July 15, 2024

When I was a senior at Aberdeen Central High School, I was the editor of the school newspaper, “The Blue and Gold.” My dad, at the time, was the editor of the city newspaper, “The Aberdeen American News,” so most people assumed I was active in journalism due to my dad, but there is also a good chance that it was because my sister Christy was the editor of “The Blue and Gold” when she was a senior.

It might have been family tradition, but there is something to be said for sibling competition as well.

Either way, when I enrolled at South Dakota State University I declared print journalism as my major. I enjoyed the classes and the internships; I was fascinated by the history of journalism and the challenge of crafting a new story; I learned the importance of layout and even how to develop my own pictures.

As I was getting close to graduating, I began the work of entering the seminary. My journalism advisor was not a fan of the idea. A few days after graduating, she called me and asked me to take a job in Wall, SD, and I told her I would be happy to, as long as they knew it was only for the summer.

She said, “We’ll see.”

A few days later I moved to Wall and discovered that I had not taken the job of a reporter, but I was the editor of the “Pennington County Courant.” Well, to be honest, I was the editor, and the reporter, the photographer, I helped lay out the paper, inserted the TV guide and delivered the papers to the stores and post office.

It was great, and I did think a bit about keeping the job when the summer ended, but after a long Saturday walk through the Badlands, I decided to go to the seminary. I thought my journalism career was at an end.

Then, a few months after my ordination, and based solely on the fact that I had a degree in journalism, I was asked to write a monthly column detailing the trials and tribulations of a newly ordained priest, “The Rookie Priest.”

A few years after that, Bishop Carlson assigned me to be the editor of “The Bishop’s Bulletin.” I was enormously grateful to be able to continue my journalism career, even as a priest. The years have passed and the newspaper I took over has become a magazine. There is color now and new ways of telling the story of our diocese, but still, as for the last 30 years, there has been this column; from “The Rookie Priest” to this, my last column.

I would like to thank Bishop Dudley, God grant him rest, Bishop Carlson, Bishop Swain and Bishop DeGrood for giving me a space to share my journey each month for the last 30 years.

As I write this final column, I want to also thank you for letting me be a part of your journey of faith; it has been a gift.

It has been an extraordinary privilege to be able to speak to all of you, and to share some of the aspects of my life, and I have been touched by the cards and letters and notes I have received over the years.

So many of those greetings have expressed an appreciation for how this column seemed so “down to earth,” finding the divine in the usual and ordinary aspects of our human lives. Whenever I would read something like that I would smile.

Knowing I had to write this column each month changed the way I looked at the world. Knowing I would have to write something, I usually went through my life noticing things, keeping events and stories in mind and trying to find the presence of God within them so I could write about them, and share them with all of you.

There is so much beauty and wonder in the ordinary aspects of our lives, the presence of God pulsing through our days, and I have been challenged all these years to seek it, and in finding it, share it with others.

Now, it’s your turn.