WINNEBAGO, Neb. (Duchesne Academy) – Students from Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart in Omaha say they’re already anticipating growing the school’s relationship with the community of Winnebago, Nebraska, following a service trip last week.

The group of eight students, chaperoned by Duchesne teachers Bridget Morton and Sarah Stratman, arrived in Winnebago on Wednesday, Feb. 12, and quickly went to work. St. Augustine School teaches children from the Winnebago and Omaha tribes. The girls spent each morning eating and exercising with students at St. Augustine school before splitting up to help teachers in their classrooms.

“We were moved by the generosity of the students and their openness to love. They immediately accepted us and welcomed us into their community,” one student said about her time serving in the classroom.

Friday, the students worked in Macy, NE, to clean Our Lady of Fatima Church with two of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament who work there. Our Lady of Fatima is one of four parishes that make up the St. Augustine Indian Mission. St. Katherine Drexel founded the St. Augustine Indian Mission in 1909; it claims the distinction of being the only Catholic institution in Nebraska directly founded by saint.

Duchesne students cleaning chairs at Our Lady of Fatima Church, Macy, NE.

Seeing the poverty in Macy was an eye-opening experience, students told their chaperones following the trip.

“It’s hard to understand how people in our own state don’t have access to clean water,” one said.

Duchesne students and teachers discussed the challenges facing the community with Dwight Howe, the Cultural Director of the Ponca Tribe. Howe also taught the girls about traditional languages and customs.

“We are grateful for the resources we have; clean water and nearby grocery stores that are stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables,” another student said following the trip.

The students returned to Duchesne on Saturday following a Friday night discussion with St. Augustine Pastor Father Mark Beran. Fr. Beran talked with the girls about his work on the reservation and why he feels called to serve the St. Augustine Mission. The students invited Fr. Beran to celebrate Mass at Duchesne.

A group of people posing for the camera Description automatically generatedDuchesne students with Fr. Beran, Winnebago, NE.

Students and chaperones are now finding new ways to strengthen the relationship between the Duchesne community and the St. Augustine Mission and the entire Winnebago area community.

“This was the spark to make a difference,” said one student.

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