Youth learning charitable giving

Yesterday morning a violent thunderstorm with grape and ping pong-sized hail roared through our area. I was with the SCJ community at morning prayer when it hit and you literally could not hear the words the others were praying because of the noise on the roof and against the building. A few screens got ripped up, but we didn’t have any broken windows. Flowers that had bloomed were smashed down and the trees on campus were pummeled, leaving a thick carpet of green leaves covering the road and playground.

The clearing storms gave way to a couple of festive activities. We have a “Big Sisters” program, in which our high school girls help mentor our younger girls in grades 1-5. They gathered for a picnic in back of the Crane (high school girls) Home. I got to be an “honorary” big sister to help with the relay races where students balanced a balloon between their foreheads and raced an obstacle course around the yard. After a cookout, Maija had a couple of piñatas hanging from the apple tree in the back yard, and the little girls put a blindfold on and swung away with a broomstick until candy and small toys rained on the ground for the group to dive into.

Students at the St. Joseph's Indian School dance.
The kids had a great time and enjoyed hanging out with each other!

We hosted a 6th– 8th grade dance in the school gym for both our St. Joseph’s students and kids from town. In lieu of an entry fee, we asked people to bring food items to donate to a local charity or make a freewill cash offering. Towards the end of the night we had a cheer contest to determine where the food and money collected at the door would go.  I closed my eyes and listened carefully as three worthwhile charities were announced. The loudest cheer came for the Missouri River Crisis Center here in Chamberlain. They shelter victims of domestic violence, and I know that some of our own students have spent some time there. Together, students collected 132 food items and $42 from the door will go to help those in need. Proceeds from the concession stand were also contributed to the cause.

Doug, the DJ, took requests under one condition – if you asked for a song, you also had to get out and dance. That was a clever ploy to increase the number of dancers on the floor. A fair sized group danced in the middle of the floor, but far more youth were plastered against the wall, wanting to ask or be asked to dance, but too shy to do so.  I noticed a few boyfriend/girlfriend pairs not dancing, but holding hands and walking around the gym. With our students interacting more regularly with Chamberlain youth, I noticed a little more interaction and friendships forming with each event.

Another program that helps our students interact with kids from the community has been the Explorers Club, which was a pilot program for St. Joseph’s this year. The Explorers Club teaches junior high boys about responsibility and giving back to the community. These young men were engaged in projects like shoveling snow and raking leaves for the elderly, and raising money for charities in town through car washes. They worked on the gentlemanly art of learning how to tie a tie and dress a little fancier once in a while. Today at mass Doug, the leader of the Explores Club, came to honor Adrian, William and Isaiah from our eighth grade class for the contributions they have made.

Cansas, Janis and Adrian presented Carol Riggins, director of the Missouri Valley Crisis Center, a check from the proceeds of the dance.
Cansas, Janis and Adrian presented Carol Riggins, director of the Missouri Valley Crisis Center, a check from the proceeds of the dance.

A busy weekend at St. Joseph’s Indian School

Our weekend was filled with lots of activity. Friday evening, grades 1-5 gathered in the Rec Center for a Valentine’s Day Sobriety Carnival. Older students helped with the games, which included a fish pond, bean bag throw and ring toss, to name a few. We had lots of smaller prizes sent in by our donors, and the students were happy to win fun little knick-knacks, toys and games.

Lots of kids lined up at the cake walk, trying to win a small personal-sized cake. We joked that as many dill pickles as our Native American students buy at the concession stand during basketball games, we could try a pickle walk instead and it would be just as popular!

Fr. Steve, getting a heart face painted on his face!
Who doesn't love a little face paint?

One group of junior high girls staffed a face painting station, and many of the students got colorful temporary decorations to highlight their features. I got in the act and, since it is Valentine’s Day, (or maybe because I’m a Priest of the Sacred Heart), I got a bright red heart painted on my cheek.

After the younger students cleared out, grades 6-12 came back for a dance. Chris, a junior in high school, helped DJ. He pointed out to me that he’d edited a lot of the popular songs on his playlist so they could be marked with an asterisk denoting “clean,” meaning there was no inappropriate language.

Like many dances, boys spent most of the time on one side of the room, and girls on the other. A few brave souls occasionally ventured out. By the last two songs of the night, everyone wanted to dance, and  bemoaned the fact it was ending so early.

Saturday we hosted a four team 8th grade basketball tournament. St. Joseph’s won their first game. We played Pierre Indian Learning Center evenly in the first half of the championship game, but they caught fire in the third quarter and won going away. The Stevens Home (6th – 8th grade girls) made chili dogs and sloppy joes for the concession stand, along with some homemade baked goodies that were popular with players and fans alike. They’re saving up money to get a few extra fun things for their home.

The Summerlee Home (4th-5th grade girls) took a day trip to Sioux Falls and spent the day learning to ice skate. They came home a little sore, but with lots of giggles and laughter and are eager to try again soon.

Our local bowling alley has eight lanes, and St. Joseph’s had them all for a couple of hours Saturday night as the high school students had a bowling party. Some take the bowling more seriously than others, but all have a good time just hanging out. There was a 25 cent prize for each strike, and students pooled their money to pick songs to play on the juke box.

Saturday also brought another dance, this one in town, for 6th-8th grade students. Several of our boys have joined the local Explorers Club, which is a service organization that teaches them to become young gentlemen, and give back in service to the community. This dance was held at the public elementary school, and our students mingled well with peers from town. As our kids do more with Chamberlain children now, it starts to build relationships that will make the transition to public high school less scary for them later.

Sunday at church, Peter from the Raphael Home (1st-3rd grade boys) introduced me to our newest first grader, who just began this week. He told me the child was both excited and nervous because he had never been to church before, and didn’t quite know what to expect. His housemates helped him figure out when to stand and when to sit, and where to find prayers in the books, and it turned out okay.

Sunday afternoon, our junior high girls had two rounds of inter-city basketball. Afterwards, I hung around the gym when the younger grades came in for their recreation time. I worked with a couple of young girls on how to pass a basketball and shoot a layup, then took some time just walking around the gym and talking to the kids. Most of the time they seem me in black clerical attire, and they were fascinated to see me in sweat pants and shirt, learning that I do have other clothes!