Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
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Bishop Cupich honored by Rapid City Catholic Social Services Board
Story and photo by Laurie Hallstrom
(From the November 21, 2013 edition of the Inland Register)
Bishop Cupich was honored with the Founder’s Award from Catholic Social Services in the Diocese of Rapid City, S.D. (IR photo)
The Rapid City Diocese’s Catholic Social Services (CSS) Board of Directors held its Annual Meeting Sept. 20 in Rapid City. S.D.
In addition to recapping fiscal year 2012/2013 service statistics, the 2013 Founder’s Award was presented to Bishop Blase Cupich, who served as the Bishop of Rapid City from 1998-2010.
The Founder’s Award is given to people, communities or organizations that exemplify the spirit of the CSS founder, Msgr. William O’Connell.
The Rapid City Diocese’s Chancellor, Margaret Simonson, pointed out that the annual meeting honoring Bishop Cupich was on the eve of the 15th anniversary of his episcopal ordination.
“Bishop Cupich knew that in order to help the poor and underprivileged, it would be necessary to ensure the financial stability of CSS so it would continue to operate programs and then increase outreach to the far corners of the diocese,” said Simonson.
She said he encouraged the CSS board members to pursue additional grant sources to support programs and to expand fundraising activities. Bishop Cupich also convinced CSS Executive Director Jim Kinyon to have the annual Palm Sunday Brunch underwritten by sponsors and, instead of selling tickets, ask for freewill donations.
“Bishop Cupich engaged nationally-known speakers at no expense to CSS, which increased attendance,” said Simonson.
The bishop also hosted a reception for the speaker and event sponsors at his home.
According to Simonson, to further raise money for CSS, the bishop participated in the Propagation of the Faith program whereby members of the clergy preach outside the diocese in order to appeal for donations. He instituted an annual Ash Wednesday collection to benefit CSS as well.
Simonson also said that the Hispanic community benefited greatly by Bishop Cupich having a diocesan priest trained to offer Spanish Masses, reconciliation and sacramental preparation.
Tom Fritz, a friend of the bishop, spoke next. He recalled the bishop’s effort to build the Casa Maria Priests Retirement Home in Piedmont, and then the conversion of the St. Martin Monastery and school – St. Martin Academy, Rapid City – into Terra Sancta, a spirituality center.
“I represented the Benedictine Sisters when they wanted to sell St. Martin,” said Fritz. “Several of them wanted to sell to the diocese because they thought that was part of their mission.” Although it came at a time of economic downturn, Bishop Cupich formed a fundraising committee to purchase and renovate the facility.
“When people see what they’ve done – the grade school that’s operating out there – it’s just a crown jewel. It takes my breath away to see all those little kids ... getting an education in that building.”
Fritz then commented on the conversion of the monastery convent into a retreat center, which is very busy: “I was out there the other night. The fireplace was going and people were visiting. It’s absolutely phenomenal in my mind.”
The concluding speaker on behalf of Bishop Cupich was Barb Honeycutt, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Rapid City Catholic School System.
“Your years as our bishop were a time of great blessing for the schools,” she said. “The schools were encouraged to establish their own foundation. The $4.1 million endowment for excellence in education set the stage for financial stability. It offers capital revenue in the areas of staff benefits, facilities, and tuition assistance.”
The support, she said, paved the way for the RCCSS to be the first non-public school in South Dakota to be awarded the seal of district accreditation. Honeycutt said, “St. Elizabeth Seton School at Terra Sancta is not only doing well, it is thriving,” with 359 children this year, 73 of whom are in preschool.
The award for Bishop Cupich was presented by Board President Stephanie Hurd and (founder) Msgr. William O’Connell. The bishop was also given a Jon Crane watercolor print of the Immaculate Conception Chapel and the former CSS building on Fifth St.
After receiving the plaque, Bishop Cupich addressed the audience of 300 people.
“I am motivated to take on this honor; just maybe I can be inspired as I see this in my office. I can remember the kind of shepherd I need to be, to remember (Msgr. O’Connell) is a man who has given his life, who has inspired us in so many different ways and continues to inspire me.
“That is why I asked the priests and the people of this diocese, early on, to make their Lent shaped like bookends with Catholic Social Services – Ash Wednesday at the beginning of Lent and towards the end, Palm Sunday Brunch.”
At the end of the ceremony, Bishop Robert Gruss, the present bishop of Rapid City, congratulated Bishop Cupich.
“I appreciate all you’ve done for the diocese … it has been a joy these past two years for me to be here, to follow in your footsteps. Thank you.”
(Hallstrom is editor of the West River Catholic, the newspaper of the Diocese of Rapid City, where this article and photo originally appeared. Reprinted by permission of West River Catholic, Diocese of Rapid City, S.D.)
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