We invite readers to send short stories about the ways in which their lives have been personally blessed by the life and work of priests and religious in our diocese.
By Karina Fabian
The big sky. The slower pace. The friendly people. That’s what Sister Barbara Brown enjoys about her work in Montana.
A Billings girl, Sister Brown was educated in Catholic schools, and she said the Sinsinawa Dominican sisters fostered her vocation as much as her family. “Even in grade school, I liked what I saw (in the sisters). I wanted to be a teacher and I had the sisters as an example.”
Little wonder, then, that she joined the order as soon as she graduated from high school. She took her first vows in 1970, and graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in education with a major in art in 1972.
From there, her experiences as a teacher taught her as well. She began in Ventnor, N.J., where she learned that the busy life of the East was “a little too much for a Montana girl.” She gladly returned to Wisconsin, where she taught in the small town of Cuba City, later moving to Madison, then Bloomington, Ill.
In Bloomington, she found her interests pulling her away from the school system. She had been teaching in fourth, fifth and sixth grades, but as she gained seniority, she was increasingly groomed for administrative work. She resisted this advancement, however, since it pulled her away from working with the children, which she enjoyed most. She got a master’s in ministries in 1982 and used that to make a change.
She took a position as coordinator of religious education for parishes in Kewanee, Ill, where she “worked herself out of a job” by training lay people.
Then, she was asked to return to Billings to serve as director of religious education at Little Flower Parish. In 1992, she moved to Sacred Heart in Miles City, where she worked there and in the eastern part of the Great Falls-Billings Diocese in rural outreach and catechist.
During her years there, she was “gifted” with a sabbatical year, in which she did leadership training and got the chance to visit her family. “I’m the youngest of eight, and I got to get reacquainted with my siblings, my nieces and nephews and even great-nieces and nephews. I wish it could have been two years,” she said.
Afterward, she asked to go into parish ministry and was assigned to Sacred Heart in Ronan with its mission church, St. Joseph, where she was a pastoral minister, doing administration and outreach. She said the parish has everything she could ask for: a chance to work with Native Americans on the reservation, a community concerned with building its formation programs, and especially the community building.
“Hospitality is a very important part of my life,” she said. “I see the ministry in the Church like Jesus’ ministry where he sat and ate with people and conversed with them. That’s very important, even just coming together for a cup of coffee and a card game – just to enjoy each other’s company.
We can come together and see that Jesus is incarnate in the world today.
“I love being back in Montana. I love the open range, being able to be in nature when I want to be. I like the slower pace, the friendliness of the people. And in rural communities, I find a real genuineness of the people – they share heart and soul.”
Published in The Montana Catholic, Vol. 21, No 11, December 16, 2005.