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Little Flower Parish at 204 1st Street NW, Browning, MT 59417 US - History of Little Flower Parish

History of Little Flower Parish

Catholic presence among the Blackfeet goes back to the 1840's whent he Jesuit Fathers Pierre Jean DeSmet and Nicholas Point began instructing and baptizing the Blackfeet Indians into the Catholic faith.  This eventually led to the establishment of the first mission among the Blackfeet which was St. Peter's in 1859.

The Church which would eventually become the Little Flower Parish began as a mission on Willow Creek.  Named St. Michael's, the church was erected in 1908.  The church was served by Fr. John Carroll, S.J., and Fr. Aloysius Soer, S.J.  By 1910 the population of Browning had increased and the little church was moved to the edge of and in 1912 Browning was created a Parish with Fr. Carroll as its pastor.  Fr. Carroll served as pastor until 1916.  There were three more pastors in the next four years: Fr. Daly, Fr. Maurice Casey and Fr. Timothy McCormack.

In 1920 Fr. Michael Halligan was named pastor of the church in Browning, a post he would for the next 26 years.  During this time, with the help of the Marquette League for Catholic Indian Missions, the present church buldling was constructed.  Monsignor William Flynn, Secretary General of the League, secured the gift of the new church from Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Bradley of New York City.  They wished the church be built in memory of their parents and dedicated to the St. Theresa, the Little Flower of Jesus, and so the parish aquired it's new name.  On  May 25, 1932, the church was dedicated by Bishop George Finnigan, Bishop of Helena, in the presence of three other bishops, three monsignors, 30 priests, and about 1,000 parishioners.

In 1946, Fr. Halligan was succeeded by Fr. George Gurner who remained five years and was succeeded by Fr. A.M.D. Gillen in 1951.  Fr. Gillen was to remain pastor for the next 14 years.  During those fourteen years, Fr. Gillen built the churches at Babb, dedicated to St. Mary Queen of the World in 1956, and at Starr School, dedicated to the Sacred Heart in 1958.  The church at Starr School was built by local labor, but the church in Babb was moved there from Conrad whent the Conrad parish built a new building.

Fr. Stimazt succeeded Fr. Gillen and in 1967 the Parish Center (CCD Center) was built.  In 1972 Fathers Patrick McGurck and John (Jack) Murray were named co-pastors.  In 1975 Fr. McGurck was transferred and Fr. Stephen Tallman took his place.  In this same year the interior of Little Flower Church was redecorated, having been enlarged in the 1950's by Fr. Gillen.  At a later date the Crucifix, designed and made by Gordon Monroe, and the stained glass windows, designed by King Kuka and made by Fr. Jim Berry, were added to the interior.

In 1980, a new church was built to serve the community of East Glacier, which had been using an old railroad car for Mass.  The octagonal church was dedicated as the Chapel of the Ascension and commands a sweeping view of the Glacier National Park.

In 1982 Fr. Murray was transferred and Fr. Ed Kohler came to Browning.  By this time the Cursillo movement was making a big difference in the life of the parish which continues to do so.  In 1983 Fr. Tallman left and was replaced by Fr. James Hogan who remained for a year to be replaced by Fr. Victor Laghans.  In 1985 Fr. Kohler left to serve in the missions in Guatemala and in his place came Fr. Michael McHugh, S.J.  Fr. Mike was the first Jesuit priest to serve in Browning since Fr. Carroll who left 70 years before.

Fr. Laghans left and Fr. Bernard Koenig came in the late 1980's.  In 1990 Fr. Koenig left and Fr. Kohler returned from the Guatemala mission and become Pastor of the parish and has since been in that position.  Fr. Mike retired in 2002 and returned to the Jesuit community in Spokane, Washington where he passed away in 2007.

A very important presence in the parish has been that of Religious Women who have served in Browning.  From 1960 to 1965 the Handmaids of Mary Immaculate, a diocesean religious community, lived and worked here.  In 1973, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth sent two sisters to teach religious education and do pastoral work.  Sr. Edna Hunthausen, SCL, served at Little Flower from 1984 and retired in 2009.  While here she conducted the R.C.I.A. Program as well as many areas of pastoral work.  

The growth of the parish has always been marked by active participation of parishioners.  In 1985 parishoniers were ordained to the permanent diaconate: Robert Bremner, Sr., Melvin Rutherford, and Charles Thomas.  They were joined in 1994 by Deacon John Gobert and in 2006 by Deacon Ron Running Crane.  Deacons Bremner and Thomas have since passed away.

Because of the Cursillo movement here it is easily able to share it's love for Jesus with all God's people. Being located next to Glacier National Park we have many summertime tourists. When our visitors leave the church they often comment to the clergy on how friendly our people are. The priests and sisters who have served here have always been truly loved and accepted by the Blackfeet people. We feel it has not been a good Sunday if we haven't been hugged at least 40 times. During Sunday Mass the sign of peace is something to behold. The Catholic faith is alive here and the Lord Jesus works hard to heal our people. Because of alcohol and drugs on the reservation we suffer it's many affects. A lot of good is being done here, by a lot of good people but the battle goes on. We still have a lot of work to do.

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