Your grateful Black Robe, in the Sonoran Desert, surrounded by Indians, all friendly – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Aztec Dancers in front of San Xavier del Bac on the Tohono O’odham San Xavier Indian Reservation

If anyone looks in to the plight of the Native Americans, you can’t help but to see that they were treated very poorly by our people and our government. Even today many of them live in abject poverty. Fortunately the Catholic Church has reached out to help in so many different ways. One of the Catholic organizations that does this is Trinity Missions. My wife and I have supported Trinity Missions for many years. We receive their correspondence and keep up with what they do. They basically go out to the poor and abandoned (not just Native Americans) in 7 different countries. They have 39 permanent missions with about 120 priests, deacons, novices and brothers ministering to people in their need. They always go at the invitation of the local bishop and try to train the people they serve to be filled with apostolic zeal to help spread the good news. Over the years I have become good friends with one of their priests and I would like to share a few things about him so you can get a personal idea of what Trinity Missions does.
I first met Father Abram Dono in a strange, but providential way. In the early 80’s I began attending the Catholic Charismatic Priests and Deacons Conference held at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. At one of these meetings, I was in a break out group of about 12 men. Most of them were priests, one was an Abbot and one was a Bishop. I was the only deacon in the group. We began by introducing our selves by name and the diocese we were from. Fr. Abram was in the group and he was one of the first to introduce himself. When he did, I was happy to hear that he was a Trinity Missionary since I had been a benefactor of Trinity Missions. I was also intrigued to hear that he was working with the poor and Indians in Mississippi . I introduced myself as deacon Marty from the Diocese of Rockville Centre. At that point Fr. Abram asked me if I was, by any chance, the deacon Marty from Patchogue. When I told him that I was, he said to me that he had heard that I was a great preacher. This really floored me. The other Priests and Bishop in the room looked surprised. I asked myself how some missionary living in the Deep South could possibly hear about me. I couldn’t wait for the group to end so I could talk to Father Abram.
It turned out that Father Abram had grown up in my parish of St. Francis de Sales in Patchogue and that his mom and dad and brother and sister still lived there. He told me that they had written him mentioning the new deacon and how they enjoyed my homilies. I couldn’t help to smile about how God had put Father Abram and I together in a group of 12 from about 1200 priests and deacons at this conference. God is so good. This started a great friendship that we have right up through today. Father Abram visits our parish for a couple of weeks each summer and I so look forward to seeing him. He also sends regular letters telling about what goes on at his mission in Indian territory in Arizona. His letters are always informative and fun to read, filled with corny jokes.
In 2016 my wife and I went to visit Father Abram at his mission in Arizona. He actually services about 7 different parishes in different Indian reservations. He took us to each reservation. There is no doubt that the Native Americans there live in poverty. I was so very impressed with their faith and their welcoming spirit. When I watched Father Abram interact with them, I could see the great love he had for his people. Most of the churches were primarily open air with dirt floors. There weren’t any fancy decorations or statues, but what was there was faith building. The people went out of their way to welcome us. In the midst of the Sonora desert, near Tucson Arizona, you could feel the strength of the Church at work. Father Abram took us to San Xavier del Bac, and old church built by the Spanish on the Tohono O’odham San Xavier Indian Reservation. The original mission was founded by Jesuits in 1692. The current structure was started in 1756. Due to political reasons, the Jesuits were forced to leave this territory in 1767 by the King of Spain. In 1776 Franciscans came to run the mission. They left around 1843 and the area suffered from a loss of clergy for many years. The Franciscans told the Indians that since priests were not there they would not have the Eucharist, but would still have the Saints with them. These Native Americans embraced the Saints and there is a great devotion to them to this present day (see the picture below). Trinity Missions have been ministering to the Native Americans with all the Sacraments and education that most parishes would have. Father Abram lives with two other Trinity Missionaries in a very simple home on one of the reservations. Our stay with him (we stayed in a nearby motel) was most enjoyable. His main parish near his home is St. Kateri Tekawitha.
It is so important for us to realize that the Church does a tremendous job of reaching out to the poor and marginalized. Trinity Missions does this so very well. Please check them out at their website, www.trinitymissions.org. If you wish to make donations directly to Fr. Abram’s mission with 7 Indian Reservations, send to: Father Abram Dono, S.T., St. Kateri Tekakwitha, 101 W. 31st St., Tucson AZ 85713. If you do this, you too can receive his interesting letters filled with corny jokes.
Father Abram always signs his letters, “Your grateful Black Robe, in the Sonoran Desert, surrounded by Indians, all friendly”. He is gift from God.

Martha and I and Fr. Abram Dono at one of the reservation churches.  You can see how much they love the Saints and love to dress them up.

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