Restore St. Francis Xavier

Mission Church and Rectory

School activity with St. Francis Xavier Mission Church rectory in background

Help us reach our goal

Through a generous matching grant of $100,000 from the National Fund for Sacred Places, you can double your impact by making a gift to support historic preservation at St. Francis Xavier Mission Church and Rectory.

Located on the Big Horn River within the Crow Reservation in Montana, St. Xavier Mission was established in 1886. St. Xavier Catholic Church has been in continuous use since 1888 and a Capuchin ministry site for the last 50 years. The church is a centerpiece for religious celebrations of the Crow Catholic Community and local non-Native population. Many people consider St. Xavier to be the heart of the Catholic Church on the reservation. The church and rectory were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

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An undated photo likely from the late 19th century of St. Francis Xavier Mission Church and Rectory

Our History

Serving the Crow Nation of Southeast Montana, the St. Xavier mission was founded in 1886 and continues to serve as a worship site and school. With the financial backing of a young heiress, now St. Katharine Drexel, Jesuit missionaries built St. Francis Xavier Church in 1888. It remains the “mother” church of the Crow Reservation’s Catholic community. The simple rectory building is listed as a contributing building in association with the mission. The church has been in continuous use since its construction more than 130 years ago. While the Jesuits no longer serve the parish, Capuchin Franciscans from the Province of St. Joseph have ministered here for more than 50 years.

Our Present

Each week, 120 Native students move through the doors into the church their ancestors prayed in. They stand on the original wood timbers. One elder remarked on the recently uncovered floor that “this is the floor that my grandparents walked on.” St. Francis Xavier is a place of memory; it is a place cradling our future. Unlike many of the 19th century missions that are long gone or museum pieces with their complicated histories, this mission is alive with children building the future. In an effort to come to grips with the uneasy historical relationship between Christian missionaries and traditional Native ways, the embrace of Indian culture in the current school curriculum and worship is evident. Unable to change any past missteps, this historical mission has moved forward to a better future through education and cultural sensitivity.

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Capuchin friars Tien Dinh and Mark Joseph Costello outside St. Francis Xavier Mission Church in Montana

The Future – Phase Three

Future plans for St. Francis Xavier Mission Church and Rectory call for the creation of a Visitor’s Center and repair of the historic church cemetery which has fallen into disrepair. Plans for Phase Three, a project anticipated to cost in excess of $300,000, will solidify after the completion of Phase Two.

Daytime landscape at Chief Plenty Coups State Park


You can make a gift to support the restoration of St. Xavier Mission Church and preserve this important worship site for future generations of the Crow Nation.


St. Francis Xavier Mission Church and Rectory

Physical Address:
212 Mission Ave, St Xavier, MT 59075

Mailing Address:
PO Box 247, Crow Agency, MT 59022

E-mail: [email protected]