During a month to be thankful St. Mary's Mission expresses gratitude for continued support through COVID-19 pandemic
November 30, 2020
(Red Lake, Minn) The community at St. Mary's Mission on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota feels fortunate to say they have handled the curveballs thrown at them by COVID-19. In spite of their cancelled fundraising gala in the Twin Cities this past spring, donations and grants have sustained their school and enabled faculty to respond to parent requests to add 8th grade and preschool for three-and-four-year-old's. Next year, St. Mary's will start a new afterschool STEM program for the middle school. "We want the community to know their generosity has made a significant difference in the lives of many here in Red Lake, said Fr. Jerry Rogers, pastor of St. Mary's Mission, along with St. Philip's Parish in Bemidji and Sacred Heart Church in Wilton. "Technology is often a differentiator between those who can and cannot succeed in the world today. We decided to use a portion of the vital donations received to provide our students with iPads to continue their learning while at home during the weeks we have conducted hybrid school days." Fr. Jerry expressed his thanks for donations of diapers, blankets, clothes and prayers during this difficult year.
Ojibwe culture creates unique atmosphere at St. Mary's
Every day, students learn their Ojibwe culture from elders in the school as well as faculty. In addition to displays of Ojibwe artwork and common Ojibwe phrases used throughout the school day, students open the school year with a traditional smudging with sage, learn Ojibwe songs for the annual Christmas play and plan a festive spring pow wow featuring jingle dresses and a drumming circle. "We want every student, their families, and everyone in our community to celebrate what's right with our students and the people of Red Lake-to believe in themselves and have the courage to soar," said Fr. Rogers. "Our school provides a safe haven for students where they can have fun while they learn. Test scores verify the significant academic progress our students are achieving."
The majority of St. Mary's students score at or above their reading and math grade levels. Recent tracking reports have shown that St. Mary's graduates continue to perform above average academically at Red Lake High School and other surrounding schools.
"My grandson, Roman, graduated from St. Mary's Mission last year and attends 9th grade at Clearbrook Gonvick High School. "His teachers told me recently at conferences that Roman received a wonderful academic foundation from his grade school," said Karen Beaulieu. She and her husband, Adrian Beaulieu, adopted Roman and his sister, Karen. They have sent all three of their children and five grandchildren to St. Mary's continuing a tradition spanning four generations beginning with Adrian's father, Roman Beaulieau, attending St. Mary's. "Adrian's family has been in Red Lake a long time. His great-great-grandfather, Paul Hudon de Beaulieau, served as the official interpreter at treaty signings in 1863 and 1889 because he could read and write fluently in both Ojibwe and English," said Karen, whose husband also serves on the Red Lake Tribal Council. Karen's involvement began 38 years ago when she enrolled their son. "We continue to support St. Mary's because we value the quality of education and the welcoming presence you feel every time you walk into the school."
A series of videos narrated by the pastor and posted on St. Mary's website (www.stmarysmission.org) give a more complete picture of Red Lake, surrounded by abundant natural beauty, yet situated far from any major economic center which has led to a high poverty rate. "While many on the Red Lake Indian Reservation struggle with poverty, families who send their children to St. Mary's are not poor when it comes to dreams for their children," said Fr. Jerry. St. Mary's addresses the stressors students face in weekly group sessions with a social worker where students can express their worries, support each other and learn important life skills. The school also recently hired a fulltime school psychologist.
St. Mary's Mission History
The Red Lake Tribal Council invited the Sisters from the Order of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minnesota to start a school and mission on the reservation in 1888. After serving St. Mary's for 121 years, the sisters left in 2009 due to demands at their monastery in St. Joseph and St. Cloud, yet remain engaged. Students from the College of Saint Benedict have the option to spend their spring breaks helping out at the mission. The historic wooden church built 159 years ago caught fire on Dec. 2, 2017 leaving only a pile of cinders. The Sisters of Mount St. Benedict in Crookston commissioned a life-size statue of an Ojibwe Mary and Jesus to be placed in the new church. Fundraising for the $2 million building project continues. And the parish hopes to break ground in May 2021.
During this season of giving and in honor of National Native American Month, the St. Mary's community hopes to see donor support continue. No child is turned away from St. Mary's Mission because of their inability to pay tuition. Despite a tight operating budget, tuition payments do not cover our costs. (This year, the actual annual cost of educating one child is $5,778). "All donations are welcome. We depend on the generous donations of individuals, businesses, churches, and foundations off the reservation to help our school thrive and our students pursue their dreams," said Fr. Jerry.
Donations may be made securely on the St. Mary's Mission GiveMN page: https://www.givemn.org/organization/St-Mary-S-Mission-School
Or by mailing donations to:
St. Mary's Mission School
PO BOX 189
RED LAKE, MN 56671
Employer ID Number (EIN)