Every Tuesday for the next few months, we will be highlighting one of our 20 homes on St. Joseph’s campus.
Here at St. Joseph’s, we provide nationally-accredited home-away-from-homes for Native American children in grades one through twelve.
There are no dorms at St. Joseph’s. Children live in one of our campus homes with two specially-trained houseparents. They live and play together as any family would. The boys and girls learn life skills and enjoy spending time with their ‘St. Joseph’s family’.
St. Joseph’s Carola Home is one of our High School Boys Homes on campus.
Greetings from St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota!
The buzz of motorcycle traffic heading west for the 75th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is no match for the buzz of campus as staff eagerly anticipate the beginning of the school year on August 10!
Excitement is growing as we begin All Staff Orientation Week. Around St. Joseph’s campus, this is a time of great anticipation. The orientation process gives new and veteran staff the chance to get to know one another, share insights and ask/answer questions. On Wednesday, all staff will come together for our traditional beginning of the year kickoff. We will begin the day with a prayer service in the Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel and culminate with lunch and an all-staff meeting.
The last of our student applications are being processed. It looks like we will start with over 200 students again this year. We eagerly anticipate their arrival this upcoming Sunday!
We are also getting ready to host our next donor luncheon in San Diego, California on August 15 and 16. Iyung and Haille are looking forward to the trip and would enjoy the opportunity to meet you if you are in the area. Please call 1-800-584-9200 for more information or to reserve your spot. . If you are not able to join us in San Diego, our next luncheon is in Dallas, Texas on October 3 and 4.
Since St. Joseph’s Indian School starts classes a few weeks ahead of our local public school, our high school students will enjoy a few more days of summer vacation. The high school students who participate in golf, football, volleyball and cross country will arrive this weekend to participate in preseason practices, while the remainder will return to campus for orientation on August 24 and 25. Classes at the public high school begin August 26. We are excited about a new program for our seniors geared toward preparing them for college through an independent lifestyle program. I will keep you informed on this program as it unfolds.
Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we prepare for the arrival of our Native American students. Your support allows us to collaborate with one another to offer our students and their families the best programs possible! Pilamaya—thank you.
May God continue to bless and reward you for your generosity. We keep you in our prayers.
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.
A fall crispness is in the air and the trees continue to decorate themselves – it is a great time of year to live in South Dakota!
In addition to football, volleyball and cross country, St. Joseph’s first graders are learning how to swim so they can fully appreciate our pool. During the harsh South Dakota winter, swimming is one of the main activities for the Lakota students – we want to keep them active when it’s not nice enough to play outside.
It is certainly a lot of fun, but it’s important for them to learn how to swim so they can be safe in the water wherever they are.
The Explorers, a community-focused group of junior high students from the Chamberlain area, gathered recently to elect their officers for this year. Two St. Joseph’s students were elected to office — Ben won the race for Secretary and Joe won the Treasurer position. These young men do a variety of fundraisers to help the community.
They have raised several thousand dollars over the years to aid local citizens who need a helping hand, help with the up-keep of local baseball fields and build the fishing pier at American Creek.
There’s also an educational component to the group. Later in the year, they will make a visit to the State Capital in Pierre to see how our government functions.
As the month of September ends, we would again like to thank all those who came to our powwow. It was an honor to have so many friends visit! The prayer requests made by those who visited Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel have been passed on to our students and we are praying for your intentions.
May God continue to bless you with good health, much happiness and reward you for your generosity toward the Native American students attending St. Joseph’s Indian School!
Where did the summer go? Monday morning, orientation began for new houseparents, teachers, counselors and support staff. We have 29 new team members for the 2014-2015 school year.
One mentioned she felt God’s call to come and offer her service to St. Joseph’s Indian School. This reflects an attitude many have shared in the past. We are grateful for this spirit of mission and that God calls the right people at the right time to cross paths and serve the Lakota youngsters.
When new staff were asked what qualities they bring to the job, some of the comments included:
Love of young people
May the giver of all good gifts, our Heavenly Father, enable them to have many opportunities to share these gifts with everyone around them, students and staff.
All staff will be back on campus next week, but final touches for the upcoming school year are still being made. The new playground equipment is being delivered over the next few days and it will be a challenge to get everything bolted and in place by the opening of school on August 11. Pilamaya – thank you – for your continued generosity that allows us to provide a safe environment for the children we serve!
Many guests and visitors have been stopping at the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center. I hope you and your family will have the opportunity to visit one day soon. It is good to see the museum parking lot filled with vehicles from all over the USA and beyond. Our visitors are impressed by the facility and we have received several great reviews, such as this blog post.
Remember St. Joseph’s annual powwow coming up September 12-13. For more information or to register, visit www.stjo.org/powwow or call 1-800-584-9200.
Please continue to pray for us as orientation continues this week and for the all-staff orientation next week. Together, we will develop a sense of family and provide the best experience possible for our in-coming students. We are grateful to God for your support and encouragement which allows us to have a positive impact on the children’s lives.
I hope your remaining summer is relaxing and enjoyable. Stay safe and may God’s blessings continue to be with you and yours!
Last week, we put the wraps on a couple of different basketball programs for the year. Sunday afternoon, the girls’ intercity basketball season culminated in the championship game. The chance to have children of staff and children from the Chamberlain community playing alongside our St. Joseph’s students really helps build relationships for the day when our students go off campus to Chamberlain High School.
So many people give a lot of their weekend time to help our youth. Awards to players on each team were handed out, and the adult volunteers were acknowledged and thanked.
After school today, our coaches announced and presented trophies to our St. Joseph’s Indian School basketball teams. Some of the best athletes were disappointed that they didn’t earn an award. However, the trophies are based mostly on spirit, improvement and hustle, which is hardest to coach or teach.
Some players who weren’t high scorers and came in as subs earned recognition for their attitude and team play. The pep club and cheerleaders were also acknowledged for the fun and spirit they add to our home games. Our first, second and third graders are especially fun to watch and hear when they get going on the cheers they’ve learned.
March 19 – The Feast of St. Joseph! I’ve given up desserts for Lent, but when Clare brought an Italian dessert (Zeppole) she and the students made for our Child Services meeting, I indulged just a little to celebrate our patronal feast.
Split Rock Studios arrived back on campus to bring to life the next phase of our renovation at the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center. Three walls of the museum now have a large mural of the vast and beautiful South Dakota prairie grasslands, and exhibit installation isn’t far behind.
They are also installing more of the audio visuals in our historical displays. With warmer weather, our visitor count increases dramatically. When the project is completed by May and we extend our hours, the folks who pass through our doors are in for a treat as they learn about Lakota (Sioux) history and culture.
I spoke to a good friend from college who now works as a physical therapist. Paula was filling in for a co-worker and met an elderly woman having difficulty getting motivated to do her rehab exercises.
Seeing a St. Joseph Indian School note pad on the desk, Paula asked the patient about it, which led to a spirited conversation about St. Joseph’s. Their connection with me put the woman totally at ease, and she gave it a great effort that day. Her story made me smile, and I promised to lift her up in prayers in a special way.
Our students reenacted the Stations of the Cross in the chapel at the end of the school day. Hopefully the colorful costumes, large cross and other visuals helped the gospel come alive just a bit more deeply as we close in on Holy Week. Spring break begins Friday, and many of our students will be going home. The high school students and one break home will still be open, but our grade school classes will take pause to let students spend time with family, and prepare for the wonderful celebration of Easter.
I’ll be gone on retreat for a good part of the break, and will pick up the blog after Holy Week. You’re all in my prayers – Happy Easter and God Bless!
In big cities, people face the challenge of being stuck in traffic jams. A 15-mile trip home may turn into a two-hour ordeal. We don’t have that kind of problem in South Dakota, but do have to go long distances between towns. Last week, I had a 4 ½ hour round trip to see my spiritual director.
When the weather is good, the driving itself – with open roads and big sky – is a stress free time for prayer and reflection. Looking back and reviewing the past month, I remembered the people, places and events through which I’ve encountered God. The act of giving thanks regularly like that helps me keep focused and remember what life is about.
Today was a transition from lofty spiritual goals to mundane tasks like laundry, homily preparation and answering mail.
On Saturdays, I usually sort the mail myself. I give thanks for the people who generously support us; I pause a moment to look at the names and lift up a prayer. Today, I also noticed several colleges reaching out to our Native American high school students.
When I was in high school, mailboxes were filled with thick and colorful catalogues to attract attention to a particular school. Times have changed, however, and now I see more postcards that direct our Lakota students to an interactive web site. We at St. Joseph’s are also making efforts to print fewer materials and have more information available online.
However they may receive the information, our students are excited that universities think them potential candidates. Our high school support staff will guide them through the application process as they begin to dream where the future might take them.
Fr. Bob, a member of our Priests of the Sacred Heart religious order, arrived at St. Joseph’s Indian School from Chicago yesterday. Seven inches of heavy wet snow fell on campus Saturday, and Fr. Bob couldn’t make it up the hill to our house! We had to park the car down below and carry suitcases up the hill. One of the houseparents came into morning mass and joked, “Did you pray for this?”
Actually, I have been praying for the moisture we badly need. So many people who work the land have been suffering from drought. Once I heard a native South Dakotan remark that, in other areas, weather forecasters talk of the threat of snow or rain, but here in South Dakota we talk about the promise of snow and rain. We are glad to receive whatever comes! Today the sun came out, the roads started melting, and it was much easier to get around.
After mass, we joined the Afra Home (1st – 3rd grade girls) for weekend brunch to give Fr. Bob a sense of how our Native American students live. Third grader Mariah was a good tour guide as she showed off the home and told Fr. Bob about student activities.
The William Home (4th-5th grade girls) is nearby. Since both homes had many students checked out to go home for the weekend, the two homes joined one another for the meal. Some of the William Home girls started out in Afra, and always enjoy coming back to check in with their former houseparents. The two homes try to do occasional activities together, especially so sisters and cousins can spend quality time together. The older girls enjoy spending time with the younger ones. The tables were filled with conversation and laughter. Monday
Sunday evening and Monday, the SCJs gathered for our Lenten Recollection time. We were joined by the priests who work on nearby Indian Reservations – Lower Brule and Crow Creek – and here locally in Chamberlain. Fr. Bob’s reflections centered around the Earth, our relationship with creation, and our call to be God’s stewards. Life at St. Joseph’s features constant activity, but Bob’s presence reminded us that we all need to slow down and try to listen for God’s direction and guidance.
After we finished, I went downtown to check on the opening of our new Thrift Store. Chantelle, our manager, said that curious folks had stopped in all day. Some just wanted to see how the former grocery store had been transformed, but once inside, they decided to pick up a few clothes or knick-knacks.
Lena, one of our sophomores was tending the cash register and getting on-the-job experience dealing with the public and earning some spending money. The new store has room to set up nicer displays; the objects near the entry caught people’s eye and needed to be rearranged at first, and restocked by the end of the day.
Fr. Anthony had morning mass for our school crowd. Since our high school students go to Chamberlain High School, coordinating schedules is difficult at times. To have morning mass for them we’d have to start somewhere around 6:30 am. If you know HS students, that’s not their most alert or best time of the day. Instead, I celebrated mass for them after school when they participated quite well. I try to get them involved in reading and helping serve. They’re more open to do that in a smaller crowd of peers than for the whole school. At times, I also appreciate the opportunity to preach geared more exclusively to their age group’s reality and issues.
There are over 10,000 people who have been canonized as saints. One church in Chicago has an empty alcove amid a pantheon of saints. The point is that some day, if we live our faith to the full, we could be one of those remembered as a great example to others.