The Lakota students join in for yoga

Almost all of our staff participated in a “Top 20” training today. We did so in three shifts, so the normal work and school day could go on. The program helps people see how a positive attitude and problem solving approach is so much more effective than a problem naming and blaming approach. Our students, and even our co-workers can face difficult life issues and test our patience. With humor and insight, the trainer helped staff to bring forth examples and see issues we daily face in a new light. During this time of mid-winter February “blahs”, I found the training helpful and thought-provoking.

This is the time of year we’ve also been working on budgets, so I spent a good chunk of the afternoon crunching numbers.

Native American student taking part in Yoga.
American Indian student taking part in Yoga.

I often get invited to the homes for supper, but tonight I got a special invitation to join the Raphael (1st-3rd grade boys) for their weekly evening of Yoga. While talking to Aleece, a houseparent, about the yoga I regularly do, she invited me to join them. She thought I would be a good role model for the boys to see a grown man doing the stretches and poses too. The Raphael home has been doing Yoga once a week all year. Besides helping the students work on their strength, coordination and flexibility it is also a good activity for calming them down before bed time. I enjoyed the fun mix of poses like the elephant–moving trunks and the race car–seated position with arms and legs extended. The boys made great sound effects while doing their imaginary racing. The Lakota students were fun to be with, and I ended the night both sore and relaxed by the variety of movements.

Back to church

A donor called the office and didn’t tell our staff what he needed, but only wanted to talk with me. I didn’t recognize the name, but returned his call. I never know what to expect, for those can range from questions about St. Josephs’ Indian School or the occasional theological question, “Please send me some more address labels”. When I reached him, he told me that after reading our letters and what we are trying to be about, he had gone back to church after many years. It had given him great peace of mind. It’s nice to know the impact we can occasionally have on people’s spiritual journeys!

This evening, I went to Lower Brule for the wake of a 32-year-old woman, mother of three, who was killed in a rollover when her car skidded on the ice last week. Those tragedies affect the whole community. One of her sons and a niece she looked after used to attend St. Joseph’s Indian School, and five nephews are current students, so I know the extended family well.

In the face of tragedy, it’s our caring actions that mean so much more than mere words.

On Rezervation in South Dakota, wake services seldom start at the announced time, but wait until people who need to be there are gathered. The time passed quickly for me, as I wandered around the hall visiting with people and  hearing news of their family and events in the community. After the regular vigil service, anyone who wanted to say a few words was invited to come to the microphone and speak. I shared a scripture from Lamentations, identifying with the family’s sad and broken hearts but calling for a trust in God, and urging them to help and support one another through such a difficult time.

Another great donor luncheon for St. Joseph’s Indian School

I’m back from Tucson Arizona, where we had a St. Joseph’s Indian School donor appreciation luncheons on Saturday and Sunday. Isaiah and Brendan, two of our junior high boys from St. Joseph’s Indian School went along with us and spoke to the groups about their experiences at St. Joseph’s. Both days we met some wonderful friends of our school, who came with questions, ideas, support and prayers.

We’d planned for warm weather, but the Southwest was in for some of its coldest days since the late 1800’s.  We were glad we had our winter coats. Since it was 12 degrees when we left South Dakota, Arizona lows in the 20’s didn’t seem so bad. By Sunday the highs climbed into the 60s and we had a brief taste of spring.

 Isaiah and Brendan soaking up some sun!
Isaiah and Brendan soaking up some sun!

When we arrived Friday, we went sightseeing. The drive through the Tucson Mountain Park to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is spectacular, with giant saguaro cactus covering the rolling mountain foothills. The museum is part zoo, part desert arboretum and part science lab. The students especially enjoyed the mountain lion, wolf, and javelinas they spotted. The cave experience taught them a few things about the formation of planets and minerals.

We continued our tour through Saguaro National Park. Had I known we had to drive so many miles on dirt and gravel roads, I might not have taken that route. But I thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in cactus, brush, rocks and mountains in every direction. We hiked a short trail to see ancient petroglyphs, so the students could think about the Hohokam people who inhabited the land so long ago.

Our hotel was next to the University of Arizona. The boys were blown away to see a “college” stretching so far in every direction; all the different halls and buildings. As we walked by the University Medical Center, after so much in the news about the tragic Tucson shootings, I lifted a quiet prayer for all the victims and their families.

I lifted a quiet prayer for all the victims and their families.

On campus we passed separate buildings dedicated to individual academic fields ranging from Psychology to Space Science and the Chemistry building had valet parking for bikes! When we came to the neurophysiology department, Isaiah wasn’t sure what that was, so I explained that some doctors specialize in understanding people’s nerves and how to treat injuries and illness. There are such a wide variety of career paths available, but it’s hard for our Lakota (Sioux) students to imagine such fields if they’ve never even been exposed to the possibility.

Boys being boys, they were also impressed by the basketball stadium where the Wildcats play, and the orange and palm trees that they were seeing for the first time.

 Isaiah, Brendan and Fr. Steve had a great time!
Isaiah, Brendan and Fr. Steve had a great time!

On Saturday night we drove south of town to Mission San Xavier del Bac for mass. The mission was founded to work with the Tohono O’odham tribe, and the church dates back to the 1700’s. We could see the gleaming white towers from quite a distance as we drove toward them in the desert.

On Super Bowl Sunday we finished the luncheon not only in time for the game, but for the guys to explore a nearby mall to pick up some souvenirs. We watched the first half at Shane’s Rib Shack while eating supper, then the second half back at the hotel. Everyone called it an early night right after the game, because we had to leave the hotel at 5:00 a.m. to catch our plane home.

Even on the return trip I heard plenty of exclamations of, “Woah” and “Wicked!” as the boys looked out the windows and explored the wide world with new vision.

Guest blogger: Fr. Anthony

Greetings again.  As Fr. Steve is at a donor luncheon in Tucson, Arizona, I have the opportunity to share with you what happened over the weekend here at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

Our Native American students taking part in a spelling bee!
Our American Indian students taking part in a spelling bee!

Our celebration of Catholic Schools Week ended with the students taking part in a spelling bee.  This year’s class winners have the chance now to take part in the national spelling bee and will move on to the regional “bee” in Mitchell, South Dakota at the world-famous Corn Palace

The students also had a prayer service to bring the celebration to a close in which they wrote the prayers and expressed thanks and gratitude to their teachers, house parents and counselors as well as St. Joseph’s benefactors as part of the week’s theme—Catholic Schools an A+ for America.

We have been dealing with lots of snow here in Chamberlain, South Dakota as we have had six straight weekends of snow.  The ground crews have done a great job keeping the campus open. 

The local school system lost two days of classes due to the weather, but we were able to hold normal class schedule.  The snow has played havoc with our sports’ schedule due to cancellations and re-schedules.  We have been able to hold our Intercity League Girls’ Basketball, which is a program that involves 7th and 8th grade students from St. Joseph’s and the Chamberlain area.  The teams are mixed so as to give them the chance to meet and interact so, if they go on to Chamberlain High, they know each other right at the start. The boys’ league was held before Christmas.

This past Thursday was the feast of St. Blasé when the blessing of throats usually takes place.  We offered the blessing for all those students and staff who wished to participate at our Sunday liturgy in Our Lady of the Sioux chapel. 

Deacon Bud Jetty, a Native American, who helps at St. James Parish in Chamberlain,  was able to be present to help with the blessing.  After the liturgy, we were talking and thought it appropriate that we blessed the throats when we did as they were probably going to be a bit strained as the students and staff took sides in rooting for their favorites in the Super Bowl.

One of the homes here on campus hosted a Super Bowl party which was super.  The high school students hosted some of our 8th graders, so to help them get some insight into the high school program.  A great time was had by all except by those who back the Steelers.

We also had a bit of good news as it was announced that two of our upcoming high school graduates received word that they had been accepted by their first choice of college!  One will be attending University of Creighton in Omaha, Nebraska, and the other will enroll at the University of Sioux Falls in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  Thanks for your support of St. Joseph’s Indian School so that these and the other students may have the opportunity to dream big and pursue their futures.

Thank you for all you do.  May the blessings of the Great Spirit continue to be with you and yours.  Until next time …

Fr. Anthony Kluckman, SCJ

St. Joseph’s Indian School

Testing my foot and nerves

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Punxsutawney Phil
Punxsutawney Phil

Never mind that Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow, (which means a short winter) the -19 degree overnight temps were COLD and we’re tiring of the white stuff already.

Today, I checked out our remodeling efforts in the Rooney & Speyer homes. They may even be finished before school lets out in May, so we’re well on track. The work has slowed down a little as we’ve had to pull workers off that project to handle snow removal around campus, but we know that’s going to regularly happen here in South Dakota during the winter. I saw Jon, our electrician working and asked what he was doing, “Outlets” he said. Outlets don’t sound to bad, but when you have over 200 to do, that’s a big time commitment!

Today for Catholic Schools Week the day was reserved for an appreciation day. Students baked cookies and other treats and placed them in different staff work areas with  a note of thanks. The chocolate glazed popcorn the 7th graders created was my favorite.

When I went to the Rec Center this evening to exercise, I ran into the Stevens and Matthias homes (6th – 8th grade girls) doing their enrichment activity. The staff created games and challenges based on the show “Minute to Win It”. The girls build ten story towers of cards, balanced dice on a tongue depressor and bounced pencils into cups. Silly games, but a nice break with lots of laughter. And as the two homes kept a running tally of points earned, it brought out the competitive juices in all the kids. What’s nice about odd games is that everyone had a chance to participate, and  the students who aren’t known as athletes might have even greater success than the ball players.

I’ve been gradually stepping up my exercises, testing the foot and nerves. I don’t want to overdo it, but I want to keep pressing forward and try to do more.

I took up the students’ challenge

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I stopped in at the Akta Lakota Museum & Culture Center to see how things were going there. We don’t get a whole lot of visitors in February – only one brave soul during yesterday’s snowstorm. We do get regular shoppers on our Akta Lakota online gift store, interested in artwork, books and information on Native American culture, so there are always orders to fill. But now is also a good time to do inventory and prepare ahead for summer busloads of tourists, and travelers who stop through to visit campus.

Today was Red, White and Blue day for Catholic Schools Week. I simply donned my 1970’s White Sox cap–which covered all three colors–and I didn’t have to change any of my usual black and white wardrobe. My sisters envy me because I sure don’t have to spend much time figuring out what to wear for the day.

Fr. Steve in the classroom with our Native American students.
Fr. Steve in the classroom with some of our American Indian youngsters.

While in Math class, I took up the students’ challenge and proved I can still add mixed fractions, as I explained each step to them as I did it. I heard some of the poetry the 6th graders were working on. When I entered the 5th grade room and found they were in their reading mode, I listened to a few impromptu book reviews as I went around the room to ask what each was reading. Our speech therapist celebrated a birthday, so I stopped by and sang, “Happy Birthday” to Angela, then observed her lesson for a while.

Our SEED book discussion group was down to four hearty souls who braved the cold. Yet discussion of the autobiography “Crow Dog” was lively. He is from Rosebud, and his take on historical events we remember like the development of the American Indian Movement, the 1973 Wounded Knee occupation and the takeover of BIA offices in DC were fascinating. He also describes a Lakota (Sioux) ceremony and ritual in an enlightening way.

Answered prayers

I took it easy today, and spent most of my time at home, puttering around with different odds and ends. In the evening I drove 40 miles to the parish in Stephan for mass.

Saturday, July 24, 2010Fr. Steve of St. Joseph's Indian School

I took it easy today, spending most of my time at home puttering around with different odds and ends. In the evening I drove 40 miles to the parish in Stephan for mass. My former parishioners have let me know they’ve been praying hard for my recovery. This was a good time to join them for prayer. Being with them in person reassured them that our prayers are being answered.

It had been a while since I’d been to church there. As the families continue to grow and flourish I saw several new babies that I had to get introduced to – new life for the families and continued life for the church.

Fr. Steve’s updates

I am so thankful for our many donors who make sacrifices for the children so we have the resources to run our programs and meet the needs of our students and the outreach programs on the reservations

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Back at St. Joseph’s, our board of directors met today. It felt odd not to be leading the agenda. I had treatment and consultations in the morning, so I had to limit my participation to phoning in during the afternoon.

Our budget for next year was approved. Many charities have really suffered through the economic downturn, but we’ve continued to be blessed with good resources.

I am so thankful for our many donors who make sacrifices for the children so we have the resources to run our programs and meet the needs of our students and the outreach programs on the reservations.

A youth group from the Lutheran church, mostly junior high students, served us supper tonight. I was impressed with the seventh grade boy who made the tater tot casserole on his own.

One of the girls pulled out a prayer card and did a quick interview with me so she knew who she was going to be praying for. The church organist played some lively tunes on the piano.

I was impressed with the way the chaperones and youth minister encouraged the young people to interact and mingle – and to teach them the value of reaching out to others.

I’m starting to feel the fatigue factor so many people said I would encounter by the third week. Energy has deserted me.

But, I know friends, family and the Lord will not desert me, which gives me strength to keep going.