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.