This summer, a few other brothers and I were able to see spring begin twice at St. Ann’s Parish on the Turtle Mountain Reservation of North Dakota. We witnessed the new shoots and leaves of saplings that literally sprang up from the ground, but we also saw new shoots of life in the volunteers, parishioners, and priests. God is always new.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). Before arriving at the mission, I knew very little about it. I had read about some of the great challenges but had also heard how many of our SOLT sisters found their vocations through serving there. It is true, there is much suffering on the reservation, but there are also lights that shine in the darkness.
For instance, the volunteers give time and love from their hearts to the children and families of the community. After speaking briefly with parishioners, it became clear how loved and dear the volunteers were to them, especially those volunteers who remained for a full year.
A light that some might miss is the group of parishioners who attend daily Mass. They are an unseen flame that keeps the faith alive. I met a patriarch of the community and the parish who moved me with his devotional faith. His love for Our Lady, the Holy Family, and St. Ann were felt in his personal devotions surrounding the Mass and in his leading of the divine praises and rosary each day. Then there was the incredible and loveable man who overcame his addiction to alcohol through prayer. He now helps deliver food during the week to people who are unable to leave their houses. A retired police officer and a community college teacher help at the food distribution center by praying with the people and helping unload, package, and then distribute the food. These are only a few of the many lights which bring hope for those in the darkness.
This place, so tucked away and unseen by the rest of the country, is such a gift to our SOLT community. Getting to go and spend time there with the brothers, priests, volunteers, and people of the Turtle Mountains filled my heart with appreciation for the many hidden gems among our missions. I wish to be able to see them all and look forward to future adventures among them.
Br. Andrew Rowedder, SOLT