Life with brothers is an extraordinary gift. They give you counterpoints of reference for yourself, are loving siblings who balance and challenge you, and bring a strength which you could never have on your own. I received a new and deeper sense of the gift of my brothers this summer as we served a summer camp at St. Ann’s, our beautiful mission in Belcourt, North Dakota.
The mission is on the beautiful Turtle Mountain reservation, home to the small band of Chippewa Native Americans, a tiny place on the edge of North Dakota near the border of Canada. It is a hub of ministry with a parish, a small school, and a missionary volunteer program boasting about 15 year-long volunteers serving alongside our priests and sisters. It is striking to encounter the young people who come from around the country and joyfully give of themselves in order to find Christ in this tucked away place.
My brothers and I got to jump in for just a few months and stretch our legs, running around in the beautiful North Dakota summer and giving the little bit we have to the camp. The days were full, guiding the kids from station to station, through a Christ-centered programming of prayer, liturgy, and activity. For many of the children it was a first encounter; never before had they been fully immersed in a Christian environment. Here, the Holy Spirit provides something new. They get a glimpse of a beautiful way to live, a community seeking Jesus together.
To see my brothers in this mission environment was like seeing them in new lighting. Their uniqueness shown out with new contours and their finest points acquired new depths. As I ran into my own limits and weakness, I was able to lean on them in ways that the world of school never called for. In them, I found stability and correction, I was revealed to myself against the backdrop of their gifts. I tend to seek routines which will comfort me, stable sets of effort which will secure me in a sense of self-sufficiency. This summer was a joyful breaking out. I saw the need for my completion in my brothers, and I got a joyful taste of that completion under the benevolent North Dakota sun.