By Michael Howell
The Historic St. Mary’s Mission and Museum is holding an Opening Day Celebration at the Mission grounds and visitor center on Tuesday, April 17. The activities begin at 10 a.m. with Mass being celebrated in St. Mary’s Chapel followed by a Flag Raising Ceremony by the Stevensville FFA at 11 a.m. Refreshments will be served by Mission volunteers and guided tours of the Mission Complex will be offered starting at 11:30 a.m. The theme of the celebration is “The Year of Father Ravalli” who was born May 16, 1812.
The museum contains many interesting items related to the founding of the church and the early days of white settlement as well as items related to the indigenous Native American inhabitants. One of the Mission’s purposes is to preserve the history of the first interaction between the Salish peoples and the “Black Robes” and to educate the public regarding that historic merging of cultures. In doing so it seeks advice and consultation from state and local historical societies and tribal bodies.
The non-profit organization that runs the museum and keeps up the Mission Complex is operated by a board of directors with only one paid position. All the rest of the workers are volunteers. The Historic St. Mary’s Mission, Inc. operates independently from the Catholic Church, and relies totally on donations from the community for operating expenses. Occasionally the organization receives state or federal grants for specific restoration and preservation projects.
Although many of the visitors at the museum are from out of state, many local school children also visit the museum for historical tours. The Mission is endorsed by the Office of Public Instruction to teach classes on Indian education that help local schools meet the requirements of the Indian Education for All Act.
Besides the Opening Day Celebration scheduled for April 17, there is also a Birthday Party for Father Ravalli scheduled for May 16. Father Ravalli was born on that day two hundred years ago in 1812. A Summer Festival including the much-loved Cow Pie Bingo will be held on July 14. The annual Founder’s Day celebration is set for 2:00 PM on September 23, 2012.