Keeping the Lakota (Sioux) youth on track

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My usual Wednesday business meetings were much lighter than normal. I met our newest staff member Terry, who will help with all the paperwork involved in running the high school program, and keep in closer touch with the school. We’re also waiting for a new houseparent from Philadelphia, who arrives tomorrow.

Many of our families live several hours away, which makes the meetings we are able to have with them all the more important. I ran into one family after they attended a meeting with our staff regarding a medication being prescribed for their child. The parents were concerned because in some places medicine is too easily given without looking at all the options. We try many other possibilities first. They were impressed that they saw our consulting psychiatrist, together with a teacher, a houseparent and a family service counselor, all looking at the child’s behavior from different perspectives, and trying to come at the best solution. All their questions were addressed, and they felt very good about the consultation.

Supper tonight was with the Sheehy Home (high school) boys. They were more relaxed that usual, mostly because after the first day of class no one had any missing assignments or homework due. Some of them are starting new classes for the 2nd semester. The one that generated the most conversation was the Criminal Justice class, since they looked at the high rate of juvenile incarceration in South Dakota. All of them have friends or relatives who’ve been incarcerated, and we want them to keep on track to stay out of trouble and finish school and go on to better things.

Here to give, yet receive much

Tuesday January 4, 2011

I’m still in the process of answering the many Christmas cards that friends and relatives sent in. I figure I still have the 12 days of Christmas to complete the task. I like to read what people write and catch up on what they’ve been about since I’ve last heard from them. For some it’s been a whole year, but though distances may not allow us to see one another as often as we’d like, there is still an emotional and prayerful connection over the miles.

Our high school youth came back today. Chamberlain Public High School starts two days later than we did here at St. Joseph’s Indian School and only now are we getting back to our full complement of staff and students. Over the break, three high school students decided to continue their schooling elsewhere. But another three high schoolers who set off for “greener pastures” applied to come back and are with us again. There are many pulls and pressures on these young Lakota (Sioux) people, and no matter where they end up living and going to school, we encourage them to finish the race and fight the good fight. I visited two of the girls homes, Crane and Giles, to see what the young women had been up to over the break.

This evening one of our houseparents Jim, sent me an email. Two Lakota Sioux girls in his home, Jalynn and Mikeal, are preparing to represent St. Joseph’s at our upcoming donor appreciation luncheon in St. Augustine, Florida. I asked the houseparents to take some time and have the students practice with them. Jim thanked me for the “privilege” of listening to them, for he said it helped him see the girls in a new light, and he learned more about them. He told me that many times we think we are here to give, yet we receive so much more in return.

Welcome back

Monday, January 3, 2011

We began the day with our 3rd Quarter Prayer service – a nice way to ask God’s blessing on staff and students as we start a new year and a new semester. 27 kids were still not here when we began the day, but several have arrived since.

For me it was a day of “wandering”.  The family service counselors work in my building on campus, and every one of them was at work early sitting in front of their computer screens and reviewing a couple of weeks worth of campus emails. They’re also making contact with the families of any students who haven’t made it back yet. I poked my head into each office to welcome them back. 

Next, I had a meeting in the Development Office. While over there, I made the rounds and did some catching up with staff about how their holidays went. Our maintenance crew is remodeling the break room and redoing some of the office space, so I checked in on their work too. We’re still answering some of the Christmas mail, but making good progress. Donors were generous to us over the holidays, and we are prayerfully grateful.

I wandered around the school, welcoming students back, and meeting the new ones who have just joined us. Some of the students looked tired – not used to waking up so early while on vacation – but they’ll soon be back in the routine. I was always hard to wake up when it came to school, but did OK once I got there.

I stopped in the Rec Center to check out the gym floor that was redone over the break – looks sharp and ready for boys’ basketball season, which starts with practice today. Then I joined the Raphael Home (1st – 3rd grade boys) for supper. After reading time, I got challenged to a game of Connect 4 and had to match my wits against the kids. I set out to let them win a few, but quickly realized I had to concentrate to win any!

A lovely Christmas

Sunday, January 02, 2011


I made my first, long overdue visit home to Indiana for Christmas in 14 years. My family knew that when I became a priest, I wouldn’t be home for most holidays. After last year’s cancer scare, this was a special Christmas that I really wanted to be home for. I made the rounds with different members of my family and got to meet my newest grand-niece for the very first time. We had lots of laughs, ate too much, revisited the old stories and caught up with new events in our lives. My Christmas was lovely.


When I drove onto campus yesterday, our facility crew was hard at work removing snow. On New Year’s Eve, Chamberlain got about 8 inches, and winds whipped the drifts high. Interstate 90 was closed down for the day to prevent travelers from getting stranded out in the country. On my travels, the road surface itself was fine, but the biggest problem I encountered was snow blowing across the highway which caused white-outs at times. But the campus is shaping up, and everyone is able to get where they need to go today.


Our St. Joseph’s homes opened back up today at noon for the children. While most of the students take some time to trickle in, one 7th grade girl was at the Pinger home with her grandmother as soon as the houseparents opened the door. While there are always some tears of homesickness as students are dropped off and families part, generally our students are glad to come back. Today was a day to catch up with students and staff and share holiday stories and memories.


I ran into several houseparents at the dining hall, which also opened today so the Homes can do their grocery shopping and replenish refrigerators that sat empty for two weeks. Each of the homes stocked up on milk and eggs, fruits and vegetables and all the makings for the next several days of meals.