St. Joseph’s history sleuths

Everyone on St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus is in high gear preparing for this weekend’s 35th annual powwow events. It’s a lot of work, but something we look forward to every year.

While headed home for lunch, I ran into LaRae, one of our family service counselors, gathering up a group of 10 children for a “new student” group. They have lunch together and talk about their adjustments, and lend peer support to each other.

Our Cross Country team came home from yesterday’s White River meet with a win. All our runners – boys and girls – earned a ribbon, which should encourage them to keep training and improving.  Kyle and Cassidy came in first place in their respective races.

Dan, one of the Summerlee houseparents, has an interest in archeology. He set up a dig on campus to teach interested students about that science and see what they could find. On the first excavation they found a tin stamp, probably used to stamp letters with the St. Joseph’s Indian School seal, broken and discarded only to be uncovered by our history sleuths. We’ll see what other treasures they unearth and what it teaches them about the old days.

Peggy, one of our 4th grade teachers celebrated a birthday today. When I stopped by the classroom to wish her well, I discovered that the 4th grade boys in Cyr Home had baked a birthday cake for her and were sharing it with the class. They are pretty good cooks, though I think they had a little help!

Our 7th and 8th grade football team opened the season with an impressive win against Crow Creek 48 – 6. Dave is a new 8th grader this year and set the tone when on the opening kickoff he picked up a fumble and rumbled into the end zone. As the touchdowns piled up, our back up and younger players got more and more playing time. Several of our players are from the Crow Creek Indian reservation and were playing against friends and relatives. Lots of folks along the sidelines were cheering for both teams.

10th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks

St. Joseph's Indian School will never forget 9/11!
St. Joseph's Indian School will never forget 9/11!

As the country marks the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, we prayed for all the victims and their families at church today. At noon, we tolled the church bells and had the homes stop what they were doing for a moment of silence. Then each home had a common prayer to pray and remember.

While visiting the Sheehy (HS boys) Home, I asked if they had any vivid memories of that tragic day. Many of our students weren’t yet born in 2001. All the high school guys were between 4 and 7, and only a couple had a few vague memories. I was 4 when President Kennedy was shot, and I don’t remember any of that either. But I know what a sad event that was for the whole country and could understand how it affected people for years to come. As our students hear more stories and remembrances, I think 9-11 will become more real to them as time goes on, even if it was outside their initial experience.

Building better lives thorough education

This morning I attended a 5 team volleyball tournament where our 7th and 8th grade teams got to see their first action of the year. Three 6th grade girls also got some playing time.

I came home to campus where the 5th and 6th grade football program was scrimmaging . At that level, we don’t have our own team, but students from Chamberlain and the surrounding area are all involved. It’s healthy to see our students mix in such positive ways with others. It was also a beautiful day to be outside.

I stopped in on the FAST (Families and Schools Together) program. Some of the families I’ve known for years. Others are brand new to St. Joseph’s Indian School. All appreciated the opportunity for activities with their children/grandchildren. I know it sure means a lot to the kids to have their families involved on campus.

In the office, I had several huge piles of paperwork to sign. Our college scholarship committee met and recommended who will receive scholarships this semester. Twenty-six of our alumni are in college right now. Thirteen are just beginning college studies, most after some time of working and starting families. A 41-year-old is going back to school to be a Chemical Dependency Counselor, after overcoming his own addictions and living a clean and sober lifestyle for many years.  One young woman is combining Lakota (Sioux) and EMT training, so she can speak in Lakota to those in the ambulance who speak that as their native tongue. One alumnae  has a daughter in school here right now, and she is going back to school to improve her own life and be a good example to her daughter. Some of the letters are just a basic few lines, others are quite stirring narrative about trying to overcome hard circumstances, and build a better life thorough education.

I was especially satisfied to sign college scholarship papers for all three of our high school students who graduated last May.

My high school yearbook

Fall seems to kick off meeting season for the local diocese. I traveled to Mitchell, South Dakota yesterday for a priest meeting with the Vicar for Clergy and to Sioux Falls today for a meeting on vocations. Both were worth the time and distances.

While much has been in the news about priests’ misbehavior, as a group, priests tend to have some of the highest rankings of job satisfaction and there was a good spirit among the group. We shared about other priests who positively impacted our lives and vocations. My pastor, Fr. Letko, served in my home parish for 42 years, so he was the only priest I knew and a real institution. I don’t remember a lot of his homilies, but I remember him driving the school bus, cutting the grass and dropping by to visit people in their homes every once in a while. He was a real part of the community, and that was a strong formative influence on me.

The vocation meeting, was a gathering of the religious communities that work in the diocese gathered, both of men and women. Again, lots of caring people, doing some good work to serve both the church and people in need. We keep praying that we can live lives of faith that inspire others to search for God within the context of religious life.

Read here how Rebecca set a goal to cut enough Campbell’s Soup labels to earn a laptop computer.

I did get in some time with the students. I had supper with William Home (4th-5th grade girls). They were cutting soup labels when I arrived – saving up for prizes for both the home and themselves individually.

At the office, a couple of our high school girls dropped by to talk. Erin and Danisha are both seniors, and starting to plan for senior pictures. I happened to have my high school yearbook on the bookshelf and opened it up where they both got a good laugh at how I looked many years ago. It lead to lots of stories and sharing.

Jump roping for laughs

Fr. Joe and Fr. Vincent stopped by from Lower Brule, where they are in charge of pastoral work on the two Indian reservations nearest St. Joseph’s Indian School. They are replacing a 30+ year old heating and cooling system and we needed to talk about that project. Since I was pastor there before coming to the school, we also caught up on people and events in the parish.

I was looking forward to hosting them for lunch at our community house, but we had some complications.

To help get ready for our 35th annual powwow, we decided to trench in a water line to the pavilion. That will help make clean up for the supper and concession stand a lot easier. They had to shut off the water to our house in order to do that, and I had set some pots of water aside. But in digging there was an older electrical connection that wasn’t correct on our underground maps, and power got knocked out too. Besides all the computers going down for a while, we got things up and running in short order, and it didn’t interrupt the school day. But with no water or electricity, going home for lunch wasn’t happening, I treated Fr. Joe and Fr. Vincent to a café in downtown Chamberlain instead.

The American Indian children love playing outside!
The Lakota (Sioux) children love playing outside!

Going by the Benedictine Homes after school, I saw some of our youngest girls twirling a long jump rope. I was in a playful mood, so I jumped in and joined them. I used to jump rope a lot when I was training for basketball. I lasted a long time, which is another sign the nerves in my foot are continuing to heal and grow stronger. And I got some smiles and laughs out of the little ones to see me joining their games.

A great Labor Day weekend

The campus was unusually quiet over the weekend. Many of the students got checked out by their families to enjoy some activities over the long holiday weekend. On Sunday, we had a much smaller than usual crowd for mass as well. Several of the homes were gone on day trips – some made a run to the South Dakota State Fair in Huron. Others went to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to take in the LifeLight Christian Music Festival.

On Sunday our SCJ community hosted four overseas visitors. Three priests from Indonesia and one from Venezuela have been studying English this summer before they return to Rome for advanced degrees in Formation and Spirituality. They decided to take advantage of the long weekend and explore the South Dakota prairies.

Although today there were no classes, the campus sprang back to life as students poured back onto campus. A treat for Labor Day was a trip to downtown Chamberlain to the movies. It’s about a mile away and most of the homes walked down. We practically filled up the theater with just our St. Joseph’s kids. While “Smurfs 3D” is not exactly a cinematic masterpiece, I was chaperoning 1st – 3rd grade girls and their laughter and glee made the movie going experience unforgettable for me.

As each child came into the theater, they got a pop and popcorn. Rose is a new third grader this year, and she remarked, “Did St. Joseph’s pay for all this? That’s really nice of you!” I appreciated her gratitude and explained to her that I didn’t deserve the thanks as much as the many folks who send donations in so our students can have some fun once in a while, in addition to being able to run all the good school and home programs we have.

We ended the day with a cookout in Wisdom Circle before the students had to go inside for showers, homework time and to get ready to start another full school week.

A successful car wash for the Lakota youth

The high school girls are making a trip to an Arts Fair in Sioux Falls, South Dakota next week. Since Chamberlain High School had an early dismissal for the holiday weekend, they decided to have a car wash. It was timely for me, since I had lots of bugs all over the grill and windshield. They did a thorough job cleaning the inside too. They were scheduled to be open for business from 1:30 – 4:00 but with lots of interest and volume, they were in the parking lot until 5:30, and made a nice pile of change to spend on the trip.

After school, I walked by the Fisher field, where students were playing different games. I joined a group that was passing and punting footballs, and found it relaxing just to be out there with the crew, tossing back and forth and batting the breeze. My enjoyment of sports has always proven to be a nice ice breaker with the students. Daniel, one of our new houseparents, was grilling burgers, so the juicy odors led me over to Speyer Home (6th-8th grade boys) to join them for supper.

A day at St. Joseph’s Indian School

Today I spent time touring campus. The loading dock by the Development Office needs some major concrete and drainage work done. The building is 20 years old. While the work on the homes makes the campus look new and different, there is a lot of infrastructure work just to maintain the campus that our crew has to stay on top of.

I ate super with the Raphael Home (1st-3rd grade boys). They were full of energy after getting back from a hike around campus. You’d think it would calm them down, but still they were excited and had lots of stories to share. Being a guest, I had lots of requests of youngsters who wanted to sit next to me. Alas, there are only two chairs on either side, so I can only say yes to the first two to ask.

Afterward, I listened to and helped the readers along. The first graders had an 8 page book, with about a dozen words repeated in every possible combination. “I am Sam. Matt sat on a mat.” I remember having to start at that level too, once upon a time.

Becky and Chantel inventoried the safe and found some older coins that had been donated and stored for safe keeping. We decided to get them appraised and found that we could earn about $12,000 by selling them, so that was a nice day’s work.

Erica is a freshman in high school and I walked by a meeting with her family service counselor Julie. “Did you ever hear of a high school student who missed the rules so soon – after just one week?” Erica was telling Julie what she missed was the group structure of the junior high homes, where everything including homework time was done in common. In high school you have to organize your own time – an important task we all must learn.

Hurricane Irene affects St. Joseph’s Indian School

Good afternoon!

The first item I want to share is that Fr. Steve, the students and staff of St. Joseph’s that went to New York City for  donor luncheons are safe, but stuck.  Father called yesterday afternoon to say that they were able to have the luncheon on Saturday, but only seven Benefactors were able to attend due to the approach of Hurricane Irene since public transportation was shut down.  I’m sure Fr. Steve will have more to blog at his next opportunity, but he wanted everyone to know they were safe.  Due to the backlog of air travelers, he felt that they might have to stay an extra day or two before being able to fly back to South Dakota.

As mentioned in my last memo, the local Chamberlain School system opened last week and the high school kicked off their volleyball, football and soccer season.  The Cubs pulled off a big upset in knocking off Hot Springs 16-14 in football.  Four of our students are on the team, one is a cheerleader and even the mascot is a St. Joseph’s Indian School student.  The soccer and volleyball teams did not fare as well.  The soccer team is 0-3, but got a nice word of affirmation from the referee at their last game since he was impressed at the progress they have made since this is only their second year.  The volleyball team won the JV game 2-0.  Two St. Joseph students are on that team while one is on the varsity which gave a good effort but also had opening game jitters that helped contribute to losing the match 0-3.

I also mentioned that a variety of meetings have been underway here on campus and that was highlighted by various reports being generated regarding our strategic planning as we dream dreams for the future and how we can continue moving St. Joseph’s forward over the next several years.

On Saturday, three Benedictine Sisters from Yankton, South Dakota came by for a visit to campus.  Sister Doris is the blood sister of Sister William after whom one of our Homes is named.  One of the other Sisters had been to visit St. Joseph’s years ago and mentioned how impressed they were with the look of the campus and all the “new” additions they noticed.  It is always nice when those who have some history with St. Joseph’s visit and then share their memories of previous visits, especially if it has been awhile.

St. Joseph’s hosted about 15 families who attended a FAST (Families And School Together) Weekend.  The program is an outreach of our Family Service Counselors  geared to help students and their families  deepen relationship and interaction skills while facing the challenges of family life.

Lots of activities for the students this week as the cross-country, volleyball and 7th/8th grade football teams are practicing for their upcoming seasons which begin next month.  Our 5th grade Lakota (Sioux) students will also have the chance to check out the opportunity to form a band here at St. Joseph’s as part of a program in conjunction with the Chamberlain School system to help younger students start learning musical instruments, so as to be ready to transition into the high school band.  It may be a bit noisy around here for the next several months or so, but we are also looking forward some beautiful music as the year moves along.  Another area of practice will be for those preparing to dance for the powwow on September 17th.

Now that the students are back and the year is underway, I’ll be going into each of the Homes to bless them for the upcoming school year.  It is a way to remind our students we want to provide a safe and secure experience for them and the blessing highlights God’s presence so as to enable all within the Home to be supportive and encouraging to each other.

Again, our thanks to all of you for your generosity, prayers and encouragement.  May God continue to bless and reward you.  Have a great day!


Fr. Anthony Kluckman, SCJ


St. Joseph’s Indian School

An update from Fr. Anthony

With Fr. Steve Huffstetter, SCJ on his way to New York City for donor lunches this weekend, I have the chance to serve again as guest blogger.  My name is Fr. Anthony Kluckman, SCJ and I am the chaplain here at St. Jospeh’s.

The school year has been underway for about a week and a half.  We had the official ‘opening’ on Wednesday afternoon with the Opening of School Liturgy and student picnic.  It was also the opening of school for the Chamberlain School system which meant that our high school students were back and ready to go after their orientation and the children of our houseparents were starting their studies for the year as well.

We have a large number of high dchool students this year, as 8th grade graduates over the last two years have made known their desire to continue in St. Joseph’s program.  Several of the students came back early to take part in pre-season athletic activities—soccer, football and volleyball.  The soccer is already underway and the football team has their first game Friday night against Hot Springs, SD.  The volleyball team has their first game on Saturday against Mobridge/Pollock.  To encourage support of the various teams, St. Joseph’s rec department buys several season passes so that our students can attend and lend their voices in cheer for the teams and their players, especially those from St. Joseph’s.

Fr. Steve may have mentioned that St. Joseph’s hosted the 2011 Chamberlain/Oacoma Youth Triathlon which consisted of swimming, running and bike riding.  Students could take part individually or as part of a 3-man team.  In the 9-10 year old boys, Maleke came in second and in the team category, Moses, Dylan and Bradley came in first and Ramez, Richie and Dustin came in second.  In the 11-12 year old category, Angel was first and Cassidy second in the individual girls and Nate, Joseph and Louie won third along with Hialle, Trinity and Justis winning fourth in the team category.  It was interesting watching them speed around campus on their bikes and then hit the pool and then run various distances depending on their age group.  Many from town and the local area also took part and had some nice compliments regarding the facilities St. Joseph’s had to offer in hosting the event.  Your generosity helps make the campus and facilities available to share with the local community.  We extend our thanks for your help to enable us to host something positive for the local area.

One drawback from getting the year underway, is the necessity for meetings as we prepare to welcome students and new staff and get ready for upcoming events. We have already had a meeting on the up-coming powwow in September.  Though they take up time, they do help us all get on the same page and thus better prepared to be of service to students and staff.  I bring this up since I’m on my way to a meeting now.  Will touch base with you again on Monday to share what went down over the weekend.  May God’s blessings be with you to reward you for your interest in St. Joseph’s Indian School.


Fr. Anthony Kluckman, SCJ