Hello from St. Joseph’s seventh and eighth grade community! My name is Frank and I am the Residential Coordinator for this community, which means I oversee all the
seventh and eighth grade houseparents
With the blizzard of activities that surround our students and staff, I sometimes get lost in the perpetual motion. I also sometimes forget that our students have more going on in their lives than just what goes on here at St. Joseph’s Indian School. Our mission is to minister to the needs of the whole student – mind, body, heart and spirit.
I was reminded of the real goals of our mission recently.
During the week, I work later in the evening to spend time in the homes, visit with the students and help out where I can. I went to one of our girl’s home and as I walked in the houseparent asked me to prop the door open.
This is actually against the rules. Our homes are set up to maintain utmost safety for our students and staff, so outside doors are always locked. Students have a code to let themselves in.
It does happen on occasion that the doors are propped open – maybe the air needs to clear quickly from a burnt pan or simply to let in some fresh air. When the houseparent asked me to prop the door, I asked if she had burnt something and was trying to keep the fire alarm from sounding.
She said no and politely explained the reason – the home was having an honoring supper.
One of the girls lost their father last year and this was the anniversary of his passing. The student had been down during week, but her houseparent had picked up on her mood and made the connection. As she continues to struggle with the grief of her father’s passing, an honor supper is meant to help the student grieve and celebrate her father’s life and spirit. The supper symbolically hosts his spirit and helps the student connect her father in healthy, culturally significant way.
The supper table was laid out spectacularly with a spot for everyone in the home and an extra place of honor for the student’s father. At this place on the table, there was a picture of him with sage and flowers arranged around the picture. The honor spot, with his picture, was placed at the head of the table in a simple gesture of respect for his spirit. The student invited her older brother from one of the high school homes to be part of the special meal.
In accordance with Lakota tradition, the two prepared a spirit plate for their father to nourish his spirit in the afterlife.
As I had observed when I arrived, the door was propped open. It was open to welcome his spirit into the home and allow free passage.
I was completely chagrinned.
The simple gesture was out of concern for the student’s wellbeing – truly at the heart of St. Joseph’s mission.
St. Joseph’s houseparents live with our students day in and day out. They know the students well enough to pick up cues when behavior is out of the ordinary. They know their families.
This houseparent was able to connect the dots and then intervene in a culturally sensitive and meaningful way for the student.
In the hubbub of everyday life at St. Joseph’s Indian School, I tend to focus on results such as good grades and exceptional behavior from our students. It is easy for our focus to get stuck in one area of our mission, just like I was.
But as usual, circumstance came around to remind me what was really important and the scope of our mission as a whole. These opportunities, I believe, are designed by the Creator to keep us moving forward, to keep us focused on the mission as a whole and to humble us when needed.
I was humbled by the houseparent’s awareness and ability to help her student cope in a way which makes sense on many levels. Interventions and simple acts of compassion happen every day in our homes on campus; our houseparents minister in many ways to the spiritual needs of our students. We don’t always see those simple acts of kindness, but we do see the end result in the smiling happy faces of the children we serve.
I would like to thank all of our supporters – without you being part of our mission we would not be able to meet the needs of our students!
7-8th Grade Residential Coordinator