Prayers, powwows and new beginnings

Friday, August 13, 2010

I drove 2 ½ hours to St. Francis on the Rosebud Reservation to talk to Fr. John, who has been my spiritual director for all 19 of the years I’ve worked in South Dakota. Though I’ve talked to John on the phone several times, I haven’t actually seen him since before Christmas, when the cancer was discovered and treatments began.

After recounting the ordeal from start to finish, John asked, “What kind of toll did it take?”

I have to say, the emotional toll was highest during the chemo and radiation phase. The physical toll was highest after the surgery. I’m only recently getting my energy and spark back. But, considering all I’ve been through, I’m doing OK. And, in that, I know God has seen me through.

Perhaps I’ve grown in compassion, and I certainly have a better understanding of the fears and struggles people with serious illness face. My brush with mortality certainly makes me less likely to sweat the small stuff. Like many important events that shape our lives, we often don’t realize the grace that comes with them until long after the fact.

After our talk, I was treated to supper at the Buffalo Jump Coffee House. It’s a new place in Mission that benefits the downtown Youth Project. Buffalo Jump provides both employment opportunities and activities for the Youth in the community. That alone is so needed in a community with such high dropout and suicide rates.  The food was scrumptious, and the hospitality of the Jesuits and stimulating conversation made it a great evening.

 Saturday, August 14, 2010

Lower Brule Fair and Powwow lasted all weekend. I spent time there today at the rodeo, softball tourney, and of course, the powwow. The best part for me is that it’s like a big family reunion, where you keep running into people you know, not just from the Lower Brule community, but from all over. A stroll around the powwow grounds that would normally take just a few minutes might take an hour, as you see people and stop and talk.

I saw one of our St. Joseph’s sixth grade girls taking care of her 5 younger siblings. Some of our girls have a lot of responsibility thrust on them at an early age.

Tia, one of our new houseparents, sat next to me while the Grand Entry of the dancers was taking place. I explained what we saw, as this was her very first powwow. When you’ve taken part in many powwows, it can become somewhat routine. But, not for a first-timer!

Tia’s eyes were wide with wonder and enjoyment at all the color and pageantry. As the drummers in front of us raised their voices in song, and beat the drum in unison, seeing it through her eyes helped me reconnect with that initial thrill and inspiration.

Our annual powwow and cultural celebration is just around the corner. We host our signature event here on campus September 17-18. Everyone is welcome, and we’re all excited to see share such a joyous occasion with so many friends!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

At noon today all of our 19 homes opened, and I spent much of the day welcoming students back. I generally start my rounds at the health center. All of the students have to check in there, so I ran into many students getting their eyes and other basics checked.

Only a few students trickled in during the first hours, but that gave me plenty of time for visiting and checking.

Then, I made my way to each of the homes. The most popular food on the stove was chili since it could simmer all day and be ready any time someone new rolled in. All the clothes and possessions needed to be catalogued and initialed, paperwork and permission slips had to be signed, and many other tasks were on lists that keep the houseparents very busy.

At one home, the father of a student saw a staff member wearing a T-shirt from our last sobriety walk. He talked freely about his 14 years of sobriety, but also the difficulties he put his family through in his days of hard drinking. It’s a sad reality in too many families, especially the families we serve.

Since I last saw many of the students in May while I was still going through treatments, at least four children blurted out, “Your hair grew back!” Indeed, I’ve made a lot of progress since May. The hugs and smiles and talks with families make this a great day and a great place to be.

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.

4 thoughts on “Prayers, powwows and new beginnings”

  1. I’d missed hearing from Fr. Steve the past few days but today’s blog more than made up for it. You have been very busy and it was all really interesting to read about. It made me wish I could have been there for some of it. These blogs gave me a lot to think about and I have to say, I feel really good about being able to share in the life of the St. Joseph’s community by my small contributions. My best wishes, admiration and appreciation to all concerned and thanks to God for His Hands on Earth in South Dakota!

  2. Father Steve, the truth is that you KNOW HOW to enjoy people and things and life. In short, you know how to LIVE..! Congratulations. You are one of the few..who can do that successfully.!
    You are truly a man of God..!
    Thank You..
    Mia and Bob

  3. Dear Father Steve:
    I sincerely thank you for the kind words on the loss of my husband Roger. Today, 8/18/10 would have been our 48th Anniversary. I keep you constantly in my prayers that you will make a full recovery from your cancer. I have made the decision to drive out to St Joe’s for the PowWow & am extremely excited to attend my first one! I look forward to meeting new people & seeing you & “my children”.I love you all. God Bless you for your work–I’m glad I can be a small part of it.

    1. Betty Ann,

      We will be at the pow wow too and I hope we get a chance to meet you and visit! Enjoy the drive out! See you in September!

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