Busy weekend for Fr. Steve

One of Chamberlain’s most beloved landmarks is the bridge that spans the Missouri River from Chamberlain to Oacoma. Yesterday afternoon, a group of local bridge builders came home to a hero’s welcome. After one full year of deployment in Afghanistan, the 200th Engineer Company of the National Guard based here in Chamberlain returned. Many of our students lined the streets to offer their appreciation as fire trucks with sirens blaring, motorcycles and police cars  escorted the troops  on a parade through town. Afterwards prayers and words of appreciation were offered at a program in the armory. Several of our staff had joyful reunions with family members we have prayed for since they’ve been gone. The unit built five bridges in their time overseas. Sadly, one member, SPC Jared Roe, lost his life in a construction accident, and he was remembered again with a time of silence.

Today at mass we honored many groups of people. Our Distinguished Alumni Award was presented to two men, Casmir LeBeau and Orville Webb, who were two of the original group of 47 students who started St. Joseph’s in 1927!

Orville’s son Bud came in his place, but 95 year old Casmir stood up to receive his award and talked about the old days with our students, eliciting both laughter and wonder. He has been one of our St. Joseph’s historians, gathering and preserving many memories from those early days. After serving in the Coast Guard in WWII, Casmir worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs until his retirement. What amazed me was the small staff the school began with – two priests, three dorm supervisors, two teachers and a maintenance man.

Fittingly on Mother’s Day we honored all the mothers, and women who work as houseparents with a flower and a prayer of blessing.

We honored our eighth graders who will graduate in two weeks. Their just-completed class banner for 2012 advises “We are strong as individuals, but as a class we are invincible.” There is great power in community and working together, and I hope they keep that attitude throughout life.

And we honored our four high school graduates, all of whom have been at St. Joseph’s for many years. We’ve seen D’Kera (12 years) Danisha and Nick (11 years) and Erin (8 years) grow into fine young adults with lots of gifts to offer the world that needs so much. They will walk up the aisle next Sunday at the Chamberlain High School to receive their diplomas. All plan to attend college next year.

After a tasty dinner prepared in our dining hall, we viewed a slide show and video message from each student that helped us remember their years here. Family and staff members who wanted to share a reflection or memory were invited to do so, and there were a lot of emotional moments as our students prepare to move on. But that is our goal, to get young people ready to leave us, and move on to what the future can hold for them.