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A Week with FOCUS Missions

After a long and extraordinarily cold winter, we were excited to welcome a group of 11 college students from FOCUS this past week. The Fellowship of Catholic University Students created FOCUS Missions to introduce college students to the missionary call. This trip was part retreat and part service, with a variety of different events.

The group arrived for Sunday Mass at Sacred Heart Church at the Ft. Belknap Agency. Here, they got to experience Mass with Native American elements such as singing, drumming, sweetgrass incense, and Native American Catholic artwork. That evening, community members Mike TalksDifferent and Jerome Main gave them a presentation on the cultures of the Assiniboine and Gros Ventres people and how they live their Catholic faith within that culture.

The second day consisted of a silent retreat with talks by Kenn, Fr. Samuel Spiering, Fr. Bart Stephens, and Fr. Cory Sticha. It also included the opportunity for the Sacrament of Confession, Eucharistic Adoration, as well as Mass in the Traditional Latin Rite.

On Tuesday, Kenn organized a trash pick-up along Main Street in Hays. The group braved 15 degree weather and strong winds!

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On Wednesday, Kenn planned a 13.2 mile “cross walk” from St. Paul Mission in Hays to St. Thomas Church in Lodgepole. It was the highlight of the week for many!

The day started off snowy and cold, and Dylan Eilertsen (Trip Director) and Julian Alvarez (son of the missionary family at St.Thomas) were the first to carry the cross.

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Each member of the group took turns carrying the cross, relay style, while the others warmed themselves in the van, prayed, and sang hymns.

In his leg of the walk, Odilio Alvarez carried the cross up not one but two hills!

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By the time the group stopped for lunch at the old Stiffarm family cabin, the sun had come out, and they were blessed with a beautiful afternoon!

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As they finished the last leg of the walk, the bells of St. Thomas Church rang out, and Kenn led prayers for the all people of the Ft. Belknap Indian Reservation.

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Many in the group were spiritually impacted by carrying the cross and were able to meditate more fully on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the suffering of the people here. In addition, they were a witness to the many people who passed them on Lodgepole Road as well as two school buses full of high school students! One resident of Hays was even brought to tears at the sight, saying that nothing like that had ever been done here.

The day ended with a visit from Bishop Michael Warfel who gave the group a talk on the missionary call and also celebrated Mass.

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The next few days were dedicated to cleaning and making small repairs to the Chapel of Our Lady of the Little Rockies, the Mission Rec Center, and St. Paul Mission Church. On Friday night, the group prepared and hosted a dinner for elders in the community.

After Stations of the Cross, we all remained in the church and listened to Odilio and Stacie Alvarez give their testimony of how God called them to join Family Missions Company and later to bring their family here to serve. The college students also shared their witness of how they ended up on this trip and the impact the week had on them. Many experienced a greater realization of the power of prayer to plant seeds of faith in this community. Others mentioned how Kenn’s talk had challenged them to strive for self-gift in their journey toward God. And all of them were especially touched by the joy and sacrifice of the Odilio, Stacie, and their seven children.

We are so grateful to FOCUS for choosing St. Paul Mission as a destination for this year’s mission! The group gave us and the Alvarez family some much-needed encouragement, prayer, joy, and service. We look forward to hosting a group again!

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