« Memoir: Coming Home From the War | Main | Why I Joined the Raging Grannies of Seattle »

Tuesday, 08 January 2008

The FBI Has Nothing on St. Labre

By Nancy Leitz

One day in the mid 1950s, a letter came to our home on Greenway Avenue, Darby asking us for a donation to help the Crow and Northern Cheyenne children in a school run by the Catholic Missions. The school was called St. Labre and was in Ashland, Montana.

St. Labre had been started in 1884 by the Ursuline Nuns of Toledo, Ohio. The Bishop of Montana had begged them for help for the unfortunate Indian children who, at that time, did not even have a reservation to live on and certainly no school to attend.

The Sisters answered the Bishop's call and made the long journey to Montana to help the children. They started the school and began the daunting task of raising enough money to keep the school afloat. By 1954, only 64 children were enrolled and the current Sisters knew that many more children needed a place to live and an education. So, they began to send letters out asking for help.

We were a struggling young family with not much money left over after our own expenses but surely we could afford a Dollar or two for these poor children who so desperately needed it. We sent a few dollars when we could each year and started to receive small hand made gifts from them. We would receive a little "dreamcatcher" or a plastic tepee. Anything to attract your attention and interest you in their cause. So, until 1962 we were regular contributors to St. Labre.

In 1962, we moved to Hampton, Virginia and although I had a difficult time getting the post office to acknowledge our move from Darby, St Labre's fund raisers had no problem at all finding us. Theirs was the very first letter I received addressed to our name at 20 Bedford Court.

So we were back in the system and the wigwams and moccasins started to flow to Virginia and, because we were slightly better off financially, we were able to send them a few extra dollars each time we heard from them.

In 1964, we moved across town to a new house at 6 Maume Circle , Hampton and although the Bell Telephone Company, Virginia Power and Light, and all the rest took over two months to "catch up" with us, to St. Labre's it was a piece of cake. They had a tepee in the mail before the moving van left.

After several months in the new house, we became friendly with our neighbors and one of them had applied to become an FBI agent and had used our name as a reference. That was fine with us but we had just been informed by our employer that we were being transferred back to Pennsylvania in May, so the agency would have to keep track of us in our move because we had no idea where we would be going. We had already sold our home in Darby so we would have to buy a new property. But where?

We did have a little cottage in the woods in Arcola, Pennsylvania, and thought we could squeeze in there for two months while we found a permanent home. We had always spent our summers there, so the people in the area knew us. So that is where we
would go.

We packed some clothing and enough pots and pans and dishes to live in the cottage, and had the moving company take everything else to storage.

When we got to Arcola and began to unpack, the first thing I found was the paper with our forwarding address on it. It had never been mailed to anyone informing them of our move. It was a bad mistake on my part, and I mailed it a few days later when I went to the Arcola (population 50) post office to let them know we were back.

Mrs. Dyson, the postmistress, gave us a very warm welcome and our first piece of mail. Can you guess who it was from? Yep! It was from St. Labre. Can you believe it?

The next morning, a knock came on our screen door and two men in dark suits and sunglasses asked if they could come in to check a reference that they had been given by a prospective agent. It was the FBI. They told me they had had a difficult time tracking us down there in the woods, but that they were the FBI and never failed to find their man.

I didn't have the heart to tell them that they were beaten to the punch by the Indian Orphans of St. Labre School.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Those orphans should subcontract out to the FBI. They could earn a lot more money.

Love it!

Check out the first Wigwam it might have a homing device! ;)

Great story Nancy.

I've been a St.Labre donor for some years now. When I moved into my retirement home a few years back, I made sure to notify them of my new address; now it seems I could have saved myself the time and postage. (Sort of a variation on "don't call us, we'll call you.")

Good story, Nancy.

Oh, what a delightful story. Not only does this have a crisp sense of reality, you have written it so well we are carried right along smiling as we read. Thank you.

What a very sweet story Nancy...I loved it. Looks like the FBI could take a few tips from those little orphans.

Oh, how funny. I believe it, though. Mr. kenju is on the list of every Catholic charity in the US, and they never fail to find us....LOL

Nancy, we lived in Norfolk while you were in Hampton. Small world.

Thanks everyone. I am always so happy when I get a good response to my story.

I appreciate you reading them and taking the time to comment.

So, Judy, you were in Norfolk when we were in Hampton. Roy was at NASA at Langley Air Force base. We were there for three years while NASA was striving to get a man on the Moon.

It was a long way from the old age Nun's home and we loved the adventure.........

And I can't get off their list! After I did some research on how the charity is run, I decided against sending more money, but have received all those trinkets for years - that has got to be a huge administrative waste - part of why I don't think they make the best use of the money. But I agree, they are tenacious:)

I am 1 of the so called "orphans" of St.Labre, their stories to all you are nothing but lies!!! I am no orphan,nor was I ever without the basics, I live in a house with parents, running water and electricity, just like my school mates. St. Labre lies for money, times were hard in the past, thats for sure but today in 2008 things arent what St. Labre says...they are lies!!! for money!!! using kids for profit, isnt there a name for that? Please, think before you send money, research this and you will find the truth..God Bless


I am flabbergasted to find your story (amused as well) in the long line of google results for St. Labre. I have been donating to them for some 20 odd years and considered them my 'favorite' charity. Since this was my first attempt at making my donations on-line, it is the first time I saw all the bad press - including an unacceptable report from the BBB's charitable org div. Needless to say, they are cut off. But the bright side is that I am a writer and so enjoyed your story! Don't know that I qualify for this site (I'm 52) but I will visit again. Keep writing. You are great!

BTW <> is my favorite line and the one which cracks me up the most!

I think I know Arcola. Is it on a river in Montgomery County? I think we looked at a place there. Nice spot if it is where I am thinking...

"They had a tepee in the mail before the moving van left" was the line that didn't paste into the above comment :)

Hello Liz,

I was delighted to read your nice comment today.

Yes, Arcola is in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania and is right on the Perkiomen Creek. So, you have been there. How interesting.

My email address is nleitz@comcast.net if you would like to write to me.

Thanks again for taking the time to comment.


I enjoyed your story but was dismayed by posted comments. First of all St Labre is a good school, they demand the best of their students. I sure in the begining the school did take in orphans now they also take in children with problems, unwanted children and children whose parent want them to receive a good education. Currently I have 3 students attending St Labre and I enjoy all the school has to offer my children. Part of the money raised is for schorlorships which will help my children go further in life. We may not be starving but we do enjoy the help given to us thru the school. When you receive your trinkets think of it as a step in the Native American children trying to give back to the donors and as a blessing past on to the donor.

I attended St. Labre School from the first through grade twelve. Our tribe (Northern Cheyenne) is in court with this organization because of the lies they tell of my people and the monies they gain-which is estimated to be over 20 million per year by Guidestar.org (a watch dog agency). I graduated from st labre and went on to recieve a doctorate in education-with virtually no help from this place. Right now, I'm back on the reservation and am writing poetry about oppression and poverty-I want to write a book but, like StLabre I need funds. If anyone would like to help please contact me at frankrowland@yahoo.com I am willing to forward my resume and any and all information you may need, nee ah ish,("thank you") in my language. Franklin C. Rowland, Ed.D.

I was raised in Ashland along with 4 siblings and attended grade school there until my older brother and I had graduated eighth grade and we moved to Miles City for High School. My Mother said none of her children would go to St. Labre. She was very critical of the stories they put out to prey on the generosity of other's and all the while "those people had it better than a lot of non-Indians". I just finished reading, "Renegade Priest" by Renee Sansom Flood, about Father Emmett Hoffman's work and life there. Very good book, brought back a lot of memories.

I enjoyed your story very much. It put a big smile on my face. I too have been giving to St. Labre for over 20 yrs. Those great kids need our help for a good education. Being from Northeastern PA. and jobs aren't in abundance, but I still try my best to send them something from time to time.

i have known st.labre to be a place that does rely on donations to keep the school going and i also know that there is a abundance of donations from donors all over the world and this may be for a good cause there are also a lot of lies involved in getting these donations. i have relatives that have posed for pictures in the begging letters that were not homeless they had a home and electricity, hot water,working parents and food. the parents were payed for this by st.labre to use these pictures in their begging letters and they were not cheyenne at all nor crow. your not donating to orphans. you were donating to the benefit of st.labre getting rich.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment