Testimony Wall

Sister Ann O'Neill, CSJ (1936-2021)
When the Ft. Union Fur Trading Post on the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers closed, several different Plains Indian Tribes would come to live at the Fort for protection from other hostile tribes. The Trenton Indian Service was created to provide these Indians land so they could have a place to live and be qualified to receive services from the Federal Government/Indian Affairs. The land that wasn’t part of the Service was sold. My grandfather settled near-by; so, he and my father became good neighbors to the Indians living at the Service. The Service was a mission from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Williston. Because I grew up close to the Service; I remember my dad and then my brothers helping them when needs arose. The nearest town was very prejudiced toward those living at the Service. My dad taught me by example the goodness of the Indian’s cultural traditions and spirituality. Needless to say, I’m very thankful to be part of our Kateri Community. From my perspective as a non-native committed member of Kateri Church Community, I believe we respond to the needs of our parish members and to a greater extent respond to the larger Indian community here in the metropolitan area. And by extension to those Indians on reservations through the “Going Home” project and of course the personal relationships of our parishioners with their own reservation and their many friends on other reservations. It is vital we have a pastor, be it a priest or a lay person, who must be encultured and competent in theology, administration, outreach, and demonstrate a deep commitment to the spirituality and culture of all the Natives within the Archdiocese’s Indian Ministry. A new pastor's response to the persistent crisis of homelessness and addiction as well as embracing our multicultural spirituality, must guide us in the urgent needs of our Indian Ministry. To walk comfortably in two worlds is a journey that is indeed a blessing. Our parishioners show me how to best navigate these two worlds for which I am deeply grateful.

Larry Martin
I'm from the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation in Wisconsin. For many years I taught at a university in Ohio, but I frequently came back to wisconsin. Sometimes those visits involved spending some time in the Twin Cities as well, and a few times I came to worship at Gichitwaa Kateri (then called “The Office of Indian Ministry”). In 1998, I was hired as a professor and director of the American Indian Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire. When we moved to Eau Claire, my wife Claire and I began to attend mass at Gichitwaa Kateri fairly regularly, though not every week because of the hour-and-a-half drive from Eau Claire to Minneapolis. On Sundays when we stayed in Eau Claire for Mass, I was always very much aware of wishing we were worshiping with the Kateri community instead of where we were. Four of five years ago I became involved in a research project regarding the Ojibwe language work of Bishop Frederic Baraga, a missionary in the Lake Superior region from about 1830 to 1860. At first my focus was on Baraga’s linguistic work, especially his Ojibwe Grammar and Dictionary. That led me to his many devotional writings in Ojibwe, especially his prayer book and his collection of about a hundred hymns in Ojibwe. I suggested to Father Jim Notebaart that we might revive some of Baraga’s hymns for our community, and he responded with enthusiasm. Claire and I have been working together on the project ever since. I convert Baraga’s spelling to the current Ojibwe double-vowel spelling system, and I translate the hymns as well. Claire transcribes the music. Since we began this project three years ago, we have been coming to mass at Gichitwaa Kateri almost every Sunday despite the long drive from Eau Claire. About a year ago my son, Nick Martin, moved to St. Paul and he and his family now come to Mass at our church too, and Nick is a fine violinist. People in the parish now find it much easier to sing with his violin playing than they did when the only accompaniment was my tenor recorder, although I still play that at times. All this is to explain how Claire and I have become such regular attendees at Gichitwaa Kateri despite the long drive from Eau Claire. However, at this point my musical role at the parish is far less important to me than the community itself, and the way we pray at Gichitwaa Kateri. I find the faith and mutual support of the people in the parish absolutely necessary to my own faith. The Ojibwe hymns are nice, but I suppose I could survive without them. But our altar, our lodge, our tobacco prayers, our Eucharist, and the pipe have become an essential part of my faith and identity as an Ojibwe Catholic, and to express and nourish my faith I need the people who gather each Sunday at Gichitwaa Kateri to celebrate Eucharist in an Anishinaabe way.