The Montana Capuchins - Ministering with the Crow and Northern Cheyenne
Capuchin missions in Montana are ministries on the margins of our society and our church. Our Capuchin Friars are located on the Crow and Northern Cheyenne Reservations — which cover an area bigger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined — spend every waking minute working to bring peace, hope, and a chance for a better future to the Native American people they serve.
Capuchin friars have been working on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation since 1926, though the mission began there in the late 1800’s by a lone Jesuit priest traveling on horseback. Centered in Ashland Montana at St. Labre Parish and School, the friars also serve the Catholic communities at Lame Deer, Busby, and the surrounding area.
In the 1960’s, the Capuchin ministry presence expanded to care for the parishes on the Crow Reservation. These include St. Charles in Pryor, St. Dennis in Crow Agency and St. Xavier Mission, Our Lady of Loretto in Lodge Grass and St. Kateri Tekakwitha Mission in Wyola. The friars also serve at the various schools of the St. Labre System: St. Labre (High School, Middle School, Elementary School) in Ashland, St. Charles Elementary at Pryor, and Pretty Eagle Catholic Academy in St. Xavier.
Capuchins serve as pastors of these parishes, but with a unique style of presence in these smaller, reservation settings. There is a great deal of drug and alcohol abuse and with it the social problems that greatly affect the people and the ministry. Being present to those who are recovering or struggling is part and parcel to this ministry. The rich cultural traditions of Native peoples enhance worship and life in this setting.
Our main church on the Crow Reservation is St. Dennis in a town called Crow Agency, which is a welcoming community that is really the heart of hope on the reservation. It is home to vitally important religious education, literacy, and summer programs for children. It is a refuge for children whose families are broken. It offers space for AA and other recovery programs. It is a place where major life events on the reservation — weddings, naming ceremonies, funerals — are celebrated. And of course, St. Dennis and all the churches on both reservations are Catholic parishes where Mass and the sacraments are celebrated, bringing Christ’s love to every willing heart.