Community Life in Montana

February 1, 2018 – During Catholic School Week at Pretty Eagle Catholic Academy, the St. Katharine Friars were honored with a special lunch for their contributions as Religious ministering on the Crow Reservation.

By Mark Joseph Costello, OFM Cap.

Long days with challenging ministry is a good description of our reality on the Crow reservation in southeastern Montana. Having a sense of accomplishment is rather elusive in an environment of unemployment, broken families and addiction. While the unemployment rate in the country is at an all time low, it runs to 70% here on the reservation.  We try to support people through education and attending to their faith needs, but this can take a toll on a friar’s mental and spiritual health.

One major source of support, is what the friars do for each other living in community. Coming home to an understanding heart or two  (or in our case three), and sharing a meal or prayer together provides the balance and support that one needs in dealing with reservation culture. Keeping positive and realistic in ministry requires an honesty that often only a community member can provide. The people we serve here are both troubled and beautiful. Native culture is both attractive and easily misunderstood. Together as friars, the mysteries and miseries of this rather unique minority can be served better by our communal presence.  We friars are of different abilities, ages, cultures and personalities. We complement each other in many ways and the people see that. The people also see us as belonging together, our own little clan among the clans of the Crow tribe.

Now that two of us St. Katharine friars fairly singlehandedly (no staffs) run four small parishes, teach at the Catholic School and do Sacramental preparation, there is much to occupy our time.  While another friar is teaching full time at the school and running Children’s Sunday school, our retired friar continues to do help-outs and a lot of work around the friary and home parish. The life in the friary is a major stabilizing effect and a source of joy, allowing us to face the challenges and needs of the people of God.