Charlotte’s neighbor Mary also joined us for conversation. Both pray with quality and consistency. I hope I can be as dedicated as these two women when I promise to pray for people.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
I headed out, driving down the gravel roads along the Moreau River past Whitehorse. I had a great plan to phone folks along the way until I remembered that there are places so country that there is no cell phone service in the area and none of my calls went through. But it worked out fine anyway, as I focused my efforts on seeing some of the elders.
At 91 years-old, Charlotte is one of the matriarchs on the east end having raised a large family on their ranch. Many of the tribal members work on this part of the Indian reservation ranch, although it gets harder to make it financially each year without some outside income.
Many people work for the tribe or have a job in town, which requires daily drives of 80 to 100 miles. Charlotte remembers the horse and wagon days – having to make or grow most of what they needed … or go without.
Charlotte’s neighbor Mary also joined us for conversation around the kitchen table. I was humbled to learn both have been following my progress and praying for me; praying with quality and consistency. I hope I can be as dedicated as these two women when I promise to pray for people.
Louie is a widower, a World War II vet, and living independently, relying on himself to get around. His house was a beehive of folks coming and going as his family prepared to have the Sun Dance – Wiwanke Wachipi – on their land. Tree Day marks the first day of this special event. The prayer leaders selected a cottonwood to cut down and move with care by hand to the center of the dance grounds. I saw lots of relatives and friends coming and going, but also a little treasured one-on-one time before bidding Louie adieu.
I found Bunny home watching her grandchildren that I got to meet for the first time. Having been away quite a few years, I haven’t been a part of the births and baptisms as I once was. But when you sit at someone’s kitchen table, the passage of time evaporates and you get the chance to catch up with family and community happenings. I always learned the most about what is important to people around the kitchen table.
Tugie is 89. She’s lived on her land for over 60 years, and recently sold to neighbors. They told her she can live in the house for however long she wants and stop in daily to check on how she’s doing. Betty Anne was there as I pulled up, and it was so good getting to see her as well. Tugie still gets around pretty good on her own; hearty souls these folks are that work the land so many years.
Lest anyone warns me to take it easy, I have been taking very long naps every afternoon and pacing myself accordingly.
Monday, July 12, 2010
This morning I stopped in to visit a housebound parishioner who means a lot to me. Over toast and tea, we reminisced and caught up about our respective doings. We also discussed what’s going on in Eagle Butte.
This evening, I went to a wake of a 52-year-old woman who died of cancer. A drum group played some traditional songs as the pall bearers brought Carol’s body into church. I didn’t know Carol well, but I know her sister Margaret very well and wanted to be there to support her family.
In these Indian reservation communities, wakes and funerals are still very well attended. I find the best part of coming back to a parish where I’ve served is that first look of recognition across a room and the smile as people approach to say hello. Tonight, lots of familiar faces came up and gave me a hug or hearty handshake.
After the wake and rosary, the family served a meal, so people could stay around and visit. That gave me the chance to wander the tables and reconnect with folks. It’s the part of parish work I miss most when I have the administrative duties to take care of back at St. Joseph’s.
Lest anyone warns me to take it easy, I have been taking very long naps every afternoon and pacing myself accordingly. I still have nagging nerve pains in my foot that are about the same as they’ve been for weeks. But otherwise I feel OK.
On the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, there are only two priests serving eight parishes. Sister Anne was scheduled to have a communion service in Cherry Creek today, so I volunteered to ride along and have mass.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
On the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, there are only two priests serving eight parishes. The furthest parish is 90 miles away! Because of this, it’s not possible to have mass at all the churches every Sunday. Sister Anne was scheduled to have a communion service in Cherry Creek today, so I volunteered to ride along and have mass.
Cherry Creek is one of the oldest communities in the area and also one of the poorest and more isolated ones. Many of the families had gone to Dupree for a powwow and the centennial celebration, so we had a very small crowd in church … only eight people!
After driving 45+ miles for a small crowd, I felt tempted to look out at the empty church and ask, “Why am I here?” But, I came to the point where I could usually look at the same small crowd, know the suffering in people’s lives and think, “This is why I’m here – to make a difference in an area where it’s difficult to get any services, let alone religious outreach.”
After church, Sister Anne put on a pot of chili, and we went to the hall and visited with the parishioners. Each day can be a struggle to get by, and I did my best to listen and encourage.