After some travel during spring break, I’m back on St. Joseph’s campus! Here are a few recent highlights:
I completed my week long stay with our retired SCJ elders by celebrating with them the great feast of the Resurrection. I was with them to present some days of recollection about the religious life we share. While they said they appreciated my input, I probably benefitted more from being with them.
I was inspired by their dedication and faithfulness to the daily routine of prayer. None of us quits learning, and these men keep up an active intellectual life. The living room tables were filled with magazines and journals to keep abreast of the issues of the day. In addition to recounting interesting stories from the past, they talked politics and current events, religion and business, with a little sports mixed in for good measure.
One day while I was out walking, I came across 91-year-old Brother Gabriel, far from home with rosary beads in his hand and a steady, determined step. He walks 3-5 miles each day. Instead of complaining about what he can no longer do, he does what he can, which is a good help to good health. Should I live to such a ripe old age, I hope I’m like that too.
I spent a morning at St. Joseph’s new donor care center to see how staff there is doing. I try to be a resource in our office to answer questions about school and programs, but even those in the business office are very aware and engaged about what’s going on for the Lakota boys and girls.
I didn’t “accomplish” many practical things, but walked around the office and heard about donors whose stories touched the hearts of those who answer our phones. Sometimes I describe my role as Director of St. Joseph’s as being the head cheerleader! I am grateful for all that our staff does in all areas of campus that contributes to our goals and mission.
Our Parent Advisory committee had their spring meeting.
Looking at our high school data, we were impressed to see that, in the past three years, the number of Honor Roll students has more than doubled, while the number under a 2.0 GPA has been cut in half. We make an effort for each student to succeed, but ultimately, they have to be the ones making the determined effort.
With 40 Native American students this year, our St. Joseph’s students make up a significant portion of the total Chamberlain enrollment of 300 students. As we prepare our eighth graders to transition to high school, next year we may have closer to 50. The Chamberlain High School principal told us that, with the vast rural nature of our part of the world, 50 students is larger than the entire population of 25 High Schools in the state of South Dakota!
Our parents are very concerned about our bullying policies and efforts at prevention, so we reviewed those at the meeting. Later in the month, we are training a group of 20 staff in a new prevention program. We plan to expand the training to all our Child Services workers at orientation before the new school year.
We showed the parents our new historical center. One alumnus looked at the display case with items our development office has sent out over the years and saw one of the glow-in-the-dark rosaries that used to earn him a penny allowance for stuffing into envelopes to be sent all over the country. Other displays triggered many memories.
The hallways at school were unusually quiet as state-required academic testing was underway. Bathroom breaks were staggered for one class at a time, and silence even reigned there. Our teachers are experimenting with an incentive package. The students get to pick a reward or activity they enjoy, and if they pay attention, participate and complete their tests in a timely way, they can earn extra of their favorite time. We’ll see how it goes.
We have a lot of phones on campus, but also lots of activity, so when people call they may get a recording instead of someone live. I spent this afternoon recording new messages for our list of options. It’s strange when I call the school and hear my own voice! But we are trying to do a better job of getting to calls as quickly as possible.
We practiced today for this weekend’s first communion and baptisms. When I practice for a church event, one of my goals is that the practice shouldn’t take longer than the actual ceremony, but I don’t think that worked today. With 18 students ranging from grades 2 through 8, it takes some time to organize and get everyone in the right places with the right idea of what they need to say or do.