Mission Education… in the snow

Last week, St. Joseph’s Indian School hosted a Mission Education Conference for members of the Priests of the Sacred Heart and our co-workers. Large contingents came from Wisconsin and Mississippi, and others from Texas, Illinois and even two from our sister school in Handrup, Germany.

An excellent and full article on the events, complete with many pictures can be found here. Be sure to look at the “I am Dehonian because. . .” statements!

I was so proud of the work and planning our staff put into the snowstorm-abbreviated conference!

Our Lakota students were also excited to have visitors tour the classrooms and take part in the interactive class lessons planned specially for the day.

Our guests had to leave after only one day because of the record-setting storm that was on its way. As a result, second day activities had to be cancelled. Our students were very disappointed they didn’t get to give cultural demonstrations they practiced for – archery, hand games, drum and powwow dancing – because school was canceled during the snowstorm. One student was actually disappointed to have a snow day, which says something about the excitement generated with visitors on campus!

An entertaining way of informing our guests about the nature of the work at St. Joseph’s was the production of “commercials” from each department. Each of our departments came up with a presentation, video or skit that gave an overview of their part in the mission. Our staff shared their passion for their work with both creativity and humor.

Foster, head of the grounds crew, got out his guitar to do a fun spoof of Johnny Cash’s song “I’ve Been Everywhere.” The facilities crew brought down the house with a clever and imaginative overview of the work they do:

Oh we can: oil it boil it lift it tease it,     weld it broom it whisk it fleece it

Shine it buff it wax it grease it,      wrench it bench it, max it freeze it

Borrow it buy it sell it lease it,      Good Lord help me I can’t stop or cease it


REFRAIN: We can do anything ma’am, we can do anything ma’am

No matter the time or hour, we have got the power

To make it all better, we can do anything


So as you walk around our campus here you’ll notice it looks fresh and green

The buildings look strong and stout, the windows fixed, the floors are clean

We’re proud to be a part of St Joe’s  and  I want to know as far as facilities goes…..We can do anything!

As we ended the conference at supper with some of our Wisconsin confreres, they were most disappointed the reservation tour got canceled due to highway closures. We told them it was a good excuse to invite them back another time.

An Adventure in Washington D.C.

Hi!  I am Dianne G., Administrative Assistant at the school. I haven’t blogged for awhile so I will fill you in with my news.  I actually have missed quite a bit of work in January and February—my husband received a kidney transplant on January 3 and he was hospitalized in Omaha, Nebraska, for a total of 30 days.  Our prayers were answered and e is now doing well and recuperating at home!

I was totally out of the loop for awhile, but now am back!

Earlier this fall, I was selected along with one of our houseparents to accompany three of our Lakota students on a trip to Washington, D.C. — a fantastic gift from one of St. Joseph’s donors!

We left early on a Saturday morning (we got up at 4:00 a.m.!!) and flew to D.C.  Two of the girls had never flown before so it was a new experience for them, as was the entire trip to everyone but me (I went to D.C. last June with my son and his family).

I was so glad that I had been there before as it helped me to plan the itinerary for the trip.  We were five very busy people.  As soon as we got to our hotel and unloaded our luggage, we walked to the Hard Rock Café and had a scrumptious supper along with a fun-filled dining experience.  We then went to Union Station to pick up our tickets for the Moonlight Monument Tour.

D.C. is a beautiful sight at night—all the memorials that were lit up were awesome.  We also drove past Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon, the Capital, the Supreme Court and made stops at three of the memorials. The girls were amazed how large Lincoln’s statue was in his memorial.

While touring we saw the President’s helicopter flanked by two other helicopters heading for the White House!  Our tour guide provided us with historical facts and trivia questions.  Such a great time!

The next day, we went to the Holocaust Museum which made such an impression on the girls—we all had tears in our eyes.  Then on to the American History Museum where we saw Dorothy’s ruby red slippers, Kermit the Frog, the flag that the Star Spangled Banner was written about and so much more!

We walked around the White House and took tons of pictures. We went to the P.O.V. Terrace, which is at the top of the W Hotel, where we could see all of Washington from above.

Later on, we dressed up for dinner, which was fun, and ended up eating hamburgers and fries!!  Our girls gave their uneaten fries to a homeless person who they saw outside the restaurant.

On our last full day, we went to the National Museum of the American Indian, where the girls played interactive games and crafts and received stamps on their “passports.”  We had a little snack there after seeing an awesome movie about the different tribes and then walked to the Dirksen Building (in the rain).

We went to South Dakota Senator Thune’s office, where we had scheduled a tour of the Capitol and hoped to meet Senator Thune.  We had a great tour guide and learned a lot of the history of the capitol, along with some fun information like the whispering spot where we could hear our guide from across the room!  We did not get to meet Senator Thune as he had flown home to South Dakota when the Senate recessed.  We were disappointed about that.

After that we headed to Union Station where we ate some delicious sandwiches and rested our feet for a little while.  We then caught a taxi and headed for the Spy Museum where we were involved in solving a mystery!  Wow!  After all this activity we were T-I-R-E-D.

We spent the rest of the evening packing our things and resting our weary bones.  We flew out the next day and spent a lot of time in airports—seeing the sights there also.  All of us had such a great time but were ready to come home and see our families.  Heidi and I took the kids home after arriving in Chamberlain around 10:00 p.m., so it was a late night for us.

What a wonderful experience!  We are very thankful for such a great trip!

The Lakota students visited the Oval Office.
Vilencia sits at the President’s desk in the Oval Office!
Thanks to a generous benefactor, three Native American students from St. Joseph’s visited Washington D.C.
The girls dressed up for their tour of the Capitol Building.
The Lakota students enjoyed the National Museum of the American Indian.
A highlight of the trip was the National Museum of the American Indian.

Learning Life Skills in PLS

Things have been heating up in Personal Living Skills (PLS) class this last month! St. Joseph’s sixth, seventh and eighth grade Lakota students have been busy in the kitchen, planning menus, and preparing foods.

We put lots of emphasis on how to plan nutritious meals, making wise food choices when shopping, and how to store foods properly.

Our Native American students also learn how to follow recipes, which includes reading food preparation directions and measuring ingredients.  Then, of course, we give it a try! Some of their favorite labs have been pizza Stromboli, fry bread, donuts, pumpkin French toast, Butterfinger cake, and fruit smoothies.

A great meal also includes proper table etiquette. Setting the table is an important part of meal preparation, especially in a formal setting.  When our students are faced with the dilemma of three forks, they will know which one to use!

The Lakota students learn to cook in Personal Living Skills class.
Learning to read a recipe and measure ingredients are important first steps.
The Native American children learned that measuring flour can be difficult!
The flour can get away from you if you’re not careful!

Easter Break at St. Joseph’s

The Lakota boys and girls at St. Joseph’s enjoyed spring and Easter break from March 22 – April 1.
Everyone was excited for a break from school!

Greetings, friends of St. Joseph’s Indian School!  I hope you are doing well.  It is hard to believe, but spring is here!  The official start of spring was March 20, and with that comes St. Joseph’s Indian School’s spring and Easter Breaks.  The students departed for break on March 22 and will return April 1.

Most of our students will be headed home.  At this most holy time of year, it is wonderful to see our students being able to spend the time with their families.  Our students have worked hard over the last months, since returning from Christmas break, and are excited to have a few days away from school to be with family.  A few of our students will be remaining on campus for the break, with houseparents in one of St. Joseph’s homes.

Our high school students do get a few days off for Easter Break, but lament the fact they no longer get the long Spring Break our younger Lakota students get J.

Upon returning to St. Joseph’s campus on April 1, students in grades 1-5 will get to take part in an Easter egg hunt.  This is always great fun for the younger students.  Grades 6-8 will be having a potluck on that day, which is open to all of the 6-8 grade students and their families.  This is the first year the 6-8 grade community will be holding the potluck and we hope for great success.

Over Spring Break, three of our eighth grade students headed to Washington, D.C., for a few days to tour our nation’s capital.

For a couple of the students, it will be their first experience with flying, and although nervous, they are very excited to be on a plane!  The students are also looking forward to being away from South Dakota and experiencing a big city and all that Washington, D.C. has to offer.  We wish them safe travels and an excellent adventure!

At this most holy time of year, we here at St. Joseph’s Indian School wish to take a minute to THANK YOU for all of the support you offer us throughout the year.

Without your prayers and generous financial support, we would not be able to do the work we do here.  St. Joseph’s Indian School is an amazing place and we are so very lucky to be able to work with some amazing children.

We wish you a most blessed Easter season!

Leading up to Easter at St. Joseph’s

Greetings to you all as we enter into Holy Week leading up to the joy, beauty and majesty of Easter!

Fr. Steve is away attending some meetings in Chicago and giving a retreat to our retired priests and Brothers in Pinellas Park, Florida.  That’s what he said anyway, but I think there might be an effort to get in a spring training baseball game or two as well!  As he will not be back until after Easter, he asked me to pass along what’s been happening here at St. Joseph’s over this past weekend.

The Lakota children saw two science-related presentations before spring break.
The Lakota children took in the Star Lab Thursday before spring break.

The students and staff are on Spring/Easter break at the moment.  They’ll return on Easter Monday.  Our high school students are on a different schedule (since they attend Chamberlain High School) so they are still in session.  Don’t feel sorry for them though – it seems like they are off for something or other every week! They’ll have Good Friday through Easter Monday off.

Just before the students left, we were able to host two special programs that shared insight into the scientific realm as the Lakota Star Lab came on Thursday and on Friday, we learned about tornadoes.

The Star Lab was an effort to get our students looking to and dreaming about the stars and the heavens.  The Weather Enrichment Program dealt with storm chasers.  There was an initial presentation of the impact tornadoes have and how they are formed.  Then a 20-minute 3-D film called Tornado Alley showed how the storms are chased and studied.

That was followed by a Q & A session and then a tour of the Doppler on Wheels vehicle used in the pursuit of the storms.  It weighs 26,000 pounds, stands 14 feet high, 8.5 feet wide and 27 feet long and is able to obtain speeds around 80 miles per hour.  I asked where they did most of their chasing and they stated Kansas and Oklahoma because they are so flat.

It is good they shared info on tornadoes since South Dakota does get some during the summer months. We have had one or two storm chasers in the area around St. Joseph’s over the years.

The break also gave three of our Lakota students the chance to take part in a trip to Washington, DC to visit our nation’s capital and see the sights.  They flew on Saturday and will visit various museums such as the Holocaust Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian. They will have a tour of the capital building on Monday before heading back on Tuesday.  This has been a wonderful opportunity for our Native American students to explore our seat of national government and get to know the places they hear about on the evening news!

The week ahead should be quiet and peaceful here on campus aside from the squawking of all the Canadian geese that are in the area.  It is amazing how many did not go south for the winter but found the Chamberlain area a nice place to stop and visit.

Hope you all have a rewarding and grace-filled Holy Week and a beautiful Easter!

The Lakota children got to see portable weather stations used to measure conditions during tornadoes.
Friday, after the Tornado Alley movie, St. Joseph’s students headed outside to take a look at portable weather stations and the Doppler on Wheels.

Reflecting on the Road

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.

New thrift store open for business

St. Joseph’s Thrift Store staff has been working with our Facilities Crew since September 2012 on the remodel of a downtown Chamberlain building built in the 1900’s – formerly a grocery store.

St. Joseph’s Indian School purchased the building in the summer of 2012 with the intention of remodeling the building for a new Thrift Store and center to process in-kind donations.

We started moving in to the new building March 1!

We were grateful our move only took a week. The store opened to the public again on March 11, though there is still some exterior work to be finished once the weather warms up.

We first considered the project because of the lack of storage on campus for the donated items our benefactors so generously send. As we move forward, the plan is to have all donated goods delivered to the new In-Kind Processing Center, which is located downtown in the back part of the new Thrift Store.

Donated goods are sorted into many different categories. The main three are:

  • Campus use
  • Thrift Store
  • Mission Run

First, we make sure the needs of the Lakota students are met. They have first pick of all donated clothing and other items.  If we’re not able to use a particular item on campus (such as baby clothes), then it will go to the thrift store or a reservation outreach. After a certain amount of time, items we have not been able to use are packed up and sent to an outreach on an Indian Reservation near us.

As this project comes to an end, the staff here at the Thrift Store and the processing center would like to thank the Facilities Staff for all the hard work and organization they put into this project.  They have helped make this transition an easy one!

St. Joseph’s new Thrift Store is located on Main Street in Chamberlain, South Dakota.
A mock up of what the storefront will look like when it is 100% complete.

Witnessing History

The Lakota children witnessed history as a new Pope was named on March 13, 2013.
St. Joseph’s second graders used a Promethean Board to watch the announcement of the new Pope.

I’d just come back to the office after lunch yesterday when I heard rumors of white smoke coming from the Vatican. I called St. Joseph’s principal, Kathleen, to let her know. With the Promethean Boards we have in many of the classrooms, teachers can transfer images and programs from their computer to the big screen, so students got to watch the unfolding announcement live. I visited several of the classrooms, and the kids had tons of questions.

“Why the smoke?” – so I explained the voting process.
“Who are those people in the funny uniforms?” – and we learned about the Swiss Guard.
“When are you going to become Pope?” – I took a pass on that one.
And, as curiosity and impatience both grew, “What is the pope doing now and when is he going to come out?”

I enjoyed sharing this special moment in history with our Lakota students. People have been asking me about my first impressions of the new Pope Francis. I am encouraged that he has a reputation for reaching out to the poor in his diocese in Argentina. Choosing the name Francis raises the hope that he will be able to lead followers to strengthen and rebuild the church where it is broken, work for peace in our troubled world, and reach out with greater charity to those in need.

Time flies when you’re having fun!

I can’t believe March is here already and we have started the fourth quarter at St. Joseph’s Indian School. WOW, time really flies when we are having so much fun!
We had a lot of fun when we celebrated Read Across America Day on March 1.

The Lakota students and Fr. Steve read in the hallway to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday.
Fr. Steve joined the Lakota children for reading.

The Lakota students loved the time they were able to spend reading to each other and to Fr. Steve in the school hallways. They also enjoyed ice cream treats at the end of the day.

The Lakota students had lots of fun reading to each other.
We had so much fun celebrating Read Across America Day!

Our eighth grade girls were able to miss a day of school last week and attend GEMS (Girls Engineering Math and Science) in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. They enjoyed not being in school for a day, but the real enjoyment was being able to attend a session on makeup. Imagine that with teenage girls! They also were able to visit other booths related to engineering and science.

Our Native American girls in eighth grade learned about careers in math and science.
Our eighth-grade girls attended GEMS and learned about GIS mapping.

Staff and students are gearing up for St. Joseph’s Spring Break which will start on March 22. We are looking forward to having an educational morning at the Recreation Center doing a Science/Weather program called Tornado Alley, which features a 3D movie! This will be a great start to Spring Break.

When the students return on Easter Monday, they will return to an Easter Egg hunt for the younger students (Grade 1-5) and the older students (Grades 6-8) will have a picnic dinner in the Fisher Home driveway, weather permitting. Considering our weather the past few weekends has been snow and rain, we will hope and pray for better weather on Easter weekend.

The staff would like to thank all of our donors for the help, support and encouragement that our students receive throughout the year.
“Experience Jesus’ presence each moment. Pray as you enter each place, welcoming Christ to touch and to heal. Embrace God and the way God touches your life again and again.”

St. Joseph’s Mentor Program

Mentor matches provide the Lakota students a positive role model in their lives.
Delores and Kaelyn love spending time together!
Hello, our names are Celia and Dee and we oversee the Children Count Mentor Program at St. Joseph’s Indian School. The mentor program was established in 2001 to match a Lakota student with a positive adult staff member.
The goal of the program is to establish a positive relationship between adults and children, and to have a positive impact on Native American youth by actively participating in their lives. These relationships can help children compensate for early experiences and protect them from the influences of social toxicity, negative peer groups and media violence.
Currently, we have 48 student/adult mentor matches.
Students at St. Joseph’s are referred to the mentor program by their counselor because they lack one-on-one contact with an adult – they may not have a family member who can check them out for an evening or weekend – or because they would benefit from a positive relationship with adults who actively participates in their lives.
The mentor committee hosts five events throughout the school year. Some of these events include a picnic, movie night, roller-skating, a Christmas get-together and bowling.
Everyone has a great time!
In addition to these organized events, staff spend 2-6 hours per month individually with their match. Some activities that students enjoy with their mentors are going out to eat, attending local sporting events, going for walks, making cookies and doing crafts, just to name a few.
Thank you for your support of this great program!