Things have slowed down quite a bit on campus. The Rising Eagle Day Camp culminated and the free lunch program for the community has also came to an end to give our staff a short break before the students return to campus on August 14.
Several students are staying on campus in our Summer Break Home. They recently spent a few days in Omaha, Nebraska. I will make sure to give a report on what they saw and did in my blog next week.
The most popular activity at this year’s summer camp was a slip-n-slide ‘waterslide’! A tarp was placed on a hill with a hose at the top, allowing the kids to slip and slide all the way to the bottom of the hill! Everyone enjoyed it immensely.
About a week or so ago, the Chamberlain Cubs High School varsity basketball team sponsored a clinic to help future NBA prospects perfect their game. Several of the young men from the Break Home took advantage of the opportunity, going to the gym each morning to hone their skills. They seemed to have a lot of fun and we’ll see if the extra training bears fruit when the basketball season opens in November.
Even though summer officially began on Monday, temperatures are and have been very high around here for a few weeks. I hope everyone is making sure to stay cool and hydrated.
Last week, I was able to attend the ordination for two new priests for the Diocese of Lafayette, Indiana. During the 1st Mass of the newly ordained priest that I had baptized 25 years ago in Houston, Texas, the pastor mentioned that the parish has had 18 priests ordained in the last 11 years and will have another next year. The parish has also been supportive of those who have entered the Brotherhood or convent. May we keep the need for more vocations in our prayers.
We hosted our yearly Scranton Prep students from Scranton, Pennsylvania last week. They raise funds every year to bring their upcoming senior class to South Dakota. During their time in-state, they do some sightseeing in the Black Hills and visit several reservations prior to working as counselors for our summer camp. Several of the students mentioned how helping out at St. Joseph’s has really educated them of the Native American Culture. They appreciated the opportunity to bond with the young people at camp.
Today is the last day of the 2016 Rising Eagle Day Camp. We’ve had a great time getting to know over 200 children from the Lower Brule and Crow Creek Reservations and look forward to some of them returning to campus for school this fall!
Greetings from St. Joseph’s Indian School here in Chamberlain, South Dakota!
The weather has been beautiful these last several days. The temperature is predicted to climb over 100 degrees today, but things are still nice and green due to the rain we have received.
You can tell that summer vacations are beginning to pick up speed—the interstate is full of campers and cars heading in all directions. Last week, we had a large caravan of 12 RV travelers visit the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center. They nearly took up the entire parking lot.
Our Dining Hall staff is very busy! The Rising Eagle Day Camp for the children from the Crow Creek Reservation is in full swing and students from the Chamberlain area taking part in the PAWS (P-programs and pupils, A-after/before School, W-winners in School, S-success) Program are enjoying nutritious meals multiple times per day. This free summer lunch program is just one of the ways that St. Joseph’s seeks to use our facilities to meet needs in the local community.
On Tuesday, those taking part in the Rising Eagle Day Camp had the opportunity to learn some water safety from members of the Game, Fish and Parks Department. The instructors explained to the children how important it is to wear your lifejacket and stay seated when the boat is in operation. They also reminded them to be aware of which direction and how strong to current is when swimming, so as not to get swept away from shore. They had a fishing boat the kids could climb around in and life jackets they could practice putting on.
We are grateful to the instructors and hope the children put what they’ve learned into action each and every time they are near the water. Lessons like this are very important since Ft. Thompson, Crow Creek, Lower Brule and St. Joseph’s are all located right on the banks of the Missouri River.
This past Saturday, nearly 100 alumni and former staff gathered to celebrate an Alumni Reunion with the purpose of renewing old ties, looking over old pictures to see who could be identified and thanking Mary Jane, our Alumni Liaison who is retiring after 45 years at St. Joseph’s.
The day started at 9:30 AM and went until 2:00 PM. We all gathered in the Medicine Wheel Garden for an opening prayer. Soon after, many former staff and alumni took tours of campus and re-visited the underground tunnels. Some of the alumni visiting campus were here prior to 1970 when St. Joseph’s was still utilizing dorms and an old school building, so they were very surprised to see all of the changes!
After lunch, a group photo was taken and door prizes were distributed. The day ended with an Honor Song for deceased members of St. Joseph’s alumni and their families as well as St. Joseph’s Alumni who have served our country.
This past Sunday, I took some time to visit with the students staying in the Summer Break Home. They have been having a variety of experiences and journeys around the area. They have really enjoyed spending many days swimming at the local Chamberlain pool since a lot of waterslides and other activities were added last year. They have also been to the Black Hills and Pierre. This weekend, the students and their houseparents hope to head to the Twin Cities in Minnesota for some sightseeing.
As you can see from the picture, they were very excited to share what they have been doing. I’ll try to touch base with them upon their return and share with you what they did in Minnesota.
This weekend I’ll be away too as I have been invited to the ordination of a young man in Indiana who I baptized when I was stationed in Houston, Texas. He tracked me down last year and invited me to his Deaconate Ordination and now I have been asked to come again for his priestly ordination and 1st Mass. It will be a very special honor. Please keep Michael in your prayers, that he has a long and fruitful ministry serving God’s people.
I hope all of you have a wonderful week. May God continue to bless and reward you due to your generosity towards St. Joseph’s Indian School.
Angela, one of the high school students ran into me as I was returning from chapel after mass.
“How many times a day do you pray?” she asked.
“Three or four”
“That’s a lot”
I need all of those times and more for strength and guidance so I stay on the right track. Most people don’t have the luxury of building long periods of prayer time into their day. I suggest they just find a short prayer phrase they can say to help them before they begin important work like Lord make my heart like your heart, or something simple like, “Lord give me patience and strength” when faced with a difficult challenge.
We wrapped up several programs this past week. Campus is much quieter this week now that our Rising Eagle Day Camp has successfully concluded. Besides our high school students who worked with the younger students, we were blessed with a group of students from Scranton Prep in Pennsylvania. They have been coming to our area for the past eight summers or so to help with various service projects.
I stopped in a few times during the week to see how they were faring and answer questions on topics ranging from St . Joseph’s admission policies to inquiries about Lakota culture. At the end of the week, 17 of us gathered around the two dining room tables in the Ambrose Home, and each person got a chance to share something they’d learned during this time. One young man said that seeing the striking poverty on the Indian reservation he visited opened his eyes to think about those who struggle in his own community. A young woman had a blast working with younger children. She said that she often won’t give her younger siblings much time at all, but realizes now how much impact the care of an older sister can and does make. She recommitted herself to being more present to them when she gets home.
In a mosaic of cultures, the SCJ Schools in Collaboration group was on campus for several days. Students and teachers from Texas, Mississippi and Wisconsin exchanged information about themselves, their school and unique cultures. Our kids got to meet some of their pen pals or folks they’ve gone head to head against in the Battle of the Books. Our students donned their dance regalia and explained the significance of powwows and detailed the differences in the kinds of Native American dances they are trained in. Fr. Anthony accompanied them to the Black Hills and Badlands where everyone came back with great memories and pictures.
We said goodbye to two young woman we grew to appreciate in such a short time. Lauren, who grew up in the Denver area was here exploring both her Lakota roots, and engaged in more discernment about a possible religious vocation. Lauren helped in summer camp and with other projects around campus. She interacted tremendously well with our students, and asked many questions of our Native American staff. Our talks took me back to the days when I was formation director for college seminarians, and was inspired by her talk of faith and love of God. Jessica, an college intern attending Notre Dame, also wrapped up her four weeks here. The anthropology major in her was nourished by our Aktas Lakota Museum and the visits to cultural sites. The people side of her did a great job interacting with our students in a variety of ways.
We have a Bookmobile that travels to many of the Indian reservation communities each summer, putting free books in the hands of kids who are hungry to read. Friday our staff stopped in Fort Thompson, and also had a picnic style meal for families at the Boys and Girls Club.
Ed, a donor from Illinois, stopped by campus to check it out for the first time.
“I wanted to make sure this was a real place and not just a post office box,” he said.
I gave him a tour and he was impressed by all that goes on here. He also got something of a cultural education when he went to Lower Brule, where they were holding a memorial for the parish housekeeper who died one year ago in a tragic car accident when the roadway collapsed due to flooding.
After a memorial mass, the family gathered in the community center, where a Wiping of Tears ceremony was held. A woman symbolically wiped their tears away with a cloth, gently guided an Eagle Feather around their head in a cleansing ritual. They were then given some tobacco to smoke, and water and chokecherry juice to drink. At the conclusion everyone present shook their hands or gave hugs in a show of support. We then sat down to a big meal and giveaway.
It’s been a great month with kids from the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation and then kids from the Lower Brule Sioux Reservation. For our two weeks with Crow Creek, 428 students attended. Added to the 455 from Lower Brule, we were able to serve 883 Native American children through Rising Eagle Summer Day Camp! Wopila tanka – many thanks – for your generosity in making this program possible!
Monday was a very hot and beautiful day with 38 children for today’s camp.
We had outside fun with Mark and arts & crafts with the group from Scranton Prep today. We swam in the afternoon and had snacks before we headed back to Lower Brule. The staff is doing a super job!
Tuesday started out cool in Lower Brule but ended up very hot!
We had 34 children for camp today. The children had a nice nature walk with Mark this morning before it got too hot. This afternoon we enjoyed a nice swim and watched a movie in air conditioning.
We had our usually healthy snacks and a special ice cream cone treat. Thanks to the dining hall staff for the ice cream! Camp staffers even enjoyed an ice cream cone, as everyone was very hot.
Wednesday turned unbelievably cool for this time of year! 26 children joined us for camp today. Mark had them inside the gym today because of the cool weather. We played dodge ball and other games.
LaRayne and April had Lakota Studies for the kids in the afternoon, followed by swimming as usual.
Thursday was the first real full day of summer; it was beautiful outside!
We picked up 35 children today, which gives us a total of 414 children so far from Lower Brule. Sticking with our routine, we had outside fun with Mark followed by arts & crafts with the Scranton group. After lunch came swimming; the pool has definitely been used to its potential!
Sometimes, I’m totally surprised to see things I thought I knew from a completely different perspective.
We have our own printing press on St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus, Tipi Press, and I was giving a visitor a tour and stopped by to see how things were going. Mark showed us the large 4-color press going at full throttle. He had a powerful magnifying glass to show us how different colors are made not by mixing ink, as I supposed, but by printing a blend of small dots (1200 per inch) in four colors that, as you look from a distance, trick the eye into seeing one color. Many things in life, you have to look at carefully to discover how they really are.
I had lots of meetings today, working on revamping our pastoral care programs, going over finances, working on a narrative for the history of Indian boarding schools for our Akta Lakota Museum, reflection time with a summer intern and visiting with donors who stopped by to see our campus and programs their donations make possible.
Scranton Preparatory School from Pennsylvania has been coming to St. Joseph’s each summer for a few years. They are involved in service projects and helping with our Rising Eagle Day Camp.
After a full day of activity with the children who came to camp from Lower Brule Indian reservation, I caught the group in the Ambrose Home around the supper table. None of the students had ever been to South Dakota before, and it was fun to hear their initial impressions of the wide open prairie, the Badlands and Black Hills. I answered lots of questions about the school, students and families we serve, and began to find out a little about each of them.
I noticed a nice spirit and sense of fun and camaraderie among the group. As they raised money to pay for their mission trip, they ran into several friends and family members from their community who have been long time donors to our school. They were generous in helping these young people in their travels, and delighted to facilitate an even more personal impact and concrete difference.
Fr. Steve stopped in my office and asked if I would perform #13 on my job description – be a guest blogger and write today’s blog. And of course, without thinking, I said “sure.”
To explain, #13 on my job description reads ‘Performs other responsibilities as required by the Executive Director.’ 🙂
Then all I thought was “yikes!”
A little anxiety set in as I thought “I am not a blogger … and besides, my job might seem boring for people to read about …”
All that aside – Hi! I am Karla, the Executive Assistant.
First, I must say that I love my job and have been doing it for almost 19 years. My work includes more ‘behind the scenes’ kind of detail. Working with the Executive Director of Child Services (Mike, my boss), I have the opportunity to assist Child Services with all the different programming taking place on campus for our students. My job consists of the usual duties like taking notes, setting up meetings, filing student information, etc. In a nutshell, it’s kind of like a jack-of-all-trades. I do enjoy multi-tasking, however, and the busier our office is the better I like it. Currently I am getting the calendar together for the 2012-2013 school year, as well as filing end-of-year student information.
St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus is a different kind of busy now that school is out. Summer day camp is taking place; the high school summer program is up and running, as well as activities for the students in grades 1-8 staying in the summer home. Construction, cleaning, moving and general maintenance are in full gear in preparation for the new school year. Keeping the office organized some days can be quite eventful, as you never know what might come up, or who may show up, so we never expect a humdrum kind of day.
I just heard some little people laughing and walking outside my office going to the playground. That means the summer day camp bunch has arrived … seeing the smiles and hearing the laughter … that is what brings satisfaction to my job and warmth to my heart.
Thanks to all of you that support our mission and give us the opportunity to provide for the students and families we serve. If you get to Chamberlain, visit our campus, visit our Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center and see for yourself why St. Joseph’s Indian School is an awesome place!
We have had nearly 250 kids attend the Rising Eagle Day Camp so far this year, and their three favorite things this year are swimming, eating and arts and crafts.
One of the afternoons sessions is spent swimming and this seems to be our little Lakota campers favorite pastime.
The kids told us that their next favorite part of the Rising Eagle Day Camp is all the great camp food they get to eat. The kids receive a hot breakfast and lunch and a snack at the end of the day. Yummy!
Activities done in Lakota Studies/Arts and Crafts help the Native American children continue their growth and knowledge about their culture. At the start of these sessions, a book is read and kids are able to ask questions. Books read so far has included: Rough Faced Girl, When God Made The Dakotas and Bad River Boys. Crafts created have been: Ledger Art, Moonsticks, Warrior shield and Wintercounts.
Watch Kyra’s video now! She was last week’s Featured Camper of the Week!
We had our last couple of team meetings for the St. Joseph’s school year. We have a two day strategic planning retreat coming up in a couple of weeks, and our management team reviewed the briefing papers that our working groups have put together, and held a phone conference with our facilitator to work out some of the details. Planning is a lot of work on the front end, but when it is done right and provides good direction for the future; it is certainly worth the effort.
Our Child Services Team went over student issues as we wrap up another school year and get ready for our summer programming. Most students are excited about going home for the summer, but if a home situation is not the best, it can cause students to feel stress, anxiety and even act out in destructive ways at school or in the home. While these last days are mostly fun, we do have some students who are having difficulties and we are trying to pay close attention to their needs.
Next week we will have several homes open for the students who will be here for up to 7 more weeks. We’re also getting ready for our Rising Eagle Day Camp, and will bus children from the Crow Creek and Lower Brule Indian Reservations for recreational and cultural activities. Keep checking back for more information!