

Legislative session ready to get underway  
Thursday, January 15, 2015  9:55 AM
South Dakota's legislators have made preparations for the 2015 Legislative session and gotten the session underway..

Lawmakers were already work early on some issues through different panels and committees.

They had been discussing and exploring some issues that are sure to come before legislative committees and the entire legislative body when the legislature convened the 90th Legislative session on January 13 at noon.

The Diocese of Sioux Falls keeps up on issues that affect the Church and the diocese.

Travis and Kelly Benson will again be responsible for either being in Pierre or monitoring the activity of the lawmakers.

The Bensons have always encouraged people across the diocese to join the legislative process and share their faith with legislators during the session. They can do that by visiting www.sfcatholic.org/CAN to learn more about how to get involved in the grassroots public policy initiative of the diocese through the Catholic Advocate Network (CAN).

The Bensons can be reached at 605-988-3755 or via e-mail at kbenson@sfcatholic.org or at tbenson@sfcatholic.org.

Confirmation administered in Mitchell, Emery parishes  
Thursday, January 15, 2015  9:41 AM
Confirmation was celebrated at a number of parishes across the diocese recently including Mitchell and Emery.

Pictured at right (top): At Holy Spirit parish, Mitchell, Bishop Paul J. Swain bestowed the sacrament of confirmation on students from Holy Spirit Parish and Holy Family Parish, each of Mitchell. Forty-three students were confirmed during that liturgy. Concelebrants were Father Michael Schneider, pastor of Holy Spirit Parish (front right) and Father Larry Regynski, pastor of Holy Family Parish (front, left). Deacon Nick Baus, Holy Spirit Parish, assisted (front far right). 

Pictured at right (bottom): The 2013-14 confirmation class at St. Martin Parish, Emery recently received the sacrament of confirmation from Bishop Paul J. Swain. Father Dana Christensen, pastor of St. Martin Parish is pictured on the left.

Honor bestowed upon pastor for Hoven, Bowdle parishes  
Thursday, January 15, 2015  9:34 AM
Father Kevin Doyle recently received South Dakota Right to Life’s (SDRTL’s) highest honor, the 2014 SDRTL Humanitarian of the Year award.

Making the presentation is Spencer Cody, Hoven, SDRTL Board of Directors vice president.

Father Doyle was honored for regularly promoting in word and deed SDRTL’s mission, to defend human life from the moment of conception until natural death.

Father Kevin serves Hoven’s St. Anthony of Padua and Bowdle’s St. Augustine Parish.

Alexandria religious education students help others  
Thursday, January 15, 2015  9:20 AM
Recently the religious education students from St. Mary of Mercy Parish, Alexandria (pictured at right) conducted a door to door food drive in the community.

The students collected over 700 items for the Hanson County Food Bank.

Catholic Schools Week 2015 theme is “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service”  
Tuesday, January 13, 2015  10:00 AM
The Catholic schools of the Diocese of Sioux Falls will be celebrating Catholic Schools Week, January 25-31.

This year the week will have the theme of “Catholic Schools: Communities of - Faith, Knowledge and Service.”

Catholic Schools Week is a joint project of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

During Catholic Schools Week, each of the Catholic Schools across the diocese has a full slate of activities and projects to focus on the week’s theme and to share with family members, students and the respective communities, the value and contribution Catholic schools make to the diocese and the parishes and communities that host the schools.

This marks the 42nd observation of Catholic Schools Week.

Schools typically celebrate Catholic Schools Week with Masses, open houses and activities for students, families, parishioners and the community at large.

According to the NCEA, children are taught faith, not just the basics of Christianity, but how to have a relationship with God.

Diocesan seminarian installed as acolyte  
Tuesday, January 13, 2015  9:58 AM
Patrick Grode, seminarian of the Diocese of Sioux Falls, kneels (pictured at right, on the left) before Bishop Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, of the Diocese of Raleigh, NC, during Grode’s installation as an Acolyte.

Grode is in Theology I and continuing his studies at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary, Weston , MA.

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