What blessings are you most thankful for

Our Lakota (Sioux) students are streaming in this evening as Thanksgiving break comes to an end. Most are now at the Rec Center where the boys Inter City basketball games are in full swing. We now have just three more weeks of school before Christmas break and I’m sure the time is going to be filled with many activities and also fly by quickly.

Our weather remained sunny and dry this past week which made travel for the families and guardians worry free. On Wednesday, the “official” time for school to dismiss for Thanksgiving break was 2:00, but when I got to the school around 1:45 the largest classroom had just three students left. With so many of the students families spread across all of South Dakota, parents and guardians showed up throughout the day at the times that worked for them. We have a group of over 20 students from the Rosebud Indian reservation, which is two hours distant. The tribe sends a bus to transport them back and forth over the holidays. That bus showed up around 10:00. Many families came around noon and were invited to the dining hall to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey and all the trimmings.

Several students stayed on campus during the vacation. We have a couple of break homes for students who need to or prefer to be here these days – 9 students in the grade school break home and another half-dozen in the high school program. I stopped in every now and again to check if houseparents needed anything and see how the students were doing. The high school students were mostly involved with basketball practice. The grade school home had lots more fun activities, like a trip to Mitchell, South Dakota (70 miles away) to see a movie. There was also plenty of times for recreation in the home. Samantha and Aralyn taught me how to play Wii tennis on the TV screen – and thrashed me thoroughly of course.

Our homes are normally split between boys and girls homes. In the break home there’s a different dynamic as three families with brothers and sisters were together under one roof. They enjoyed sitting next to each other at table, and spending time with younger siblings.

On Thanksgiving Day, I drove 25 miles north to Fort Thompson on the Crow Creek Indian reservation to go to mass. Afterward, Sr. Charles cooked a turkey and invited people from the community to bring what they could to add to a pot-luck celebration. It was especially nice for those elders who may have been on their own otherwise to have company to eat with, visit and celebrate.

This year I am most thankful that I’ve been able to resume my normal routine of work; I’m glad the cancer is still in remission. What blessings are you most thankful for?

Here I am with the St. Joseph's Indian School float in the background.
Here I am with the St. Joseph's Indian School float in the background.

On Black Friday, the city of Chamberlain sponsored a Parade of Lights downtown. The evening started with a free chili supper at the Fire Hall. Santa greeted us as we rolled in. With the parade theme, “The 12 Days of Christmas” St. Joseph sponsored a float of, “A partridge in a pear tree.” Our break home students rode on walked alongside the float. Instead of candies, they passed out dreamcatcher keychains. Maybe not as tasty, but practical and longer lasting.

My fingers are sore from writing staff Christmas cards, which I have spent significant time doing while the office and school have been closed. Instead of just signing my name I try to write a few personal words to each person who works here. I am so grateful for the dedicated staff here at St. Joseph’s Indian School who do so much for our students. While running a residential school with 200 students is a big job, when each do their part, it somehow–thanks be to God–all comes together.

Author: St. Joseph's Indian School

At St. Joseph's Indian School, our privately-funded programs for Lakota (Sioux) children in need have evolved over 90 years of family partnership, experience and education. Because of generous friends who share tax-deductible donations, Native American youth receive a safe, stable home life; individual counseling and guidance; carefully planned curriculum based on Lakota culture and individual student needs and tools to help build confidence, boost self-esteem and improve cultural awareness. All of this helps children to live a bright, productive, possibility-filled future.

3 thoughts on “What blessings are you most thankful for”

  1. Sounds like a lot of work, Fr. Steve- 200 students; plus the spreading of goodness to their parents.

    The keychain idea was a good idea- it is better than candy.

    I split my invitations down to being with an elderly woman (but, don’t tell her that- she is quite active)- just across the street (I am, fairly, new in the neighborhood- and, it is just myself). Although, she was invited to be with my aunt and cousin- in a nursing home, she preferred to stay home and cook. She loves being in her own home- and, finds nursing homes depressing. For a multitude of reasons, we chose to stick with each other. She is, originally, from Naples, Italy- my deceased, mother’s family is from there- so, I got a better understanding of that side of my heritage- and, she enjoys my company. She has no surviving children. I met her nephew, from Florida, over the telephone- nice family. This past Sunday, she brought me to see her deceased husband- he is buried in a mausoleum- a huge mausoleum; we met some very nice people there.

    She is a retired fashion designer. She loves to cook- and, is a great cook. I enjoy crafts- and, she has given me some simple craft patterns to share with other women, up there, in Boston. We both started knitting, again. We meet in church on Sundays- and, then spend a few hours in the town- getting ready to decorate for Christmas. She is very intelligent- and, has traveled most everywhere in the world, except Australia. Her name is Olimpia. Yes, this is how she spells it.

    She is Catholic. I love her- and, she is a very nice lady.

  2. Dear Fr. Steve,

    Kenny and I are so glad and thankful to God for all the Blessings that God has given us including answering our prayers for you. We were so happy to hear that you are still in remission. As you know my (Nancy) legs have been in very bad shape for going on 2 years now. I found the perfect therapist for my Lymphodema and well on my way to being healed. For which I am also thankful. Kenny and I are also very thankful for providing the children and staff of St. Joseph’s with such a wonderful leader … you.

    We don’t know what the future brings, but, we are praying that it continues to bring us all, you and the wonderful people at St. Joe’s. who care so much for these great kids.

    God Bless you all at St. Joe’s,

    Nancy & Kenny

  3. St Joseph’s staff are so lucky to have an employer who appreciates them and expresses that to their employees. Keep up the good work Fr

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