How many times a day do you pray?

Angela, one of the high school students ran into me as I was returning from chapel after mass.

“How many times a day do you pray?” she asked.

“Three or four”

“That’s a lot”

I need all of those times and more for strength and guidance so I stay on the right track. Most people don’t have the luxury of building long periods of prayer time into their day. I suggest they just find a short prayer phrase they can say to help them before they begin important work like Lord make my heart like your heart, or something simple like, “Lord give me patience and strength” when faced with a difficult challenge.

We wrapped up several programs this past week. Campus is much quieter this week now that our Rising Eagle Day Camp has successfully concluded. Besides our high school students who worked with the younger students, we were blessed with a group of students from Scranton Prep in Pennsylvania. They have been coming to our area for the past eight summers or so to help with various service projects.

I stopped in a few times during the week to see how they were faring and answer questions on topics ranging from St . Joseph’s admission policies to inquiries about Lakota culture. At the end of the week, 17 of us gathered around the two dining room tables in the Ambrose Home, and each person got a chance to share something they’d learned during this time. One young man said that seeing the striking poverty on the Indian reservation he visited opened his eyes to think about those who struggle in his own community. A young woman had a blast working with younger children. She said that she often won’t give her younger siblings much time at all, but realizes now how much impact the care of an older sister can and does make. She recommitted herself to being more present to them when she gets home.

In a mosaic of cultures, the SCJ Schools in Collaboration group was on campus for several days. Students and teachers from Texas, Mississippi and Wisconsin exchanged information about themselves, their school and unique cultures. Our kids got to meet some of their pen pals or folks they’ve gone head to head against in the Battle of the Books. Our students donned their dance regalia and explained the significance of powwows and detailed the differences in the kinds of Native American dances they are trained in. Fr. Anthony accompanied them to the Black Hills and Badlands where everyone came back with great memories and pictures.

We said goodbye to two young woman we grew to appreciate in such a short time. Lauren, who grew up in the Denver area was here exploring both her Lakota roots, and engaged in more discernment about a possible religious vocation. Lauren helped in summer camp and with other projects around campus. She interacted tremendously well with our students, and asked many questions of our Native American staff. Our talks took me back to the days when I was formation director for college seminarians, and was inspired by her talk of faith and love of God. Jessica, an college intern attending Notre Dame, also wrapped up her four weeks here. The anthropology major in her was nourished by our Aktas Lakota Museum and the visits to cultural sites. The people side of her did a great job interacting with our students in a variety of ways.

We have a Bookmobile that travels to many of the Indian reservation communities each summer, putting free books in the hands of kids who are hungry to read. Friday our staff stopped in Fort Thompson, and also had a picnic style meal for families at the Boys and Girls Club.

Ed, a donor from Illinois, stopped by campus to check it out for the first time.

“I wanted to make sure this was a real place and not just a post office box,” he said.

I gave him a tour and he was impressed by all that goes on here. He also got something of a cultural education when he went to Lower Brule, where they were holding a memorial for the parish housekeeper who died one year ago in a tragic car accident when the roadway collapsed due to flooding.

After a memorial mass, the family gathered in the community center, where a Wiping of Tears ceremony was held. A woman symbolically wiped their tears away with a cloth, gently guided an Eagle Feather around their head in a cleansing ritual. They were then given some tobacco to smoke, and water and chokecherry juice to drink. At the conclusion everyone present shook their hands or gave hugs in a show of support. We then sat down to a big meal and giveaway.

Author: St. Joseph's Indian School

At St. Joseph’s Indian School, our privately-funded programs for Lakota (Sioux) children in need have evolved over 89 years of family partnership, experience and education. Because of generous friends who share tax-deductible donations, Native American youth receive a safe, stable home life; individual counseling and guidance; carefully planned curriculum based on Lakota culture and individual student needs and tools to help build confidence, boost self-esteem and improve cultural awareness. All of this helps children to live a bright, productive, possibility-filled future.

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