Article: Sharing faith with Native Americans

Originally published on www.omiworld.org

Ben and Germaine Little Bear of the Pine Ridge Reservation (South Dakota)Oblates and lay leaders involved in Native American Ministries in the U.S. province held their annual meeting on January 20 & 21 at King’s House of Retreats in Buffalo, Minnesota. On the first evening 24 people braved extremely cold temperatures to spend a day together exploring our common faith through a beautiful “Talking Circle.”

 

The next day we were honored to have Ben and Germaine Little Bear of the Pine Ridge Reservation (South Dakota) share their stories with us. Recognized lay leaders among the Lakota People, they spoke of their own experience of having been raised in Catholic Schools for Native people. Both of them shared struggles and many positive aspects they learned from that experience and during their lives between then and now.

 

They also shared about their ongoing integration of Native beliefs and ritual. On their journeys, they have learned to embrace and grow because of the goodness which Catholic and Indigenous traditions and faith bring to their lives as people who are both Native and Catholic.

 

This is an important development for people who are both Native and Catholic. Many folks have been told by Church representatives and Native practitioners alike that they must choose one or the other. However, increasing numbers of faithful people are discovering that the two traditions can indeed enhance one another.

 

De Mazenod told us that we must help people to become human, then Christian, and then if possible, saints. Many of us come from families with some combination of European, Latino, Asian, African or other heritage. The more these are integrated into our human nature, the more whole and therefore “holy” we are.

 

It is an honor for the Oblates who have the privilege of working with Native peoples to witness and support this integration of their Native identities into the Catholic faith of these fellow “saints-on-the-way.” (Fr. James BROBST in OMIUSA, March 2013)