I hope that all of you had a Merry Christmas and through the love of family and friends, felt the love of God as well.
After three days with no one other than Fr. Bernie and I around, campus is gradually coming back to life. Two break homes opened on Monday. About 15 high school students who are in sports are back, along with a few younger students who have a need to be here. Yesterday Laura, one of our custodians, made her usual 7:30 a.m. stop at the high school home to empty trash and accidentally set off the alarms! During the school year, students are already up and on their way to school by then. With the holiday schedule, they were all still sleeping, and when she opened the doors the horns and whistles started blaring. Our students got out of bed much quicker than normal – maybe something the houseparents can keep in mind for the future!
The week before and after Christmas brings different rhythms to St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus. Some days are frenzied, others so very quiet. Last week, our grade school youth were home for break, but our high school students stayed through Thursday. Stress levels were high as the students took exams and finished the final semester projects and papers. I could see the visible signs of relief on their faces as families came to campus to pick them up for vacation.
My holiday temptation toward over-eating had several worthy opportunities. Our facilities department had their annual holiday luncheon on Tuesday. They can be proud of the quality and quantity of projects they can say they accomplished as they look back over the past year.
The development office had their Christmas pot-luck on Thursday. The fall pot-luck features a lot more fresh vegetables from the garden, while this spread was filled with dishes that you need to eat in moderation, but I don’t always have the will power not to fill your plate.
While the campus is quieter without children around for a few days, many of our staff are still hard at work. We have thank-you’s to send to the many generous donors we heard from during Christmas. With the homes empty for a few days, it’s a good chance for the fix up projects that are too noisy or messy to otherwise do.
On the partial list for facilities this week:
- Painting several rooms in the school
- Removal of old storage tank in boiler room
- Tile and freezer floor work in the Dining Hall
- Changing many – many – many air filters around campus
- Spray for Bed Bugs
Also on the list is snow removal – but we haven’t had much of the white stuff yet. The mild weather has allowed us to focus on other projects, especially the Stevens & Matthias Home remodeling.
The milder weather has also let the outside construction contractor to make good progress on the Iya Tokeya Inajin – They Stood Here in the Beginning – Alumni building. This week and last they have put up support columns and attached the aluminum studs. The frame of a building going up is one of the most noticeable and dramatic parts of any project.
Last week, three members of our committee took a drive to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to make some decisions about concrete castings to be used for the exterior. A four-hour round trip for a half hour meeting seems like a lot, but in South Dakota we get used to the mileage. What we don’t have too often is traffic. My brother, who lives in Chicago, can get stuck in traffic that long going but a fraction of the distance. With the good company of Tom (facilities) and Dixie (museum director) our conversation made the miles fly quickly by.
On Christmas Eve, I traveled north to the parish in Stephan, on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation. When we don’t have campus masses, I enjoy returning to the area parishes I used to serve. Christmas is a wonderful time in small towns to see the extended clans and I caught up with many people who have moved away, but came home for the holidays.
Because of a larger than expected crowd, we completely ran out of hosts and I had to break the last few I had into tiny fragments. But I suppose even a little bit of Christ can do a lot for people who believe.
I hope Christmas services strengthened people’s faith and experience of God’s love.
On Christmas Day, I did the cooking and invited all our area SCJ parish priests to relax at our community house after a long weekend of Masses.
This week, I have very few meetings. The end of the year gives me a chance to clear the desk and dispatch with the 15 and 20 minute projects I pushed aside in the pre-holiday rush and also have time for some of the long-range planning that we’re in the midst of.