July 15, 2024

By Wendy Royston

Bishop Donald DeGrood has spent his first two years as bishop working to move the faithful in the Diocese of Sioux Falls toward one goal, knowing that the faithful have a major role to play, especially through the Catholic Family Sharing Appeal.

“Through my prayer, I sense that God desires for everyone in our diocese to focus on being Lifelong Catholic Missionary Disciples Through God’s Love,” Bishop DeGrood said. “I also sense his desire for us all, clergy, religious and lay, to experience his love by living healthy, happy and holy lives so that we might humanly flourish and then receive God’s grace even more to spiritually flourish.”

The Catholic Family Sharing Appeal (CFSA) makes possible many of the direct programs and support programs for individuals and parishes. This year we’ll explore three recipients who are critical to a missionary Church in a secular world.

Vocations/Seminarians

Father Scott Traynor, vicar for lay and clergy for the diocese

CFSA sponsors much of the diocese’s clergy formation efforts, but the recent development of a propaedeutic (or pre-study) year adds a new opportunity for support.

“Seminary … is a busy and involved time,” Father Scott Traynor, vicar for lay and clergy formation, said, and this preparatory period allows time to establish a grounding in daily prayer, confidence in reading and understanding Scripture, and familiarity with the basic foundational teachings of the Church.

Father Traynor said this extra year before seminary is similar to the novitiate year that religious sisters spend becoming acquainted with their intended order before taking their vows. It is an opportunity for the man to not only learn more about the faith, but also to learn more about himself.

“(These) are kind of the formational elements of the propaedeutic period,” Father Traynor said, adding that “if there’s any good human growth that the man needs to mature in so that he can receive seminary formation eventually more fruitfully, we want to know what those things are up front. Just like in marriage, if there are any issues … you want those things to come to light during the time of preparation … so that, with time and grace, some greater healing and freedom can be there.”

The idea comes from the knowledge that the Church is in an apostolic age, during which the teachings of the Church are not embedded into secular life.

“We don’t live in a culture now where we can just assume that (a man) is familiar with Scripture, knows how to pray, and has a basic orientation to the foundational teachings of the Church at the catechism-level understanding,” Father Traynor said. “It is important that they not only know the academic subjects of philosophy and theology … but (also) to benefit from a Catholic vision of the human person—what we call human growth counseling—where he can learn how to flourish in (particular) areas of his life … in which he is maybe not flourishing quite as God would desire.”

Father Traynor said that, while providing for this experience does come at a cost, it is worth the investment.

“It really focuses us on being good stewards of the generosity of the people who support CFSA and the formation of their future priests,” he said. “Every parish is (impacted by) the outcome of what we do in priestly formation, so it is truly a diocesan effort. We all have a collective interest in doing the best job of forming our future priests, because they are the people who will be baptizing our children and anointing us when we are sick and witnessing our marriages and burying our beloved dead.”

The Lourdes Center

In keeping with Bishop DeGrood’s desire for healthy, happy and holy people throughout the diocese, The Lourdes Center (formerly Catholic Family Services) is embarking on a new journey to help lay people and clergy flourish in their lives, whether they’re in a time of crisis, transition or just seeking to grow more deeply into who God has called them to be.

Emily Leedom, executive director, says they are placing a greater emphasis on the social, emotional and relational needs of “people in the pews.”

Emily Leedom, executive director of The Lourdes Center

“We’re addressing what it means to be human and those challenges that each of us has to face as we transition through family dynamics, (or) through past hurts or wounds so that people can take the next step in their journey,” Emily said.

The Lourdes Center wants to help people address the pressures often experienced from the wider society. That desire drives The Lourdes Center to integrate the best of the psychological sciences with an authentically Catholic vision of the human person, at the service of human flourishing.

“We want to assist [the laity] to be who God made them to be, to help address the obstacles that are keeping them bound from being who they were created to be, so that they can be sent into the world and be fruitful in the way that God desires them to be fruitful,” Emily said.

Recently, a client of The Lourdes Center shared her family’s grief journey in an effort to help others navigate their first Christmas with an empty seat at the table.

Amber Kolousek made the first call to the agency at the urging of her pastor shortly after she and her husband, Scott Kolousek, lost their son, Jacob, in a farm accident in 2015. She spoke of those early days at a Lourdes Center event, “He is Stable: A Night for Grieving Hearts to Find Rest in His Peace,” at St. Therese Parish in Sioux Falls this past December.

“I kept feeling like I was walking in somebody else’s nightmare,” Amber told the crowd. “I prayed that somebody would fix this, whether that was a person or God, I didn’t know. All I could think of was my husband and my other three kids and how I could help them deal with their grief. This was going to affect them for the rest of their lives.”

Although they live closer to Mitchell where a variety of secular counselors are available, Kolousek said the decision to utilize The Lourdes Center was easy.

“I didn’t want someone giving another angle on grief that we, as Catholics, don’t believe,” she said. “I didn’t want anyone telling my kids that Jacob was definitely in heaven. And I wasn’t in the frame of mind that I wanted to be screening a bunch of counselors. I just wanted to talk to someone who I knew could help.”

After a few months, the family felt equipped to continue their grief journey together, leaning on the Church for support.

Emily said The Lourdes Center desires to accompany more families like the Kolouceks through challenges and equip them to be the Church to others.

“Sometimes we think of counseling as being only for those who have a major mental health diagnosis, but that’s not solely what we’re about,” Emily said. “We see a lot of individuals who are just seeking growth or an outside perspective. … The clients that we have who are getting the most robust, beautiful, well-rounded support are those who are in relationship with their priest, in relationship with their counselor and actively participating in the life of the Church. They will articulate to us … that this is how wellness is supposed to look.”

In the last year, Emily said the organization has seen a 30 percent caseload increase, not to mention record numbers getting involved with programming.

“Most people have had a heightened experience of stress, fear, anxiety and overwhelm in the last two years … because the world has felt really heavy,” she said. “We’ve seen an increase in the number of people who have said, ‘I just need some help navigating this so I can sleep at night,’ or ‘I just need some help navigating this because I feel myself increasingly tempted to numbify this experience with wine or food or pornography or whatever’—those things that we grasp at when we are feeling uprooted or anxious.”

Emily said funds from this year’s CFSA drive will, in part, help them add more staff, expand their programming and increase their capacity to be a resource to our schools and parishes. They plan to add programs to support hurting marriages, individuals experiencing same sex attraction and their families, and those struggling with pornography. Funds also help offset counseling costs for those who would not otherwise be able to receive the support they need.

The Lourdes Center continues to honor the legacy of the past while adapting to the needs of the day. Stay tuned to social media and the March Bishop’s Bulletin for more exciting changes coming to The Lourdes Center.

Christ the King Campus Ministry

More than a decade ago, Father Kevin O’Dell sought to fill a void for campus ministry in Sioux Falls when he invited college students to a special Sunday evening Mass at Christ the King Parish. Two years ago, Bishop DeGrood showed his support of that effort when he assigned Father Tyler Mattson as the first official director of Christ the King Campus Ministry.

In 2021, the diocese, with the financial and spiritual assistance of Christ the King Parish, hired a full-time lay minister, Cody Fischer, to assist Father Mattson, who also pastors parishes in Tea and Parker, with the work he’d already unofficially been doing for a year. The two then turned an unused chapel at the church into a student lounge.

As many as 85 students from the University of Sioux Falls, Augustana University and Southeast Technical College, as well as some who live in the city while taking classes elsewhere, converge for adoration, confession and Mass on Sunday evenings, and roughly two-thirds return on Wednesdays for Bible studies and other activities.

“College is a difficult time for a person. There’s a lot of influences, and not all those influences are helpful to somebody’s Catholic faith,” Father Mattson said.

Father Tyler Mattson, director of Christ the King Campus Ministry in Sioux Falls, leading Bible study with students

Approximately 85 percent of Catholic college freshmen stop practicing their faith prior to graduation, according to the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), and the presence of a campus parish can improve that average. Currently, four Newman Centers serve the needs of college students in Brookings, Vermillion, Aberdeen and Madison. But, in Sioux Falls, where there are multiple smaller campuses, one off-site gathering place made sense.

“We really want to be the home for any college student in Sioux Falls,” said Cody, who is no stranger to campus ministry as a former FOCUS missionary. “I think, if you were to take any one of those campuses and said, ‘Here are the Catholics from this campus,’ I don’t think you would have the gusto that we have.”

And Father Mattson says there are benefits to housing the ministry inside of a flourishing city parish. Christ the King Campus Ministry is “really unique from a Newman Center. They have the community with the college students, but they’re also always exposed to the wisdom of older parishioners, and they get to see good families and good married couples. One of the coolest parts that I’ve seen is the relationship between the students and the parish,” he said. “Some parishioners are interceding and praying for students and for events that we have going on,” while others are waiting for the next call to feed the students.

Olivia Dorsett, Webster native and student at Augustana University, said the ministry helps her live the Catholic faith she loves while pursuing her education on a Protestant campus.

“Doing a Bible study every week helps you learn how to read and better understand Scripture that’s read during Mass,” Olivia said. “When I can understand it better, I’m able to focus better. And I have little brothers, so when they can see me focusing [when returning to Mass in Webster], that pushes them to focus, too.”

Olivia Dorsett, Augustana University student from Webster

Olivia attended her first Mass and her first Bible study the same week last semester. Now, the freshman brings her Protestant friends along and is the ministry’s new community chair, working to create community among the city’s college students, beyond Mass, adoration and Bible study.

“It’s really awesome to go somewhere and know there are people who are your age and who are stressed out and who have other things going on, but also want to make time in their life for Jesus,” she said.

In between activities at the church, Cody meets students on each campus, in the middle of their chaos. So far this school year, he has made 100 new contacts, including more than 50 Catholics, while networking over lunches, coffees and study breaks with students.

CFSA helps fund the activities of Christ the King Campus Ministry, including Cody’s salary and the various activities, retreats and volunteer opportunities throughout Sioux Falls. Although it may be difficult for some donors to see a need to sponsor a ministry specific to young people, Father Mattson pointed out that “today’s college students are tomorrow’s parishioners.”

“Those students are maybe not in your community anymore for their time at universities … but leaving their hometown (doesn’t have to mean) leaving the practice of the Catholic faith. They still have those opportunities available to them,” Father Mattson said, adding that practicing their faith in college “actually can make their faith come alive in a new way.”

Give generously

“Catholic Family Sharing Appeal allows us to come together as a family to support each other not only in challenges, but also as each of us journeys on our way to heaven. As a family, God calls us to share those gifts and blessings with others,” Bishop DeGrood says. “I ask you to prayerfully consider how God is asking you to support the mission and vision of the Church for eastern South Dakota.”