Welcoming Our New Director

Frank Birkholt, Newman Center Director

Greetings! My name is Frank Birkholt, I am the director here at the Rapid City Newman Center. What an honor it is to be working here at this faith filled center located so close to my Alma Mater. I look forward to serving all college aged students here in Rapid City.

I was born and raised in western South Dakota, attending Hot Springs High School and then South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science in 1987. 

My work career has ranged from software development to oil and gas exploration. I am a grateful husband of a fantastic wife of 29 years, a father of two wonderful children and grandfather of a beautiful granddaughter.

I was blessed to have been born into a Catholic family, receiving my sacraments at St. Anthony’s parish in Hot Springs. I love our Lord Jesus Christ and desire to grow closer to Him, the sacramental life is a major component of this journey toward Christ. I pray my journey and witness will inspire those that I interact with at the Newman Center.

Finding Faith During Unprecedented Times

Brendan Murphy, Former Director

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The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly left an indelible mark on our daily lives and our faith community. This past March proved to be very challenging to our daily operations here at the Newman Center as it did on campus operations at SD Mines. After a brief shutdown here, where we closed the doors for just a few days. It was then that Fr. Mark reminded me that we should not live in fear, but trust in the Lord and know that he will help us through these unprecedented times.

 

We gladly opened up our doors once again and adjusted our daily routines and even found ourselves embracing new technology to bring the Word of God to the masses. We started livestreaming daily Mass and our Sursum Corda, or praise and worship nights. In fact, we adjusted our routine so much that we even moved our daily Masses and Sursum Corda over to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, which allowed us to accommodate Mass attendance that our small chapel would not allow due to CDC guideline restrictions and physical distancing requirements.

 

Finding faith in crisis is a new challenge for us all. We had to break out of established patterns and begin serving with a new “missionary mindset.” In a way, It allowed us the opportunity to move from a maintenance mindset to one that focused on mission.   As a result, we ultimately eliminated physical barriers (dispensation for attending mass due to Covid concerns) so that our Newman Center could focus more on meeting individual spiritual needs (livestreaming and changing mass location to allow for many more to attend) in a time like no other.

 

When Covid restrictions forced us to spend time in our faith like we had never done before, I think it allowed us all to focus our faith in a positive way on being a community of faith on a mission. My hope during this unprecedented time of Covid is that our deep connection to our faith brings out the best in all of us throughout our local community and also throughout the country.

 

The students that attend SD Mines, SDSU and USD extension programs come to the Newman Center to feel a sense of community, a place to strengthen their faith, to come to their home away from home.  Despite the challenges of physical distancing and limited contact, our desire to connect with others and remain “socially connected” is more prevalent now than ever before.  So, as we continue on in our ministry here at the Newman Center, I promise you that we will continue to provide our students with many opportunities to encounter the Lord.   We all hunger for Christ in our life.

 

We all hunger for faithfulness and holiness, and now we’re being challenged to do that in different ways. Even in these challenging and unprecedented times, we will continue to live out our mission because we have a real sense that we are all on this journey of faith together.  We are a strong community of faith here at the Newman Center and living in fear is not in our vernacular because we know Christ is with us each and every day. We find faith and solace in the Lord, so come join us on our journey of faith!

The Pursuit of Truth

Michael and Mindy Mansfield, CE 2019

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When Michael and Mindy met at their Fluid Mechanics class, they had a few things in common: they were both studying Civil Engineering, they both grew up Catholic, and they both were involved in InterVarsity, a non-denominational evangelical group on the campus of SDSM&T. A common friend invited them to a fluids study group and, in spending time together, they desired to get to know each other more. Michael, who grew up Catholic, considered himself no longer Catholic, but Evangelical in his college years. He asked Mindy out on a date, and over a cup of hot cocoa, they discussed Mary and the differences between Catholicism and Evangelical Protestantism. They made a promise to each other, one that Mindy felt was a great act of faith and put her belief in the Catholic Church on the line. They promised that they would search for TRUTH together and accept whatever it was that they found.

 

Days turned into weeks, which turned into months, and they found themselves more involved in Intervarsity and becoming more involved in the life of the Rapid City Catholic Newman Center. It was Fr. Dillon, the chaplain during that time, who was a great solace to Mindy and helped answer many questions that they both had about the many intricacies of the Catholic faith. It is no surprise that, in their pursuit of truth and beauty, they found it in many facets of their lives. That included things such as the friendships, community life, the liturgies, the Eucharist reserved in the chapel, and in the times of prayer and study at the Newman Center.

 

When it became clear that Mindy was the one Michael wanted to spend the rest of his life with, he proposed to her after spending some time together in adoration at a parish in Kansas City during their summer internship. Then in their senior year, the Newman Center had it’s first ever Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) team and both Michael and Mindy were interested in a deeper life of discipleship under FOCUS missionaries. They both led Catholic bible studies on campus, were in one on one  discipleship, and built a deeper relationship with Christ their senior year.  Traditionally, the bride wants to celebrate the wedding in her home parish, but because of the ministry of the Newman Center and their involvement, Mindy said “Mike and I love the Newman Center and couldn’t imagine getting married anywhere else! It has been a beautiful place for us to grow in our Catholic Faith and make authentic friendships.”

 

So, this August, Michael and Mindy, together with friends from the Newman Center, Intervarsity, and their families, pledged their lives to each other in the culmination of their search for Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. Now that they are graduate students and live off campus. They spend more time at the Newman Center between classes, finding time for personal prayer, and time together to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The experiences they’ve had at the Center give them hope that as they move to Kansas City, continuing their Graduate program, that they will find the same fellowship and community life in their new Catholic parish as they start a beautiful family and life away from SDSM&T. They both feel blessed to have been around the Newman Center - centered on Christ. 

Chaplain's Corner

Fr. Mark McCormick, Newman Center Chaplain

The Rapid City Catholic Newman Center serves the students from SD Mines, however, we do have students from the SDSU and USD Nursing Programs and Western Dakota Tech, who participate and are involved in the life of the Newman Center too.

 

The ministry at the Newman Center is supported and funded by the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. We are grateful to Fr. Christensen, his staff, and parishioners who generously fund the ministry and outreach to the students who have made the Newman Center their second home. We are also grateful for other friends of the Newman Center, who support our mission at the Newman Center in fostering a personal and intimate relationships with Jesus that is Eucharistic and cultivating true friendships in our Newman community.

 

I thoroughly enjoy being the chaplain at the Newman Center. It has been a great blessing to me in many ways in accompanying the students in their walk with Jesus. It is exciting to see Christ come alive in our hearts of our students through their faithful participation in the Eucharist, Adoration, Confession and FOCUS Missionary and student led Bible studies.

 

One of the main challenges of our Rapid City Newman Center the last six months as well as other Newman Centers and parishes across the country is a lack of funding to support our vibrant and growing ministry due to the coronavirus pandemic. Our annual budget at the Newman Center was $168,000, however in July we had to cut our budget by 25% or by $42,000.

 

I was not sure what to do with our budget shortfall except to turn to Jesus in prayer. One day in my prayer I felt Jesus inviting me to call a number of our recent graduates from SD Mines who were also active in the Newman Center community. The Lord placed the names of 12 students on my heart. In 1 John 4:1 we hear we are called to test every spirit to see if it is from God or not. So, I decided to call these 12 individually and to let them know of our current situation we are facing at the Newman Center. I asked these 12 graduate students first to sit before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and to invoke the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. I asked them to pray about what made the Newman Center such a big part of their college experience while they were at SD Mines. 

I also asked him to think about what the Holy Spirit might be inviting them too. I said to them if they were interested in furthering this conversation to join the Director of the Newman Center Brendan Murphy and myself in a zoom meeting on a Saturday morning. All 12 of them showed up for the Zoom meeting. We had great prayer and lively conversation about their time at SD Mines and the Newman Center.

 

One by one each of them began to express their desire to help the Newman Center out through their prayer and financial assistance. Caitlin Honen suggested that we start a Newman Center Alumni Association, which I thought was an excellent idea. During that first Zoom meeting I definitely felt the spirit alive in our conversation.

 

Several months later we had another Zoom meeting to further our conversation. Eight out of the twelve showed up for the Zoom meeting and the other four responded back that even though they could not make the Zoom meeting they were still interested in being involved in forming a new Newman Center Alumni Association.

 

I wanted to share part of the second Zoom conversation with you.

 

Alex Schimbeno: “I lost signal, but thanks for having me! Let me know what the next steps are, and I’ll be sure to pray about it. And also, a name idea ARC-NC (Alumni of the Rapid City Newman Center). Arcs are the shape of many bridges, and we can act as a bridge to alumni and students.

 

Samuel Caroll: “Dude I’m a fan”

 

Katherine Giorgio: “I love the symbolism!”

 

Michael Mansfield: “We will make a civil engineer out of you yet!”

 

Alex: “Keep dreaming Mike haha XD”

 

As you can imagine we have a lot of fun during our Zoom meetings too. I am excited to see where the Holy Spirit will lead and surprise us with ARC-NC down the road. I wanted to thank the 12 founding members of ARC-NC for stepping up and out in faith.

 

We are Hardrocker Catholic.

GAINING FOCUS

by Debra Bienert, Newman Advisory Board President and Lecturer – SDSM&T Department of Mathematics

by Debra Bienert, Newman Advisory Board President and Lecturer – SDSM&T Department of Mathematics

FOCUS is coming to the Rapid City Newman Center! FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) is present on over 130 campuses across the country. Their commitment to the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology (SDSM&T) means FOCUS is active at 5 of the 6 universities here in SD. A FOCUS team of two young men and two young women will be arriving in Rapid City in early August to work with the students at SDSM&T over the coming academic year. We hope to continue our relationship with FOCUS well into the future. They have been trained in church teaching, prayer, Sacred Scripture, and evangelization and discipleship. There are over 650 missionaries just like them working with chaplains and campus ministers across the country.

 

Young people today are bombarded with video games, the world wide web, electronic toys, texting, and propaganda, all aimed at making them happy. But true happiness eludes them, and depression is far too common. Never have young people been more vulnerable and never has filling their hearts and minds with something meaningful been more important.

 

College and life’s challenges are stressful and an often-ignored element to help students deal with this stress is their faith. Over 80% of young people will leave their faith by the age of 23 and the fastest growing religious demographic in the United States are people who list their faith as ”unaffiliated”. The faith of our young people is the future of faith in this country.

 

FOCUS will provide one-on-one authentic friendships with real conversations with the students. FOCUS will be building community with face to face fellowship giving students the opportunity to grow, to serve, and to teach others while they share the message of Jesus Christ. FOCUS wins the hearts of college students, builds them in their faith, and sends them into the world to impact others.

 

The four missionaries that are coming to Rapid City are spending the month of July raising funds to help support their time here in Rapid City. Having four missionaries on campus requires a significant investment of $68,000. The Diocese and the Cathedral have committed $30,000 for one year; the Advisory Board to the Newman Center is helping with support; and we are asking for your help as well to guide our young people in lives of virtue and excellence in the name of Jesus Christ. Please give; the need has never been greater. As St. John Paul II said, “The greatest deception and the deepest source of unhappiness, is the illusion of finding life by excluding God.” Please help our young people find God.

FOCUS is coming to the Rapid City Newman Center! FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) is present on over 130 campuses across the country. Their commitment to the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology (SDSM&T) means FOCUS is active at 5 of the 6 universities here in SD. A FOCUS team of two young men and two young women will be arriving in Rapid City in early August to work with the students at SDSM&T over the coming academic year. We hope to continue our relationship with FOCUS well into the future. They have been trained in church teaching, prayer, Sacred Scripture, and evangelization and discipleship. There are over 650 missionaries just like them working with chaplains and campus ministers across the country.

 

Young people today are bombarded with video games, the world wide web, electronic toys, texting, and propaganda, all aimed at making them happy. But true happiness eludes them, and depression is far too common. Never have young people been more vulnerable and never has filling their hearts and minds with something meaningful been more important.

 

College and life’s challenges are stressful and an often-ignored element to help students deal with this stress is their faith. Over 80% of young people will leave their faith by the age of 23 and the fastest growing religious demographic in the United States are people who list their faith as ”unaffiliated”. The faith of our young people is the future of faith in this country.

 

FOCUS will provide one-on-one authentic friendships with real conversations with the students. FOCUS will be building community with face to face fellowship giving students the opportunity to grow, to serve, and to teach others while they share the message of Jesus Christ. FOCUS wins the hearts of college students, builds them in their faith, and sends them into the world to impact others.

 

The four missionaries that are coming to Rapid City are spending the month of July raising funds to help support their time here in Rapid City. Having four missionaries on campus requires a significant investment of $68,000. The Diocese and the Cathedral have committed $30,000 for one year; the Advisory Board to the Newman Center is helping with support; and we are asking for your help as well to guide our young people in lives of virtue and excellence in the name of Jesus Christ. Please give; the need has never been greater. As St. John Paul II said, “The greatest deception and the deepest source of unhappiness, is the illusion of finding life by excluding God.” Please help our young people find God.