Pastoral Ministry

Our churches and pastoral ministry programs on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation exist to provide support and a strong sense of community to those who live in their areas. A continuous gift of hope is created and kept alive through interaction with Jesuits and other religious. Served by Red Cloud Indian School, our community and residents gain an education of the mind and spirit that promotes Lakota and Catholic values.

The basics

Members of the community not only acquire a centralized location to come together in fellowship through parish halls, but they also gain a tradition and education of faith and Catholic living through the work continued by the Jesuits and Catholic nuns.

Red Cloud Indian School (formerly known as Holy Rosary Mission) was established in 1888 by the Jesuits and a group of Franciscan Sisters at the request of, and on a site designated by, Chief Red Cloud. Using primarily their own labor and that of local Indians, they began construction of the main mission building. All of the bricks for the building were made on the mission ground from local clay and lime. Not only did Holy Rosary meet spiritual needs, it also provided an education to Indians through its school.

In 1969, Holy Rosary Mission School officially changed its name to Red Cloud Indian School, in honor of the man who breathed life into the institution. The mission is comprised of 16 churches, though only six have active churches at this time. Pastoral staff members, including Jesuits, Lakota and non-Lakota, work to ensure ministries and outreach are available for the areas served by each church. Such outreach includes:

  • Working with local leaders to help those in need on the reservation, through food, clothing or other drives, as well as through various ministries.
  • Sunday Mass at the church is the center of faith life on the reservation, typically followed by the sharing of food and fellowship amongst parishoners.
  • Sacramental classes and liturgies for children are held weekly, as well as a summer vacation Bible school.
  • Parishoners also gather for bazaars, flea markets and Holy Day celebrations. 
  • Red Cloud has established several ministries through which support to parishes is given, including children and gangs. The youth on the reservation are the most precious resource, as they are the Lakota leaders of the future. 

Ensuring that their spiritual, emotional and social needs are met is extraordinarily important, and ministries exist for these needs to empower youth to chide negative influences. Many youth face serious social realities, such as brokenness in families/schools, alcohol/drug abuse, gangs, early pregnancy, unresolved grief and suicide. They need faith-based connections as they grow to maturity. Red Cloud’s youth ministries embrace all youth, regardless of their social reality, reinforcing positive values and behavior, encouraging healthy life choices, fostering moral development, promoting spiritual growth and helping children to become healthy adults.

A unique position

Our pastoral programming is full of committed, loving people who seek to help themselves and others. The mission serves parishes through its active churches and parish halls, which provide a place where communities gather in fellowship to grow stronger.

  • Activities such as breakfasts, and sewing and beading circles provide for the body and spirit. 
  • Women often sell their goods made in the Church circles at flea markets, also held at parish halls. 
  • Other goods, such as fry bread, baked goods, tacos and pizzas—made by hand by families across the reservation—are sold once a week at these locations. These sales provide nourishment and fellowship, and encourage economic development in the parishes. 

As there are few community centers on the reservation, parish halls also serve as polling places for elections and provide a place to host wakes and funerals for those who have passed.


Churches on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation serve communities stricken with a multitude of harsh realities and negative influences. Despite these issues, parishes provide positive and safe places for communities to gather. Results of the program include:

  • The provision of a place where Lakota and Catholic tradition, education and values are realized through faith and Christian living; 
  • Flourishing outreach ministries to children, youth and families; Halls that allow places of fellowship, creative activity and community; and, 
  • A positive, healthy environment where communities can gain support and develop strength in Lakota and Christian values.

Help champion this initiative

Contribute to the success of this initiative by making a gift online or calling our Advancement Office at 605/867-1105 ext. 300 to learn more about how your family or foundation can partner with us.