An update from Fr. Steve

This week I was reminded of the scripture passage where Jesus told Peter that he would give him the keys to the kingdom. Because we changed the locks around St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus, I received a new set of keys. When you think about 19 homes, offices, classrooms, storage sheds and supply closets, there are hundreds of locks to change. While it is an expensive and time-consuming task to re-key all the locks, occasionally it has to be done to keep the campus secure and our most precious resource, our students, safe.

We keep chemicals and cleaning supplies that might be harmful to a child under lock and key. Prescriptions have to be in locked medicine cabinets. We also have alarms on all the homes that serve a dual purpose. We don’t want intruders to come in, and we also don’t want children leaving the homes after bedtime.

Some staff who didn’t check their email were mystified when they came to their office and the old key wouldn’t turn the nob. Not all the locks are changed out, and there has been some inconvenience and confusion as happens with any change. Folks are understanding and make the trek down to Facilities to get their shiny new keys. And more than one employee has remarked that it was time to update and upgrade.

Wednesday I traveled to Eagle Butte for the Board Meeting at the Sacred Heart Center. This year marks their 30th anniversary. To celebrate, after our meeting the staff organized a lunch celebration and invited past employees. Sr. Ruth Gareats, PBVM served as the 2nd director of the center. She remembers the day when all the services were cramped into one small building, with rummage spilling out into the soup kitchen and the women in the shelter waiting for their turn. Sr. Ruth brought along pictures to share that brought back so many memories.

Fr. Joe shared the trip’s driving. He is pastor of the parishes we serve on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation and Lower Brule Indian Reservation. Two of the sisters, Elaine and Mary Clement, had lovely and heartfelt farewell celebrations at the beginning of summer. The parishes are awaiting the arrival of two Sisters of Christian Charity to join the pastoral team in August.

The construction site of the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center.
The Akta Lakota Museum renovations continue to make progress.

We continue to make progress on the Akta Lakota Museum expansion and met with the architects and contractors to keep up with the projected timeline. A crew has also been pouring a lot of concrete in an effort to rebuild the road and tunnel caps and improve drainage across campus.

Two high school girls finished up their summer jobs, one as a nurses aid at the nursing home, and the other busy with maintenance on campus. LaToya loved visiting with the patients, and gained a lot more confidence driving (she just got her license) back and forth to work. Erica’s supervisor praised her thoroughness, and she said she liked dusting – probably my least favorite household chores. They will spend a few weeks home before school begins in mid-August. For the next two weeks we have no students on campus.

When we pulled up the old Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel carpet for replacement, we uncovered a nice floor mosaic on the tile below. We decided to polish it up and not carpet that area since it adds to the chapel decor.

The classrooms also got new carpet, the first in about 25 years of steady footsteps. The rooms also received a new coat of paint. That meant everything had to be moved, and it made for lots of rearranging. Teachers have been coming in early putting things back in order, and to recycle old and outdated materials. We have two new pastoral care/religious education teachers this year, and both were in the room going through many boxes and shelves of material to reorganize and see what they have to work with.

Friday night was the area Relay for Life event. As a cancer survivor myself, I found a lot of support from the group gathered to walk, celebrate another year of life, remember those who have died and celebrate the goodness of people who care. The event was held on campus, in Wisdom Circle. We had bands playing from a flatbed trailer, matching shirts for all the survivors and caretakers, and a wonderful community spirit.

Walking for cancer – a whole new meaning

Last year was the first time I was able to participate as a supporter, and was very moved by the whole event. Little did I imagine that one year later I’d be wearing a survivor’s shirt.

Friday, July 23, 2010Fr. Steve of St. Joseph's Indian School

Today was a memorable day in three ways:

  1. Brother Clay’s vow renewal
  2. Shooting a TV interview
  3. Taking part in Chamberlain’s Relay for Life

Brother Clay renews annual vows
When first joining the SCJ’s, one must profess annual vows for at least three years before being eligible for Final Vows. This gives you the chance to really decide if this vocation is where you find meaning and are fulfilled.

This morning we went to the downtown parish for mass, and were joined by two of the SCJ priests in Lower Brule as well. Before Fr. Bill, Clay renewed his vows and prayed an act of oblation. Watching his fervor, I prayed that I can recapture more of the passion I had in my early days; to give myself more fully to God. Afterward we all went out to breakfast at Casey’s restaurant.

Brule band member visits St. Joseph’s
Paul LaRouche of the musical group Brule produces a TV show for RFD TV. It is called Hidden Heritage. Paul is from the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. He was adopted as an infant, and never knew of his heritage and roots until he was an adult. His show highlights positive projects and people in Indian country.

Brule performs around the country, and Paul has been asked many times about
St. Joseph Indian School
. He figured what we do here would make an interesting feature. Paul has known about St. Joseph’s since childhood – remembering pictures stuck to the refrigerator in his home.Find Brule merchandise from the Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center

We sat outside to take advantage of the lovely day, and Paul put me right at ease during the interview. I gave an overview of our programs. We don’t have many students on campus these last weeks of summer, but three of our high school students who are working here were able to show him around and talk about their experience.

When we were touring the museum, visitors found out who Paul was. There were a few who immediately bought one of his CD’s to have autographed.

Chamberlain’s Relay for Life
The last event of the day was the Relay for Life … to remember those who have died from cancer and celebrate those who have survived. Last year was the first time I was able to participate as a supporter, and was very moved by the whole event. Little did I imagine that one year later I’d be wearing a survivor’s shirt and walking the first lap with others who have done battle with cancer and come out on top.

The festivities were cut short when a big storm rolled in and sent everyone scattering for cover. We got pea and marble sized hail and heavy winds. A full but wonderful day all around.

Fr. Steve walking at the Relay for Life
Fr. Steve walking during Friday's Relay for Life photo courtesy of Chamberlain/Oacoma Sun