Collaboration near & far for St. Joseph’s Indian School

Good day to you all!

Fr. Anthony, St. Joseph's Chaplain
Fr. Anthony, St. Joseph’s Chaplain

I hope everyone had a great weekend and enjoyed Flag Day on Sunday.  It was a quiet weekend at St. Joseph’s Indian School; the summer break home went to Sioux Falls for an outing and most of the high school students were also away.

Last week, St. Joseph’s hosted SCJ Schools in Collaboration. The SCJ community operates elementary schools and parishes in Mississippi, Texas, Wisconsin and South Dakota. The principals and one teacher from each school gathered to share ideas and plan for the future. Francis Whitebird, a Lakota language expert and the husband of St. Joseph’s principal, gave a presentation on Lakota spirituality.

Discussions were also held on ways to develop lesson plans to share the charism of our SCJ community established by our founder, Fr. Leo John Dehon, SCJ.  He had a deep interest in education and we try to continue in his footsteps.

Friday, June 12 was the Feast of the Sacred Heart. To conclude Schools in Collaboration, we held a joint prayer service via Skype with an SCJ high school program in Germany. Their choir led the singing and our group did the readings.  Each school also contributed a prayer of the faithful.

Some of St. Joseph’s high school students were able to participate in the prayer service from Germany! Adrian, Jacob, Danielle and Martina are currently staying with local families in Handrup. Their chaperones, Aaron and Melissa, are staying with the SCJ community. Everyone is having a wonderful time seeing sites and learning about one another.

St. Joseph’s recently hosted SCJ Schools in Collaboration with principals and teachers from Mississippi, Texas, Wisconsin and South Dakota.
The principals and one teacher from each SCJ school attended Schools in Collaboration. Also pictured are Mark Peters from Director of Peace and Justice, and David Schimmel, Director of Dehonian Associates.

To complete the exchange, St. Joseph’s will host the German students in September. They will attend our powwow and visit South Dakota’s famous Black Hills, learning about life for St. Joseph’s students and Native American culture.

This past Saturday was the 130th birthday celebration of Gann Valley, South Dakota – the county seat of neighboring Buffalo County.  It is the smallest county seat in the country, having a population of just 12. But it grew 30-fold for the day!

There was a parade complete with a 1903 Ford, antique tractors, the Shriners and the lawnmower racers even made an appearance. Lawnmower races are a big time event in Pukwana, South Dakota – another neighboring town.

The parade was further enhanced by the presence of the Kyle Evans Memorial Trail Ride, which began in Wessington Springs on Thursday and arrived at Gann Valley just as the parade was ready to kick off.  There must have been 20 wagons and over 200 riders of all ages.

After the parade, the day was spent enjoying various games and activities. One event was the buffalo chip throwing. You were able to get in some practice since they had parking in one of the pastures near downtown where you could pick up some ‘chips’ and practice a toss or two as you made your way to the parade.  Another highlight of the day was introducing those families who have been in the Gann Valley area for over 100 years. The day ended with a complimentary dinner (350 plates were prepared) and a dance in the evening.

We hope you have a relaxing and enjoyable week! You and your intentions are remembered in our prayers.  We’ll be finishing this month’s novena for our benefactors on June 19.

God bless you always,

Fr. Anthony Kluckman, SCJ


Swimming, books and day camp at St. Joseph’s Indian School

Good day from St. Joseph’s Indian School!

Fr. Anthony, St. Joseph's Chaplain
Fr. Anthony, St. Joseph’s Chaplain

It’s great to be home from my trip east to attend a graduation and ordination.  I also enjoyed time visiting family.

The big excitement that happened here in the Chamberlain community, was the opening of the new pool.  The pool re-opened on May 30 and raffle tickets were sold to see who would be first down the slide.  It was nice to see the work of the Explorers recognized due to their fundraising help.

St. Joseph’s summer home students have visited the pool several times and have really enjoyed themselves.  I asked this past Sunday at Mass how the students had enjoyed the new pool. A second grader said it was great except for the “caffeine” in the water that hurt his eyes.  We all looked at him for a moment and then it dawned on us he meant to say ‘chlorine.’

St. Joseph’s bookmobile shares free books in reservation communities across South Dakota.
Bookmobile staff were surprised and delighted to have visitors on horseback!

Later, I came across the bookmobile group busily re-stocking the bookmobile to head out to the Crow Creek and Lower Brule Reservations. The bookmobile had just returned from visiting the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations. Later this month the bookmobile will be making trips to other reservations to the north and east of St. Joseph’s.

This week, children from the Lower Brule Indian Reservation began their two weeks at St. Joseph’s Rising Eagle Day Camp. For the first two weeks of camp, our bus goes to the Crow Creek Reservation to pick up camp participants.

Each day of camp, there were at least 50 younger students and about 20 or so for grades five and higher. Kids spend the day with activities like Lakota studies, arts & crafts and swimming.

We are happy to have Kat, an upcoming sophomore at Notre Dame University as part of the day camp team. She is taking part in a Summer Service Project Internship through her university. During her time at St. Joseph’s, she’ll work with day camp, travel with St. Joseph’s Family Service Counselors as they visit our students and families, help out with the bookmobile trips as well as the first through eighth grade summer home.

The program gives firsthand experience to help Notre Dame graduates have ‘a disciplined sensibility to the poverty and oppression that burdens the lives of many.’  Those who have taken part in this program have completed their time by working in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in various programs offered through the Sioux Falls Diocese or local civic programs helping those in need.  We welcome Kat to St. Joseph’s and hope she has a wonderful experience.

Next week, we are excited to welcome visitors from other Catholic elementary schools affiliated with the Priests of the Sacred Heart.  The program is called SCJ Schools in

This week, children from the Lower Brule Indian Reservation began their two weeks at day camp.
Rising Eagle Day Camp is in week three on St. Joseph’s campus.

Collaboration.  Representatives from schools in Wisconsin, Texas and Mississippi will be coming to St. Joseph’s to discuss issues for the future and also to join in a prayer service with a SCJ high school program in Germany.

I hope everyone has a great week.  May God’s blessings continue to be with all of you for your generosity to the Lakota boys and girls attending St. Joseph’s Indian School.

Fr. Anthony Kluckman, SCJ


The Lakota children arrive at St. Joseph’s in less than a week!

Good afternoon!

Fr. Anthony, St. Joseph's Chaplain
Fr. Anthony, St. Joseph’s Chaplain

As All Staff Orientation begins to unfold at St. Joseph’s Indian School, you can almost hear the pitter patter of little (and big!) feet. The Lakota (Sioux) students will arrive for the upcoming school year in less than a week! All our staff are busy making sure everything is ready.

The orientation process gives veterans and new staff the chance to get to know one another, share insights and to ask and answer questions. All these preparations make the opening of the school year easier for everyone when the homes open Sunday and the students arrive.

Houseparents will put final touches on their home to welcome the students to their home-away-from-home. Teachers also are getting their classrooms in order and doing last minute decorating to welcome the children.

St. Joseph’s Family Service Counselors work with houseparents, teachers and support staff to help everyone understand how they can best prepare themselves to deal with the various experiences and needs the students will have.

Orientation will cap off Thursday with a picnic for all employees to share some good food and camaraderie for the opening of the 2014-2015 school year.

As part of the effort to make our program at St. Joseph’s Indian School interesting and challenging, our Principal, Kathleen, took part in a conference on education sponsored by the Priests of the Sacred Heart (SCJs) this summer.  She and the principals of other SCJ schools from around the world met to share ideas and foster ways of promoting the spiritual values of Fr. Leo John Dehon, SCJ and Founder of the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.

The Lakota children will return to St. Joseph’s on August 10, so homes and classrooms are being prepared.
St. Joseph’s houseparents are stocking cupboards and getting ready for the Lakota boys and girls to return for the start of the school year!

It has been a bit noisy around the Chamberlain community these last few days. Bikers are passing through on their way to the Black Hills and the annual Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota.

In the past we have had the opportunity to bless a number of the riders and their motorcycles.  We wish them safe travels and an enjoyable time!

The beautiful green of early summer is quickly fading to shades of tan and gold. Rain has been scarce lately. Hopefully, we will be blessed with rain between now and powwow so things will be nice and green for the event. We would love to have you join us for our annual powwow September 12-13. You can register to attend and find more information at

We hope you have a great week! Please keep us in your prayers as we prepare the arrival of our Native American students, and for safe travel of our students as they return for the upcoming school year! May God continue to bless and reward you for your generosity to for the care and education of the Lakota children attending St. Joseph’s Indian School.

Fr. Anthony Kluckman, SCJ


New adventures, abroad and in the snow

Each summer, we offer a 3-week exchange program with our sister school – also founded by the Priests of the Sacred Heart – in Handrup, Germany. Yesterday, eight of our Native American high school students interested in applying for consideration had their chance to make a power point presentation to a the staff of St. Joseph’s High School program.

They were honest about their fears: lost luggage, not understanding much German, how would they get along with the host families. They also spoke of what they hoped to gain from the experience: a different sense of history, the self-confidence that comes from trying new adventures, appreciation of another culture, and preparation for college.

One girl said that, while both of her parents are Sioux, one of her great grandfathers was a German Homesteader, and she would be fascinated with exploring that connection.

I enjoyed each of the presentations. I was there for moral support, and am glad I’m not the one who has to make the final determination on who goes. Most of the students were juniors, but a couple are still sophomores, so if not selected this year, they will have the chance to try again.

Our younger Lakota students are taking computerized standard testing called MAPS. They’ve proven to be patient throughout the sometimes trying process. One benefit for them is that homework is light this week due to the tests.

After school, many headed to the football field to take advantage of sledding. The sun came out and warmed the ground above melting. Once the sun went down, the slopes refroze and created conditions for long and fast runs down the hill.

As I called it a day, and came past on my way home, the squeals of delight rang in my memory.

Benefit from their generosity

While I was in the office working on Sunday’s homily, I got a phone call from the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center. A couple from Houston, Mike and Carolyn, had brought up a truck load of clothes to share with us and wanted to meet me and say hello. I was in sweat pants and an old t-shirt, but that actually worked to my advantage as we went to the storage building and unloaded. I took Mike and Carolyn on a tour of campus.

The William Home (4th-5th grade girls) were most gracious about showing us the home and talking about their routine. They also volunteered to try on some of the sweatshirts and a coat so the good folks back in Texas who gathered it all up could see the kids who will benefit from their generosity.

Hidden America – Children of the Plains

A day of some sadness with a funeral and a wake to go to today.

Fr. Brian was a 46-year-old priest who pastored in Fort Pierre, South Dakota until an inoperable brain tumor was discovered about four months ago. He had been in the hospital and hospice care since then, and died earlier this week. During the homily, Fr. Michel acknowledged so many people were saddened that a young priest who touched so many people’s hearts should die so young and so quickly. But God’s ways are not our ways. What is most important not the length of our lives, but what we do with the time God gives us. Going to a priest’s funeral makes me more deeply reflect on my own priesthood and ask how I can be a better and holier servant of God.

The moment I was most moved to tears came at the beginning of mass, with about 40 priests lining the center  aisle to greet the body. Fr. Brian’s niece and nephew sang a gospel song, “I will Rise”. I couldn’t help but think of my own cancer, which is still in remission. I had a sense of,  this could have been me. But it led to a deepening of the psalmist’s attitude – “What return can I make to the Lord, for all the good God has done for me in seeing me through?”

One of our secretaries suffered a family tragedy when her college aged son died. This evening at the wake the church and hall were packed as tightly as possible, with a tremendous outpouring of care and support from the community.

Tonight ABC news 20/20 program with Diane Sawyer ran a special on Hidden America – Children of the Plains. South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation was the location for the reports. The images and stories were powerful and well done. The journalists were realistic about the tough living conditions on the Indian reservation. And they also showed some of the hope and promise in young people trying to break cycles of poverty and alcoholism. Those are much the critical issues we at St. Joseph’s Indian School try to address.

I value the wisdom shared

We had an all day Board of Directors meeting. The longest segment of discussion revolved around the new strategic plan that we have been working on. With the added input and approval of the Board we should be ready to begin in early 2012. We went through the annual audit; we were glad to hear there were no major problems or findings. We reviewed the plans for the museum expansion and alumni center, and heard reports from our outreach programs on the Indian reservations.

I’m always trying to make sure St. Joseph is headed in the right direction, and asking the right questions. It helps to have others who care about the mission of the school to ask the big questions too, and provide direction and recommendations.

While I finish these meetings feeling a bit worn out, I also value the wisdom shared, which makes the load of administrative leadership easier to carry.

Making the Akta Lakota Museum into a small town treasure

Today, 15 Northern Plains artists submitted their latest creations  to our Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center acquisition committee, and the museum picked up several nice new pieces. The things I usually like are not the same ones our more knowledgeable artists recommend, and in the long run, they have done a great job of making our museum into a small treasure in town.

Two fellow SCJs Fr. Jack and Deacon Dave arrived for tomorrow’s Board of Directors meeting. Deacon Dave was my predecessor as director of St. Joseph’s Indian School. When I saw the school secretary at 11:30 mass, I asked her if anything special was happening at school today. “Deacon Dave dropped by to see us, so that made the day pretty special.” People still appreciate all he did to build up St. Joseph’s into the place it is today.

Adrian and Merrill are two 8th grade boys chosen to represent St. Joseph’s at our next donor luncheon, which will be in Pittsburgh in early December. I practiced with them after school, asking typical questions  our donors want to know. They’re excited and a little bit nervous, but that gives them incentive to practice harder. It will be a great chance for them to experience a big city and see what life is like there.

Gifts all around us

I’m back from a Donor Luncheon trip to Palm Desert/ Palm Springs California. Thirty years ago, I entered religious life with a year of Novitiate in the High Desert, about an hour away in Victorville. I remember at first being intimidated by the desert. Once I slowed down to explore and observe the myriad of life in what I thought was a wasteland, I was astounded by the beauty.

There is a lot to learn by going to the quiet.

This part of the Desert though, is well-developed and filled with hustle and bustle. Two high school girls, Erin and Danisha, represented St. Joseph’s Indian School at the luncheons. Both work part-time jobs after school and have been saving up their money to check out the clothing stores hoping to find different and unique items compared to what is available locally in Chamberlain, South Dakota.  Shopping, especially clothes shopping (it seldom takes me long to find my basic black !) requires lots of patience on my part, but I know it brings joy to them. I walked around and got my exercise, and had time to visit with Cheryl, the girls’ houseparent and trip chaperone. She told of her interaction with the students’ families. As she’s built up a trusting relationship the girls have shared with her many of the difficult circumstances that brought them to St. Joseph’s Indian School in the first place.

We were joined by about 70 donors on Saturday and 45 on Sunday. With some students, I worry they will get stage fright and be afraid to speak up. Erin and Danisha are both seniors and over the years have developed the self-confidence that made it easy for them to talk to our gathered friends and answer their questions. That bodes well for their future as they prepare to move on from St. Joseph’s in a few months. Both are applying for college.

Danisha’s family sew beautiful Star Quilts, and wanted to honor those folks whose generosity has made her education possible. Danisha brought along a beautiful quilt and at the end of the Saturday luncheon, she drew a name from those in attendance. Lucille was the lucky winner, and we couldn’t have picked someone for whom it meant so much.

Lucille herself taught for 50 years, and felt so honored that her excitement moved me to tears.

We drove by two of the huge Indian Casinos of the area. One of our donors is a member of the Morongo Tribe. They have shared their resources by taking materials to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation here in South Dakota to help those in need. While many of the Sioux tribes in South Dakota have tried casinos, the low population to draw from on the prairie has most of them struggling and not the massive operations like we saw in California.

Today I spent catching up on mail and messages. The bulldozers moved in and started the groundwork for our Akta Lakota Museum expansion. It will block off traffic flow for a while, but we look forward to the end results.

Two girls who have been here for 3 ½ years are transferring to another school. Their mom has moved and is in a better position to have them come back to live with her. Our goal isn’t to keep students here as long as possible, but prepare them for life when they and their families are ready to move on.  We easily get attached to students and miss anyone when they leave. When students transfer like this in the middle of the year, we look to our waiting list and offer the spot to another child.

Our principal Kathleen is in the midst of teacher evaluations, and this year is trying a new technique – actually videotaping lessons. This allows her to show the teachers how they present themselves and the materials in an even more concrete way. Because she also videotapes the class and how the students are responding, the teacher can observe student attentiveness and notice anyone who is having difficulty keeping to task.

I think it is a gift to see ourselves from others’ perspectives, and we can learn a lot from that.

At day’s end,  I watched the our 7th and 8th grade girls’ volleyball teams defeat our upstream neighbors the Crow Creek Chieftains. Many of our students are from the Crow Creek Reservation. Instead of an intense rivalry, play on the court was friendly. In the 8th grade game, Martina started the second game with the serve. Before she relinquished it back to Crow Creek, the score was already 18 – 0! Awesome job Braves!


Greetings from Fr. Anthony

Greetings once again from St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota.  As Fr. Steve Huffstetter, SCJ is away for a donor lunch in southern California, I have the opportunity to share with you what has been happening over this past weekend.  One piece of good news is that we had some much-needed rain which helped keep the dust down that has been blowing around recently.

I just returned from a prayer service that kicked off our celebration of Native American Day here in South Dakota.  While the rest of the country celebrates Columbus Day, South Dakota, as part of a process of reconciliation, started by the late Governor George S. Mickelson, honors the heritage and culture of the Native Americans here in the state.  Several of our students will be traveling to Kimball, South Dakota to do some powwow dancing for them and explaining various aspects of the Lakota (Sioux) culture and tradition.

Our American Indian youth love volleyball!
Our Lakota (Sioux) youth love volleyball!

This past Thursday, we saw our 7th & 8th grade volleyball teams have their first home game against Kimball.  The 7th grade swept the Kiotes and the 8th grade won their match 2 games to 1.  There were several rallies and good service streaks.  Most of the teams games have been away, so as the month progresses we’ll be having more home matches.

On Friday, Peggy Thomas’ 4th graders had a ‘book share’ in which they read stories they had written based off of a basic three paragraph start which they then could take in any direction.  They invited staff and other classes to come and listen to the stories and then discuss the stories and look at the pictures they had made to illustrate their story.

Two German exchange students and an advisor made it to St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus late Friday night.  They were suppose to be here on Thursday but a delayed flight caused them to miss a key connection which resulted in their coming a day late.  Father Steve and the group going to California had hoped to meet them as they arrived, to have supper prior to the departure of those going West, but the delay negated that.  They did not get much chance to rest up since they went out to the Black Hills with the students of Hogebach Home to see the sights.  They will be with us for about a week and a half and will attend Chamberlain High School with our students for a few  days and get to know our program and then make a presentation of their school and the activities they are involved in Germany.  St. Joseph’s sends over some of our students in late May and early June.

The youth at St. Joseph's Indian School had a blast learning about science and space!
The youth at St. Joseph's Indian School had a blast learning about science and space!

Our 5th graders took part in a program call Starbase which is a program to encourage interest in science and space.  They had daily activities here on campus and then went to Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City, South Dakota for a tour and some additional activities on base.

Several of our students are involved in the Explorers Club which meets weekly.  One of our students, Isaiah, was elected sergeant-at-arms for the club.  They have only been meeting  for a few weeks with other students from the Chamberlain area and will begin to focus on what activities they can be involved with to help the local community.

On Sunday the SCJs who serve here in Chamberlain, at St. James Parish and St. Joseph’s, joined with those  SCJs who serve the Indian reservations of Crow Creek and Lower Brule for a community meeting.  It is our chance to get together each month and share what’s been happening and how each of us is doing.  It is an important aspect of community to be present to each other as a sign of support and encouragement.  We also have a chance to share a meal together and share some social time.

The rec department just sent out the schedule for the up-coming basketball season and the Inter-City league, which is a program to offer the opportunity for our students to get to know local Chamberlain students by playing together so that when they reach high school they will already know each other a bit.  I help out with officiating and the schedules reminds me I have to get in shape to run up and down the court.  The spirit is willing, but the knees can be weak.

Hope all of you have a wonderful week ahead.  Know that we continue to keep you in our prayers thanking the Great Spirit for your generosity.  May God continue to bless you all.


Fr. Anthony Kluckman, SCJ


St. Joseph’s Indian School

Chamberlain, South Dakota