St. Paul's Mission Parish
In September I will have been involved in the St. Paul’s Mission at Hays for a year. Prior to my involvement with the reservation ministry, I had the neighboring community of St. Gabriel’s parish in Chinook and its missions. With the unavailability of priests to be assigned to this reservation resulting in no Mass being offered on the reservation, I brought the concern to the bishop and requested to take on the responsibility as the pastor and add it to my current assignment in Chinook where I reside, a 60-mile drive from St Paul’s Mission in Hays. With the help of some of our retired priests and the bishop who would drive over 200 miles one way either from Great Falls or Billings to cover every other weekend, I developed a rotation to provide Mass every Sunday at least in the Hays assignment of St Paul’s Mission.
There has been much needed repairs and management from fence building and property management throughout the year. The parish has a school attached to it with residential housing that has involved much upkeep, as well. There is also hay and pasture lands to manage and fences to maintain.
The more involved part of this ministry for this assignment is their funerals which unfortunately are frequent and they involve the better part of two days. For those familiar with the Native American culture, the vigil is usually an all-night wake with prayers and singing and involves many of their cultural traditions and customs particularly centered around the “feed” which is a meal offered by the family for those attending as an honoring.
The summer months on the Fort Belknap Reservation continue the vast ministry that is called for much like other Church communities. An added involvement is the summer Pow Wow gatherings which many of our Catholic members are involved as dancers, drummers, concessions and spectators. These gatherings are an expression of their culture and spiritual rituals.
I offer my great appreciation to our donors of the Black and Indian Missions for the generous grant that we receive for the ministry in this parish and across the reservation so that the pastoral ministry that is provided can continue to be supported.
Rev. Father Michael Schneider