My name is Odis and I am a houseparent for boys in grades 4-6. I work in the Cyr Home at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

Odis works with Lakota boys in grades 4-6.

Odis, Cyr Home houseparent

As we prepare to send the boys home for the holidays (and they are excited about their break) I am getting introspective about what we have done so far this year. I thought I would write you a short letter about one of our favorites – the South Dakota State Fair trip!

Of course, the highlight of the fair was the midway – the boys spent hours on the rides! The Ring of Fire and the Octopus seemed to be the favorites. But before the rides, the boys had some other places to check out.

The Lakota boys loved the farm equipment!

After visiting the Goat Barn, dreams of becoming a farmer were cemented by sitting in the tractors!

They visited the Dairy Barn, Rabbit and Bird Barns and the very popular Goat Barn. We all went to the Goat Barn as a home to see and play with the young goats that are called “kids.” I saw a lot of similarities in the energy levels. Ha ha!

More than a few of the boys wanted then and there to be a farmer. This notion was reinforced with a tour of the farm implement row, where the boys loved having their pictures taken on large and small tractors, giant combines and crop sprayers.

My fellow houseparent then took most of the boys to the rides. I took one of the boys to see his favorite part of the fair…the RV’s. He had to go into every single one. He came away from RV row with a long list of them he wanted to buy and live in.

Only one of the boys tried riding the mechanical bull at the fair.

Only one brave soul tried the mechanical bull – he stayed on for almost 10 seconds!

Oh, and I almost forgot about our brave boy who rode on the mechanical bull! He did awesome and stayed on for about ten seconds. All the other boys were jealous, but not enough to try it for themselves. It was a long, fun day and they are already looking forward to next year’s fair.

The boys would like to thank you all for helping them go to activities like this. We pray for all of you regularly!

Season’s greetings from Cyr Home at St Joseph’s! All twelve boys and the houseparents here – myself, Theresa, Laura and Sean – wish you a merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year from the Cyr Home!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year from the Cyr Home!

Good morning from a snowy St. Joseph’s Indian School!

All the students choose a gift for someone in their family at St. Joseph’s Christmas store.

The Lakota boys and girls are so delighted to be able to give a gift to their families!

After a wonderful weekend, we awoke Monday morning to the white stuff coming down.  Several schools in the area closed and St. Joseph’s 7th & 8th grade girls’ basketball game was canceled. Even today, roads are covered in ice.

The big excitement over the weekend was the Christmas Store which gives our Lakota students the chance to select gifts for family members at home.  Each student chose from a selection of things sent by generous donors – coloring books and crayons, stuffed animals, hats and scarves, blankets and even nick knacks.

After making their choices, they took them to the skating room. Volunteers were waiting to help wrap their treasures while they had a Christmas treat and a picture taken with Santa. The smiles on the children’s faces say it all – they are so happy to be able to give a gift. Thank you for making those smiles possible!

The students took group and individual pictures with Santa.

Pictures with Santa!

Sunday was a very special day for several of our students as we had the Rite of Welcoming to those who are preparing for their Sacraments in April – 24 are preparing for Baptism and 11 are getting ready for First Communion.  The Rite of Welcome designates the students as ‘catechumens’ or a person sounding things out.  It is a way for the students to let others know they are serious about learning more about Jesus and how they can walk with Him while asking their fellow students to keep them in prayer that their efforts will be successful.  We’ll have a Retreat for them and their families in February and they’ll receive their Sacraments on April 12 when we return from Easter Break.

Even though it’s just December, we had the eighth grade graduation picture taken this past week.   We have to plan ahead quite a ways to make sure things are ready to be mailed out when the time comes.

Yesterday, I attended the funeral of one of our former employees, Lowell.  He and his wife, Connie, served as houseparents at St. Joseph’s for many years. Lowell loved playing tricks, but could always be counted on for a hug when anyone needed one. All the students of St. Joseph’s were listed as honorary pall bearers – the children touched his heart so deeply.  His wife continues to help here at St. Joseph’s in the health center, taking students to their appointments with doctors, dentists or optometrists and helps keep the medical records in order.  We extend our sympathy to the family.

May you continue to have a beautiful Advent Season and prepare the way of the Lord.  We are grateful for your generosity and support.  We’ll finish this month’s novena of Masses for you on December 19.

Respectfully,

Fr. Anthony Kluckman, SCJ

Chaplain

After nearly three years of “silence,” the pipe organ in the choir loft at Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel thrilled under

Clare, St. Joseph's Director of Pastoral Care and Native American Studies

Clare, St. Joseph’s Director of Pastoral Care and Native American Studies

the fingertips of local music teacher and organist Faye S. on December 7, 2014 – the Second Sunday of Advent. It was a special event set in motion by the annual tuning visit of Radanovich & Associates, the company that built and installed the organ. Joseph Radanovich had reminded Aaron (Faye’s son and employee of St. Joseph’s Indian School) that, unlike many instruments that grow out-of-tune by use, the organ must be played.

That reminder led to a collaboration between Faye and me, which resulted in the special Mass. Some 20 students attended a practice with Faye the Wednesday beforehand. The purpose of the practice was not only to polish the Advent music sung only during this season, but also to get past the jitters and excitement of singing from the choir loft – a rare treat.

When Sunday morning arrived, Faye teased powerful, expressive praise from the organ, accompanied by Aaron on the bass. The choir filled the loft with their presence and Our Lady of Sioux with their song: Come, come, Emmanuel; Son of God appear. Heaven and earth rejoice. Salvation is drawing near.

The assembly below bustled with a true sense of rejoicing. Following the celebration, many offered notes and comments of appreciation.

What a joy to have the opportunity to celebrate this season of joyful anticipation in this way! And what a remarkable thing that this organ, which was a gift to St. Joseph’s, can continue to bless and praise through the years.

Of interest: The organ was donated by St. Aloysius Parish of West Allis, Wisconsin, and dedicated on June 22, 1998. Joseph Radanovich was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he is owner of Radanovich & Associates. He lists his heritage as Polish, Serbian, Croatian, Hungarian, Russian and Jewish, with a splash of Swedish, Spanish, Irish and North African just for flavor! A Byzantine Catholic, he follows Native American spirituality as well. Adopted into a Lakota Sun Dance family at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, which straddles North and South Dakota, he is a Pipe Carrier and Traditional Dancer.

Good afternoon from St. Joseph’s Indian School!

Fr. Anthony, St. Joseph's Chaplain

Fr. Anthony, St. Joseph’s Chaplain

I hope your Advent is off to a great start and that we can put into practice the message from Sunday’s scripture, ‘prepare the way of the Lord.’

Last week, we held Healing Camp for those who have lost loved ones recently. My mother passed away in September, so I thought I would take part along with our students and some of their family members. It is always tough to lose a loved one and this process gives participants the chance to deal with entrusting a loved one back to God. You can read more about Opiciye Okizi (Healing Camp) in Claire’s blog post.

We have good news from the basketball court! St. Joseph’s eighth grade girls won their tournament over the weekend.  The girls were scheduled to play Lower Brule in the first game, but the team was not able to come, so the tournament shifted to a round robin format. St. Joseph’s beat Miller and then knocked off Pierre Indian Learning Center (PILC) to win the tournament.  It was fun watching them play as a team and grow in confidence as their shots began to fall.  Congratulations team members and coaches!

Thursday, the Lakota students will have their annual Christmas concert. Each grade has learned a few songs for the event. Some of the students who have been taking band lessons will share their skills on the instruments they are learning to play.  Family members are invited to come and enjoy the performance, so hopefully the weather will be good.

St. Joseph’s students participate in many community activities in Chamberlain, including Dancing Dolls.

The girls in the Dennis Home were ready for their Dancing Dolls recital!

Another display of talent last weekend was the Dancing Dolls and Dudes performance held Sunday in Chamberlain. Many of St. Joseph’s younger students took part. It was a wonderful recital – everyone did a great job!

In closing, I would like to share what I thought was a touching scene I noticed coming back to campus the other day.  If you have been to St. Joseph’s, you might recall that you cross a bridge over an inlet which leads out to the Missouri River.  Though parts of the river are starting to freeze over, the inlet is still open and there were a large number of geese. This is a typical sight in our little community.

Parked on the bridge was a SUV from Wisconsin with two hunters dressed in camouflage.  You could sense their awe as they watched these magnificent birds coming in droves to land in the inlet.

Have a great week!  You and your intentions will be remembered in our prayers asking the Great Spirit to bless and reward you for your spirit of generosity.

 

 

Fr. Anthony Kluckman, SCJ

Chaplain

Last Monday and Tuesday we held our Opiciye Okizi (Healing Camp) for students who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Our Lakota

Claire works with St. Joseph's students in the homes and at school.

Claire

students were paired up with an adult—either a relative or a staff person—to accompany them throughout their time in camp. It was a time for using storytelling, ceremony and art to process feelings of loss. We took a holistic approach, addressing the spiritual, physical and emotional aspects of grieving. Family members were an important part of camp, and on-campus housing was provided for relatives who were coming from long distances to participate.

Several themes emerged as the camp progressed. One theme was that of heartstrings—the invisible and yet unbreakable connections between us and the people we love. As a group we made the world’s first known human dreamcatcher. We stood in a circle as Clare read the story of how the spirit Iktomi brought the dreamcatcher to the people. All the while, LaRayne wove a web among the members of the group connecting each person to everyone else because – Mitakuye Oyasin —we are all related. Later, we strung all our prayers for our loved ones together by making prayer ties out of red cloth and sage. These were tied together and hung outside in the branches of a pine tree.

As part of Healing Camp, St. Joseph’s students created the first known human dreamcatcher.

The first known human dreamcatcher!

Stories like these were important because they reminded us of who we are, where we came from and where we are going. Another traditional story about the origins of the Milky Way reminded us that we are not alone, and that those we love are always with us. Our Christian stories reminded us that death is not the end, and that we are going to be reunited with our loved ones in God’s embrace.

One underlying theme was the task of accepting things as they are. Nobody cries the same way, and there is no wrong way to grieve. Each person felt their loss in his or her own way and had a unique way of expressing that—laughter, tears, drawing, avoidance, writing, numbing out. As a group, we had to adjust to what worked or didn’t work for each person, and to treat each person’s process with respect. Sometimes that meant letting go of expectations about what an activity would look like, or how a group interaction would take shape.

We ended the day with the Wiping of the Tears, a Lakota ceremony for the end of the mourning period.   A Dakota elder said a prayer and sang a song, while helpers offered each participant sage water and a ceremonial combing of the hair and wiping of tears. The ceremony provided a sense of closure to our camp, while reinforcing the sense of support and connection in the group.

I want to thank the people who made this camp possible—the family members and staff who gave of their time and of themselves to our students, the dying mother who requested this for her children back when camp started in 2003, the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center staff who were very gracious with the use of their space, and the many benefactors who support the work at St. Joseph’s Indian School. Wopila tanka, many thanks.

Cante’ Waste’ Nape Ciyuzapi Ksto/loI greet you with a warm and heartfelt handshake!

April works with St. Joseph's students and families.

April works with St. Joseph’s students and families.

My name is April, and I am an enrolled member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe. My Indian name is Nagi Wi, which means Spirit Woman. My given name at birth is April. My name was given to me by a nun who helped deliver me. My St. Joseph’s name is Unci, which means grandma – I feel so honored to be their grandma! I have been here at St. Joes for eight-and-a-half years and love working with the children and their families.

My new title is Family/Student Care Specialist. I have the opportunity to get to know our new students more by meeting with them individually throughout the year to establish a bond. During our time together, students come to my office and write letters, color or draw and take pictures, which we send home to their families. We also make calls to their families. We want students to look at St. Joseph’s Indian School as their second home, and we want them to feel comfortable. We understand they will get lonesome, and that’s okay. We want to work through that and continue to do the best we can to care for the whole child – mind, body, heart and spirit.

As Family/Student Care Specialist at St. Joseph’s, April is involved in many activities on campus.

April helps the Lakota boys and girls with arts and crafts to send home to their families.

Sometimes, students go home for the weekend and see their pictures and letters hanging on the fridge at home. This makes them so happy! They come to my office and tell me, “Guess what Unci! My mom has my picture we sent!” To see that little sparkle in their eyes is so heart-warming!

I have a saying that was given to me, and I do my best to go by this everyday as I walk in a good way with the children: Believe in yourself and your feelings. Trust yourself to do what your heart is guiding you to do. Your intuition is powerful. Trust it.

Han, LaRayne imaciyapi. Hello, my name is LaRayne.

LaRayne is St. Joseph's Native American Studies teacher.

LaRayne, St. Joseph’s Native American Studies teacher

I am honored to teach Native American Studies classes at St. Joseph’s Indian School.  We recently had a Sunday Mass that incorporated Lakota elements, and it felt great!  It’s that indescribable feeling when you are centered in the soul and have “wolakota.”

 

It was the Feast of Christ the King, the end of the liturgical year in the Catholic Church. It didn’t feel like and end, but a new beginning. The service began with the beat of the drum by our student drum group, the Chalk Hill Singers. Members of our powwow royalty and fellow housemates, dressed in full regalia, danced up the aisle honoring the path of the Staff carried by our Eagle Staff Bearer, Joe. My feet couldn’t help but to tap the earth when the sticks made music with sound of our rawhide drum and the voices of our boys. The shawls flowed, the bells and cones rung and it felt like smiles were swelling in the hearts of all present.

 

The Chalk Hills Singers, St. Joseph’s drum group, were part of the Lakota Mass.

St. Joseph’s drum group, the Chalk Hills Singers, took part in the Lakota Mass.

A basket of prayers wrapped in red cloth, made by our students and staff, was carried and placed at the altar as an offering to honor those who have passed into the spirit world and those for whom we pray.

 

The opening prayer, the readings and the homily taught us about “Mitakuye Oyasin,” the belief that we are all related. In the reading, Mathew 25: Jesus said “Whatever you did for one of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” This parallels our Lakota ceremony of the Hunka, or making of a relative.  Once this sacred ceremony is done, you will have a bond to share all that you have. By treating all people just as you would Jesus or the Great Spirit, one will “do well because it is right.”

 

The best value a member of our tribes can possess is that of generosity. Sunday during Mass, the choir shared their musical talents by singing “Amazing Grace” in both Lakota and English. With the sounds of the students speaking the tongue of their ancestors from many years past, the congregation recited the Lord’s Prayer in Lakota. I could feel the confidence in the voices of the students praying loud and proud. Lots of compliments were shared and accepted after Mass from our staff and members of our community who came to join in our prayer.

 

After the Eucharistic Prayer, Father Anthony asked the Great Spirit to bless us with a great week and Thanksgiving holiday as the students traveled home to see family and friends. But, before the end, we sang birthday wishes to those celebrating this week in the Lakota version of “Happy Birthday.”

 

The service ended just as it began: The dancers (and those who couldn’t keep their feet from dancing to the beat of the drum) exited the sanctuary knowing that Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel bridges cultures spiritually in the lives of the families we serve at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 946 other followers