I can hardly believe it’s already been more than a week since our 34th annual wacipi – powwow!
Last week, we were all still basking in the glow of another successful event. But, we didn’t bask long. As quick as we could, we all jumped right back in to the work at hand.
Weekend Solitude and Reflections
Since last weekend was so busy with the powwow, this past weekend was more on the veg out/caveman side! The house was very quiet.
Fr. Anthony was away for his nephew’s confirmation, and Brother Clay was gone for an overnight spiritual direction.
I do very well around crowds and people, but I do have an introverted side that has no problem with time spent alone!
Fr. Bernie did drop in from Lower Brule on Saturday. We caught up on the work in the outlying missions. All of that is an important part of what we do here at St. Joseph’s, even if we do have less staff working in those areas than we do right here at the school.
“Football Fellowship” – as Fr. Mark, who is helping at St. James downtown, calls it – was also a welcome time of solitude and normalcy for me!
At Sunday morning Mass, I had the special privilege of welcoming Jana and Thekla, two high school students from Germany, and their chaperone Katrin.
We have a sister school also run by the SCJs in Handrup, Germany, and for the past four years, we have sponsored student exchanges.
The gals will be here for a little over two weeks as they try to experience as many different tastes of Lakota culture and South Dakota life as possible! Even before they could adjust to the time change, they were headed west to the Black Hills and the Buffalo Roundup at Custer State Park.
Hopefully, we’ll be able to send two more of our students overseas to the school in Handrup next June.
With no particular agenda or hurry, I made my way around campus for a lazy Sunday afternoon. It was an absolutely lovely day – 75 degrees, sunny and just a light breeze!
Life is fuller and more satisfying when I don’t feel rushed. And, the walking was good for me to boot!
Working with Families
A week ago, we met with our Parents Advisory Council. Twice a year, we invite a group of parents to an all-day meeting where we seek their feedback on how we can better meet the needs of the children.
One of the more emotional discussions came during the time we spent talking about grief and abandonment issues. Even when coming to St. Joseph’s is in a child’s best interest, it is emotionally tough for both the student and the family.
One of our council members shared how hard it was for her to be raised by her grandmother. A grandmother on our council – who has raised her grandchild since birth – talked of the struggle she faced to keep her granddaughter in our care when the child wanted to come home.
We also had honest and insightful conversation about racial issues our students face. The parents recalled how hard that was in their own lives. They stressed the need to build up self-confidence and esteem so our students can hold their head high and not be devastated when others make biting or cruel remarks.
This Parent Advisory Council meeting was compelling for all of us!
Looking Back to Improve the Future
We also spent time last week reviewing our powwow weekend activities.
Our powwow committee consists of almost 20 members. It takes the coordination of every department on campus to make this annual event a success. From the first invitations we mail through the drumming and dancing and right up until the last piece of garbage has been picked up and the thank yous have been sent, all of us must work together.
When we sat down to review how the weekend went. We realized, even though we’ve been doing this for 34 years, there are still changes we can make to help it all go more smoothly.
Of course, we also made sure to give praise where it was due for the many things that went well. Then, we dug in to the constructive criticisms and suggestions, which led us to some great problem-solving. With many different perspectives, we’re fortunate to cover all bases; we’re already looking forward to next year!
Getting Back to the Routine
Because of our September 18 powwow, I’ve spent little time in the office, and I paid the price early last week with lots of paperwork, phone calls and meetings. Fortunately, I was able to cap such a long day with a picnic for our mentor program.
It was such a lovely celebration, especially considering that only three days before we were all in coats and gloves at the powwow! During the picnic, I wore shorts and basked in the warm sunshine. After sharing great food, we brought out lawn games and just enjoyed time together.
In addition to sharing time with our mentor program participants, I took time last week to check up on things in Central Receiving. During our powwow, many friends brought needed items for our students, so we’re well-stocked for the kids.
When I was there last week, one of our junior high boys’ homes was there on a shopping expedition. Each boy had a small bag in hand and was picking up what they needed.
Teenage boys are hardest on socks and the knees in their pants! Some are also growing so fast that they will go through several different sizes during the course of the year.
The boys were appreciative of all the toiletries and clothing that had been so generously given for their needs!
Quality Time with the Children
Since I try to spend time with the children whenever possible, I ate supper with the girls in Matthias Home last Wednesday evening. Afterwards, a few of them wanted to go outside to Fisher Field and play a bit before homework time. We tossed a Frisbee back and forth.
Playing with the students keeps me young and is good for my rehab. When I tried to catch the disk in flight, my vertical leap was almost non-existent! It will be awhile before I play basketball again, but this gives me a goal to work on.
After our Frisbee playing, I stopped by the Rec Center to check out the enrichment activity for our primary grades. Each of the children had a foam noodle – like you use in the swimming pool – and were giggling as they tried to balance them, run around them and jump back and forth. They sure have lots of energy!
When 71-year-old Jerry came in to the gym, the kids sang “Happy Birthday” to him. We all laughed afterward as they started, “Are you one? Are you two? Are you three …” Lest we be there all night, Jerry stopped them at 29 and said he was holding there.
Jerry has been a wonderful part of our sports and recreation program for so many years! We’re glad to have long-term staff members like him and many others on our team!!
My evening in the William Home (4-5 grade girls) was also a fun way to get back in my routine last week! The girls are fun, energetic and chatty! I don’t have to do much more than sit down, and they are telling me all sorts of tales about themselves and the events around their home and school.
Yesterday (Sunday, September 26), as I enjoyed the lovely weather, first grader Dora showed me her sidewalk chalk drawing. Then, a group of fourth graders had me look at a turtle they’d found. I also stopped off to see the painted T-shirt projects our Girl Scouts were creating.
I checked in with staff who talked about children who are having a hard time or friends and relatives in need of prayer.
I purposely try to slow down and be present to the folks I meet whenever I can.
Sharing and Teaching Pasttimes
One of my favorite activities last week was fitting in a guitar lesson with Nate, one of our houseparents. Nate is learning to play more often for Mass.
I miss doing that more myself! Ever since I became a priest, my time behind the altar has lessened the time I spend behind the guitar.
If you’re wondering, be assured my physical therapy continues! Last week, I met up with a therapist I had not seen yet. I tried a few new exercises and realized I definitely have room for impromvement.