Fly, crash, dream, get back up and fly again

“Red Rover, Red Rover, send Fr. Steve right over!”

Bursting through the linked arms of a second and third grader wasn’t too difficult for me, but I was gentle about it. The students got a laugh out of it when I joined them in Wisdom Circle for a couple of rounds of the children’s game after school today.

Today began our second quarter – hard to believe we’re already that far along with our school year! Our custom is to start each quarter by gathering in Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel for an all-school prayer service. This Sunday Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk/Algonquin woman who lived during the 1600’s is being canonized a saint. Fr. Anthony quizzed the students about her life. Since she serves as a good role model for our Native American students, they’ve heard her story and came up with answers to all of the questions.

The pastoral care team put together a slide show set to a meditation on the scriptural theme of being lifted up on Eagle’s Wings and allowing our spirits to soar. Interspersed with inspiring pictures of eagles majestically in flight were pictures of our students going about their everyday routine of living and learning here on St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus. As students recognized themselves we heard giggles, but also great focus, attention and pride. Afterwards we announced the Fr. Leo John Dehon SCJ Circle of Courage awards for the quarter, given to students who are good role models to others, and show generosity and kindness in school and in the homes. Hopefully the message that they can fly and God will raise them up was internalized.

Along that theme, I had an email from a donor – a veteran – who had been through many ordeals. His message to me was to help our students overcome the obstacles in their lives.

“Teach your students to fly, crash, dream, get back up and fly again.”

It was a gorgeous 80 degree day. Matthias Home (6th– 8th grade girls) invited me to supper. They fired up the grill and ate their  evening meal on picnic tables outside the home. We accept students throughout the school year as openings occur, and I got to welcome Brianna, our newest eighth grader. Her housemates were doing their best to make her feel welcome and help her fit in.

Native American student Christmas celebration

All of our Lakota youngsters had a great time!
All of our Lakota youngsters had a great time!

As our Native American students return from Christmas break, St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus begins to come alive again!  It’s great to see the smiling faces and to visit with students about their holidays and break.

The students returned on Monday anticipating the Student Christmas Celebration, which was held on Sunday.  As houseparents wrapped the gifts and placed them under the tree, students began to guess what might be inside.  The weekend was full of fun activities, such as Friday night movies, rec center gatherings and walks to downtown Chamberlain.  Yes, South Dakota’s unseasonably warm temps allowed homes to take walks, play at parks, and shoot hoops outside!

Students scurried to prepare for Sunday’s Mass, especially the fifth graders as they had a special role acting out the Christmas Epiphany.  They came dressed as angels, shepherds, wise men and the blessed holy family – so full of excitement and energy!  The Lady of our Sioux Chapel was full that Sunday as many additional staff was in attendance to celebrate with the students.  Fr. Steve and Fr. Anthony said a beautiful mass as the students gazed.  Students were a little quicker to process out, looking forward to lunch at their home, games and the opening of gifts!

As I floated in and out of different homes, it was obvious that the ‘Christmas Spirit’ was present …  I thought about how blessed we are to be part of the St. Joseph’s Indian School mission and the many gifts that are present in our daily lives because of this.  While the gifts were wrapped and under the tree that day, we must not take for granted the many gifts that are present throughout the year because of your support…   Pilamayathank you!

PS – Watch a short video of the St. Joseph’s Indian School’s youngsters opening presents and saying, “pilamaya – thank you” here!