Rochester, MN. Wikimedia Commons

Sparks From Rapid City

The stories of Fr. Mark, who encountered the Movement when he was in Rochester for medical reasons, and of Fr. Jim, who travels hours to spend the evening with his friends in the Studium Christi.
Jerry Mahon

The state of South Dakota is 400 miles of beautiful prairie sandwiched between the western border of Minnesota and the eastern border of Wyoming.

Recently a young priest of 38 years visited me from Rapid City, SD. He suffered a heart attack five years ago and he has been doctoring with this heart condition during these years of uncertainty. Fr Mark has a gift for youth ministry and he was the pastor of four parishes. Since complications continue with his heart he had to let go of youth ministry in the diocese and four parishes and become the pastor of a larger parish near Rapid City. He had never heard of Communion and Liberation prior to his visit to Rochester.

After his visit he returned home and wrote his parishioners a letter and also included an Angelus card, and here is the rest of the story. Fr Mark names his letter “Sparks from Mark” and I quote:

“When I was at the Mayo Clinic several weeks ago, I stayed at St John’s parish in downtown Rochester. The pastor, Msgr Gerald Mahon, shared a special gift with me, the gift of hospitality. The week in Rochester touched my heart in many ways. In a special way my conversations with Msgr Mahon and a group of four laymen who live together in a house called Memores Domini, which is part of a movement in the Church known as Communion and Liberation. Also, I had an opportunity to spend an evening with a group of adults who are following the charism of Fr Giussani and they name this group the School of Community as they study lessons from Fr Giussani and become companions in order to reach out to the world. It was a powerful experience of adults searching and asking questions in their desire to follow Christ.

One of the things that really struck me when I was eating with Msgr Mahon and the members of Memores Domini is that they would begin every meal with the Angelus. I must confess it has been a long time since I prayed the Angelus; actually I was not sure how it exactly started. However, since then I have prayed the Angelus at every meal.

When I pray the Angelus, it reminds me and calls me to the reality, the mystery of the Incarnation of Christ in my life. I, too, like Mary am called to be the handmaid of the Lord, challenged to be the bearer of Christ to the world. Giussani changed the traditional way in which the Angelus is prayed by using only one Hail Mary and at the end adding the phrase Veni Sancte Spiritus. Veni per Mariam (Come Holy Spirit. Come through Mary). Msgr Giussani says that the Angelus and the ejaculatory Veni Sancte Spiritus. Veni per Mariam is ‘the synthesis of everything the liturgical year tells us, it is a synthesis of everything the memory of Christian life tells us. Because everything, everything comes from the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit of God who gives the possibility of being struck positively, and even fervidly, by vocation, by the grace of God in life–because vocation is the grace of God in life. It is through the Spirit that every person, like every being, enters into a vast design, as vast as the Father conceived it.’ During this Christmas season let us pray the Angelus as a community of faith before meals as a way to reflect more deeply on the Incarnation of Christ in our lives and that of Mary who was willing to be the bearer of the Christ Child in our midst.”

Fr Mark sent this letter to me and included his own personal note as follows:

“Again, I want to say thank you for all you did for me while I was in Rochester. Last week I met with six couples and another priest for dinner, and in the end, we decided to meet the third Saturday of every month for dinner and then to discuss a book. I was sharing with them my week in Rochester and we decided that the first book we will read is, At the Origin of the Christian Claim, perhaps this is a foretaste of what is to come.”

Now we need to move east river to Huron, SD, which is in the Diocese of Sioux Falls.

Fr Jim Zimmer is in our Studium Christi group that meets in Rochester. Once a month he travels five hours to meet on a Sunday evening and the next afternoon he drives back to his parish. This past summer, he loved the experience of the meeting in Rimini where he and two other priests from Studium Christ kept saying to me, “When did we stop thinking in America? When did we stop asking questions?” They found the Rimini experience to be exhilarating with all that was going on around them and a healthy push to explore all of the possibilities of this experience. Fr Jim also joined us at La Thuile and continued to explore, read and allow his heart to be nurtured by the charism.

When he returned we talked about his desire to begin a School of Community. He invited 6-8 friends to gather and they have met a couple of times. He is excited, and at the same time, realizes that it is slow and yet people are meeting one another through this companionship with a new depth of conversation and a way to look at life through the eyes of Fr Giussani.