St. Francis Mission on EWTN

I am told that astronauts orbiting the earth from space can see the lights of our big cities.  It is probably safe to say that the metropolis of St. Francis, SD, has thus far escaped the notice of NASA’s crews.  But the lights of the world will soon be upon us when St. Francis Mission is featured on EWTN Live this Wednesday, January 18, at 8:00 EST.

The theme of the show is “Bringing the Gospel to the Lakota,” but it would be well worth tuning in even for those who aren’t Lakota and don’t plan on visiting St. Francis, SD (or viewing it from space).  That’s because the question of how evangelization and the inculturation of the Gospel takes place is relevant far beyond the borders of the Rosebud Reservation.  Moreover, I believe both that Lakota Catholics have something unique to contribute to the Church and that the model of mission and ministry we are developing here on Rosebud could serve as a model for evangelization in other contexts as well.

No one has more experience and expertise on the subject than the President of St. Francis Mission, Fr. John Hatcher, who will be the show’s principal guest.  (Fr. Hatcher also has the grueling task of being my superior.)  Often stories about “the Rez” focus only on what is grimmest—poverty, alcoholism, and despair—but, while the problems are real, our work and our life here is about much more than brokenness.  Stories of conversion and endurance are part of the picture, too, and some of the people I have met here could have been lifted right from the pages of the Gospels.

This past Sunday the other Jesuit scholastic working with me on Rosebud—Mr. Tom Olson, who will also be a guest on EWTN Live—helped out in the baptismal program for first and second graders in one of our parishes.  It was class number one, and he taught them the Sign of the Cross.  After class, the kids positively beamed as they demonstrated to their parents what they had learned.  Yes, in many ways, we’re starting from the beginning here, but the beginning is a pretty good place to start.

AL, SJ

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11 Responses to St. Francis Mission on EWTN

  1. Qualis Rex says:

    Salve, Anton!!! While I had absolutely hoped to see St Francis mission from space, unfortunately I’m currently on the road (here on earth) so also unable to view your programme today (plus, doesn’t sound like you’ll be a guest on it, so no harm no foul there). I think what you say is absolutely true; the problems of drug/alcohol abuse and despair are absolutely not unique to the rez; especially in our current economic climate. I think the unique benefit the Lakota have over the rest of the US is a sense of community and shared identity. Something all of us as Catholics SHOULD have, but which has unfortunately been long lost. Hopefully, you will help restore it to us.

    God bless you now and always!!!!

    • Martha says:

      Tony, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to catch the show. I’m hoping to watch it this weekend or Monday. While we don’t get cable, they post the shows on EWTN’s website, and one of our new TV’s tricks is that it can access the internet. Is this something we need? No. But it is kind of neat. 😉

      Qualis, I agree with you about the lack of community in the world at large. What I wonder about is the idea that despair and drug/alcohol abuse are made worse by the economic situation. It seems to me that drug and alcohol abuse are more a part of easier living than they are of leaner times, while hopelessness is fueled more by a lack of faith in God than anything else. People may feel slightly more hopeful when they’re doing well economically, but ultimately that feeling will fluctuate wildly without faith to hold it up.

      Without intending to glamorize poverty, I sometimes wonder if our country wouldn’t benefit from a prolonged period of economic hardship. Or, at the very least, I wonder if I might not benefit from such a situation…;)

      • Qualis Rex says:

        hello Martha, I have not suffered from drug/alcohol abuse (thank God, for there but for His grace go I) but I have worked in several shelters and communities where the occupants are either using adicts or in recovery. I can say unoquivocally that there is a link between poverty, despair and drug/alcohol abuse. There always has been. This does not mean drug/alcohol abuse is not also found among suburban and upper-income households (this is abundantly true as well). But the poor and even indigent are more susceptible to be caught up in the vicious cycle that produces entire generations of addict culture.

        Your point is taken, that wealth does not necessarily bring comfort or wisdom to stear clear of these vices. But take a 15-year-old kid starting to use drugs from a double-income family earning $150K+ and another from a single-parent home below the poverty-line– which do you think will be able to send their child to rehab and attempt to deal with the problem?

        • Martha says:

          I understand what you’re saying. I know that poverty plays a role, I just wonder about the nature of that role in drug/alcohol abuse. I grew up in a very upper-middle class neighborhood, and knew people who had significant problems with drugs – ones that rehab didn’t fix. They were more connected with issues of depression, boredom, and lack of discipline. Finding a community (whether or not it was church-based) for stability and support, however, did help to resolve the abuse – at the very least the community helped lessen the severity of it.

          I bristle a little at the idea that economics plays the predominant role in people’s use or abuse of drugs and alcohol, I guess. It seems a bit like an easy answer, when there are so many other factors to be considered. Especially when it comes to reservations, the reasons for rampant substance abuse over generations seems to have different causes than it does for the poor in other parts of our country. The despair seems to have different roots than the simple inability to make ends meet, though that’s certainly part of it. From what (admittedly little) I have read, what the poverty represents seems to be more of an issue than the poverty itself – the stripping away of a culture and way of life that held their communities together. Now, the “way of life” part would not be practical today, but trying to do away with Lakota culture in order to implant European Christianity was clearly not the most effective way to proceed, and may have more to do with the state of reservations than simple monetary poverty.

          As for your two families – I don’t know which will deal with it better because, again, there are greater factors than economic poverty to consider. If a 15-year-old kid is just starting to use drugs, is it necessarily best for them to go to rehab? Maybe a single parent would be more willing to seek outside help in the form of mentors, pastors, and other community members, more quickly recognizing that they cannot handle it on their own. Maybe the two-income family would presume that the recovery of their child rested on a rehab facility rather than anything they or their support community could do. I had a friend whose father seemed to feel that way – that if he just sent his son to the right facility, he would get better. He’s been in and out of different facilities…oh…half a dozen times, at least, in the last 12 years.

          Sorry this got long. I do enjoy arguments like this. 🙂

  2. Asella Crum says:

    When will I be able to view this program- time please. Our grandaughter worships and helps at that Mission.

  3. Qualis Rex says:

    Hello Martha, I wasn’t aware we were arguing 😉

    You did raise some interesting points, specifically about the reservation that hopefully Anthony can address (assuming he has ANY free time at all these days). I think in the begining the despair, and subsequent rampant poverty and alcohol abuse did come from the Indians losing their lifestyle and most of their culture. However, that was over 100 years ago. There are very few nomadic/hunter societies left on this earth, and I really wonder if any significan number of Lakota (or other Indians in the US) would seriously consider “returning” completely to how their culture was circa 1870 (save the few counter- culture traditionalists/isolationalists you find in any society).

    The European culture I come from has changed probably just as drastically in the last 100 years, and my regional culture has changed drastically in just the last 20. Let’s be frank; even our religious Catholic culture and identity has been all but systematically erased in the US over the last 30 years (the topic of several other threads). I think the major difference here is that while many of us whistfully talk about how things were “back in the day” etc, we have not been brought up in generation after generation of despair at these changes, with drugs and/or alcohol being a visibe, viable and (borderline) socially acceptable response.

    Anthony, I think you understand to what I was alluding to above. Any comments here? Eyes and ears wide open….

    • Martha says:

      Well, we’re discussing vigorously. Some would call that arguing. 😉

      It seems to me that the Lakota (and American Indians in general) have a different kind of attachment to their culture than most of us whose families immigrated to the U.S. We tend to forget that our country is unique in how people assimilate into U.S. culture and values. Our country is composed, not of people who come from the same land geographically, but of people who admire the opportunities afforded here and the overarching values upon which we were founded. People bring their culture with them to our country but don’t (I would assume) generally expect that culture to remain intact in the same way it was in their home country. People who immigrate to the United States don’t have their culture stripped from them – they strip at least part of it from themselves in order to assume an identity that more closely aligns with their newly chosen home. It may still be difficult to adjust, but it’s a very different thing from having others come into your home and tell you your culture and religion are no longer valid, regardless of how noble or not their motives, and intentionally strip it away (even to the point of physical force) in the manner in which that was done to native people here.

      That’s not to say that the Lakota don’t have responsibility for how they behave in the modern world, including how addiction is responded to. I only mean this to illustrate the difference between what you mention about European culture changing and what happened to Lakota culture and community. As for our Catholic identity being erased from American culture – again, I think this is a different type of phenomenon. There are those in our country who don’t want Catholics to maintain their Catholic identity. There may even be laws passed that inhibit the ability of Catholics to practice their faith. However, Catholicism isn’t tied to place in the same way American Indian religions tend to be, and no one is actually outlawing the Mass. Furthermore, there’s a resiliency built into the very beginnings of Christianity as a persecuted minority that has continued into the modern day. There’s an expectation of hardship in Catholic thought that doesn’t exist to the same degree in other religions.

      Anyway. That’s my take on why the despair on reservations isn’t primarily a function of poverty. Take it with a grain or two of salt – I’ve always had a fondness for American Indian culture and the ways in which native spirituality can be integrated with Catholicism. We truly have a universal Church, and it’s a beautiful thing to see the variations that are possible to make Catholicism work for a community of believers.
      🙂

      • Anthony Lusvardi, SJ says:

        I really can’t adress all the issues you two bring up at least right here, right now. I would say, in general, I’m always skeptical when someone claims to have identified the “root cause” of any social problem. The interplay of causes is always dynamic and, like culture, always changing. I’m also skeptical when people claim that “poverty” is the root cause of something — what exactly is meant by poverty?

        • Martha says:

          Not a big deal, Tony. I just felt like picking an argument, and Qualis was kind enough to oblige. 😉 It’s been years since I did even the most cursory reading about alcoholism and drug abuse among native peoples, and it’s understandably difficult to find objective sources on that topic. I couldn’t even tell you why the issue pokes at me like it does, but I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel strongly sympathetic to Native Americans in general. Maybe that’s condescending of me, but I can’t be anything other than an outsider looking in, really. When you have time, I’d love to hear whatever take you have on the topic.

  4. Peter Wolczuk says:

    Having lived most of my life in Canada, I’ve encountered people of the First Nation cultures from time to time, about as much as other cultural/ethnic groups.
    However, there is some family tradition as one of my great grandmothers, who was from Scotland, was one of the advisors who worked with the Cowichan Band on the Pacific coast when they developed the now famous “Cowichan Indian sweaters” that are sometimes called Indian sweaters, that use a variety of natural wool colours for the patterns.
    As a result, a lot of family folklore that included the Cowichan tradition was passed on to me from senior family members of Great Grandmother’s branch of my heritage. It’s still more of a starting point than an understanding though.
    What I do have is a significant, and mainly subjective, view of addiction. I’m sure that there must be a significant number of the Lakota who have not been burdened by this terrible disease and I say this to try not to stereotype anyone.
    So many of us who’ve sought recovery have been helped by those with years of abstinence and quality of spiritual healing because there’s often a feeling that what we did in our addiction and to support that addiction was too terrible to reveal. Many senior members in support groups will share similar experiences of self degradation, and how they overcame them by sharing with other senior members and resolving the damage.
    So, I strive to give back by paying forward – not to glorify but to try and inspire, as I’ve been inspired.
    Treatment facilities are mentioned and, while I did go to a treatment centre and have used what was taught there to great advantage, I have met many people from harsher manifestations of the disease than mine who have achieved good recovery without accessing this option. They have used their support groups and God’s gift of the Twelve Steps by following such instructions as rigourous honesty.
    What’s helped me the most is the knowledge that alcohol and other drugs were a means that I used to hide from discomfort and, if I wanted to get better, I had to squarely face these discomforts and resolve them. And NOT alone, because trying to deal with them alone was what overwhelmed me in the first place. Work with the support group for the little things and a (voluntary) sponsor for the big stuff
    But, back to the Lakota. It appears that the more a person or culture encourages initiative the more the members suffer when those of earthly power seek to suppress that initiative. Native North Americans, being closer to nature than us post Columbian arrivals were in the last few centuries, would tend to have a greater encouragement to initiative than even those who produced successive generations of pioneers as westward expansion progressed.
    So, I work out of a “Step Guide” and, if there is more than one possible answer to a question in the guide I ask which is the one I least want to write down – then I write that one. I tried suicide on the installment plan for over thirty years to hide from internal discomfort and now achieve healing by facing and resolving those discomforts.
    It may seem that I talk about myself a bit much but I seek to avoid egotism or overweening pride by sticking to my story rather than to claim great knowledge and indulge in the “you gotta” syndrome.
    The many examples of “my story” which circulate throughout the recovery world are examples of humble truth which I do not doubt is a concept that Satan hates and fears. Not because of any human power but because our Saviour advised us of the need for truth in; John 8:31-34.
    I carry through to the slavery to sin because, so often, I hear a portion of His message given without the conclusion. It seems that even people who have no familiarity with Holy Scripture sense the lack and try to fill in. Such conclusions include; “…set you free but first it will make you angry.”
    Not bad stuff and often true, yet not up to the Divine standards of scripture.

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