Hello from Fr. Anthony

Dear Friends,

It was another hectic weekend here on campus at St. Joseph’s Indian School.  Fr. Steve Huffstetter, SCJ and a group of students and staff were in Austin, Texas for a donor luncheon, which gives me the opportunity to bring you up-to-date on what’s happening here in central South Dakota.

Group shot of Native American kids in the snow.
These Lakota youngsters stopped sledding to pose for a picture!

We are still enjoying a mild winter.  What snow we got a few weeks ago is fast disappearing, which means that the students are missing out on sledding.  The rec center staff sponsored a “midnight” sled fest recently – they turned on the football field lights so the students could sled on the hillside next to the field – and you could hear the shouts of laughter and joy all over campus.  Sunday morning started out with fog, but as it lifted the cold evening air had given all the trees a frosted look which sparkled as the sun came out on another beautiful day.

This past week saw some activity at the construction site of the addition to the Akta Lakota Museum. Large beams were floating through the air as they were lifted into place.  One benefit of the mild weather is that it is giving the workers the opportunity to get a lot of work done.

On Friday three of our high school students, Christopher, Jatonne and Erica,  along with their fellow cast mates took part in the 56th annual One-Act Play Festival in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Chamberlain High joined with 42 other high schools to perform before the judges and public. Each play has 45 minutes from set-up to take down.  The Chamberlain High players performed “We wear the Mask” about some of the issues teens and young adults face.  Chamberlain High received superior acting awards, a standing ovation, and much praise from the judges, other coaches and students for the courage to present such a hard-hitting message.  On the hardwood court, the Chamberlain boys’ basketball team journeyed to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to take part in the Dakota Schoolers Border Classic against Corsica-Stickney and won.  St. Joseph’s has three students on the team—Nick, Claye and Elijah.  The team currently has an 11-3 record.

Saturday gave me a chance to see the energy of our Native American students in action.  Many of our 6th, 7th and 8th graders are active in bowling.  I followed the bus home from the lanes on Saturday after two hours of setting them up to knock them down.  As the students poured out of the bus in front of their homes, many of the boys raced into their homes and were back out again heading to the gym for some basketball.  They seemingly have energy to burn, which is why the rec center with its gym, workout room and pool is such a blessing – to give our students the opportunity to burn off the energy the Great Spirit has blessed them with.

Sunday brought the Super Bowl and our students and staff got caught up in all the excitement as many did around the country.  Several homes hosted Super Bowl parties on campus and it was nice to see that the older homes invited some of the younger students to take part in the festivities.  There was good food to munch on and various door prizes to be won during the game itself.  I had the chance to attend one at Cyr Home where the 4th and 5th grade boys hosted some of the Benedictine Homes’ boys (1st through 3rd grades) and the one at Sheehy Home where the high school boys hosted the other high school homes along with 8th graders.  It helps give them some insight into what the future might hold for those continue in our academic program.  Everyone had a great time, although I’m not sure if everyone was happy at the results of the Giants beating the Patriots, but the G-men did seem to be the choice of many of the students.

The Girls’ Inter-city Basketball program had a good day of play on Sunday.  They also had the chance this past Friday evening to have some fun as the inter-city players from Chamberlain were invited out to have a swim party with the young ladies from St. Joseph’s.  It was a way to have fun and help the girls continue to get to know each other to build up teamwork and help prepare them for when they’ll be together in high school.

The boys’ basketball team, about half way through their season, will meet one of our arch rivals, Lower Brule, as our 5th and 6th grade teams go there today, and Lower Brule’s 7th and 8th grade teams come here to play.  These games should help us get a handle on what sort of team we have as the young men prepare for the St. Joseph’s boys’ basketball tournament this coming Saturday.  It will be especially interesting since Fr. Steve has two of our stars with him on the luncheon visit to Austin, and they will not be back until after game time.

Again thanks for your prayers and generous support.  We pray for you each Sunday at Mass.  This Sunday we had the blessing of the throats for any of the students and staff who wished to receive it as the feast of St. Blasé was this past Friday.

Have a great week and may the Great Spirit continue to bless and reward you.

Until next time,

Fr. Anthony Kluckman, SCJ


St. Joseph’s Indian School

A word from Fr. Anthony

Dear Benefactors,

I have the privilege to share with you what has been happening here at St. Joseph’s over this past weekend since Fr. Steve, several of our Native American students and some of our staff have been on a donor luncheon in the Napa Valley area of California.

The Native American students playing basketball.
Basketball is one of the favorite pastimes for our Lakota (Sioux) youth!

From the students’ point of view, the biggest thing on campus is the start of the boys’ basketball and the girls’ intercity basketball seasons.  The boys kicked off the season against Lyman here at the rec center and St. Joseph’s came out victorious with the 7th and 8th grade teams, but our 6th graders came up a few points short.  The 7th & 8th grade teams also had the honor of being invited to attend a recent Chamberlain High School (CHS) basketball game, on which several St. Joseph students are playing, and sit behind the varsity bench and visit the locker room.  This came about since the CHS team had been able to use our gym to do some practicing and the coach came up with this as a way of saying thanks.  The girls’ intercity began this past Sunday with young ladies from the Chamberlain, South Dakota area joining with 6th, 7th and 8th grade students here at St. Joseph’s Indian School.  They are divided up into four teams.  Their season will run through the start of March.  You may recall that when the boys had their season they had a special five-minute quarter for those who were 6th graders so they had the chance to play a bit; but the girls are trying out a different wrinkle in that each player has to play in each quarter.  The coaches are trying to sub so that each plays about 3 minutes per quarter.  The purpose of the intercity is to give the young ladies a chance to get to know each other so that when they meet up in high school they will already know something about the new classmates.

Another sports activity, geared to give our students something to do during the months that there should be snow outside, is our bowling program.  Again this is offered to the students in the upper grades on Saturday afternoons with staff serving as team captains and coaches.  The students enjoy it since there are quarters to be won for strikes and picking up the various splits that occur.  The local alley also offers a choice of free drink or nachos if one of the participants gets a strike when a special pin is the head pin.  To keep things on an even keel, each bowler has a handicap so that extra pins are given to make it as even as possible at the start.

Lynn and her present from Santa.
The Native American children had such a great Christmas at St. Joseph's Indian School!

The weather finally turned a bit winter-like.  We received some snow and cold temperatures mid-week which allowed the students to hit the slopes and try out their sleds and ski boards received when they opened their ‘Christmas gifts.’  They enjoyed being out of the homes going up and down the hills.  The joy they experienced reminds me to again say,

Pilamayathank you’ for your generosity towards our students.

It was amazing how generous you were and how excited the students were to be pulling apart paper and ribbons to see what else “Santa” brought them.  Fr. Steve and I enjoyed having the chance to go to the various homes on campus to see the excitement.

However, the change in weather also brought some tragedy to the local Chamberlain community.  Since we have had such a mild winter, the arrival of snow and ice did cause a few accidents.  One especially, touched many here in Chamberlain as the pastor of the local United Church of Christ, Rev. Gregg King, was killed as he and his wife were taking their daughter to the airport in Sioux Falls.  He lost control, crossed the meridian and hit an on-coming vehicle.  Several of our staff are members of that local Faith community.  We ask that you keep Reverend  King in your prayers.

The new Bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota, the Most Rev. Robert Gruss, is scheduled to take place next week.  He has just recently been installed as Bishop.  The Diocese of Rapid City covers all the state of South Dakota west of the Missouri River.  As many of our students come from West River areas, Bishop Gruss is their shepherd.

May the Great Spirit continue to bless and reward you for your generosity towards St. Joseph’s.  I hope each of you have a great day and that your new year is offer to a wonderful start.  Am happy to have had this chance to share with you some of what is happening here on campus.  Looking forward to the next time I can share with you.

Fr. Anthony Kluckman, SCJ


St. Joseph’s Indian School

Smiles and happy memories from our Lakota youth

One routine the junior high youth look forward to as the weekend begins is Friday Night Canteen. Our students earn a few dollars of allowance, depending on how they’ve done helping with their assigned home charges, or chores, during the week. Friday is payday, and a chance to buy a pop or sports drink, some popcorn or treat at the Rec Center concession stand. The 6th-8th graders have the gym to themselves from 8:00 until 9:00, and I stopped by to see what they were up to. A high percentage were playing basketball, which is the favorite sport here at St. Joseph’s Indian School. Some were in the game room, playing pool and table tennis. A few sat in the bleachers, talking with friends. All relaxing and having a good time.

Saturday was a day to “supercharge” the homes, with a deep cleaning and straightening up of bedrooms and common rooms. In the afternoon our bowling league began.  Staff supervise teams of four students and teach them the basics, then give them a chance to roll a few games at the Chamberlain Bowling Alley. Bowling is one of those equal opportunity sports that doesn’t depend just on size or speed, but accuracy and consistency. Lots of our students take part and enjoy the activity.

I usually make the post office run on Saturdays, and while sorting the mail came across a letter to one of our brand new students. Figuring she might be just a little homesick and appreciate it sooner rather than later, I delivered it to Matthias Home (6th– 8th grade girls) and got invited to stay for supper. It was simple weekend fare, chili dogs and fruit. Sometimes houseparents apologize when I stop by and the meal isn’t fancy. But I’m reminded of Dorothy Day’s line,

Life is a banquet, even with crumbs, where there is a community of love.

We sat and talked a while until it was time for them to walk downtown to go to the movies.

Today we celebrated mass of the Epiphany. Students from Peggy’s 4th grade class dressed as shepherds, kings, angels and the holy family and acted out the holy night and season. I chuckled when the three wise men were pointing to the east and I saw fingers pointing in three different directions. Somehow they managed to find their way to Bethlehem! In my homily I urged them not to be afraid to let their light shine, and develop their God-given talents and abilities. While the Christmas season may be ending, it’s important for us to have that spirit of generosity and good will throughout the year and for a lifetime.

Kass and the gift she received this year for Christmas.
Kass and the gift she received this year for Christmas.

If Advent is a season of waiting with patient expectation, today was the day of fulfilled expectations for our students. Today the students opened up Christmas presents in each of the homes. After church, I joined the Dennis Home (1st-3rd grade girls) for brunch and helped pass out the brightly wrapped packages. The big hit our donors sent for the girls were Pillow Pets – nighttime pillows shaped like an elephant, frog, butterfly or giraffe. Those were a nice complement to the soft fleece blankets that houseparent, Alice sewed for each of the girls. You can watch a video and read about this fun day on St. Joseph’s Indian School’s website. 

I stopped in at each of our  18 homes for a few minutes, which added up to the entire afternoon. In the Raphael (1st-3rd grade boys) home, houseparent Peter had a screwdriver in hand, surrounded by four boys vying for his help with “some assembly required.” The Summerlee (4th-5th grade girls) Home was fascinated by the furry battery operated ZuZu Pets buzzing around a track. The Perky boys (4th-5th grade) had radio controlled trucks zipping around furniture and underneath the kitchen table.

Lots of excitement and smiles and happy memories.

Singing is like praying twice

Before I was ordained, I sang in several different kinds of choirs. Because of this, I know how much music – if done well – can help deepen people’s spirit of prayer. Our singing at church has been getting quieter and quieter lately, so we decided to try to animate the kids. Nate, a houseparent and guitar player, picked out the upbeat song “Lord I Lift Your Name on High” for the closing. I told the students, “Singing is like praying twice, and we’re getting a little weak, so I want to really hear you on this closing one”. I grabbed a guitar, joined the choir and strummed along. It worked wonderfully well, with a noticeable increase not only in volume, but people actually participating. KP, one of our high school students said, “Church should be like that all the time”! It can be when many people give full, conscious and active participation. It can happen with slower, more meditative songs as well, as long as people try singing along.

The spirit also moved when we celebrated the Scrutinies and prayed for protection against evil for our RCIC Native American students as they get closer to baptism. Some giggled a little bit when I made the blessing near each child’s heart with the oil of catechumens. We also presented them with holy cards of the Creed and Our Father, which they clearly prayed when reciting them in front of the congregation.

St. Joseph's kids bowling with their mentors!
St. Joseph's kids bowling with their mentors!

Mentor’s bowling was this afternoon. Some days I forget altogether I’ve I had surgery and go about life as normal. I haven’t bowled for about a year, but didn’t think anything about it until I rocked the ball back, bent down and put all my weight on my bad right foot. I almost lost my balance completely and the ball quickly angled right into the gutter. I was a little more cautious the next time to the lane, but was able to make some adjustments and still have fun. I have to keep exercising my foot and leg in different ways. But the fact I forget that my nerves are weak and try to go about normal activities, tells me that I’m making good and gradual process.

Fr. Dominic invited Fr. Anthony and I to supper for the Kiwanis Club annual roast beef dinner fundraiser. I enjoyed seeing both townsfolk and St. Joseph’s folks. Waiting in line with one of the people I knew only a little, I found out that besides running his business, he had also been trained as a spiritual director. We had a great conversation about the different spiritual and developmental tasks between the first and second halves of our lives – more than expected when waiting for a tasty meal. I enjoy talking sports or weather but it’s fulfilling when you can engage in conversations of more substance with people.