As some of you may know, this year has been proclaimed a Holy Year of Mercy by Pope Francis. Part of the celebration calls for people to visit the Cathedral and pass through the Holy Door as part of a pilgrimage. I joined parishioners from St. James Catholic Church in Chamberlain and St. Margaret Catholic Church in Kimball to visit the Cathedral of St. Joseph’s in Sioux Falls.
To meet the requirements for the plenary indulgence, the trip was geared to have the opportunity for Confession, to offer prayer for Pope Francis’ intentions and to receive the Eucharist by joining in the noon Mass. After the Mass, we were given a guided tour of the Cathedral and the renovations that were done in the past few years. The group joined together at a local Perkins for lunch before heading home. We enjoyed sharing reflections of what had impressed people the most about the experience and the tour.
On Friday, May 22 2015, 19 proud Lakota students graduated from eighth grade at St. Joseph’s Indian School. Major Gifts Officer Brian gave an inspiring address to
students, families and staff.
Parents – thank you for being here. Your presence and support is crucial and I know you must be very proud of your child as they are proud of you. We appreciate all the family members in attendance and the ones who were not able to make it. I commend and applaud you.
Distinguished guests, graduates, parents, family members and friends, St. Joseph’s staff. Welcome to a special moment, for some special kids at a special place: St. Joseph Indian School. Words fall short when describing this wonderful organization. From the outstanding leadership of Mike Tyrell and administration to our Child Services Team, Development Office, Facilities, Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center and Rec Center staff, and our 60 nurturing houseparents, it is definitely a collaborative effort. St. Joseph’s staff are the most professional, hardworking people I have ever had the privilege to work with. Each day they bring passion, commitment, dedication and – most importantly – unconditional love for your children. Staff, I commend and applaud you.
Sitting Bull was a man well ahead of his times when he most eloquently stated, “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” So here we gather – together. Unified for the same purpose: these 19 young men and young ladies.
At this time I would like to take a moment and briefly talk about three ships and one destiny. I can assure you I am not talking about the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. The ships are named Citizenship, Mentorship and Leadership.
Let’s take the first, Citizenship. Students, you may not know this, but you were born into dual citizenship. Citizens of the United States and citizens of your respective sovereign tribes. This puts you in a very select and unique class. Very few Americans have dual citizenship. This is a privilege. However, with twice the privileges come twice the responsibilities. In both your Native and non-native communities you must stay informed, respect other’s rights, vote and volunteer. Be an active citizen.
Now for our second ship. Mentorship.
Whether you realize it or not, you are a mentor. Your siblings, peers and other young children are always watching you. Make the right choices, do the right thing. Set the standard high for others to follow. Always do your best in whatever you do; set goals and seek challenges; become a role model for those coming behind you; and always have God in your heart.
James Baldwin made a very true statement for all of us to learn from. He said “children have never been good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”
We all have the duty of mentorship.
Now, for our lead ship. Of course that would be leadership.
Leadership has many faces, many definitions and various styles. From my perspective, a leader needs to be a visionary who is passionate for his people and their dreams. The leader is the navigator, converting dreams into goals and goals into success.
Most importantly, be a servant leader. Serve the Creator with complete obedience to His will – not yours. Be a leader who is committed to promoting tribal interests over personal gain. Always represent traits becoming of Native Americans – strong, resilient and determined. Proud, yet humble. Never forget the sacrifices of your ancestors. The privileges you enjoy today began with the sacrifices of previous generations.
As we commemorate this next generation of Native Americans, let us not boast of yesterday’s success, less we stumble in securing tomorrow’s dreams and blessings.
Today, we celebrate the accomplishments of 19 of St. Joseph’s best and brightest. A new generation, full of hope and poised to take on the challenges facing Indian Country. Future leaders who will personify integrity, ethics and self-determination. Class of 2015, you must be resilient and strong. You must have courage and lead. Most importantly, you must stand united and never forget, Generosity is the Heart of Native America.
The leader of my tribe, the Honorable Governor Bill Anoatubby conveys a powerful message – “A rising tide raises all ships.” This, I believe, is true. Unfortunately for many in Indian Country, they have weathered the storms but high tide has yet to roll in. However, as each raindrop contributes to the depths of the oceans, each one of us has the ability to help raise that tide and roll it in.
One drop at a time.
One day at a time.
One child at a time.
There is an old Indian proverb that states, “The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.”
We as Native Americans have shed more than our share of tears. The time has come – I said the time has come for our tide to roll in and we receive our rainbow. The future is bright. Our children are ready. St. Joseph’s is a blessing. And God is with us!
Let us remember that a rainbow symbolizes a covenant. A promise. God’s promise. Today, we receive 19 of God’s promises. 19 young rainbows. A pot of gold may not be waiting. However, something more valuable, more important awaits. Hope, opportunity, love and the ability to connect with God’s destiny for your life. Creator has a special plan for each of you. He has supplied you with all the tools. It is up to you to navigate your journey. Listen, pray and depend on The Great Spirit. The road will not be completely red or white or yellow or purple or any other color. You will find the road is in itself a rainbow. This path will take you to the highest mountains and other times sink you below sea level, but you will prevail. Trust, have faith, love family, never give up and believe! Believe in yourself as everyone in this chapel believes in you!
As you walk out those doors, remember your duties as a citizen. Remember your duties as a mentor. Remember your calling as a Native American leader! Be proud of who you are and always proud of where you come from. You are our future!
Today, you are St. Joseph’s Braves. Tomorrow you become warriors! Some of the greatest leaders in our history were Dakota and Lakota. Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, Black Elk, American Horse. The list goes on and on. You cannot fail! You will not fail! It is in your genes! It is in your spirit! It is in your heart! It is in your blood! Stand up and be proud! YOU ARE NAKOTA! YOU ARE DAKOTA! YOU ARE LAKOTA! You will succeed!!!
Perhaps one of you will follow in the footsteps of Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull or Red Cloud and be the next great leader of your people. Crazy Horse has always been – and
always be – my hero.
Now it is your turn to be someone’s hero!
Students, look behind you. Go ahead look behind you.
This was a big weekend at St. Joseph’s Indian School with the Rite of Christian Initiation for Children (RCIC) Sacramental Prep Class having a mini-retreat on Saturday. Over 30 students are preparing to receive the sacraments of Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation, which is a decision they make with their families.
Most of the class will be baptized and receive the other two sacraments. Nine are preparing just for First Communion and one, who is already baptized in another denomination, will be making a Profession of Faith and then receive First Communion. The students have been studying since early October. They joined with others around the world to take part in the Rite of Election on Sunday by which they again affirm their desire to draw closer to God and sign their names in the Book of the Elect which acknowledges their commitment in front of the whole faith community present at Mass.
As you can see from the pictures, they made stoles decorated with various symbols relating to the sacraments and will wear them when they are baptized. In Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel I explained the vestments, colors, books, chalices and paten, the altar and tabernacle and sanctuary lamp.
They also had the opportunity to practice receiving the host and taking a sip of wine, which brought out some interesting facial expressions!
Another session dealt with the seven Gifts of the Spirit, followed by painting a blessing cup. They made bread, which was shared with their individual homes. It was a wonderful time helping them prepare for their big day in April!
Also on Saturday the fourth, fifth and sixth grade Braves took part in a basketball tournament hosted by Chamberlain. Teams came from surrounding communities in central South Dakota. Sadly our fourth and sixth grade teams went out early despite keeping their games close. Our fifth grade team lost their first game but came back strong to beat Crow Creek and Mitchell to capture third place. Way to go guys!
Besides the basketball tournament, there was also a wrestling mini-clinic that some of our younger boys took part in. Thank you for helping us offer the Lakota children a variety of activities to help them cultivate lifelong interests!
I hope you have a great week as the month of February comes to an end. Know you and your intentions are remembered in our prayers as the children ask the Great Spirit to bless and reward you for your generosity for their education and care.
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.
This week, the Lakota (Sioux) students join thousands of others in celebrating drug free lifestyles with Red Ribbon Week. Monday, students wore their pajamas to class to remind one another ‘Follow your dreams — don’t do drugs.’ Tuesday, they showed their drug free school spirit by wearing blue and gold. Later in the week, they will be wearing special sobriety celebration T-shirts that say ‘Our School has SWAG (Students Who Achieve Goals).
Friday, of course, is Halloween. The children have had a wonderful time preparing ghoulish costumes and decorating their homes. Wendy manages our in-kind gifts and has collected a good supply of costumes and accessories for the day. After trick or treating on St. Joseph’s campus, students will gather in the rec center for the Costume Grand March. Prizes will be awarded for best costume, scariest pumpkin and the home with the cleverest decorations.
Pilamaya – thank you – for your donations of gently used decorations and other items for every holiday of the year!
In addition to these festivities, preparations have begun for those students participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Children (RCIC) program to receive Baptism, First Communion or Confirmation. With the support of their families, students have the chance to learn about and deepen their faith commitment in a special class offered each week. Families join their students on campus for a one-day retreat to offer support and encouragement to their child. Please keep these young people and families in your prayers as they prepare to receive these Sacraments in April.
I spent Monday at a board meeting in Eagle Butte, South Dakota. As part of St. Joseph’s outreach to Native Americans, we support a domestic violence shelter, a thrift store and an adolescent care facility on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation You can read more about their work and other outreach programs of St. Joseph’s Indian School.
I hope each of you has a great week and a fun Halloween! Remember, this weekend we move our clocks BACK an hour. Enjoy that extra hour of sleep!
My name is Chelsey and this is my first “official” year at St. Joseph’s Indian School. While finishing up my Master’s Degree in Counseling and Human Resource Development
last year, I was an intern here. I grew up right here in Chamberlain, South Dakota, however, and have been familiar with the school my entire life.
I have always enjoyed participating in activities on campus and a trip to the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center is still one of my favorite ways to spend a day. I’ve always had an interest in the Native American culture, and now I have the privilege of working with the Lakota (Sioux) students and their families on a daily basis.
When I first considered going into the counseling field, I asked to shadow a few of the counselors at St. Joseph’s. As I was asking many questions about the field and how things are done at St. Joseph’s, I remember one counselor telling me he could sum it up in one word…relationships.
After being at St. Joseph’s for a little over a year, I could not agree more. There are so many relationships that impact my job and daily responsibilities.
The most important relationship in my life is that with God. I feel so blessed to work at a place where I can openly share my faith while participating in mass, prayer services, and home prayers.
Relationships with the students are next, especially in my position as a Family Service Counselor. My favorite times during the week are spent in sessions with the students and after school in their homes.
Closely following the relationships with the students, is the relationships I have with their parents/guardians. One of my main responsibilities as a Family Service Counselor is to be the main contact person with the families. This allows me work through the struggles of each student with their parent or guardian, and also join in celebrating their successes.
Working at St. Joseph’s also gives me relationships with my co-workers and other staff who are all working toward the same mission: to educate the Native American youth for life – mind, body, heart and spirit.
St. Joseph’s Indian School is truly a family of its own and I am so honored to work for this organization.
Each day, I see examples of the staff coming together with different ideas, activities and projects to further the mission of St. Joseph’s Indian School and serve those around us.
With the years to come, I look forward to strengthening my relationship with God, building long-lasting relationships with the students and their families, and continue to fulfill the mission of St. Joseph’s Indian School with the wonderful staff that surround me.
On Monday at St. Joseph’s Indian School, we held our annual Healing Camp, Opiciye Okizi – A Good Place to Heal – for
students who have lost a relative or someone close to them. Camp started in 2003 when a student lost her mom to cancer—she wanted her siblings and other students to have a place grieve, heal and grow.
Each year, students pair up with a volunteer staff “buddy” to spend a day healing with prayer, Lakota ceremony and art. This has been a powerful tool for building a supportive community where students can safely express their feelings. Some students ask to participate again, year after year.
This year was very special because our community included students’ family members. The camp was extended from one day to two – on-campus accommodations were used for families coming from far away. Building strong family connections is an important goal at St. Joseph’s, and having family join with students and staff was a wonderful blessing.
One of St. Joseph’s strengths is that we can draw on Lakota (Sioux) traditions as well as our Catholic faith to make sense out of life’s journey. In camp, we talked about the assurances of eternal life that our Christian faith teaches us. We used the Lakota ceremony Wiping of the Tears to signal of the end of mourning, and the support of others in moving forward. We said the Our Father. The Chalk Hill Singers Drum Group prayed to the four directions. We asked the Great Spirit for strength and guidance. Family members boosted little ones up onto their shoulders so that they could place prayer ties in a cedar tree.
Volunteers were present for students whose families couldn’t attend. I was paired up with a young man whom I recognized from being a substitute teacher in the school. We did not know each other well, and it was a bit awkward at first. He was very gracious, as only a 10 year old can be, in allowing me to help him.
Maybe my favorite part was releasing prayers into the river. It was like a message in a bottle for the ecological-minded. Instead of messages to loved ones going into a plastic bottle, they were written on water-soluble paper.
My buddy let me help him with this one. He liked coloring the paper in his mom’s favorite color, but didn’t know what to put on it. Finally, he dictated a message, which he let me write.
He is doing ok.
He has stuff going on inside that is kinda big.
We climbed down to the river’s edge, which was cool for the kids since they are NOT allowed to do that Without An Adult Present. The Missouri was ice free and calm—a bit of a miracle for this time of year.
It was clear enough to see the stones under the shallows. He gently floated his message out onto the water. It dissolved, word by word and we watched until there was just one piece – “Mom” in big letters, floating in the center. Then that drifted away too.
My buddy’s favorite exercise was The Laughter. As soon as April said we were going to do a laughter game, he turned to me excitedly and said, “I know this one! It is the best!!”
All of us participants got in a line, about 22 of us in all, and counted off. We had to laugh as many times as our place in line dictated. We were in the middle, so we had to laugh about 14 times. It helped that my buddy poked me in the ribs a few times. And someone tooted. That was really funny.
So many times we forget the healing power of laughter, but it is so essential to grieving. Sometimes you just need to take a break and laugh!!
There are so many different ways to grieve, and no one way fits every one. One of the prevailing themes of Healing Camp was acceptance. Wherever you are in your healing process is okay. Do you feel like crying? That’s fine. Go ahead. Are you having a good day today and want to smile? That’s fine too. Do you have questions? Ask. Do you need a hug? We’re right here for you.
With so many students experiencing so much loss, it is such a gift to be able to offer this healing time to them and their families. Thank you for keeping our students in your prayers, and thank you for your generous support, which makes activities like these possible.
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!
Our morning prayer service to begin Catholic Schools Week was an opportunity for us to introduce our new strategic plan campus wide. Aaron, in our marketing department, filmed different events on St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus, and created an effective visual of staff and students demonstrating our core values in everyday life – Faith, Collaboration, Integrity, Stewardship, Respect and Excellence. I’m proud to be a part of St. Joseph’s Indian School, and viewing the video with all our staff and students made me even more proud of what we are working on together as a community.
Before introducing the new vision and plan, I thanked everyone for the work they’ve done over the past four years to bring much of our current plan to fruition. The work we do now will lay a stronger foundation for future generations of students and staff, so that they can build on what we do today, and take St. Joseph’s forward in creative and exciting new ways.
After the staff went back to work, the students remained behind so we could take a school picture with everyone on the bleachers. Emily, our photographer, is good with the kids, and after everyone is well-behaved and she gets the pictures she needs, she lets everyone get a little wild for a fun snapshot, which the students love.
We had 5th and 6th grade basketball games after school against Crow Creek, which is the Indian reservation where perhaps 20% of our students are from. There were families in the stands rooting for kids on both sides of the ball. After the games, I was slated to visit Cyr Home (4th-5th grade boys) for supper. One of the students, Ben, invited his family to stay for supper, so the ranks were swelled by six more guests. Paula, the houseparent who was cooking, found out just a few minutes beforehand. She has learned to be very accommodating and flexible. She took out a container of leftovers, opened up a couple more cans of fruit, and served smaller portions, but it stretched around to satisfy everyone at the table and the family had a nice visit.
Some of our students see their families regularly. For others, it doesn’t happen all that often. But we try our best to make families welcome whenever they are able to stay.
Today begins Catholic Schools Week, with the theme of Faith, Academics and Service. Today’s scripture readings lent themselves to a reflection on each of those. It’s not enough for students to be smart about their subject matter. What they learn needs to help them become people who understand God’s plan for them and find ways uniquely their own to serve the human family.
During the announcements at mass, I congratulated student achievements of all kinds. The high school one-act play took 2nd place at the regions and the thespians will advance to the state competition in Aberdeen next week. Cassidy, one of our 7th graders, has made the high school junior varsity gymnastics team. In only her 2nd meet, Cassidy placed in several events and brought home a 5th place overall. She was sitting up front with the choir, and when I mentioned her name, she got very embarrassed, but everyone gave her a big hand.
Cassidy may have appeared embarrassed at mass, but when I joined Pinger Home (6th-8th grade girls) for brunch, she brought down the gymnastics ribbon she won from the Hot Springs match to show me. When I first arrived at Pinger after mass, most of the girls were upstairs in the bedroom area cleaning. While the Pinger Home was just remodeled two years ago and still looks very new, that crew of girls may be the best cleaners we have, as the home looked spotless. But at least a couple of the girls chose the part of Mary rather than Martha, and shared hospitality as they sat to visit with me while Brian, the houseparent put the finishing touches on the food.
The leisure was short lived as most of the girls were off to play inter city basketball, and I headed home to make Sunday truly an appreciated day of rest.