“Bishop, can I see your bling-bling?”

Bishop Robert Gruss at St. Joseph's Indian School.
Kathleen, Bishop Robert Gruss and Fr. Steve examining a science experiment.

Rapid City Bishop Robert Gruss, who was just ordained Bishop six months ago, visited us today for the first time. While we are located in the Sioux Falls Diocese, more of our students are actually from West of the Missouri River and in his diocese. As he travels, and people hear he works in South Dakota, countless people have asked him if he knows St. Joseph Indian School, and he was very interested in discovering more about our school and programs. I accompanied him for almost five hours and enjoyed the company of a kind and faith filled shepherd.

I gave the lengthy, deluxe campus tour. In the Akta Lakota Museum, Vickie shared how we provide a place for visitors to learn about the history and culture of the Lakota (Sioux) people. Frank, our 6th– 8th grade residential coordinator gave the Bishop a tour of the Rooney Home and explained everything from student chores and laundry schedules, to security measures in the homes, to our four tiered phase system, where students can earn more privileges as they make progress on their personal goals.

We stopped at the Health Center where Nancy, Ronda and Connie look after the health care needs of our students.

Fr. Anthony put together a school wide prayer service. The Bishop told our Native American students about his growing up years, and reminded them that God has a plan for each of them. He used the image of a jigsaw puzzle where we don’t see the big picture until its complete – but prayer helps us to see God’s hand in all things as we grow.

Our Chalk Hills Singers drum group sang a honor song, and our Powwow Royalty presented him with a picture of our student body and a snow globe replica of our Lady of the Sioux Chapel.

Bishop Robert Gruss showing the Lakota (Sioux) student's his "bling-bling".
The Native American student's admiring the Bishop's "bling-bling".

While we were shaking hands with the students outside of chapel, the line that made me laugh the most was when one of our students saw the golden chain connected to the Bishop’s pectoral cross inside his shirt pocket.

“Can I see your bling-bling?” he asked!

We sat with a group of 5th grade girls in the dining room for lunch. That crew is usually very talkative, but it took them a little while before overcoming shyness around a stranger and eventually opened up.

Julie gathered four of our family service counselors who talked about the backgrounds of our American Indian students and their families and issues they face. Bishop Gruss asked lots of good questions to help him understand the people he is serving.

Kathleen, our principle, led us on a tour of the school. Brock demonstrated one of our smart blackboards. The third graders in Native American Studies class demonstrated both traditional powwow and hoop dancing. Bishop Gruss let out a big laugh when one of the songs the kids danced to was “Old Macdonald” sung in 49er powwow style.

We ended the day in the Development Office, for a tour of the work our staff does there, and some coffee and cookies. Next time someone asks the Bishop if he knows St. Joseph’s Indian School, he’ll have some good memories and a good sense of what we’re all about.

Focusing on faith

Greetings everyone, Richard here! May I wish you all a blessed Christmas time and my prayers for all to have a healthy and joyous new year. Now that the frenzy of shopping hopefully is over … except for the returns … let us take a moment to reflect of the meaning of this season and what the message of the Gospels is all about. Christ came in peace and lived in peace, yet His simple message has eluded humanity since His birth.

On December 11, in the Chapel of our Lady of the Sioux, we had the First Rite of the RCIC program. It is the Rite of Welcoming. We had twenty-five Lakota (Sioux) students partake in this ceremony conducted by Fr. Steve. This is the Rite where students ask to join the community in learning about becoming Catholic. The students ask for acceptance and the community pledges to support their endeavors. The community also prays that I be guided in teaching the students about faith issues. As part of the Rite. Fr. Steve blessed their senses and their hands and feet so they may walk in the path of Jesus. Each student at the conclusion received a Bible for them to read, as we journey on path to receiving First Holy Communion.

Before break, Fr. Anthony conducted class Masses for the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.  Each class had their own Mass in the morning before the start of the day. The students reflected on the experience and all said it was the best Mass they ever attended. They liked the shared intimacy and members of each class helped serve and did the readings of the day. It was a good experience for the students.

Before break, we also had confessions for the students. Many students who are not Catholic also attended and had the chance to speak and pray with the priest in the confessional; it gives the student an opportunity to focus on their spiritual development.

Until next year!