Sunday, January 2, 2011

Fr. Steve Biegler fills in for bishop in Diocese of Rapid City

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The Rev. Steve Biegler has been running the Diocese of Rapid City in the absence of a bishop. Biegler is one of the Rapid City Journal's 11 in 2011. (Ryan Soderlin/Journal staff)

He does not get to wear a mitre or carry a crosier, but as the diocesan administrator for the Diocese of Rapid City, the Rev. Steve Biegler has most of the authority of a bishop.

“The hat and the stick? No … the crosier and mitre don’t go with the job,” said Biegler, describing the temporary position that has him leading the diocese in the absence of its bishop.

Western South Dakota Catholics have been without a bishop since September, when Bishop Blase Cupich left for the Diocese of Spokane. Biegler, 51, was chosen to manage the daily affairs of the diocese until a new bishop is appointed, which could happen as early as May or June, he predicts, or might take a year or longer.

Biegler can, however, perform confirmations, preside at diocesan-wide celebrations, admit seminarians and vote as a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — which he did at the conference’s most recent meeting in Baltimore.

The 51-year-old Catholic cleric, who grew up on a Timber Lake cattle ranch in a family of 13 children, didn’t go to seminary until he was 27. Educated in Rome and fluent in Italian, Biegler also was tapped by the diocese to oversee its Terra Sancta project, an ambitious $10 million-plus renovation that will convert the former St. Martin Monastery property into a spiritual retreat center and Catholic elementary school.

Like most big remodeling projects, Terra Sancta is complicated, especially since it is essentially two projects sharing one fundraising budget.

“It’s exciting. Is it a headache some days? Sure, but it’s exciting,” he said.

Doing double duty as diocesan administrator and a construction project manager is exhilarating, not exhausting, Biegler says.

But no matter how efficiently a diocese operates without a bishop in place, its people are anxious for a spiritual shepherd, Biegler said.

“Without a bishop, there’s something missing in the diocese,” he said. Rapid City Journal

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