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Bishop Muhich of Rapid City, S.D., dies from cancer after entering hospice

Bishop Peter M. Muhich of Rapid City, S.D., revealed Feb. 14, 2024, that he is entering hospice due to cancer. He is pictured in an undated photo. (OSV News photo/courtesy Diocese of Rapid City)

(OSV News) — The Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota, announced “with sorrow” that its shepherd, Bishop Peter M. Muhich, died Feb. 17.

“Bishop Peter, 62, was in hospice care after suffering from esophageal cancer. Please continue to pray for the soul of our shepherd,” the diocese said in a statement. “Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may your perpetual light shine upon him.”

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Two days earlier a message from the Diocese of Rapid City called for a novena for their bishop Feb. 15-22, the feast of the chair of St. Peter. “In our prayers for Bishop Peter leading up to this feast, we are also giving thanks for his leadership and imploring the Lord that we may enjoy this leadership for more years to come,” it said.

On Feb. 14, Bishop Muhich had announced he was moving into hospice treatment, and planned to offer his suffering from cancer to increase devotion to the Eucharist.

“I have reached another step along my journey with cancer. Despite the best efforts of my health care team, all treatment options have been exhausted and there is no more that can be done without causing greater harm to my system,” Bishop Muhich said in an announcement released by the diocese. “Therefore I have accepted the recommendation of my doctors and will move to hospice as soon as a space is prepared for me.”

Bishop Muhich said that “through the coming weeks or months, as God wills,” he planned to handle “as much of the administrative work of the diocese” as he could manage with the aid of his “capable vicars and chancellor.”

“I offer all my sufferings for a true Eucharistic Revival in our diocese,” he added.

In a July 6, 2023, message, Bishop Muhich revealed doctors had discovered a cancerous tumor in his lower esophagus, and planned to treat it with radiation and chemotherapy. Both interventions had left him weak and unable to eat solid food, he admitted.

In that same message, Bishop Muhich invited the faithful to seek the intercession of Servant of God Nicholas Black Elk for both him and for fellow cancer sufferer Father Andrzej Wyrostek, pastor of Our Lady of the Black Hills Parish in Piedmont, South Dakota.

In an email provided to OSV News by the diocese, Father Wyrostek said he had been diagnosed with leukemia about a year ago, only to learn in May 2023 that he also had cancer in both of his kidneys, which appeared to have been successfully treated through two surgeries. He asked “for the graces needed for the canonization of Nicholas Black Elk.”

Black Elk, known in his native Oglala Lakota as Heȟáka Sápa, was a Catholic convert and catechist whose cause for canonization was submitted to the Vatican in June 2019 under Bishop Robert D. Gruss, then bishop of Rapid City. Born in 1865 (sometimes reported as 1863), he witnessed the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn and later fled with his family to Canada, eventually returning to the U.S.

From an early age, he manifested a deep spirituality, and in 1904, having been widowed, he embraced the Catholic faith while still honoring his Lakota heritage and traditions. Prior to his death in 1950, Black Elk is estimated to have brought more than 400 people into the Catholic Church.

Both Bishop Muhich and Father Wyrostek said in their respective messages that their faith had been deepened by the experience of cancer.

“My illness has given me a new perspective on our human frailty and God’s closeness to us in Jesus Christ,” wrote Bishop Muhich in a Dec. 19, 2023, message. “As I go through the treatments I am receiving to eliminate the tumor from my esophagus and deal with their side effects, I realize that I am sharing in the suffering of so many of you who have been through this.

“As your bishop, I am grateful for the grace to share with my flock some of their struggles,” he said. “It has given me a new appreciation of the sick members of our diocese and those who care for them.”

“God is kind and merciful,” wrote Father Andrzej, citing St. Ignatius’ observation that “sometimes God allows difficult moments so that we can learn how to choose.

“There have been many moments when I just thought of giving up, but at the same time, I was reminded I am not alone. Your prayers, kind words, and support remind me that God is a Communion of Love, and we are part of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church,” he said.

In his December message, Bishop Muhich said his sufferings have been instructive, allowing him to “see with new eyes the struggles of my people.”

Gina Christian is a multimedia reporter for OSV News. Follow her on X at @GinaJesseReina.

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