IN THIS ISSUE
From the desk of
Fr. Louis Studer, O.M.I.
The Way of Lights
Christ is Alive...
Finding God in
Healing & Hope
Why Do We...
Born: 1953, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Present Assignment: Tekakwitha Indian Missions in Sisseton, South Dakota, approximately 90 miles south of Fargo, North Dakota.
Introduction to Native American
Culture: Fr. Butor was a scholastic in seminary at White Earth, Minnesota, the other Oblate Native American Mission. He travels back there occasionally to see the friends he made in service at White Earth.
Hobbies: Fr. Butor loves to fish on his days off. He also enjoys reading and spending time in quiet prayer.
Ordained only a year and a half ago on June 28, 2003, Fr. Walter Butor, O.M.I., knows that there is much more to learn. However, in his short time at the Native American Mission in Sisseton, South Dakota, he has already learned a great deal. He has learned what it takes to serve among the Native Americans.
“I am no expert on Native Americans, but I think the most significant thing to understand about Native Americans is that they are a very diverse and \culturally adept people,” he explained. “They have inhabited this continent for thousands of years, and they have cultural roots that dwarf those of modern society.”
Growing to understand these roots, Fr. Walter has learned to do away with popular misconceptions about Native Americans.
“There are many different societies within what we call the Native American Culture. There are vast differences between the tribes, and it is probably incorrect to lump all Native Americans together,” he said. “It’s like saying that there is no cultural difference between the French and the Germans because they live on the same continent.”
In Sisseton, Fr. Walter serves the Sioux tribe, also called the Lakota. He enjoys interacting with the people on the reservation, and he greets many with smiles and hugs.
“I’m drawn to the spirituality of the Native Americans,” Fr. Butor happily noted. “You don’t have to tell them that God is good. They know that God is good.”
However, despite this knowledge, historic problems still plague the Native American community. Alcoholism, drug abuse, and poverty are still prevalent, despite whatever government programs exist for aid.
But Fr. Walter is drawn to this work because of these particular issues. It is part of what unites him with these people.
“I had a history of alcoholism and drug addiction,” he said. “When I found Our Lord, it turned my life around.”
Now, Fr. Walter regularly visits the treatment center on the reservation to share his story. He connects with them, and he wants to see their lives improve.
“Being able to share my story makes me feel more like a part of this community. I know what it is like to be beaten down in life, so I think that in a little way I can understand a part of what many Native Americans experience in their everyday lives.”
In helping the Native Americans, Fr. Walter recognizes the difference between helping people and doing too much for them.
“It’s important to involve them in whatever they want done. You can’t just do it for them,” he said. “If you always do it for them, they become dependent. I want to get them to the point where they can do everything they need on their own.”
Fr. Walter strives to achieve this balance between Oblate assistance and lay involvement. It is one of his biggest trials at Sisseton. But the work is always rewarding.
“I have a lot of respect for the people here at the reservation. I love being a part of the community.”
Although Fr. Walter knows that there is a lot more that he can learn and do in his service to God, we can all see that he’s already had a remarkable start.