Father Pierre-Jean De Smet’s Legacy

By Michael Chad Shibler

Being an admirer of Father Pierre-Jean De Smet (1801–1873), the famous missionary to the American Indians, I was very happy to visit his mission church in Montana and to bring Our Lady of Fatima’s statue to the surrounding areas. This missionary’s life is impressive to say the least. He traveled thousands of miles on foot and by boat, fended off attacks from wild animals, and founded thriving Indian missions in desolate regions from Montana to western Canada. The fruits of his incredible work can still be seen today in mission buildings and, more importantly, in the faith of the people he catechized.

The people who inhabit these plains and mountains are historically hardy and God-fearing people. This remains true today. In this sad age when so many have succumbed or capitulated to the moral decay of the modern world and our neopagan “culture,” the Catholic Faith promulgated by Father De Smet in Montana is still very much alive.

A shining example of Father De Smet’s Catholic spirit of charity was recounted to me by a couple from the Crow Indian Nation who attended a Fatima home visit. They told me about a pagan American-Indian tradition that any child who has a serious physical or medical condition is abandoned and left to die, so as not to be a burden on the parents. There was a case of an infant girl who was very ill. When the parents found out about the condition they were going to abandon the child and let her die. Hearing that the infant girl was about to be abandoned, this couple immediately adopted her and, after several months of treatment, she fully recovered.

We must thank Father De Smet in our daily prayers, for he kept in his heart Our Lord’s words: “As long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40).

From Crusade Magazine: November / December 2006

Header image: An American-Indian Family venerates the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, brought to their home by ANF Custodian Michael Chad Shibler.