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This Months Issue
December 2014

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Top Stories

How Do We Know Mary?
by - 12/12/2014

(Pictured at right, top): A statue of Our Lady of Fatima stands on the stage at the Diocesan Youth Conference as Bishop Paul J. Swain offers his homily to the congregation attending Mass at the conference. (Photo by Bill Sealey, Diocese of Sioux Falls) Pictured at right, bottom, the altar dedicated to Mary inside the Cathedral of Saint Joseph, Sioux Falls. (Photo by Gene Young)
Hail Mary, full of grace.
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.

It is Sunday morning, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Marion. One of the parishioners is leading others in the praying of the rosary. It’s been part of the Sunday parish activity for quite a while in Marion.

It is one of the ways the people of the parish know Mary, the mother of God, the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Perpetual Help or one of the other names or titles we use to refer to our Blessed Mother.

“Even though not many are present for the start of the rosary, those that come in later are somewhat inspired and encouraged to say the rosary at home,” said Father Hal Barber, pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

Praying the rosary, though, is not the only way people of the Marion parish come to know Mary. Father Barber brings Mary to the people often. “Of course whenever there is an opportunity to honor our Blessed Mother, I have done so in the homily at Sunday Mass,” he said. “There is something of a sacred trust living in a parish with Mary as our patron.”

Presenting Mary to his parishioners in his homilies is an approach Father David Axtmann often takes as well. But, it is far from his only approach to bring Mary to the people of Immaculate Conception Parish, Waubay and Christ the King Parish, Webster.

The Memorare is a sixteenth-century version of a fifteenth-century prayer that began “Ad sanctitatis tuae pedes, dulcissima Virgo Maria.” Claude Bernard (1588-1641) popularized the idea that the Memorare was written by St. Bernard.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known
that anyone who fled to thy protection,
implored thy help,
or sought thine intercession
was left unaided.

Inspired by this confidence,
I fly unto thee,
O Virgin of virgins, my mother;
to thee do I come,
before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful.

O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions,
but in thy mercy
hear and answer me.

Mary is the patroness of the Americas and the patroness of many dioceses across the country. She is known in many ways and by many names in the Church but Mary is the same throughout, the Blessed Mother of God, a patroness worth knowing and connecting with by each of us.
Many in the Church believe and advocate we should communicate with Mary through prayer seeking to know her better and to seek her intercession for us with Jesus, her son.

At the northern edge of the diocese, Father Axtmann uses many ways to keep his parishioners connected to and aware of Mary and all she does for the Church and its people. “Mary is also presented in RCIA classes, our CCD program and in parish bulletins,” said Father Axtmann. “In addition to speaking about Mary on her feast days, I almost always speak about her at wake services which include praying of the rosary.”

“Jesus gives us his mother to comfort us. She knew sorrow well,” Father Axtmann shared in a homily to his parishioners. “As Catholics we do not worship Mary. Worship is proper only to the three persons of the Trinity. The Church, however, rightly encourages us to venerate Mary, to imitate her, to pray to her for intercession and to foster devotion to her that will lead us closer to God.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church articulates how pivotal Mary was, is and shall be to the Church and her members, “The Virgin acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the redeemer....She is ‘clearly the mother of the members of Christ’...since she has by her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head.” (502)

The Catechism continues “Mary’s role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it. ‘This union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ’s virginal conception up to his death.’” (504)

For Father Axtmann, he likes to focus on proper devotion to Mary and how it points us and his parishioners to Jesus. “Mary through apparitions and through devotions to her has brought untold number of people to her son,” he said. “The impact on faith due to apparitions such as Fatima, Lourdes and Guadalupe is truly immeasurable. Mary always leads us to Jesus.”

Many of the faithful across the diocese find their way to Mary or to a greater awareness and contact with the Blessed Mother through their pastor. But they also find their way to knowing Mary better through other methods and through connections to their background, their heritage and their ethnicity.

Our Lady of Guadalupe
In the dioceses of the United States of America, Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated on December 12.

O God, Father of mercies,
who places your people under the singular protection of your Son’s most holy Mother,
grant that all who invoke the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe,
may seek with ever more lively faith the progress of peoples in the ways of justice and of peace.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

In Sioux Falls, parishioners of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish regular seek to connect with the patroness of the parish. “The parishioners regularly make visits to the church to pray before the image of Our Lady,” said Father Justin Wachs, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Moderator of the Curia for the diocese. “They light candles and often leave bouquets of flowers. They also have images of Our Lady in their homes and even have ‘altars’ for private devotion as a family.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe parishioners also gather for nine nights to pray the rosary for the repose of the soul of a departed loved one and to implore the intercession and consolation of Our Lady during the time of sorrow.

Many of the parishioners at Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sioux Falls, come from small towns in Central America where their churches are dedicated to Our Lady. “They often have special devotions to Our Lady around particular feast days which we try to enable at the parish here in Sioux Falls,” said Father Wachs. “Most especially, though, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is important for the Hispanic people.”

That feast is celebrated on December 12 and is preceded by a novena and then on the actual feast, the parish gathers at 6 a.m. to greet Our Lady in song and to pray the rosary. “Later in the evening, we have a solemn celebration of Holy Mass,” shared Father Wachs. “Depending upon when December 12 falls, there is a food sale on the nearest Sunday whereby we celebrate the best of Hispanic food and parish family life as well as the presence of Our Lady as our Mother.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe also has processions in May with the image of Our Lady and the parish crowns her as the parish’s Queen as part of the end of the parish’s religious education classes.

The key to knowing Mary more, better and deeper, according to every priest we spoke to about this topic is prayer. “We need to spend time with her in prayer”, said Father Wachs.

But he also says there is more too. “We need to reflect upon her life and her example of faith, hope and love. She is the most blessed of all women and she is so near to us. By reflecting upon her receptivity of God’s love and his will, we can grow in our own receptivity of his love and will. In this way, we, like Mary, will magnify the Lord in our own day.”

Prayer for Catholics can take many forms and come at different times. When it comes to knowing Mary better and more deeply, the rosary, while not an exclusive way to pray or to include Mary in our prayer life, does play a significant role in how we should and can encounter Mary each day. “We can only get to know someone if we spend time with them,” Father Wachs said. “The daily Rosary is the best way to spend time with Our Lady, to get to know her and to meditate with her on the life of her Son.”

Father Axtmann concurs. “My general perception is that Marian devotion centered on the rosary is strong in the parishes especially among the older generation,” he said.

This wonderful prayer evolved from a recitation of three Hail Mary’s following an evening bell around the 12th century to its present form (with morning and midday recitations) in the 16th century.

Leader: The angel of the Lord declared to Mary:

All: And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

L: Hail Mary, Full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
A: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

L: Behold the handmaid of the Lord:

A: Be it done unto me according to Thy word,

Hail Mary...

L: And the Word was made Flesh:

A: And Dwelt among us.

Hail Mary...

L: Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,

A: that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

L: Let us pray:

A: Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord.

L: Amen.

Monsignor Charles Mangan, in his role as director of the Marian Apostolate for the diocese, also takes a variety of approaches to presenting Mary to the people of the diocese and assisting them in knowing Mary better and more closely. “I use various methods, especially homilies during Masses and Holy Hours, the public recitation of the Most Holy Rosary, our diocesan Marian Conference, talks, days of recollection, classes, films, books, articles, arranging for guest speakers and the radio program, ‘Morning Star’ on the Lamb Catholic Radio Network along with its blog,,” said Msgr. Mangan.

The Marian Apostolate was established in the Diocese of Sioux Falls by Bishop Paul J. Swain in 2009. Bishop Swain “decreed that its purpose is ‘to increase awareness of and appreciation and love for the presence of Mary the Mother of God in the Diocese of Sioux Falls’,” said Msgr. Mangan. “Our Lady is already present...she is known and loved. Now, we must do all that we can to increase our awareness of her presence and our understanding of her person and mission.”

In addition to all the methods and approaches taken by priests of the diocese to bring the people closer to Mary and to promote a better knowledge of the Blessed Mother, Msgr. Mangan points out that many people remain connected to Our Lady through the appearances she has made through history to people in different parts of the world. “Yes, there is much interest in the apparitions of Our Lady…” he said. “Those whom I encounter are fascinated by Our Lady’s messages during the various apparitions, especially those that occurred in Guadalupe, Mexico in 1531, in Lourdes, France in 1858 and in Fatima, Portugal in 1917. Additionally, the first approved Marian apparition in the United States of America, namely near Champion, Wisconsin in 1859 and under the title, ‘Our Lady of Good Help,’ has garnered significant attention.”
Back in the southern part of the diocese, you can often find members of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, Dante and St. John the Baptist Parish, Wagner along South Dakota Highway 46. They are either processing to or already praying at the Knights of Columbus “Pray for Peace” Shrine.

The shrine highlights Our Lady of Fatima.

Father Richard Baumberger, pastor of the two parishes, gladly shares how parishioners utilize the shrine to better know Mary and to make a difference. “Among other prayer gatherings, since Mary appeared on the 13th of six consecutive months in 1917, we gather on the 13th of each month May through October to pray the rosary and learn about Mary’s apparitions at Fatima, Portugal, in 1917”, he said.

In his parishes, Father Baumberger also points out that parishioners utilize the rosary in other ways too. As in other parishes, the religious education classes begin with praying of a decade of the rosary, Eucharistic processions include praying of the rosary and one parishioner goes an extra step. “Mary Cotton makes and distributes rosaries,” said Father Baumberger. “She has also taught two high school students to make rosaries as well.” Cotton has been instrumental in introducing the parish to “The Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of Mary.”

Father Baumberger promotes Mary and getting to know her as well as we can every chance he gets.

Devotions such as the brown scapular, the angelus, the miraculous medal, the litany, the memorare and statues of Mary in private yards are not as evident across the diocese as much as they once were. So pastors like Father Axtmann continue to promote praying of the rosary before each weekend Mass and before the celebration of Mass at the area nursing home. Father Axtmann looks to bring people to better know Mary one person at a time and one opportunity at a time, whether at Mass, afterward or even one on one with people he encounters.

In Waubay and Webster, the Catholic Daughters of the Americas lead the rosary at every wake. They pray the rosary before their meetings. The Knights of Columbus have promoted Marian devotion through the use of traveling icons and paintings in the northern reaches of the diocese.

The apparitions of Mary at Lourdes, Fatima and Guadalupe are well known and the miracles surrounding those apparitions give strong support to devotion to Mary. Some of Father Axtmann’s parishioners have visited the sites and shared their experiences, another way of promoting and introducing Mary to others. “Personally I had the opportunity to be at the celebration of our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12, 2013 in Mexico City,” said Father Axtmann. “It was a joy to share this powerful experience with the parish and to attempt to convey how strong and deep the devotion to Mary is and has been in the Catholic Church in Mexico.”

Efforts to help people of the parish and the diocese know Mary better and more deeply is regular and ongoing for many pastors. “Marian devotion should lead us to a deeper personal relationship with her son, Jesus. By imitating her virtues we can grow in holiness,” said Father Axtmann. “And fostering true devotion to Mary is an important part of helping Catholics to have a vibrant faith. The lives and testimony of many of our greatest saints attest to the importance of this aspect of our faith.”

Yet he also recognizes and realizes that Catholics, including those of our diocese, differ widely in their devotion to Mary. “Some have been persuaded to accept the argument that they should go directly to Jesus. St. Simon de Montfort’s response is that offering our petitions through Mary can be likened to offering them on a silver platter rather than on our own soiled and broken plates,” Father Axtmann pointed out.

Others have developed a deep trust in Mary, because of prayers answered. Faith formation has a great influence in this area.

“The ultimate goal is salvation of souls,” said Father Axtmann. “Mary is a sure and safe way to accomplish this. This is her principal role as our spiritual mother.”

Msgr. Mangan suggests a number of things people can do and be open to in fostering a better understanding of Mary, the Blessed Mother. “Receptivity to the Holy Spirit, daily prayer, frequent and worthy reception of the sacraments, especially confession and the Most Blessed Eucharist, regular acts of charity and penance, use of the Marian sacramentals (for example, the Most Holy Rosary, the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the Miraculous Medal) and a deeper understanding of the Church’s teaching in general with a particular emphasis on her Marian dogmas and doctrines, he said.”

He comes back to praying of the rosary as key. “It is a time-honored devotion that may be prayed by all persons in diverse circumstances,” Msgr. Mangan said. “Even when we are tired, upset or distracted, the ‘telling of the beads’ is noble and effective. During the most famous apparition of the last one hundred years, Our Lady asked the three devout but illiterate children of Fatima to pray the Most Holy Rosary daily. By extension, she asks the same of us.”

Msgr. Mangan points out that Mary is more relevant, more important and worth forging a greater and closer relationship with now more than ever. “She is the star of the new evangelization,” he said. “She is not optional, not an add-on. She remains an integral part of the Depositum Fidei, also known as Divine Revelation. We must plead with the Holy Spirit for renewed love of Our Blessed Mother not only for ourselves but also for all peoples.”

“As someone has put it, ‘Know Mary, know Jesus. No Mary, no Jesus,’” Msgr. Mangan said.

Father Wachs believes that we can never be too close to Mary, “the closer we are to her, the closer we come to her Son.”