Like many others, we began Lent yesterday with prayer and the distribution of ashes.
I had a morning mass on campus for part of the staff before the liturgy for the Lakota (Sioux) children in the afternoon. When I headed home for lunch I passed the younger kids on the playground, playing King of the Hill on the mound of snow at the playground’s edge.
Kaiden (first grade) saw the black smudge on my forehead and asked if those were ashes.
“Does it burn?”
No, I reassured him, the ashes were not hot, just messy and a sign that we’re sorry for the wrong things we do and want to try to do better. He seemed OK with that answer, and wasn’t scared later when he came up to receive the mark of repentance for himself.
With our high school students having a different schedule, there are few good times for all the students on campus to get together. Fr. Anthony lead an additional evening service for our older Native American students. They seem to enjoy the more intimate setting among their peers.
Today was also Valentine’s day. After a day of Lenten fasting, there was no shortage of sugary treats. Casmir, a 95-year-old alumnus from our very first class at St. Joseph’s Indian School, bought ice cream bars for everyone in the school, which were shared at afternoon break.
Another donor provided enough wonderful children’s books for every student in grades 1-4 to choose two or three from a great selection. The classrooms and homes picked a few also for use with future classes. Mary’s first graders presented me with a poster sized Valentine’s card about half as big as my office door, with hearts and handprints and lots of love.
This year we instituted a “parent portal” so families can sign in via computer and check on their child’s grades and scores. Some parents and guardians do not have computers or internet access, but many have some way to check in once in a while. Many of our families live at a distance, some up to four or five hours away, so this is another way to try to bridge the gap.
I received a report on usage, and we are quite pleased with initial interest. As happens anywhere however, some of the students who could use parental involvement and support the most are the ones whose parents or guardians remain unengaged.