These past few days have been cold and windy… but there has been no heavy snow, which had closed the Interstate the previous week. The cold has kept the Missouri River frozen, which is what those who will be taking part in the ice fishing tournament next weekend like to hear.
Since St. Joseph’s students are away from campus for Christmas spending time with friends and family, we celebrated Christmas here the first Sunday after they returned (January 8). I was wondering what we should call the day and a young student came up to me and said, ‘happy St. Joseph’s Christmas!’ It is as good a name as anything else! Continue reading “Christmas and Basketball at St. Joseph’s Indian School!”
The weather has gifted us with several sunny, beautiful fall days. This past weekend was an exciting time for the Chamberlain area.
On Saturday, I went to Sioux Falls to watch the State Cross Country races because Ella, a Chamberlain High School freshman and daughter of one of our grade school teachers, was a favorite in Class A and the Lower Brule boys’ team had great success in their Region to qualify for State. Ella dominated from the start and won by 20 seconds, becoming Chamberlain’s first girls’ cross country champion. The Lower Brule boys came in 5 out of 16 teams.
On Sunday, 21 young people received the Sacrament of Confirmation at St. James Parish, the Catholic Church in Chamberlain, from Bishop Paul Swain.
Here on St. Joseph’s campus, the students have all been preparing for Halloween! Several homes went to a local pumpkin patch and picked out pumpkins—some of which will be decorated and entered into a contest! To celebrate Halloween, St. Joseph’s students participate in a Grand March of costumes on Friday after the local trick or treating around campus and a trip through the haunted hallway in school.
Wendy, the lady in charge of our distribution center, is the most popular person on campus during Halloween! She has access to the room where all the necessary ingredients for putting the perfect costume together can be found.
A few weeks ago, two of our senior girls, Mia and Katie, attended the Siena 8th Annual Take Charge Conference in Tucson, Arizona, which is a program for Native American youth. The featured speaker was Matene Jerome from Littleton, Colorado who stood up to elected officials and fought to keep the topics of slavery and treatment of Native Americans in school curriculum.
St. Joseph’s students are taking part in Red Ribbon Week, the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign in the country. The program serves as a vehicle for communities and individuals to take a stand for the well-being of children through drug prevention programs, education and personal commitments to live drug free. The program commemorates the ultimate sacrifice made by DEA Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, who died at the hands of Mexican drug traffickers while fighting against illegal drugs.
Each day of the week has a different theme. Students wore pajamas to class, tie red ribbons around campus and wore crazy caps and mismatched or loud socks while also taking part in trivia contests. St. Joseph’s kicked off Red Ribbon Week last Friday with a Sobriety Carnival complete with inflatables and obstacle courses.
I hope you and yours have had a great week and a wonderful and exciting weekend. Know we are praying for you and your special intentions as our way of saying pilamaya—thank you— for your support of St. Joseph’s Indian School.
Marjorie overheard her two twin second-grade boys talking to friends. “We’re
getting baptized next weekend,” they said with excitement.
“What’s that?” a friend asked.
“I was just amazed at what they said and how they retained what they had been taught,” their mother, Marjorie, relates. “They said you go to church, and water is poured over you. You receive power from Jesus.”
“Like superpowers?” the friend questioned.
“No, not superpowers, but strength and power to do good from Jesus,” answered one of the twins.
On April 12, the Second Sunday of Easter, the twins, Hector and Raymond, received the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist (First Communion). The festivities began with a fried-chicken dinner for 21 families the evening of April 11 in St. Joseph’s Dining Hall.
“It was so wonderful to be together as a family,” says Marjorie, noting that her brother and his wife, who are godparents for the boys, were able to be there. “We don’t get to see each other that often, so it was very special.” Hector and Raymond’s two older brothers also were there. One brother, Nicholas, made each of the boys a special cross necklace for the occasion.
The emphasis on families that Marjorie felt is part of the mission of St. Joseph’s Indian School.
When we respond to a family’s request to prepare a student in the faith life of the Catholic Church, from the beginning of preparation we are in contact to make sure we are in step with what the family desires for the faith life of the child. We are in regular contact by phone and mail, and this year the process culminated with a family meal the evening prior to our “Easter celebration.”
“This is good,” one grandmother said about her three grandsons who were baptized that day. “They have learned the traditional ceremonies, and they have this, too, now. Wherever we go to pray, we pray to the one God.”
Twenty-one families joined us on campus for the event this year, some with ten or more members. “It was big,” says Marjorie. “I had no idea it would be that big. It was just beautiful.”
Nineteen other schoolmates of all ages from St. Joseph’s Indian School also received the three sacraments alongside the twins. A fifth-grade girl, baptized in another Christian tradition, made a profession of faith in the Catholic Church, was confirmed and had her First Communion. Nine additional Catholic second-grade students received their First Communion.
Thank you for the opportunities you help provide the Lakota children and families!
You may recall last week I mentioned the Lakota students participated in a Penny War to raise money for St. Joseph’s staff team – TURTLE POWER – taking part in the Polar Plunge. We gathered this past Thursday to see who the lucky winner of the Penny War would be, the grand prize being a pie in the face!
Four staff members, myself included, were seated in front of the student body in the rec center nervously smiling as the names were read to see whose name would be called last. Thankfully I was named first, so I avoided the pie to the face.
Julie, our Residential Director for 1st-5th grades, ended up becoming the target. One of our third graders, Devon, was selected and he really let the pie fly. Julie and half the basketball court were covered in whipped cream!
Everyone was pretty excited that the Penny War raised more than $200 for Special Olympics. Thanks Julie for being a good sport!
The Explorers are getting excited about their up-coming trip to the state capital in Pierre, South Dakota. They’ll have a meeting with Governor Daugaard and tour the Discovery Museum.
The group just wrapped up a fundraiser that involved selling subscriptions for our local paper. One of our sixth grade boys, Tayeden, sold the second most subscriptions! He won a $25 prize and, according to the boys’ advisor, “a ton of confidence.” Way to go Tayeden!
On Saturday, I accompanied Kathleen, our principal, and nine contestants to the Spelling Bee in Mitchell. Three students took part in the competition for the national championship in Washington, D.C. Our three gave it their best and one student came in seventh out of 20. The others were class winners who competed against their own grades. Everyone did well and received a nice certificate congratulating them on qualifying for the contest. We even had some of our students’ families attend to encourage their son or daughter. It was a great day!
This coming weekend we’ll be having a retreat for students taking part in the Sacramental Prep Program. Participating is a decision students make with their families. Students are not required to
be Catholic to attend St. Joseph’s Indian School – we welcome children of all faiths. The aim is to help those who have not yet received First Communion prepare and enable other students to take part in the RCIC (Rite of Christian Initiation for Children) so they can receive the initial sacraments of Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation.
One student, who is already baptized, will make their Profession of Faith to join the church. We have over 30 students taking part. On Sunday they will be involved in the Rite of Enrollment as they continue preparations for the sacraments on April 12. We ask that you please keep them in your prayers.
Have a great week. May God’s blessings continue to be with you. We keep you and your intentions in our prayers.
I am honored to teach Native American Studies classes at St. Joseph’s Indian School. We recently had a Sunday Mass that incorporated Lakota elements, and it felt great! It’s that indescribable feeling when you are centered in the soul and have “wolakota.”
It was the Feast of Christ the King, the end of the liturgical year in the Catholic Church. It didn’t feel like and end, but a new beginning. The service began with the beat of the drum by our student drum group, the Chalk Hill Singers. Members of our powwow royalty and fellow housemates, dressed in full regalia, danced up the aisle honoring the path of the Staff carried by our Eagle Staff Bearer, Joe. My feet couldn’t help but to tap the earth when the sticks made music with sound of our rawhide drum and the voices of our boys. The shawls flowed, the bells and cones rung and it felt like smiles were swelling in the hearts of all present.
A basket of prayers wrapped in red cloth, made by our students and staff, was carried and placed at the altar as an offering to honor those who have passed into the spirit world and those for whom we pray.
The opening prayer, the readings and the homily taught us about “Mitakuye Oyasin,” the belief that we are all related. In the reading, Mathew 25: Jesus said “Whatever you did for one of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” This parallels our Lakota ceremony of the Hunka, or making of a relative. Once this sacred ceremony is done, you will have a bond to share all that you have. By treating all people just as you would Jesus or the Great Spirit, one will “do well because it is right.”
The best value a member of our tribes can possess is that of generosity. Sunday during Mass, the choir shared their musical talents by singing “Amazing Grace” in both Lakota and English. With the sounds of the students speaking the tongue of their ancestors from many years past, the congregation recited the Lord’s Prayer in Lakota. I could feel the confidence in the voices of the students praying loud and proud. Lots of compliments were shared and accepted after Mass from our staff and members of our community who came to join in our prayer.
After the Eucharistic Prayer, Father Anthony asked the Great Spirit to bless us with a great week and Thanksgiving holiday as the students traveled home to see family and friends. But, before the end, we sang birthday wishes to those celebrating this week in the Lakota version of “Happy Birthday.”
The service ended just as it began: The dancers (and those who couldn’t keep their feet from dancing to the beat of the drum) exited the sanctuary knowing that Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel bridges cultures spiritually in the lives of the families we serve at St. Joseph’s Indian School.
The big winter storm coming moving across the upper Midwest is hitting South Dakota today. Chamberlain is just on the fringe of the storm but we have snow, cold winds and some slush. We are expecting cold temperatures all week.
The Explorers, a local service group, have been out raking leaves but they may have to switch over to shoveling snow! In addition to community service projects, the boys learn useful life lessons. At one of their recent meetings they learned how to properly fold the flag in preparation for Veterans Day tomorrow.
Our kitchen crew will honor all the veterans on St. Joseph’s staff by inviting them to a free lunch on November 11. This is a small way of saying pilamaya – thank you – to those who protect our country and the freedom we enjoy every day.
Since November starts off with the Feast of All Saints and All Souls, we have put up a Remembrance Tree in Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel. Students and staff were asked to submit names of their loved ones who have passed on that could be put on the tree. It will stay up during November as a reminder to us of those walking their journey back to the Heavenly Father.
Tomorrow, we’ll be starting the Novena of Masses for all our benefactors’ special intentions.
Recently, a new program was introduced to the Lakota boys and girls entitled “I See You.” The purpose is to encourage positive actions all over campus. Staff have been given dog tags inscribed with a positive act such as Hope, Belonging, Independence, Sacrifice, Accepting and Loved, which are written in English and Lakota (Sioux).
When staff members see a student showing one of these positive things, they give the tag to the student to let them know their positive act was witnessed. The students then have the opportunity to pass on the tag when they see a fellow student or staff member doing the act mentioned on their tag. The program’s purpose is to encourage everyone to have a positive attitude and good interaction with one another.
Wishing you a great week, and may you experience God’s blessings in a variety of ways. Pilamaya – thank you – for your support and encouragement of everything we do at St. Joseph’s!
The excitement is growing at St. Joseph’s Indian School as we end All Staff Orientation Week. Around St. Joseph’s campus, this is a time of great anticipation. We are
renewing old acquaintances and preparing for the school year that lies ahead. Child Services Staff have had some time off and the spirits are high.
Although most Child Services Staff (houseparents, teachers and Family Service Counselors) were away for part of the summer, our Facilities Crew has been busy. The campus looks great! General upkeep and many maintenance projects have been finished with others nearing completion. The playground is torn up as we are preparing the area for our new playground equipment. It will be so awesome when it’s finished!
Our Development Staff has also been very busy this summer. They work with our generous donors to provide the necessary resources for all our programs. They are getting ready for events like our powwow in September and upcoming Donor Luncheons.
As we come back together after a break, there is visiting and catching up to do. Employees learn about each other’s summer trips; weddings we attended or even participated in; updates on changes that have happened in each other’s lives. There is home and classroom prep along with staff meetings.
We also catch up on what we have heard about our Lakota students. Are they having good or not-so-good summers? I saw so-and-so at the store, this or that. The Family Service Counselors have some updates from their travels, but there are other stories that will have to be checked out next week when the students arrive.
On Wednesday, all our staff came together for our traditional beginning of the year kickoff. We fittingly started with a prayer service in the Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel. We asked for guidance and inspiration from the Great Spirit in meeting our important mission for the children and families we serve. The prayer service was followed by an all-staff meeting and lunch.
Yes, spirits are high as we look to carry out the work of our mission this year! We are blessed to be the hands of our donors, working directly with the Lakota children and families who come to St. Joseph’s for help.
Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year. I get to spend some quality time with my old friend Fear. Fear has a lot to teach me, but I generally avoid her and don’t return her phone calls. Once a year though, we get to hang out and have fun for a change.
At St. Joseph’s Indian School, I hang out with Lakota (Sioux) girls in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, and they love Fear. They love to watch scary movies and tell scary stories. They love to jump out from dark corners and yell, “Boo!” They love to hide plastic tarantulas in the coffee maker and severed hands in the cereal. They also like to cause Fear by screaming for no reason, failing to come back home on time, and playing contact sports with ruthless abandon.
This is what St. Joseph’s has taught me about Fear:
Talk about what scares you. Ok, sometimes it’s true that sitting around talking about the winagi (spirit) in the basement causes everyone in the home to freak out. But it is also true that if you talk about the winagi in the basement (or the elephant in the living room) chances are you aren’t the only one who is dealing with it. Phew! What a relief! And, chances are someone else knows what to do about it. Sometimes a simple prayer or blessing can set things right again. Or sometimes you can get a friend to go to the basement with you, so you don’t have to be scared by yourself.
Stick together. My houseparent partner Cathy and I took the girls in the Stevens Home to a Haunted House. Two hours of waiting and 12 minutes of sheer terror… We moved through there like a tiny freight train, everyone packed tightly together.
Cathy led the way, taking the terror head on and clearing a path through the zombie minefield… Until she ran us all into a wall and then we got turned around and the machete guy had to break character and very nicely say, “This way, ladies.”
I grabbed someone in the dark and steered her to safety. “I got your back.” No child left behind in this haunted house! “Wait. You’re not my kid.”
Face your fears. OK, so if you’re in a scary situation like a haunted house, it is a good idea to laugh in the face of fear. Or in Freedom’s case, laugh at the ugly machete guy and say, “Nyaa nyaa, you’re in a cage. You can’t get me!” What could go wrong? Feeling braver already!
Or not. Until you realize that there is a back door to the cage. And he IS coming to get you. In that case, apologize. “I’m sorry Mr. Crazy Scary Monster Guy! I’m sure that you’re actually quite nice!” Then grab your friends and run screaming.
Have faith. What makes Fear tolerable – either in the imaginary world of a haunted house or in the very real world of St. Joseph’s – is faith. Even when we can’t see where we are going, and everything feels mixed up and crazy, we know that we are not alone. We are surrounded by love and support. We have faith that we can get through this, and that our calls for help will be heard. We can see the Spirit at work in each other and in our Tiyospaye—our extended family.
There are other fears that we will continue to work on throughout the year, like Chantochurchophobia – the fear of singing in church. We will prepare for scary situations by having fire drills, lock down drills and tornado drills. We will talk through daily fears like, “What is going on back home?” and “What if I make a mistake in the basketball game?” But for one night, we will have faith and we will befriend our Fear.
Happy Halloween to all our supporters and thanks for having our backs!
Good morning from the banks of the beautiful Missouri River!!
Chamberlain was a bit crowded last weekend as the local high school welcomed home alumni for their annual reunion weekend. The classes honored were those of every five years from 1943 through 2003.
One special event for the weekend was an Art Expo at the South Dakota Hall of Fame located in Chamberlain. It honors people from around the state who have made a positive impact in South Dakota in a variety of areas, including business, the arts and humanitarian causes. St. Joseph’s Founder, Father Henry Hogebach, SCJ, is one of those honored.
The theme of returning alumni was in effect here at St. Joseph’s too. Mr. Casmir LeBeau from Eagle Butte, South Dakota, came to visit. Mr. LeBeau was one of St. Joseph’s first students in 1927! He heard Fr. Steve has been elected Provincial and would be leaving at the end of the month to assume his new responsibilities in Hales Corners, Wisconsin. Though a little hard of hearing, his health and memory are in fine working order and he enjoyed sharing several stories with us at lunch and then went over to the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center to meet with Dixie, our Museum Director, and Mary Jane, our Director of Alumni Outreach. He was able to help put names to some of the faces in various pictures from the early years of St. Joseph’s.
I received a phone call from a benefactor this week asking a question several of you may be wondering about as well. She asked if St. Joseph’s had Mass on Sunday that guests could attend. I was happy to tell her that we have Mass each Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. in Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel here on campus. This is open to anyone who wishes to attend.
Mass is not held when the Lakota students are away on a break – Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring break, Easter or summer vacation. The first Mass this year will be on August 18. Please feel welcome to come and celebrate with us if you are in the neighborhood! Mass on our annual powwow weekend, September 20-22, will also be at 10:00 a.m.
May God’s blessings, guidance and strength remain with you always. Thanks again for all you do on behalf of St. Joseph’s Indian School!
During mass last Sunday, we had a whole host of events. For Mother’s Day, we invited all St. Joseph’s moms and house-moms up to the front of Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel, where they were serenaded by our children’s choir and given a carnation in appreciation of everything they do.
We prayed for all of our eighth grade and high school graduates. The seniors will walk up the aisle Sunday, May 19 and our eighth grade class a few days later on Friday, May 24.
Artist Del Iron Cloud was welcomed as our distinguished alumnus for the year. He attended St. Joseph’s Indian School in the late 50’s and thanked Brother Bonaventure for helping nurture his love for beauty. Since retiring from the United States Air Force, Del has dedicated himself to painting, and we carry many of his works in the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center. In a touching gesture, he painted beautiful watercolor feathers, each unique and original, and presented them to each graduate as his way of honoring them.
After church, we held a reception for our five seniors in the dining hall. For each Lakota senior, the time they had spent on campus ranged between 5 and 10 years – so many memories to share! During dinner, a slide show of each looked back over their years at St. Joseph’s.
Instead of giving a speech, each made a short video to share about the activities they were involved in, future plans and, of course, advice to leave behind for those up and coming high school students. The video brought lots of laughter and recognition. Then, their teachers and houseparents came to the microphone and spoke from their hearts about the struggles, growth and accomplishments we’ve seen in these young people over that time.
There were a few tears shed as we think about parting. But, that’s what they’re meant to do – learn enough to start venturing off on their own, with our support and care in tow, to pursue their dreams. Four plan on college, and one the Armed Services.
In the afternoon, the scene shifted to the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center for our ribbon cutting and open house celebrating the completion of our new addition. Mark Shields, who worked on our maintenance staff for over 40 years, did the honors after we blessed the facility and offered words of thanks to all who helped make it possible. I enjoyed visiting with the alumni, townsfolk, students and donors who filtered in throughout the day.