Bringing the Love of Jesus to the Native American Children

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” These famous words of Jesus in Matthew 4:4 guide the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity, as we care for the poor in our missions. Through the generosity of our donors, the hungry not only receive food, but also spiritual nourishment through Mass, the sacraments and catechetical instruction.

Many people, including children, are hungry for a relationship with Jesus. They’re curious about the Catholic Faith, especially the Mass and sacraments.

Fr. Aro Varnabas, S.T., serves at Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Parish, which is located on a Native American reservation in Tucson, Arizona. 

He recently visited a family of the Tohono O’odham Nation to baptize one of their eight children. Even though the eldest child is 19, none of the children had received First Holy Communion.

Neither did they know much about it, for it isn’t customary for children to talk while in the company of elders. Fr. Aro tried to make conversation with the children. Finally, one child became comfortable enough to ask, “What is First Holy Communion? Why does my dad want us to receive it?”

Fr. Aro answered that Holy Communion is one of the seven sacraments. The child then asked, “What are the seven sacraments?” This was the start of a wonderful conversation with the children about how the sacraments bring Jesus into our hearts.

This wasn’t the only time Fr. Aro met Native American children who were drawn to the Faith. He often witnesses children standing or kneeling for hours, patiently participating in religious ceremonies. And there’s not a cell phone in sight.

Because of this religious hunger, Fr. Aro and other Missionary Servants make sure they’re providing for the spiritual needs of the community. They offer Mass, visit the sick and bring communion to those who are homebound. 

But there are many challenges in bringing Jesus to the children on the reservation. For one thing, many children live in single-mother households or are raised by their grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles or cousins. Because of their unstable family situations, the children are at risk of domestic violence and drug and alcohol problems.

Fr. Aro’s encounter with the children of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Parish reminds him of the importance of making sure they know how much Jesus loves them and that He has a purpose for their lives.

To accomplish this, we need to bolster our youth services in the parish.

There used to be a youth program, but it has fallen by the wayside. Restoring it will ensure that the children learn the Faith and are prepared for the sacraments, as well as help them build community with one another. 

We also have plans for other faith-based programs, career guidance, counseling and after-school programs to help the children succeed in their studies.

Our donors have supported our mission in Tucson in so many ways. There’s still more to do, so we turn to the Lord for His providential guidance.

Please help us increase our spiritual resources and continue to provide food and financial help to the people living on the reservation. May God bless you abundantly for your generosity.


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