J.O.P. 2019, Celebrating Solidarity and Dignity

Group after learning about Blackfeet family names and history

On July 9th, 27 teens and chaperones arrived in Browning, Mont. for the 10th annual Justice Outreach Project (J.O.P.). Kevin Molm is the manager of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Helena and coordinates the project. Developed to explore the tenets of Catholic Social Teaching, J.O.P. provides youth with formative experiences that emphasize solidarity and the dignity of the human person. “Our purpose is to strengthen relationship between the Blackfeet people and the Diocese of Helena. The experience helps us better appreciate our faith as we get to see the syncretism of Blackfeet tradition and Catholicism,” said Molm.

The J.O.P. Group at Running Eagle Falls in Glacier National Park

The community feed, a free meal offered to any who want to join, stands out as a vivid moment of solidarity as the youth engage in conversations with local Blackfeet over a shared meal of hamburgers and hot dogs. “When we take time to sit with, or serve someone who looks, lives and sometimes believes differently than we do,” says Molm, “we go away having grown, and it can break down barriers of race and ethnicity.”

Reclaiming a grave at St. Ann's Cemetery in Heart Butte, MT

Each day began with Mass and concluded with a teaching, discussion, or cultural experience lead by youth ministers, Little Flower Parish members, or Blackfeet elders. During the day, community service was the catalyst to help young people truly engage their faith. The work of reclaiming gravesites in Browning and Heart Butte, according to Molm, was profound for the group, “It’s ironic how we end up having such profound conversations about life and the dignity of the human person when we’re pulling weeds in the middle of a cemetery.”

Youth learn the cultural significance of the teepee to the Blackfeet people

Highlights of the week included a conversation with Chief Earl Old Person who invited the group to his teepee. He shared his background, 90 years of life experience and the wisdom of his strong faith. Another powerful experience was the celebration of Mass with Fr. Joe Paddock at Running Eagle Falls in Glacier National Park. The youth reflected on the connection between God’s great love and our faith’s deep respect for creation in the midst of this beautiful setting.

Several young adult alumni returned this year to take part. They helped chaperone, served alongside teens and reconnected with friends in the Blackfeet community. Regardless of their age, Molm is confident that the group had much to reflect on and, “Will return home with a new perspective, inspired to live out their faith more vigorously and compassionately.”

Mass at Running Eagle Falls