As she periodically does, Sister Barbara Ann Bogenschutz shares news about life at Our Lady of the Sioux Church in Oglala, South Dakota, where she is Parish Life Coordinator, through a newsletter to her friends and supporters.
At the top of her list most recently was news of an unexpected message from Pope Francis, who in July encouraged the Lakota Catholics to live their faith while preserving their culture.
The pope sent his welcome greeting with Father Arturo Sosa, who is Superior General for the Jesuits worldwide. Father Sosa came to South Dakota in August to visit the Jesuit Mission at Red Cloud School.
See Pope Francis’ message to the Lakota people:
The words filled Sister Barbara Bogenschutz, a Dominican Sister of Springfield, Illinois, with pride and hope.
“The Jesuits were the foundation of Red Cloud at the invitation of Chief Red Cloud in 1888 and are still here today. Part of [Father Sosa’s] words he spoke at the Reservation-wide Mass on was the reading of this message from Pope Francis who also was a Jesuit priest,” wrote Sister Barbara.
Before answering the call to serve the Lakota people in 2010 she spent 17 years teaching in Catholic elementary schools before going to minister in Montana and Wisconsin.
Sister Barbara noticed her new community lacked both physical and spiritual needs and went to work.
The community has a high poverty rate and many people experience food insecurities on a daily basis, have no electricity or clean running water.
This past September the parish held their monthly flea market which takes about four days to set up. To some the event serves as a reunion letting people shop and visit.
Thanks to the generosity of others, the market also offers items for sale. The gently used items range from clothing to trinkets and are donated from individuals and groups in the area.
A public health nurse visits two times a month in order to keep parishioners healthy by giving vaccinations, immunizations and flu shots. “She stays for about three hours each time and people stop in and some she calls to remind them she will be there,” she said.
When the community mourns the loss of one of their own, the group gathers to honor both family and friends. The memorial includes food and giveaways.
Sister Barbara said the community has a resilient mind set when dealing with hunger.
“We give out food bags four days a week. We received help from some Red Cloud students who have come after school to assist with filling the bags,” she continued.
According to Sister Barbara the food given out is donated by Partnership with Native Americans or purchased from Feeding South Dakota paying by the pound.
Sister Barbara said one tradition she enjoys the most is the time spent with the congregation at a breakfast after mass.
“Many people help to clean-up. It is nice to visit with the Church members each week after Mass.”