I'm always inspired by the Lakota leaders at St. Francis Mission. And I'm particularly impressed by the way they are becoming leaders not just for the Rosebud but on a diocesan and national level as well. Read on to learn more about how our staff is making contributions to the wider Church.
Meet the Black Bears
Ben Black Bear III is the son of Deacon Ben and works in the pastoral and evangelization efforts of the Mission. Ben's wife Jenny coordinates our religious education programs and summer "Body, Mind, Soul" camps. Jenny is also on the diocesan youth advisory board and the liturgy commission.
Both serve on the board of the Rapid City Diocese's retreat house for Native people, the Sioux Spiritual Center. Recently, they presented at the Basic Directions conference, a national event designed to prepare people for ministry among Native peoples. Jenny spoke about evangelization on the reservation and Ben talked about youth ministry.
For the second year in a row, Ben and Jenny were invited by Father Henry Sands, Executive Director of the Black and Indian Mission Office for the U.S. Bishops, to participate in the annual Catholic Social Ministries Gathering in Washington, DC. The theme of this year's conference, was "Let Justice Flow: A Call to Restore and Reconcile." The Black Bears were designated South Dakota state captains and met with S. D. Senator John Thune, Majority Whip for the Senate. While they were there, they also had a chance to tour the Capitol and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Fr. Sands also invited Jenny and Ben to participate in a first-ever "Listening Session" for eight bishops hosted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Subcommittee on Native American Affairs. Held in Phoenix March 26-27, thirteen different Native American presenters spoke to the bishops about issues of importance to Native Catholics. Ben addressed the topic of poverty and youth ministry and Jenny spoke about racism, the effects of boarding schools, and evangelization.
At the meeting Ben and Jenny met Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus. When he found out that Ben was a veteran of the Iraq War he invited the Black Bears to be a part of the "Warriors to Lourdes" pilgrimage in May. Military Personnel and their families from 40 countries came together for prayer, spiritual guidance, and healing.
Each of these experiences is a great opportunity for Jenny and Ben to share their story and information about the Rosebud Reservation. They both have a great ability to connect with people, building new relationships in each place that they go. They are an excellent representation of the work we do at St. Francis Mission.
Now that summer has finally arrived (it snowed three inches in Rapid City on May 22!), Jenny is busy with our Body, Mind, Soul summer camps in six different reservation communities. She and Ben are getting ready to lead our youth group to Cincinnati, Ohio for the annual Tekakwitha Conference, the largest gathering of Native Catholics in North America.
As I said in the beginning of this letter, I'm inspired by the contribution that our staff is making to the wider Church. I hope you are also inspired by Ben and Jenny. Your gifts make sure that they are able to be part of the St. Francis Mission staff and to serve people here on the Rosebud and beyond.