Catholic Extension Award Celebrates Ministry in Poorest US Dioceses.
Springfield, Ill.— Springfield Dominican Sister Barbara Bogenschutz has been recognized by a national Catholic organization for her ministry within the Oglala Sioux community in the Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota.
Catholic Extension recently announced that Sister Barbara, a native of Springfield, Ill., is among eleven finalists for the Lumen Christi Award, which honors individuals and groups working in geographically isolated locations who witness to the Light of Christ—Lumen Christi— by demonstrating “how the power of faith can transform lives and communities.”
Since 2010 Sister Barbara has ministered among the Lakota in South Dakota, first as director of religious education at Sacred Heart Church, Pine Ridge, then, starting in 2011, at Our Lady of the Sioux Parish in Oglala, doing all the typical parish activities of preparing Sunday services, catechizing children, and making communion calls. She is the principal pastoral presence of the Church on the western edge of the reservation in her parish of about 250 people in Oglala, a town of 1,550 people who endure a poverty rate above 60 percent and a median household income below $22,000.
Santa Hudspeth, parish council president at Our Lady of the Sioux, was effusive in her reaction to hearing about Sister Barbara's recognition. "Sister Barb is an awesome, wonderful, excellent exceptional, always-on-the-go, never-tiring, thoughtful, kind, firm, compassionate, emphatic person, whom our parish is very fortunate to have," she said. "We are grateful to Sister Barb's sisterhood for sharing Sister Barb with us."
Whether she’s helping children prepare for roles as ministers during a monthly youth Mass, organizing community events like bingo and rummage sales, accompanying families in grief at wakes and funerals, or visiting parish elders in their homes, Sister Barbara is attuned to the presence of the sacred in the lives of the families.
“The Eucharist comes in many ways all week long,” she said. “And when I arrive where I am going, I always find God is already there.”
Sister Barbara’s Springfield Dominican Sisters are understandably proud of this recognition for her work, while she herself is more reticent to be in the limelight. “READY for this?” she asked rhetorically. “I am not!” she said, preferring to let the people of the parish shine rather than having the spotlight on herself.
“Sister Barbara is nothing if she is not practical in her ministerial style,” said Sister Marie Michelle Hackett, a member of the congregation’s leadership team. She offered as “Exhibit A” a water pipe on the parish parking lot that is a free source for safe drinking water for families without running water at their homes.
“Anyone on Pine Ridge is welcome to access as much free, potable water as they need from that pipe 24/7. Sister Barbara is happy to provide five gallon buckets for them to carry it away,” Sister Marie Michelle said. “This is life-changing for residents,” she noted.
Pine Ridge Reservation is home to 40,00 Oglala Lakota people. It is larger than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined. Last year, when hailstorms and high winds destroyed nearly 500 homes on the reservation, Sister Barbara organized crews of residents to rebuild the 61 damaged homes in Oglala. “Sister Barbara is very entrepreneurial,” Jesuit Father Joe Daoust, the parish pastor, told Catholic Extension. “With that rebuilding project, she saw a need, saw that nothing was being done and figured out a way to make it happen.”
Each of the finalists for the Lumen Christi Award receives a $10,000 ministry grant from Catholic Extension. The recipient of the award, to be named toward the end of the year according to the Lumen Christi Award website, receives a $50,000 grant, half of which is to be used by the diocese for enhancing it’s ministry.
The Dominican Sisters of Springfield are part of a worldwide Dominican family, the Order of Preachers. For more than 800 years, Dominicans have preached the Gospel in word and deed. The Springfield Dominicans were established in Jacksonville, Illinois, in 1873 and relocated to Springfield in 1893. Today, thousands of Dominican sisters, nuns, priests, brothers, associates, and laity minister in more than 100 countries around the world. To learn more browse our website or sign up for our newsletter.
About the photo: Sister Barbara teaching Sunday catechism to students at Our Lady of the Sioux in 2017.