My main complaint is pain in the nerves of my right foot. The doctors say that will take some months to heal.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Tina, St. Joseph’s Receptionist, reminded me that periodically I need to give a ‘how are you feeling’ update on the blog. Apparently that’s what many people call to find out.
My main complaint is pain in the nerves of my right foot. The doctors say that will take some months to heal. In the meantime, it’s tiring to stand for more than about ten minutes … when I walk, it’s with a limp.
I’m not ready to sprint to first base anytime soon. The medicines I take make me sleepy during the day, and I don’t sleep a full night’s rest. But I’ve been cancer-free since my last checkup, and I’ll get checked over again in September.
Today I was back at the office after a full week of being away. On my bad days I dread the backlog of phone calls and mail. On my good days I see them as opportunities of grace since I’m in contact with many diverse people from all over the country. Instead of grumbling about the interruptions in what I had “planned” to do, I need to always humbly see all those connections as part of God’s plan for the day.
Consider it either a small triumph or an act of craziness, but I was up early and completed my first entire yoga workout since the surgery.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Consider it either a small triumph or an act of craziness, but I was up early and completed my first entire yoga workout since the surgery.
My foot has hurt a lot from where the nerves were cut; other muscles are sore from lack of use. So it’s necessary to loosen them up and use them.
“There’s something very spiritual
about praying with one shoe!”
I was in the chapel praying morning prayers and had kicked off my right shoe because it doesn’t hurt as much that way. Fr. Matt walked by and looked in and quipped, “There’s something very spiritual about praying with one shoe!” A good laugh to start my morning.
My 55 mile trip to Promise, South Dakota for mass was peaceful and meditative as I looked over the hills and river valleys. In places you can see ten miles or more onto the prairie. With clouds and sunshine and shades of grass it never looks the same twice.
Twenty people were in church, and I knew everyone’s name. When I was in the parish, if someone wasn’t sitting in their pew, you usually knew the reason … they were either visiting relatives or were muddied in! After mass we stayed a full hour in the hall – telling stories, laughing and catching up.
The road back to the highway home was 28 miles of gravel. I didn’t come across any other cars. There’s some wide open spaces out here. I had a baseball game on the radio to keep me company so the three hour trip home passed quickly and enjoyably.
I took it easy today; slept in and decided to stay around the rectory. I had a few phone calls from folks who didn’t get the chance to see me, and two people dropped by to say hello.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
I took it easy today; slept in and decided to stay around the rectory.
I had a few phone calls from folks who didn’t get the chance to see me, and two people dropped by to say ‘hello’.
Mildred presented me with two beautiful star quilted pillows. “This is gift of thanksgiving that you made it through your surgery,” she said, “and I’m praying for your continued healing.”
Romey also wanted to check in. His first question was not about my health, but he asked, “How are those Bears going to do this year?” We talked a little football and a little family … in a way that was so familiar and comfortable.
The Saturday evening mass in Eagle Butte brought some more reunions. One Sunday a month the parish celebrates that month’s birthdays. We had a potluck and birthday cake and chance to hang around for fellowship.
One young man came to church after having been away for eight years. “What is it that brought you back today?,” I asked. “Emptiness,” he answered, “and wanting something more.”
I knew him when he was a child growing up in Cherry Creek, and he couldn’t believe I remembered hiking up to Holy Hill with him and groups of youngsters led by Sister Cheri. We’d look for tinpsila (wild turnips) and give the kids some fun time away from struggles they may be having in their homes. He has been struggling with drugs and alcohol, and I know it’s a long road back. I encouraged him to keep on the good road, and continue to look for people who can be of support and encouragement.
With my presence at yesterday’s public events, word got out around the community that I’m in town, and folks that I hadn’t yet seen started stopping by the rectory to say hello.
Friday, July 16, 2010
With my presence at yesterday’s public events, word got out around the community that I’m in town … Folks that I hadn’t seen yet started stopping by the rectory to say hello.
Judy came while I was away at mass, so afterward I tracked her down at the arts and crafts fair. We had a good visit while she was setting up all the quilts and pillows she’s sown.
Judy lives on a ranch about 15 miles off the paved roads. During the winter and rainy seasons she may go several weeks without getting to town, and that’s her time to channel her creative energies into such beautiful items.
I also received calls to make some other stops. I visited the bank and hung out in the break room as workers came by in shifts and got the chance to catch up. I visited a couple that was so good to me ever since the first summer I arrived in Eagle Butte 30 years ago. With health issues they don’t get out much, but are still sharp and delighted at the company.
For lunch, I ate at the Senior Center. They always have a nutritious meal; but more importantly a place for the elders of the community to come for some friendship and company. What I noticed this time was that many of the elders I remember were not there any longer, and a new generation of folks I remember have now joined the ranks of elderly. I had several good conversations.
Later, I stopped at Landmark Hall where people were registering for the school reunion. I ran into some dear friends there.
In the evening a family invited me over to their house for supper. I got to meet the newest generation of the clan. What I told them I most appreciated, besides the good food, was the laughter as they told stories about one another and life’s events.
Laughter and friendship is one of the most healing things.
Social services is such a concrete way of embodying gospel values; therefore I want to be as supportive of this work as I can.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
A youth group from Mequon, WI is here in the parish. One crew is running a Jesus mini camp/ Bible school for area children. Another is building a handicap accessible ramp for the church in Red Scaffold. It’s inspirational to see these young people living out their faith and taking the time to learn about the Lakota culture.
Last night Young Nation, a local high school Lakota drum group, explained and demonstrated their singing and drumming to their counterparts from Wisconsin. They got the reluctant teens to try their hand (or feet) at a round dance and a two-step.
Most interesting was the demonstration of courtship songs the young men sang. I saw many of the Wisconsin girls listening quite intently! It was a good evening of cultural exchange.
Besides the visiting, one piece of work on my schedule while here in Eagle Butte was a Board of Directors meeting for the Sacred Heart Center, one of the outreach programs of the Priests of the Sacred Heart. It provides many valuable services to families experiencing the crisis of domestic violence. It gives young people in need of a safe place to stay. It also offers a variety of educational and outreach services to the community and area.
While St. Joseph’s Indian School provides excellent programs for children who are away from their families, it’s so important to try to strengthen families on the Indian reservations. Social services is such a concrete way of embodying Gospel values; therefore I want to be as supportive of this work as I can.
Charlotte’s neighbor Mary also joined us for conversation. Both pray with quality and consistency. I hope I can be as dedicated as these two women when I promise to pray for people.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
I headed out, driving down the gravel roads along the Moreau River past Whitehorse. I had a great plan to phone folks along the way until I remembered that there are places so country that there is no cell phone service in the area and none of my calls went through. But it worked out fine anyway, as I focused my efforts on seeing some of the elders.
At 91 years-old, Charlotte is one of the matriarchs on the east end having raised a large family on their ranch. Many of the tribal members work on this part of the Indian reservation ranch, although it gets harder to make it financially each year without some outside income.
Many people work for the tribe or have a job in town, which requires daily drives of 80 to 100 miles. Charlotte remembers the horse and wagon days – having to make or grow most of what they needed … or go without.
Charlotte’s neighbor Mary also joined us for conversation around the kitchen table. I was humbled to learn both have been following my progress and praying for me; praying with quality and consistency. I hope I can be as dedicated as these two women when I promise to pray for people.
Louie is a widower, a World War II vet, and living independently, relying on himself to get around. His house was a beehive of folks coming and going as his family prepared to have the Sun Dance – Wiwanke Wachipi – on their land. Tree Day marks the first day of this special event. The prayer leaders selected a cottonwood to cut down and move with care by hand to the center of the dance grounds. I saw lots of relatives and friends coming and going, but also a little treasured one-on-one time before bidding Louie adieu.
I found Bunny home watching her grandchildren that I got to meet for the first time. Having been away quite a few years, I haven’t been a part of the births and baptisms as I once was. But when you sit at someone’s kitchen table, the passage of time evaporates and you get the chance to catch up with family and community happenings. I always learned the most about what is important to people around the kitchen table.
Tugie is 89. She’s lived on her land for over 60 years, and recently sold to neighbors. They told her she can live in the house for however long she wants and stop in daily to check on how she’s doing. Betty Anne was there as I pulled up, and it was so good getting to see her as well. Tugie still gets around pretty good on her own; hearty souls these folks are that work the land so many years.
Lest anyone warns me to take it easy, I have been taking very long naps every afternoon and pacing myself accordingly.
Monday, July 12, 2010
This morning I stopped in to visit a housebound parishioner who means a lot to me. Over toast and tea, we reminisced and caught up about our respective doings. We also discussed what’s going on in Eagle Butte.
This evening, I went to a wake of a 52-year-old woman who died of cancer. A drum group played some traditional songs as the pall bearers brought Carol’s body into church. I didn’t know Carol well, but I know her sister Margaret very well and wanted to be there to support her family.
In these Indian reservation communities, wakes and funerals are still very well attended. I find the best part of coming back to a parish where I’ve served is that first look of recognition across a room and the smile as people approach to say hello. Tonight, lots of familiar faces came up and gave me a hug or hearty handshake.
After the wake and rosary, the family served a meal, so people could stay around and visit. That gave me the chance to wander the tables and reconnect with folks. It’s the part of parish work I miss most when I have the administrative duties to take care of back at St. Joseph’s.
Lest anyone warns me to take it easy, I have been taking very long naps every afternoon and pacing myself accordingly. I still have nagging nerve pains in my foot that are about the same as they’ve been for weeks. But otherwise I feel OK.
On the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, there are only two priests serving eight parishes. Sister Anne was scheduled to have a communion service in Cherry Creek today, so I volunteered to ride along and have mass.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
On the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, there are only two priests serving eight parishes. The furthest parish is 90 miles away! Because of this, it’s not possible to have mass at all the churches every Sunday. Sister Anne was scheduled to have a communion service in Cherry Creek today, so I volunteered to ride along and have mass.
Cherry Creek is one of the oldest communities in the area and also one of the poorest and more isolated ones. Many of the families had gone to Dupree for a powwow and the centennial celebration, so we had a very small crowd in church … only eight people!
After driving 45+ miles for a small crowd, I felt tempted to look out at the empty church and ask, “Why am I here?” But, I came to the point where I could usually look at the same small crowd, know the suffering in people’s lives and think, “This is why I’m here – to make a difference in an area where it’s difficult to get any services, let alone religious outreach.”
After church, Sister Anne put on a pot of chili, and we went to the hall and visited with the parishioners. Each day can be a struggle to get by, and I did my best to listen and encourage.
As I walked the sidewalks and stayed at the church for Saturday evening mass, the best part was seeing folks that I spent ten years of my life with. Some of those I remember as children are now parents.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Today the town of Dupree (population 434) celebrated their centennial with a parade. Small town parades are an experience all in themselves. I wanted to get to main street early so I could get a good seat, but there was plenty of room because almost everyone in town was in the parade.
The town was founded on land donated by Fred Dupris, a French and Lakota trader whom the town was named after. He and Scotty Phillips are credited with saving the buffalo when they were almost hunted to extinction. One of the floats included many of his descendants who live in the area.
Another float had all the grandchildren of the Norwegian homesteaders who came to the area in 1910. There were antique tractors, powwow royalty riding in the back of pickups, and politicians positioning themselves for the November elections. All threw candy into the streets as children scrambled for the goodies.
I actually got to see the parade twice. Main street is only 5 blocks long, and the parade went south along the length of the town, then did a U-turn and came back north again.
Just a month ago a tornado went through the heart of town. The elderly manor was hit hard and residents had to be relocated to other area towns. Pioneer Hall – the community center – was damaged beyond repair and had to be bulldozed. In its place stands a large circus tent; the show and the centennial must go on.
It’s very indicative of life on these isolated prairie towns. People face great hardship with weather and life circumstances, but they find it within themselves to rebuild and keep going.
As I walked the sidewalks and stayed at the church for Saturday evening mass, the best part was seeing folks that I spent ten years of my life with. Some of those I remember as children are now parents. We recalled weddings and baptisms, sad funerals and times that made us laugh. So many of these folks have kept me in their prayers these past months and it was wonderful to be able to thank them in person and renew the ties of friendship.
I’m going to spend the next week on the Cheyenne River Reservation, where I lived and worked from 1984 – 1995 and have so many fond memor
Friday, July 9, 2010
I’m going to spend the next week on the Cheyenne River Reservation, where I lived and worked from 1984 – 1995 … I have so many fond memories.
Two of the towns, Dupree and Eagle Butte, are celebrating their centennials, and I figure I’ll be able to see a lot of people at the celebrations. The change of scenery should be helpful as I put office work aside for a week and just enjoy whatever comes my way each day.
The drive is 3 hours, but I stopped half way in Fort Pierre to visit former parishioners who have retired there. Glady and Andy are always gracious hosts, and besides good conversation and a huge meal, I’m so much at home there that I could even take a two hour nap before continuing the journey.
I’m staying at the rectory which was home for ten years of my life and ministry. It too is home when I get up here a few times each year. I was first greeted by the women who work in the rectory and keep the place going, now, as well as when I was here, and they’re all treasured friends. Later when Fr. Brian and Fr. Matt got home from their rounds, they gave me updates on folks in the area and made me feel most welcome. They cover an area about the size of Connecticut, and serve nine small mission parishes from here.