Lawrence T. Martin, Ph.D. (Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe), Professor Emeritus of American Indian Studies at the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire, is an active member of the Gichitwaa Kateri Catholic Church and American Indian Ministry. Read his testimonial below to learn more about his Ojibwe identity and how the American Indian Ministry has enriched his own faith life!
“I’m from the Lac Courte Oreilles Anishinaabe (Ojibwe/Chippewa) Reservation in Wisconsin. For many years I taught at a university in Ohio, but I frequently came back to Wisconsin. Occasionally, those visits involved spending some time in the Twin Cities as well, and a few times I came to worship at Gichitwaa Kateri (at that time, called “The Office of Indian Ministry”). I was hired as a professor and director of the American Indian Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire. When we moved to Eau Claire, my wife Claire and I began to attend Mass at Gichitwaa Kateri fairly regularly, though not every week because of the hour-and-a-half drive from Eau Claire to Minneapolis. On Sundays, when we stayed in Eau Claire for Mass, I was always very much aware of wishing we were worshipping with the Kateri community instead of where we were.
I became involved in a research project regarding the Ojibwe language work of Bishop Frederic Baraga, a missionary in the Lake Superior region from about 1830 to 1860. At first, my focus was on Baraga’s linguistic work, especially his Ojibwe Grammar and Dictionary. That led me to his many devotional writings in Ojibwe, especially his prayer book and his collection of about a hundred hymns in Ojibwe. I suggested to Father Jim Notebaart at Gichitwaa Kateri that we might revive some of Baraga’s hymns at the Kateri community, and he responded with enthusiasm. Claire and I have been working together on the project ever since, and we have expanded the work to also include translations into Ojibwe of more modern hymns, done by Rick Gresczyk, another member of the Gichitwaa Kateri community. I convert Baraga’s spelling to the current Ojibwe spelling system, and I translate the Baraga hymns as well, since not very many members of our congregation are really fluent in Ojibwe—although it means a lot to them to worship in their own language.
In 1998, Claire and I both retired at the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire, and we moved to St. Paul, largely because we wanted to be more involved in the Gichitwaa Kateri community. We have attended several national and regional Tekakwitha Conferences, which gather American Indian Catholics from around the country, and, along with Rick Gresczyk, at several of these conferences we have presented workshops about our native language hymn project. People have left our workshops asking questions about how they can begin similar projects in their own Indian Catholic communities.
I find the faith and mutual support of the people in the Gichitwaa Kateri community absolutely necessary for my own faith. Singing in Ojibwe, and also our altar, our lodge, our tobacco prayers, our Eucharist, and our pipe ceremonies have become an essential part of my faith and identity as an Ojibwe Catholic, and to express and nourish my faith, I need the people who gather each Sunday at Gichitwaa Kateri to celebrate the Eucharist in an Anishinaabe way.”