Mitakuye oyasin – we are all related

I traveled to Creighton University in Omaha.  One of last year’s St. Joseph’s graduates, Shay, is a freshman there and I stopped in for lunch and a visit. Like most freshmen, Shay has had her ups and downs, but is gradually feeling adjusted and finding her way. She is doing her work-study in the office of multi-cultural affairs, and spoke of the rich friendships she is developing with students from many culturally rich backgrounds.

I was impressed by the mentoring system Creighton uses. Staff members have 12 – 15 students they meet regularly with to develop leadership, keep students on task and work through issues like adjustment and homesickness.

We sat down for lunch shortly after the Campus Grill opened, and were the first ones to walk through the doors. Our waitress was a friendly, young Native American woman named Meredith. As we looked over the menu I noticed a “Fr. Bucko” sandwich. Fr. Ray Bucko is a Jesuit trained in anthropology who has researched and written extensively about Lakota people and spiritual practice. He teaches at Creighton and in the summer helps here in South Dakota with the Sioux Spiritual Center’s Basic Directions in Ministry program for people who are starting ministry among Lakota (Sioux) people . He is a dynamic speaker and gave me some great insights when I heard him speak.

When I asked Shay if she knew Fr. Bucko, she pointed to the doorway where he was coming in! After saying hello, Fr. Bucko pointed to the waitress, and asked me if I knew Meredith, since she is from Cheyenne River Indian reservation where I worked for ten years. As soon as he said that, I put two and two together and immediately remembered the little girl I knew from Cherry Creek. I think I either baptized her or gave her first communion. She is now in grad school at Creighton, and waiting tables to help make ends meet. We did some quick catching up about her family. Her cousin Tony just started working at St. Joseph this year as a houseparent.

It is a small world after all. And as the Lakota say, mitakuye oyasinwe are all related.

Ten months since my sarcoma surgery

Too many meetings on such a spring day. We covered personnel issues, salary adjustments for the coming year and safety/security around campus.

Deacon Dave my predecessor, and Fr. Tom our provincial, rolled in for this week’s Board of Directors meeting.  When Fr. Tom visits he enjoys making a pilgrimage to Al’s Oasis, where after a good meal he always orders their signature lemon cream cheese pie. Al’s is a local landmark that many travelers stop at on their way across country.

This evening, I went over to the gym and shot around with some of the high school students. Shay, who graduates next month, told me about her weekend visit to Creighton University in Omaha, where she has been accepted. She admitted to being somewhat intimidated at first at the sheer size of a major college campus. After meeting her potential roommate and familiarizing herself with the campus, she felt more comfortable. The idea and reality of college takes a while to sink in. I’m sure there will be many stages of adjustment along the way. But we are trying to prepare students to set off for new adventures and opportunities on their own.

As for my adjustment, it’s been about 10 months since my sarcoma surgery. It’s time now to get weaned off the medicine I’ve been taking to mask the nerve pain while the nerve endings slowly grow back. When I tried a while back the pain was too strong. Now it’s a bit bothersome, but it does feel like I’m making progress. I just need patience as it takes more time than I’d like.