Things have really picked up lately

Greetings to all!  My name is Mike and I am a houseparent in the William Home here at St. Joseph’s Indian School.  We are home to ten 4th and 5th grade girls.  This is my ninth year in the William Home.  This has been a very quick and exciting start to our school year.  We have been very active and have had some very fun moments here at St. Joseph’s.  We took the girls to Custer, South Dakota in September and went to the Buffalo Round-up in Custer State Park as well as taking in Crazy Horse Monument.  The laser light show at Crazy Horse was awesome and the tour of the facility is very educational for our Native American youth.  The round-up is an experience as almost 15,000 people sit on the hills and wait for the cowboys to bring the tatankabuffalo to the corrals!

The girls at St. Joseph's Indian School have done a great job in basketball this year!
The girls at St. Joseph's Indian School have done a great job in basketball this year!

Things have really picked up lately.  We had five of our girls make the first quarter honor roll and we are very proud of them.  The girls are involved in dancing dolls with the Chamberlain community and have their performance in December and our 5th graders are in band.  I also have the pleasure to help coach our 4th and 5th grade girls basketball team which is always an enjoyable time of the year.  We have played four games so far and have five left before Christmas break.  It’s a good fit for me since this time of year in my off time I referee college basketball and will soon start working high school games for the 27th year.


It is hard to believe that we are on the door of Thanksgiving break and Christmas is right around the corner.  We would love to have you stop and see the great things St. Josephs has to offer.  Hope you have a blessed and safe holiday season!!

Inipi – sweat lodge ceremony

As I walked through Wisdom Circle on my way to the Rec Center, I noticed one of our first grade girls sitting alone on a bench away from the other kids. I said, “You look sad – is anything wrong?” She had been playing tether ball, but when her time was up another girl came and played with her friend and she was feeling left out and probably jealous. While those are small things to us adults (hopefully we handle them OK) it was a big deal to her, and putting a damper on her whole day. Then another tether ball pole was  freed up and she was off to play, things right in her world.

Our girls had 4th, 5th and 6th grade basketball games against Chamberlain. There were plenty of St. Joseph’s staff with children on the Chamberlain team. Practically everyone in the stands had divided loyalties, so there was lots of cheering for everyone. What the girls lacked in talent, they made up for in hustle and enthusiasm. It was particularly fun seeing the 4th graders go at it.

The boys had a great time prepairing for their was inipi - sweat lodge ceremony.
The boys had a great time prepairing for their was inipi - sweat lodge ceremony.

This afternoon was inipi – sweat lodge ceremony – for our teenage boys who wanted to participate. Several high school students served as mentors for 8th graders, a few who were going into the lodge for the first time. The grandfather of one of our students led the ceremony. I stopped by beforehand to see how the fire to heat the rocks was coming along. Mark, who works in the rec center, was the firekeeper. As the rocks heated up, one started to crackle and pop, which is dangerous in the small confined spaces. Since Mark has lots of experience, he culled that rock out with his pitchfork, and selected another that would be better. After the four rounds of prayer, everyone gathered for a traditional meal at Speyer Home.


Lakota challenges, opportunities and struggles

Due to a few people being away, our Development Office meeting got canceled.  We do a lot of good working meetings, but I seldom cry or complain when one gets canceled. Since I planned to spend time there anyway, I wandered around the offices with a little extra time to check on what folks are working on.  Donors have been generous with the annual heating appeal and the Lakota (Sioux) star quilt raffle, so there are many letters to answer, along with prayer requests and questions. With any kind of ministry, you imagine yourself doing great and life changing things. Today, we spent time trying to figure out the best use of a fur coat that someone generously gave us. Every day brings unique challenges and opportunities.

Over lunch, we had a training session for all of our supervisors. The topic was time management, and I did notice that everyone was there on time. Most interesting to me was the acknowledgement that one of the biggest problems is that we too easily get distracted by “shiny objects” – things we find more interesting and attractive that pull us away from focusing on what is most important. I can make a list and cross off many things, but if I’m not getting at the most important tasks, which are often the most demanding, I’m not making much real progress. In the spiritual life, we so often speak of discernment, and trying to look to God to show us what is important, and what we can and must let go of. When I see something important that I cannot accomplish myself, that’s where teamwork and dialogue become so important.

Our 7th and 8th grade boys were in basketball action again tonight. The 7th grade continues to roll with a 6-0 start to the season. The 8th graders played hard but came up 5 points short. One of the kids was visibly upset when the coach took him out of the game, and other choked back tears when he fouled out. I spent most of the 4th quarter over on the bench just sitting there, trying to be a calming influence and be of support. We all have a tendency to think of our kids as tough, but those times remind me that their self-esteem is fragile, and some have wounds that are not easily healed. A basketball game, school activity or home event may trigger a reaction that tells us to look beyond the behavior and ask what we need to address. Our programs try to take all that into account and help them through the difficulties of growing up years.