Pulpit exchange reminder that church has missions in Minnesota, too

| May 12, 2015 | 0 Comments
Lawrence Martin of the Gichitwaa Kateri Circle of Minneapolis plays a flute July 24, 2014, as he leads the Tekakwitha Conference in a song in the Ojibwe language at the organization’s annual meeting in Fargo, N.D. CNS

Lawrence Martin of the Gichitwaa Kateri Circle of Minneapolis plays a flute July 24, 2014, as he leads the Tekakwitha Conference in a song in the Ojibwe language at the organization’s annual meeting in Fargo, N.D. CNS

A pulpit exchange between a Minneapolis parish and a mission church on an Indian reservation is an example of a way to foster a broader understanding of the Church’s universal mission, said Deacon Mickey Friesen of the Center for Mission in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Father Michael Tegeder is scheduled to travel up to the Red Lake Reservation in northwestern Minnesota to preach at Masses May 16-17 at St. Mary’s Mission, while St. Mary’s pastor, Father Jerry Rogers, plans to celebrate Mass in Minneapolis for the communities Father Tegeder serves: St. Frances Cabrini and Gichitwaa Kateri, home of the archdiocese’s Office of Indian Ministry.

Father Rogers’ participation comes as part of the archdiocese’s long-running Mission Cooperation Program, which invites about 55 missionaries each year to speak about their work at parishes across the archdiocese.

A parishioner of St. Frances Cabrini, Deacon Friesen said that hearing the missionaries’ stories gives Catholics a better sense “that we are part of a universal Church, not just a diocese.”

When missionaries speak at parishes in the archdiocese, he added, people get a taste of the universal Church.

Meeting face-to-face

The Mission Cooperative Program garners an enthusiastic response from Catholics in the archdiocese, annually providing about $800,000 for mission dioceses, Deacon Friesen said.

“It’s always different when you meet somebody face to face, hear a story and can respond personally,” he said. “That inspires people.”

Father Tegeder took the idea a step further by suggesting a pulpit exchange. “Kudos to Father Tegeder for that,” Deacon Friesen said. “He took it above and beyond the call of duty.”

Father Tegeder called the pulpit exchange “a neat opportunity for people at both Cabrini and Gichitwaa to hear about the needs and the good works at St. Mary’s Mission.”

“We think of the missions as being overseas, but we have our own missions here,” he added.

As for the pulpit exchange, “It’s an idea for other congregations to think about,” he said.

Father Tegeder said he is looking forward to simply meeting the people of St. Mary’s Mission and appreciating their community. St. Mary’s Mission, which includes a school, has served the Anishinaabe-Ojibwe people of Red Lake for more than 150 years, according to its website.

Home for burial

Some of the members of the Gichitwaa Kateri have family at Red Lake, so the connection between the parishes is natural, Father Tegeder said.

The connection also has a history, thanks to the efforts of the late Deacon John Spears.

In 1975, a year before he was ordained to the diaconate in the first deacon class in the archdiocese, he developed “Miigeweyon” — Ojibwe for “I am going home” — to transport the bodies of Native Americans who die in the Twin Cities to their reservation burial grounds.

Deacon Spears got permission from the health department to transport bodies — which legally had to be done only by licensed funeral homes — using his pick-up truck to make the 265-mile trip to Red Lake.

Eventually the Shakopee Mdewakanton Tribe donated a van to aid the corporal work of mercy, and today a group of drivers from Gichitwaa continue to offer the service.

“People want to be buried on Indian land,” Father Tegeder explained. “They can’t live there because they make their living in the Twin Cities, but that’s their home, they have family there.”

Father Tegeder isn’t a stranger to Red Lake, either. A few times a year he’ll drive up for wakes and funerals.

“What they’re doing up there is really important,” he said. “It’s something we can be proud of.”

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