Leading the Way: Six Lakota Lay Ministers Commissioned at Red Cloud

March, 18 2018





Just over three years ago, a small group of parishioners from points across the expanse of the Pine Ridge Reservation gathered to embark on a sacred journey. As candidates in the Rapid City Diocese’s Lay Ministry Formation Program, the same small group has come together once each week since their very first meeting—to study scripture, prayers, and Church traditions and to explore and deepen their own faith. As a group, they focused on preparing for a new phase of their spiritual lives: serving as lay ministers and leaders in the Church.

On March 17, all their studies and prayers culminated in a special mass on Red Cloud’s campus, when Bishop Robert Gruss officially commissioned them as lay ministers. The six candidates—Alice Pourier and Patricia Catches the Enemy from Sacred Heart Church, Vanessa Roubideaux from Our Lady of the Sioux, Joyce Tibbitts from St. Agnes, and Terri White and Bill White from Christ the King—joined with their families, loved ones, and fellow parishioners to celebrate the conclusion of this part of their journey, and to begin the next as lay ministers on the reservation.

Lay ministers play a crucial role in their parishes, serving as pastoral assistants, Eucharistic ministers, religious educators and youth ministry directors, leaders in caring for the elderly and sick, and so much more. Although the Diocese’s programs initially focused on training Native clergy and deacons, in 1990 it recognized the importance of preparing lay leaders to meet ministry needs in their parishes—and the Lay Ministry Formation Program was born.

Sr. Connie Schmidt, SSND, Assistant for Evangelization and Formation at Red Cloud and Pastoral Coordinator Veronica Valandra facilitated the group’s studies over the last three years.

“Sr. Connie and I used the 'personal invitation' approach when recruiting candidates for this class. We personally contacted these individuals and talked to them about joining the class, and they all said yes,” said Veronica. “A bond was formed with this group as we studied scripture and prayed together, and I know the Holy Spirit will guide them in their spiritual journey as they serve the Lord through their parishes."

Sister Connie agreeds that each new candidate will bring unique and extraordinary gifts and experience to their parishes.

“This group is just wonderful, because each of them is already involved in some kind of ministry, in their own way. Some are on the parish staff, and others share their gifts and experiences as parish members,” she said. “But now, through the call of being a commissioned lay minister, I know they will continue to grow in their roles, and to expand and deepen the ways they serve the Church and the larger community.”





For one of the newly-commissioned lay ministers, Patricia Catches the Enemy, taking on this new role is part of her family’s legacy: her father and grandfather were both Catholic catechists, or teachers. As a young woman Patricia moved away from the church altogether, but remained loyal to her Lakota traditions and spirituality, such as taking part in the Sun Dance and other special ceremonial rituals; she later came back to the Church. And today, she explains, her spiritual life is rooted in both sacred traditions.

“As I learned to forgive, I found many similarities between the two traditions,” she shared. “I believe in the ‘Red Road’ approach—that God created everything that is on earth, that we are all brothers, and that in brotherhood, we accept that one is not superior over another.”

Patricia has always been an advocate for her people: she has decades of experience working as an addiction specialist with those experiencing substance abuse and domestic violence. And while she already provides care to those in need, she plans to bring that specific expertise to her work as a lay minister.

“I became a counselor because of all the suffering I’ve seen. I love my people—I love talking with them and assisting them in sober living, helping them look at the reality of how addiction is destroying their lives and the lives of their families,” she said. “I’m already working for God right now, and I will continue on with that. Obviously, God isn’t through with me yet—God has a reason why I’m here.”





Candidate Vanessa Roubideaux brings her passion for working with youth to her new role in lay ministry. She has worked in schools on the reservation for over 25 years—and has served as one of the social workers for Oglala Lakota County School District for nearly a decade.

“I’ve always been willing to help—I support the wake teams, and sometimes help with Eucharistic ministry or doing readings. But now I’m interested specifically in working with youth. I’d like to start a youth ministry within the parishes on the reservation,” she said. “In my work, I don’t see youth having access to a lot of adult guidance—and you see a lot of sadness in our kids. I’d like to create a space where we can teach youth adults what it means to accept God and to love Him.”

Both Vanessa and Patricia developed a strong bond with their fellow candidates during their years of study and preparation.

“It was a really close-knit group—we enjoyed each other’s company and shared a lot together,” said Vanna. “And for me, it really opened my eyes to what the Catholic Church is all about.”





This was the third group of candidates that Sister Connie supported through the Lay Ministry Program—and each one has taught her something new. But she is particularly excited to see what this group will bring to their parishes in the years to come.

“I’ve enjoyed every group I’ve been with—you see them grow in their own faith, as I have grown in my own. But this is such a phenomenal group, because they’ve already been so involved in their churches,” she said. “Although they have completed this class and this part of their journey, this isn’t the end. It’s another beginning for each of them—to find even more ways to be called and to bring their gifts to their communities.”



Photos © Red Cloud Indian School



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