All Saints Day

Each classroom chose a saint to learn about and designed a banner to represent them!
Each classroom chose a saint to learn about and designed a banner to represent them!

We had two masses for the Lakota students today for the All Saints Holy Day. Right after school grades 1-8 gathered in church with all their teachers and houseparents. Of course our opening song had to be a lively rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

Each of the classrooms chose a saint to learn about that had some special significance to them, and designed a banner that was proudly carried in the opening procession. Saints Jochim and Anne (patron of grandparents) included the names of several of our students grandparents. I myself found out our newest saint, Kateri Tekakwitha, is the patroness of ecology. St. Maximillian Kolbe is a help and inspiration for those struggling with addictions, which is a big hurdle many of our students’ families know about all too well.

Since many of our high school students work after school or are involved in sports practice or getting ready for the school play, we had another mass for them later in the evening. It was a much smaller and more intimate crowd (56 counting staff and students). But the older students seem to enjoy the occasions when they are among peers, and the homily can focus on their reality.

Students volunteered to be readers and hospitality ministers. It takes some courage to read or speak in front of friends, but overcoming that reluctance is another step in building self-confidence and growing into maturity. Each of the homes brought petitions for our common prayers. Our kids are very concerned about all the folks who are suffering on the East Coast and beyond from super-storm Sandy, and that was the prayer most commonly voiced.

I spoke about preparing for the future, and having the attitudes of the beatitudes in trying to make a difference in addressing the suffering of our needy world. I drew some chuckles when I told the high school students, “Our main goal is to get rid of you!” But of course, the goal is having them graduate and move on with the firm and well-rounded foundation they need to pursue God’s hopes and dreams for them.

After mass, a few of the students hung around to chat. They’ve been trying to plan a dance that didn’t happen over Halloween, and now the other holidays are fast approaching. Chris joked that maybe their theme should be zombie turkeys carrying presents!

I noticed one of the girls gravitating to the saints banners. She quietly and contemplatively approached each one, observing how each of the classes had portrayed our heroes of faith. When I asked about her favorite, it was the Holy Innocents, with the names of children that our students knew and prayed for.

My hope is to instill that sense of prayerful wonder and reflection in all of our students, and that we can help form young people who will be known for heroic virtue.

May more and more saints come marching in!

Guest Blogger: Cindy K.

Hello, my name is Cindy K. and I work in the school office at St. Joseph’s Indian School.  My day is full of many interesting details, which are never the same two days in a row!  It is always exciting to see what the day will hold. It includes answering the phone, sending students to the health center, doing state reporting, helping staff and I even have to do a little trouble shooting with the copiers when they are jammed or not working.

I have worked at St. Joseph’s Indian School for over 15 years and it has been a thrill for me to get to know the students from year to year.  Especially those that return to visit and tell us (the staff) how much they learned in their time at St. Joseph’s.

I also work with the Residential and Clinical Departments.  This includes helping with admissions during the summer, setting up Service Plan meetings for students, keeping track of incentive cards and other organizational duties.

This year, we have switched to the District Edition of Infinite Campus.  It is a complex but very fact-filled system.  The system is able to show parents and staff when student assignments are due, as well as their grades and attendance.  I’m able to import students from other schools when they start attending school here at St. Joseph’s.  They need to be entered, given a school schedule, and a household name with any brothers or sisters who also attend St. Joseph’s. This year, the report cards will be run from this system.  It will be an exciting time to see how this will all come together at the end of the quarter.

Our powwow was a huge success with many benefactors attending and participating this year.   The weather cooperated and we enjoyed a fun-filled day outside watching the dancers. I would like to thank all of our donors for visiting and supporting St. Joseph’s. It means a lot to our Lakota students and the school.

“He is my refuge and my fortress, My God; in him will I trust”

Carpe Diem – Seize the Day

Much of last week I was away attending the National Catholic Development Conference. Besides looking at good business practices, the conference also asks us to focus on ethics and care for donors and the spiritual and prayerful side of what we do. I met lots of other organizations doing amazing things to help those in need, across the country and around the world.

The conference was held in Nashville Tennessee, and I got to make my first visit to the Grand Ole Opry. The special night honored Loretta Lynn for being an Opry member for 50 years. Many singers who looked to her as their inspiration sang songs of tribute and a few ensemble numbers with her.

Back in the office there is always a pile of paperwork to catch up with. We met with the auditors to go over last year’s finances, and everything seems to be in order for next week’s board meetings. Thanks to our accounting and payroll staff who so carefully and diligently organize!

We also met with the architect and contractors working on the Akta Lakota Museum expansion. Thursday they reached the point of “substantial completion,” so we made out a punch list of things to be finished up and “took possession” of the building. Over the winter months, when we have fewer visitors to campus, the historical displays and museum upgrades will be installed.

This has been a gorgeous fall weekend. Yesterday, the Chamberlain/Oacoma Chamber of Commerce held its annual Fall Fest, including a farmer’s market with wonderful produce, pumpkin decorating contests and children’s games.  As I passed by Stevens Home (6th– 8th grade girls) I saw Caitlyn sharing a cake she had won downtown with the rest of her home. When I went to pick up mail I saw several of the homes walking downtown for the festival, and heard the crowd favorite was the hayride.

Our grade school football players took part in a jamboree on Saturday and got lots of playing time and experience. Most people at that age bounce back quickly from bumps and bruises, but we did have one broken finger amid memories of touchdowns and quarterback sacks.

At the end of mass today Steve, our High School Academic Adviser  announced grade point averages (GPA) for the first quarter. Four students are currently riding a 4.0! We have a traveling trophy for the home with the best average GPA, and the Hogebach girls reclaimed top honors with a cumulative 3.5 GPA. Besides rewarding good grades, we also want to acknowledge those who are making the best effort. We introduced a second trophy for the home which had the fewest missing assignments for the quarter. The Carola boys claimed that distinction.

That seemed like a good point for me to read a letter from one of our recent graduates to encourage our students. In her letter about college, Danisha sheepishly admitted that she hurt her finger climbing up a tree by the dorms, but otherwise sounds like she is doing great.

“I want everyone to make their school years the best and also to travel when you get the chance. Never step down from an opportunity because you never know where it will get you. I can say with so much excitement that I attended Gear Up as the first St. Joseph’s student, Crazy Horse as the second St. Joseph’s student, been on donor luncheons, went to Germany, organized two powwows for Chamberlain and can now say that I am a Dakota State University college freshman. As I finish up, work hard and Carpe Diem – “Seize the Day!”

Guest Blogger: Julie H.

Powwow dancing at its best!
Everyone has such a great time at St. Joseph’s Indian School’s powwow!

Greetings from St. Joseph’s Indian School!  My name is Julie H. and I have been at St. Joseph’s for almost 11 years.  Every day I thank God for leading me to this wonderful place!  I cannot tell you how much I enjoy working with our students and staff!  I also hope you all know that we are so very thankful for the donations of money, prayers and encouragement we receive from you!

This is a busy and exciting week at St. Joseph’s.  Saturday we will have our annual powwow.  The students have been working hard at dance practice and they are all getting excited for Saturday.  The powwow is always a great way to meet families, students and you – the donors who have the opportunity to come and visit.  We always love to see new faces and familiar faces alike!

So what is the powwow like?

It is a great way to see the Native dances of the Lakota (Sioux) people.  It is filled with bright colors, wonderful drum music and great dancing.  Earlier in the day, visitors have the opportunity to tour the school and homes. As the day winds down, we also share a meal together. The powwow is truly a fun-filled day!

And this year, the weather looks to be perfect!  God truly does bless us!

All are welcome at the powwow.  It is a day of fellowship and friendship.  If you are coming to join us for the powwow this year, and you find yourself with questions about St. Joseph’s, just find someone in a blue shirt, they will be happy to give explanations and answer any questions you may have!  We hope to see as many of you as possible at our powwow this year!

As always, THANK YOU for your prayers and encouragement for St. Joseph’s Indian School.  Without you, our generous benefactors, we could not do the wonderful work we do!

God Bless you all,

Julie H.

The last gasp of summer

Since our students live on campus, we have school on many of the federal holidays, but Labor Day is the last gasp of summer, and it was a day for fun and relaxing. All the Native American students on campus were invited to walk downtown for a matinee movie. Temperatures hovered around 95 degrees and we worked up a sweat. Everyone was glad to come into the air-conditioned theater and have a pop and bag of popcorn waiting for them. The movie itself was rather silly, but I enjoyed watching the kids laugh and enjoy themselves.

Afterwards, while we walked home, second grader Araya asked me,

“So are you really the boss of all St. Joe’s?”

“Yes, I suppose I am. How do you think I’m doing?”

“Not very well!”

Surprised to hear that response I asked,

“Not very well! What do I need to do better?”

“You’re too nice to everyone. If you want to be a real boss you have to yell more and get things done,” she explained.

While students have a lot of wisdom and insight, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree on my management style.

We ended the day with a cookout in Wisdom Circle, and had a chance to shoot baskets, toss around a football and slap away at the tetherball.


Group sessions and spiritual efforts

Staff continue to ready the campus and themselves for our students’ arrival. Teachers have been in classrooms, hanging posters and setting out books and supplies on each desk, which now have student names on them. Houseparents are setting out bedding and making progress charts and decorating homes with signs of welcome. Orientation week is a combination of group sessions to go over important policies like fire safety or pastoral care support. It is also a time for each person to attend to their own area and make sure they have the materials and resources they will need.

I stopped by the school, and found all the 6th-8th grade teachers in the conference room with Scott, one of our family service counselors. One by one, he was doing a file review of each of the 30 boys that he counsels. He tried to visit each one at their home over the summer, and gave updates on how they have been doing. Many of the teachers know the students well already, and could give the new teachers insights into student issues and behavior. We work hard at communicating with each other so we can have a common, helpful approach and plan for each of our students. Later in the year, parents and guardians will be invited to join the group and discuss the needs and progress of their children.

We have two new pastoral care staff, Clare and Joe, that will be teaching religious education and helping with spiritual efforts  on campus. Fr. Anthony, our campus chaplain and I met with them to begin discussion of immediate needs and long term considerations. I look forward to seeing what we can develop for both staff and students.

I drove the two SCJ novices to Fort Thompson for evening mass. The church is on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation, 25 miles north of Chamberlain. This is James’ very first time in South Dakota, and he gazed out the window at the magnificent view of the Mighty Mo (Missouri River) as it swept through the wide valley far below. Both guys took a lot of pictures along the way. I suggested to the staff here, and the parishioners there, that some day one of these two young men might be working side by side with them.