Last week in Wisconsin was both affirming and emotional. My religious order, the Priests of the Sacred Heart, held our election assembly for new leadership, and my brothers in the community asked me to become the next Provincial Superior.
I was honored to be chosen, though know the position also carries a lot of responsibilities. The hard emotional part for me is that this means finishing up my time at St. Joseph’s Indian School as Director. By August, I will be leaving South Dakota and no longer involved in the day-to-day running of the school. I will become a member of the Board of Directors, however, which will give me good reason to come back to visit a couple times each year and help set direction in a broad way.
So many of our staff were praying I would NOT be elected, but religious life calls for openness to the Spirit. When I first came to St. Joseph’s eight and a half years ago, I was sad to leave parish work on the Lower Brule and Crow Creek Indian Reservations. But I trusted, and my time at St. Joseph’s has been such an amazing blessing in surprising and unexpected ways.
I will enter into the new role with the same faith and trust and enthusiasm.
One of my main responsibilities will be personnel. My first difficult task will be to call forth good leadership to follow here at St. Joseph’s. We don’t have a successor named yet, and it will take some time to get the right people in place. In the interim, I know staff here have a clear sense of our mission and purpose, and lots of work and vision still to be done with our strategic plan. They will press on in the right direction regardless.
Today at mass, I saw the Native American students who are in the summer High School Prep Program, and I got teary-eyed thinking about the day I will have to say goodbye to them. A couple of them were first graders when I arrived, and we have so many memories together.
Every year we say goodbye to our students as they move on, hopefully prepared to make their way in the world. It will be so different with me doing the leaving… But, the Lakota people don’t really say goodbye. They say doksa, which means until we see each other again. During the time between, they will be kept close in my heart and prayers.
I will also miss the incredible interaction with our donors. A few stopped by the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center today, tickled to finally see campus and get a better idea of what we do at St. Joseph’s. We have a wide and generous circle of friends that make what we do possible. Their interest, support and prayers inspire all of us to work hard to make the difference we believe we are making.