Our cultural travels with St. Joseph’s seventh graders came to a conclusion last Friday, with a day driving home through Badlands National Park.
Fr. Jose was enthralled by the unique landscapes and asked for many stops along the way to take pictures. He thought he’d like to spend a week there to contemplate and take it all in.
The last two years, we’ve had drought conditions across South Dakota. This year, however, May brought about five inches of rain to our area, and the grasslands on the prairie and buttes were about as green as I’ve ever seen. The fresh new grass contrasted with the earth tones of the jagged peaks, whimsical sand castles and colorful mounds along the road. The mix of cloud cover and sunshine brought out the natural colors and beauty – a wonderful sight to behold.
When I travel, I make a game of looking for license plates from different states. In our 1500-mile journey, we found 47 states and the District of Columbia! The only ones missing were Connecticut, Delaware and Hawaii. If you’re from those areas, make sure you come visit us out in South Dakota in the near future!
Today we gathered all our traveling pilgrims in Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel back on St. Joseph’s campus for a prayer service. We gave each of the students a chance to share some of their reflections about the trip.
At first, they were reluctant and shared only a few words, but then a few started in with more stories. My favorite was when Hope spoke about explaining the significance of the prayer ties to a visitor at Bear Butte. The visitor was unfamiliar with the practice. Explaining it to her gave Hope greater pride in her Lakota culture, and while many years younger than the woman, hope became the teacher.
Hearing her story assured me the main goal of the trip was accomplished.
The students’ families joined us for lunch, then took their kids home for the summer.
Last Friday was also my birthday. Staff at the development office treated us all to cake and Marina’s homemade maple nut ice cream. I had plenty of cards and calls and well wishes. I looked on our St. Joseph’s Facebook page there were almost 200 messages – thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes! I spent the evening doing laundry and getting ready for the next set of travels.