Bishop-elect Donald DeGrood thankful for God’s graces and rural roots in new assignment

Bishop-elect Donald DeGrood (left) and Bishop Paul Swain share a moment at the press conference introducing the new bishop. (Photo by Kevin Fitzgibbons)

By Renae Kranz

The wait is finally over. On December 12, 2019, Pope Francis appointed Rev. Donald DeGrood as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Sioux Falls. He will be ordained and installed February 13.

Bishop-elect DeGrood will succeed Bishop Paul Swain after Pope Francis accepted Bishop Swain’s resignation. Per canon law, bishops are required to submit their resignation at age 75, which Bishop Swain did in September of 2018. Until Bishop-elect DeGrood is ordained, Bishop Swain will be the apostolic administrator for the diocese. He’s pleased to see the appointment come to fruition.

“The diocese will now have a discerning bishop who is well respected as a seasoned, prayerful, compassionate and upbeat priest who loves Christ and His Church,” Bishop Swain said during the press conference announcing the appointment. “Pope Francis appointed you to lead a very special diocese.”

Bishop-elect DeGrood contemplates his new role. (Photo by Kevin Fitzgibbons)

Bishop-elect DeGrood has been the pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Savage, Minnesota, in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis since 2017. He was at his parish in a meeting when he received the call from the Apostolic Nuncio in the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre. He had no idea why the Archbishop was calling him.

When Archbishop Pierre told him he had been selected as the next bishop of Sioux Falls, Bishop-elect DeGrood needed a little time to seek guidance. He knew where he needed to go and who he needed to talk to.

Father Kristopher Cowles (center), pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sioux Falls, shows the Bishop-elect his parish. (Photo by Matt Althoff)

“I immediately went to the adoration chapel and prayed, and God gave me a very particular grace, ‘I want you to say yes, and I will give you everything you need,’” Bishop-elect DeGrood said. “It was that grace that brought tremendous interior peace and joy that has continued to resonate in my heart.”

After accepting his new appointment, Bishop-elect DeGrood came to Sioux Falls where the announcement was made to see, in his words, “What did I get myself into?” He grew up on a farm in Faribault, Minnesota, and has wanted to be in a rural parish for most of his priesthood.

 

He meets with chancery staff. (Photo by Kevin Fitzgibbons)

“I’m a farm boy at heart. In fact, when I was discerning my vocation, I really wanted it to be in a rural diocese, and I was actually exploring a couple options,” Bishop-elect DeGrood said. “But the Lord was just very clear. That’s not what he wanted. So I thought, well, hopefully I’ll get assigned to a country parish, and I’ve asked many times for that and it never happened. All I can think of now is the message got confused getting to heaven that instead of just a rural parish the Lord must have gotten the message of a rural diocese.”

Bishop-elect DeGrood grew up in a close-knit family with four brothers (two of which are farmers today), and many aunts, uncles and cousins. Three aunts were religious sisters. Vocations ran deep in his family and made for profound witness to him. He continues to feel a closeness to his father and disabled uncle, both deceased, and senses their prayers for him and his vocation.

Bishop-elect DeGrood surprised a classroom of students at O’Gorman High School in Sioux Falls. (Photo by Matt Althoff)

He attended Catholic schools throughout his education, including the University of St. Thomas where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy in 1987. While working in the business world for several years, first as a manager for a large shoe retailer and then for Land O’Lakes as a feed specialist, he felt the call to the priesthood and wrestled with it. But once the call became clear, he sold his house, packed his belongings and made his way to seminary at St. Paul Seminary in 1993 where he earned a Master of Divinity. He was ordained a priest May 31, 1997.

Bishop-elect DeGrood has served as pastor at several parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. He was also a formator and spiritual director at St. John Vianney Seminary where he met and guided several priests from this diocese. Knowing those priests will help him settle in when he begins his new assignment here.

Bishop-elect DeGrood visits with a guest of the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House. (Photo by Matt Althoff)

For the next six weeks, Bishop-elect DeGrood will be preparing for this newest spiritual call. He will go on a required canonical retreat, wrap up his current pastoral assignment, and take some time to transition and move to Sioux Falls. It will be a hectic time.

“The Lord keeps trying to remind me to stay focused on Him,” he said. “We can overthink things or over plan things. We have to stay in the grace. I’m human like everyone else so it’s a constant effort. It’s important to stay consistent with my prayer life so I’m preserving that space for the Lord to be able to speak to my heart, to receive what I need, most of all His love so I can share that with others.”

Bishop-elect DeGrood has one request of his new diocese: pray for him.

Bishop-elect DeGrood greets a parishioner during his tour of the Cathedral of Saint Joseph. (Photo by Kevin Fitzgibbons)

“My great desire is that I might be a holy bishop. So the greatest thing anyone could do for me is really to pray and beg God for that grace,” he said. “If I can stay faithful to the Lord and stay connected to Him, He will handle everything else in His spiritual fatherhood. His love will flow into all of us and His will will be accomplished.”

More information and details regarding Bishop-elect DeGrood’s ordination will be in the February issue of The Bishop’s Bulletin. Additional informtion may also be found on the diocesan website, sfcatholic.org.