Fr. Steve’s updates

Chamberlain High School held its fourth annual powwow today. Many of our students are active in the Native American Club at CHS, and they all pitched together to make it a successful day.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Chamberlain High School held its fourth annual powwow today.

I was so pleased when the school decided to sponsor such an event. Many of our students are active in the Native American Club at CHS, and they all pitched together to make it a successful day.

Not all of our students are dancers. Some used their talents to cook, organize or work at one of the many tables with information or raffle prizes. Many hands working together surely made the job easier.

At powwows, I enjoy walking through the crowd and catching up with old friends. I saw families from the nearby reservation communities where I served as pastor. This provided an opportunity to say hello and catch up on news. So many people assured me of their prayers and also asked for mine for family members who are having a hard time.

I had the chance to visit another crowd of folks in the evening when I attended a 60th wedding anniversary gathering.

Dick and Mae are active in the downtown parish, but I see them each Wednesday when they come to the daily mass here at St. Joseph’s. Their whole clan was gathered, as were many folks from the area. 60 years of commitment inspires me to keep going, even when the journey gets difficult. Again, I received lots of prayers and support.

Fr. Steve’s updates

Today was our annual career day and Sobriety Walk. The hospital, bank and fire station were the most mentioned favorites.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Today was our annual career day and Sobriety Walk.

First, the students had fun exploring downtown businesses. The hospital, bank and fire station were the most mentioned favorites.

Heath Gourneau, an alumnus who has worked in substance abuse prevention, spoke to the students about his journey and encouraged them to remain drug and alcohol free.

He pointed out the Class of 1983 banner, which he helped design; today, the banner hangs proudly from our rec center rafters with other class banners created in the last 30+ years.

Students listen in a deeper way when they hear from someone who shares a common background with them. It’s important as we strive to help our students make good lifestyle choices.

The rains held off, and we walked in four directions around town and met up at the Dining Hall for supper.

I helped chaperone the youngest homes, and when we were walking around the campgrounds, second grader Devon found a penny on the ground.

I said, “Find a penny, pick it up and all day long you’ll have . . . what?”

“A penny,” Devon said.

I laughed, realizing Devon is much wiser than his years, and more accurate than the old saying!!

Fr. Steve’s updates

We had some controversy at Chamberlain High School when a group of students were asked to change a racially charged T-Shirt they wore to school. The issue highlighted tensions that need to be addressed in our community in an on-going way.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

We had some controversy at Chamberlain High School when a group of students were asked to change a racially charged T-Shirt they wore to school. The issue highlighted tensions that need to be addressed in our community in an on-going way.

It’s my hope the anger and passion raised on different sides of the issue can be a teachable moment. I pray for people to channel their energy into better understanding and work through the problems.

Our SCJ mission statement calls us precisely to be bridge builders between cultures, prophets of love and servants of reconciliation.

Our SCJ mission statement calls us precisely to be bridge builders
between cultures, prophets of love and servants of reconciliation.

Our team called a meeting for our high school students after school, and I stopped in to listen.

Sometimes, it’s hard to get teenagers to talk about what’s going on inside, but today our students spoke very freely and honestly.

We want our children to be proud of their culture, but they all know the sting of being “eyeballed” due to the color of their skin. One student spoke of the difficulty of finding your way between two cultures. Another told how important it is to hang tough and not let discouraging remarks get you down.

On a lighter note, while I was working in the office, I saw soap bubbles drifting by my window.

I just had to take a break and go out and see what the kids on the playground were up to. Some of the girls had to show me their flips and spins on the playground equipment.

Then, I got involved in a game of tag. First, that meant lots more running around than I wanted to do, but as our ranks quickly grew, everyone bunched together and just kept exchanging quick taps of “you’re it!”

Those brief breaks and encounters with the kids are what keeps me going.

Fr. Steve’s updates

I filled my new prescriptions downtown at Casey’s drugstore, and met with Jim, the pharmacist, to learn more about possible side effects. Like so many other townsfolk, he asked for the latest update and assured me of his ongoing prayers.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

First time I’ve blogged in a few days.

My digestive system is in a bit of disarray, but other than that I’m feeling pretty good.

I filled my new prescriptions downtown at Casey’s drugstore, and met with Jim, the pharmacist, to learn more about possible side effects. Like so many other townsfolk, he asked for the latest update and assured me of his ongoing prayers.

I’ve gone back to my regular schedule of meetings. Finances are in good shape for now. Child Services are busy planning for graduation and all the end of the year activities that makes May one busy month. In Human Resources, we hired one new houseparent for next year and are checking references for others we’re interested in interviewing.

In between meetings, I’ve tried to make up for time away by making campus rounds and checking up on people and projects.

I ran across the 4th and 5th grade girls taking part in their Red Path group. The program tries to address the stresses of drug and alcohol abuse within their lives.

We have two new staff since I’ve been gone. Becky helps in the production room with sending out mail. Amanda is our new Family Service Counselor and will be working with our older girls and their families. I looked them both up and welcomed them.

On a rainy Monday, the Maintenance crew was looking for a fourth person to play a quick game of pitch during break. I never played before, but they quickly ran through the rules and gave me my cards. Through sheer luck Roger and I won, which drew both teasing and praise.

Then, we caught up on all that’s in the works on campus. I checked the progress of the Carola Home remodeling. The demolition is finished and workers are now dry walling.

A group of High School Junior ROTC Thunderbirds Drill Team from Flandreau Indian School paid us a visit and did an after lunch performance for our student body. Their program emphasized discipline to achieve goals in life, and living by a creed which makes you and the creator proud.

Our mentor program had the last group event of the year – Bingo and finger food supper at the Dining Hall.

I’ve never really liked Bingo ( I must not be a good Catholic!) but enjoyed the company of those around me as we played for prizes. I never came close to winning, but our team made sure everyone got at least a consolation prize. I took home a new dish towel since you can always use those upgrades in the kitchen.

On my way to the business office, I came across a group of staff enjoying lovely spring weather during break. Jean carried a lovely bundle of lilac blossoms from our trees. She was planning to arrange them in a vase in the work room. Little touches of beauty and thoughtfulness add a lot to a workplace.

Yes, it feels great to be back.

Yes, it feels great to be back.

Fr. Steve’s updates

Jesus was noted for his companionship with people at table, and that’s often part of my “work” at St. Joseph’s.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Jesus was noted for his companionship with people at table, and that’s often part of my “work” at St. Joseph’s.

After mass, I visited the Speyer Home for brunch. The 6th – 8th grade boys were most welcoming. They filled me in on how the track team is doing, made predictions about their upcoming home run derby.

We talked NBA playoffs over scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy. Eighth grader Sean helped his houseparent with most of the cooking, and it turned out great.

Then for supper, I was off to a pot luck shared by the six homes that make up our middle school grades. We had a lull in the rains, and sitting across from each other on the picnic tables was great fun.

Campus comes more alive when we can be outside in the warmer weather.

Fr. Steve’s updates

During the prayer service, one of our counselors read some prayer reflections on what people got out of the weekend – mostly the chance to more deeply appreciate one another.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Home in Chamberlain!

Fr. Hendrick from Lower Brule helped with the driving, and we made it back last night. While cliché, there really is no place like home.

Today was a settling back in day, doing laundry and starting to dive into the piles of mail and paperwork surrounding my desk. It was also a day to start reconnecting with students and staff.

I feel a great sense of relief and will be happy to return to as much of a normal routine as I can over the next month.

This morning we had the graduation for our FAST (Families And Schools Together) program.

Ten families took part over four weekends; they appreciated the structured activities our program offered to help them improve parent/child communication and relationships.

During the prayer service, one of our counselors read some prayer reflections on what people got out of the weekend – mostly the chance to more deeply appreciate one another.

After certificates and an honor song on the drum, we gathered in the school assembly room for a meal. Rain squashed plans of an outdoor picnic, but the grilled food tasted almost as good inside.

Fr. Steve’s updates

St. Joseph’s is a special place because of the people who carry one another through whatever trials and hardships we endure.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My radiologist took her time meeting with me today, and I so appreciated it. She asked the bigger overview questions – how am I feeling after meeting with all the doctors last week? What are my questions now as I wrap up and go forward?

In this age of specialists, I appreciated one doctor looking over the whole process and asking how I’m doing with all of it. That in itself felt healing.

I’ve been blessed to make it through with limited pain. We still have a long way to go, and more tests have been ordered, but there is hope, and at least a short reprieve coming up.

The doctor also cautioned about rushing back into work full time when I get back to St. Joseph’s and frantically try to make up for time away.

Since January, I’ve delegated so much, and team members have responded generously and graciously. Life at school is being carefully attended to.

My doctor said I must be at a very good and special place for that to happen. She’s right!

St. Joseph’s is a special place because of the people who carry one another through whatever trials and hardships we endure.

Fr. Steve’s updates

Back at St. Joseph’s for the weekend! I didn’t always find out a lot new because the conversation quickly turned to my treatments and prognosis. It would have been easier to share all at once, but in each home I repeated the process.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Back at St. Joseph’s for the weekend!

It’s been four weeks since I’ve been gone. It felt so good to sleep in my own bedroom.

Even better was the chance to enjoy the warm sunny day by walking around campus and stopping in at many of the homes to visit students and houseparents and find out how they’re doing.

I didn’t always find out a lot new because the conversation quickly turned to my treatments and prognosis. It would have been easier to share all at once, but in each home I repeated the process.

Staff have been concerned about me and praying for me and seemed relieved that I’m able to be out and about and still have energy and an upbeat spirit. And, God willing I’ll be back in a couple of weeks to make the rounds more regularly.

I only encountered four girls in the Summerlee Home, but saw a softball and gloves in the yard and quickly organized a little batting practice. When pitching to younger kids, the challenge of pitching is not to try to get it past them, but to try to figure out where they swing so the ball has a better chance of hitting the bat.

Since they started intramural games last week, a few of the girls looked like batting champs!

Fr. Steve’s updates

Both areas have a tremendous beauty and speak to me of God’s greatness. I feel small when I’m part of the vast landscape, but also part of something much bigger than myself.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

After radiation today, I met with an oncologist R.N. who was very helpful coaching me in practical things – what kinds of foods to eat or avoid eating these next few weeks, what kind of soap and skin care lotions work best for avoiding drying effects of radiation, drinks that will help keep me hydrated etc. The staff continues to give us tools to help us get through the rough spots.

By 10, I was done with my medical appointments for the day, so Fr. Jerry and I took a short trip to get out of the city and enjoy some country sunshine. When traveling with a friend, the time passes so quickly.

We ended up in the town of Winona overlooking the mighty Mississippi  River. The bluffs are much higher than back home on the banks for the Missouri, and here the trees are thick and plentiful.

Both areas have a tremendous beauty and speak to me of God’s greatness. I feel small when I’m part of the vast landscape, but also part of something much bigger than myself.

Another place of beauty we found was the local Maritime Museum, with wonderful paintings and displays. The galleries featured nature scenes, impressionist paintings and some incredibly detailed paintings of historical ships.

While I never developed my own artistic skills, I appreciate the work of others. Beauty helps heal us – body and soul. I appreciated being absorbed in activities that completely took me away from thinking about medicine and doctors.

Beauty helps heal us – body and soul.

Fr. Steve’s updates

Our H.R. Director came for our weekly meeting. She’s swamped with getting updated health plans and employee handbooks out, so she employed some of our high school students to sort, collate and staple. Students were grateful help and to earn some spending money.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Our Human Resources Director came in today for our weekly meeting. She’s swamped with getting updated health plans and employee handbooks out, so she employed some of our high school students to sort, collate and staple. The students were grateful both to help out and to earn some spending money.

We recently hired a new Family Service Counselor, who hopes to start in a month or so.

By starting before the close of the school year, she will be able to meet students before summer break and do some job shadowing before fall rolls around.

Now, we’re advertising for several houseparents to replace the ones who are retiring or moving on to other things.

One of St. Joseph’s strengths is that our houseparents stay far longer than the national average of a couple of years.

Steve in the Dennis Home, for instance, is in his 14th year here and his 11th year in the same home. To celebrate his birthday, he has the tradition of cooking up a big batch of his famous ribs and inviting all the students at St. Joseph’s that he’s had in his home to come to the feast.

While he works with 1st – 3rd grades now, 36 of his “alumni” from 1st through 11th grade gathered in the skate room to eat, laugh, and share stories. Steve told the juniors that next year he’ll have someone represented in all 12 grades.

I had it easy at the party – didn’t even have to lead the meal grace, since the eldest student was asked to do that honor.

All of the kids crowded around Steve for a group picture afterwards. Our staff form some lasting relationships with the children they’re entrusted to care for.

One of the staff made me grin by saying that with my new hairdo, (or lack-of-hair-do) I now look like Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek. I always admired his leadership abilities anyway. Make it so!

Steve's group photo