Fr. José, an SCJ from our Portuguese province, recently arrived at St. Joseph’s Indian School to begin a four-month stay with us. He is finishing a Masters degree in the area of Economy and International Action at Catholic University in Paris. He is studying human rights as it relates to minority communities and we will be very interested to hear his observations about life in South Dakota.
A significant part of his time here will be devoted to research and study. But, he also wants to improve his conversational English. Children are wonderful language teachers because they have a limited and simpler vocabulary. Where adults are often too polite, kids will laugh when you use the wrong word and correct you. We ate supper in the Dennis Home (1st-3rd grade girls) and the Lakota girls helped Fr. Jose make sure he knew the names of all the foods, plates, utensils and condiments on the table.
We had some fun moments on the playground with the kids. We didn’t quite know how to translate “Red Rover” into Portuguese! The girls had fun trying to break through clasped arms. Fr. Jose also had his first attempt at tetherball. To me, it is a monotonous game, but our younger kids love to play it for long stretches at a time.
When the kids asked Fr. José to say something in his language, they sat spellbound as they heard the Lord’s prayer for them in Portuguese, and the Hail Mary in French. Then they in turn began teaching him some of their bedtime prayers.
Friday, our Native American drum group had a practice scheduled in the church, and I took Fr. Jose for his first experience of a Lakota drum song. I could see him tapping his foot in time to the drum beat. Drum music truly is contagious, and you can almost feel your heart beating along.