By Sisters Maureen Farrar and Michelle Woodruff, ASC
As the world marks Indigenous People Day (August 9), we in Crownpoint, New Mexico, celebrate what we have come to know over decades as the best of the Navajo people and character.
Crownpoint, in northwest New Mexico, is on the Trail of the Ancients, where prehistoric archaeological and geological sites bear witness to the ancient Puebloan, Navajo, Ute and Apache people who called this part of the West their home. It’s also on the Navajo reservation.
We Adorers are relative newcomers, the first of us arriving in Crownpoint in August 1982. We try to minister to the needs of the people to help ensure a better quality of life.
Sister Michelle is a public health nurse for the Indian Health Service, doing medical referrals and immunization clinics. She is also the building and grounds person for the parish, works with the choir and teaches religious education.
Sister Maureen handles parish finances; works with the emergency food pantry and used clothing shop; hosts the AA group; leads the lay ministry group, and both of us make ourselves available to anyone who needs us.
What we have experienced as we minister among the Navajo is their incredible kinship, compassion, community and emphasis on relationship.
Navajos introduce themselves to each other by stating their clans; then they know how or if they are related to each other. From there, the conversation picks up as they begin talking about who they are related to that is related to the other person – and surely only a Native could follow the intricacies of relationships as they weave through their conversations.
This kinship is the foundation for their compassion, so evident when there is a death or tragic event in someone’s life. The community gathers. They share food and both humorous and sad stories. They remember a person’s accomplishments, are honest about shortcomings. They carry hope in their hearts and look to the future of the young.
They celebrate a baby’s first laugh with a party where it is the child who gives the gifts to the community that has gathered, all done with prayers that the child will grow up to be generous and caring. They always share an abundant meal.
We Adorers have been privileged to be invited to participate in many of these celebrations that mark the beginning and end of life. Our lives have been touched and changed.
These experiences are a good reminder that life is a sacred journey – from birth to death, from dawn to the dark of night.