Summer Mission Appeal
As a kid growing up on the South Side in my home parish of St. Cajetan, I can remember this happening every summer. Most often it was a priest or a sister from some religious congregation would come to the parish on a given Sunday and tell us about the church and her people in some far distant country many miles away.
While I have matured in my understanding and appreciation of the missions, what I have come to discover even more is that the idea of mission is not just simply giving to the poor, but that whole sense of Mission is what the life of church is all about. The mission of church is to look beyond ourselves and realize that our true mission is to figure out how we are going to live the Gospel message in to the world. I have also discovered in recent years that the missions to which we are called to serve and help exist not just in some far distant land, but many of them are right under our nose, in our own back yard! (This is part of the reason why Old St. Pat’s is embarking on pursuing a mission kinship with our neighbors in the North Lawndale community of Chicago.)
Many of you know already that my predecessor, Fr. Jack Wall, became the President of the Catholic Extension Society in 2007 when he and I did the “hand off” on being pastor of Old St. Pat’s. The Catholic Extension’s work is to provide support and solidarity to the mission territories right here in the United States of America. Most of these mission churches and dioceses are located in rural America, which for most of us from Chicago and the bigger cities is a foreign concept. And I would venture to guess that a good number of us never heard of Catholic Extension, understood its mission, nor realized that this organization has been around for more than 100 years!
Last October, Fr. Wall invited me to tag along on one of his excursions to the “back country” of Montana to see, firsthand, some of the things Catholic Extension is supporting. It was a quick two-day trip filled with a lot of “firsts.” I had never been to the state of Montana before. And I had never been to a Native American Reservation either. We covered 600 miles driving in one day! The main objective of the trip was to make our way to Browning, MT for the conferring of the Catholic Extension’s Lumen Christi Award to Fr. Ed Kohler and the people of Little Flower Parish for the tremendous sense of church they are creating in this small, remote area of the USA. A small town, located within the Blackfeet Tribe Reservation, Browning MT has many challenges, not the least of which include high unemployment and severe addiction problems. Yet, in the midst of darkness, the Light of Christ, burns brightly in Browning because of the faith and conviction of the Little Flower parishioners. It is a powerful story of great church happening in one of the rural parts of our country.
I was so moved by the experience of last October that I invited Brother Paul Ackerman to be with us for the annual Summer Mission Sunday, August 28, 2011. Brother Paul is the principal of the De La Salle Blackfeet School located at Little Flower Parish in Browning. This Catholic school, now in its 11th year, is another great testimony to the powerful faith being lived in this rural town of Montana. Please welcome Brother Paul as he reminds us of the importance of our missionary call of living the Gospel beyond ourselves.
Prayerful best to you,
Fr. Tom Hurley
On Sunday, August 28, 2011, a second offertory collection will be taken during all Masses to support the great work of the DeLaSalle School for the Blackfeet Tribe in Browning, Montana. Brother Paul Ackerman will provide us with a testimonial of the work they do and their need for support. Old St. Pat’s is excited to partner and welcome this inspiring community!
De La Salle Blackfeet is a school (grades 4-8) for at-risk children on the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning, MT. Now in its 11th year, the school came into being through the prayers and petitions of the families of Little Flower Parish, and its pastor, Fr. Ed Kohler. He had worked with the Christian Brothers in Guatemala, and had seen the dramatic transformation that occurred in a little town when education introduced new tools and skills and created fresh hopes and dreams.
Browning is a place where Native American people struggle with poverty and the problems usually associated with it: an unemployment that approaches 70%, severe drug and alcohol abuse, high incidence of teen pregnancy and single-parent families, and a public school system that is failing its students through a dropout rate of 65%. Quite the recipe for a hazardous place to be a young person!
Our Mission is to prepare our students so well for high school that they are programmed for success. We emphasize the basics, both academically and spiritually. We want our students to be equipped with the tools that will make them successful leaders and able participants in the shaping of their Reservation community. When they leave us after 8th grade, we continue to monitor and ensure their success through our Graduate Support Program, which tracks them all the way through college. Our graduates are doing well in high school, and 90% of our first 3 classes are now in college. We have produced 2 Valedictorians, and one of them is beginning his second year at Stanford University, studying medicine.
We believe we have a winning program, but only 3% of our funding comes from our families, who pay $450 annually in tuition. For the other 97% we rely on Providence—expressed through donors like you – to provide our students with the quality, Catholic education that the Christian Brothers are known to deliver. (Remember that St. Patrick’s High School here in Chicago has been affording students just such an education since its birth in this parish over 150 years ago.)
We hope you will partner with us in this wonderful Ministry! For more information on De La Salle Blackfeet School, visit our website at www.dlsbs.org.
Brother Paul Ackerman