St. Xavier Mission Church and Rectory

Determined to “Christianize” and “civilize” the Indians, the federal government encouraged churches to establish reservation schools and missions. Government support of Christian missionaries aided the efforts of Jesuit priests who began visiting the Crow reservation in 1880. The Jesuits established a permanent mission here in February 1887. Fathers Peter Prando and Peter Bandini resided in a tent before constructing the first permanent building at St. Xavier, a two-story boarding school staffed by Ursuline nuns (since replaced). Construction of the 1888 wooden Gothic style church and the 1889 rectory soon followed. Money to build the church came from Philadelphia heiress Katherine Drexel, who founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and donated her entire fortune to mission work. An excellent linguist, Father Prando soon translated hymns, Bible stories, and the catechism into Crow. However, the Jesuits saw the school as their best tool for gaining converts—both among the pupils and their parents. Punishments at the school could be harsh, and close-knit Crow families disliked the boarding school system because it took their children away from home. Nevertheless, most parents preferred the mission school to the agency school, and many families established camps nearby in order to see their children as often as possible. The mission served as an orphanage and a hospital in addition to a school; Father Prando particularly was well known as a healer. Today the church operates Pretty Eagle parochial day school and continues to minister to families in the St. Xavier area.

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The boundary for the historic property is scribed approximately 15' to the north and west of the mission church, 15' to the south of the rectory, and 60' to the east of both buildings. The overall dimensions of the boundary are 136' by 150'. St. Xavier, Montana ~ private