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4/25/2012 2:22:00 PM
Santiam youths lend a hand to Hopi mission
Santiam Vicariate photo
Santiam Vicariate youth with the pastor of a mission on the Hopi reservation.
Santiam Vicariate photo
Santiam Vicariate youth with the pastor of a mission on the Hopi reservation.

SUBLIMITY — At the end of summer St. Boniface Church’s pastor, Father Irudayaraj Amalanathan, and several parishioners visited their sister parish, St. Joseph Mission in Keams Canyon, Ariz.  They were moved by the experience and the stories they heard from Father Clay Kilburn, pastor of the mission.  

For years, parishioners from St. Boniface, Sublimity, and more recently St. Mary, Shaw, have collected money to send to the mission. After that visit last year, Father “Amal,” as parishioners call the priest, came up with the idea to send a pack of strong youngsters to assist with labor at the church during a spring break mission trip.

St. Joseph Mission is a small community on the Hopi Tribe reservation, which ministers to the Hopi and Navajo tribes in the area.  It is a challenging rural mission that is growing slowly but steadily.  Father Kilburn has led the mission for 16 years, building the congregation from 10 people to the present-day 60 parishioners who regularly attend Sunday Mass.

“His ministry is challenging and we could not but admire the courage and commitment of Father Clay, who is humbly holding that fort by himself, alone in the wilderness,” said Mark Dol, coordinator of youth ministry for the Santiam Vicariate. “He has no staff to depend on, and because of the poverty of the congregation, he really does rely on help from the partnering parishes to keep this work going.”

In the spirit of solidarity, Father Amalanathan and Dol assembled a team of young men from across the vicariate parishes, (two from St. Mary, Shaw; five from St. Boniface, and one from Immaculate Conception, Stayton). They journeyed over spring break to Arizona to donate 1,800 hours of service.  During the week, the men removed scrub and dry undergrowth that surrounded the church, which becomes a fire hazard in dry desert climate.

During the 3,000-mile road trip, the group visited the Hoover Dam, the Four Corners Monument (where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet), the Grand Canyon’s south rim, and a drive down Las Vegas Boulevard.

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