Capuchin Missionaries in Montana
More than 130 years ago, a lone Jesuit priest traveled on horseback throughout the newly formed Crow and Northern Cheyenne Reservations in southeastern Montana, where the Bighorn and Little Bighorn Rivers flow. He brought a message of hope and the love of Christ to tribes battered by war and struggling to adjust to reservation life.
Fast-forward a century and a half. Substitute eight Capuchin Friars for the Jesuit priest, and a couple of well-worn cars for the horse. Instead of hostile threats from outsiders, the present-day dangers to the Crow and Cheyenne people lurk on the reservations themselves: Desperate poverty, substance abuse and addiction. broken families, violence—and hopelessness.
If there are places truly forgotten by the rest of America, this is one of them. If there are Americans who have fallen through the “safety net” and landed hard, these are those people.
Yet even here there is a ray of hope. This place, these people are not totally forgotten. Our Capuchin Friars at 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.
And people like you join with us, through your prayers and donations, to let these people know that there are, indeed, other good Christian souls who care about their fate.
I’m writing today to ask for your help. Our Capuchin missionaries in Montana struggle every day to find the resources to run their churches and provide basic, though often life-changing, life-saving services to these people the rest of the world has forgotten.
I can’t begin to tell you how welcome your gift will be. You couldn’t even say these missions are run “on a shoestring,” because that would be an exaggeration. Four of our Capuchin missionaries, led by Father Mark Joseph, run five churches on the Crow Reservation on an annual budget of $130,000. That includes the salaries for part-time custodians, their only employees.
And yet their ministries are invaluable. Our main church, St. Dennis, in a town called Crow Agency, 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 houses of God where Mass and the sacraments are celebrated, bringing Christ’s love to every willing heart.
Some people will ask why these people can’t help themselves, or say that they are lazy and just want to “live off the government,” that they should get clean and get jobs. If only it were that easy. If only they could see what life is like here. The disadvantages the Crow and Cheyenne people face are systemic and overwhelming. They need a helping hand and it is our responsibility as Christians to offer it.
Will you offer your hand with ours? Christ tells us to love our neighbors — all of our neighbors — without judgment, conditions, or hesitation. Will you send a generous donation so that our Capuchin missionaries can bring Christ’s love to these people who so desperately need it?
One of our Capuchin friars has said,“Community changes everything — community is the glue that holds us all together.” The heart of our mission ministries in Montana is to build and sustain communities of hope. I pray that you will join us to support and be part of these communities.
Thank you for listening to our story and understanding the great need our Capuchin missionaries face. May God’s grace shine on you and yours always.
Yours in Christ and St. Francis,
Br. Michael Sullivan, OFM Cap.
Provincial Minister & Mission Director
P.S. Our Capuchin missionaries in Montana have so few resources to do such important work — Christ’s work. Please send a generous donation today to help them bring Christ’s love to the Crow and Cheyenne peoples that have been forgotten by our country. Thank you!