Something a parent recently said at a Parent Advisory Council meeting caught my attention. He expressed concern for students who, upon returning home, have little

Clare, St. Joseph's Director of Pastoral Care

Clare, St. Joseph’s Director of Pastoral Care

structure or things to do. He wanted to know how we might support students when they return home from St. Joseph’s.

Because of his request, we are piloting a project called “Summer Genius.” Students in grades 1-6 have headed home with a backpack full of supplies to keep them sharp, active and learning this summer. There is a jump rope with an age-level challenge, a “How to Juggle” kit, finger puppets, Lakota word and phrase lists, a nature scavenger hunt, a prayer practice, a book of mazes, a kit for making bracelets, a kite, a journal, a grade-level “Summer Bridge Activities Book” to reinforce all they have learned this past year, and materials to send a note back to St. Joseph’s staff.

Summer Genius packs include a jump rope with an age-level challenge, a “How to Juggle” kit, finger puppets, Lakota word and phrase lists, a nature scavenger hunt, a prayer practice, a book of mazes, a kit for making bracelets, a kite, a journal, a grade-level “Summer Bridge Activities Book” to reinforce all they have learned this past year, and materials to send a note back to St. Joseph’s staff.

Each student received a Summer Genius pack to take home, including activities to keep them growing – mind, body, heart and spirit.

This came about because that parent’s request resonated so much with me. As a mother of three now-grown children, I remember those first days and weeks of the “horse latitudes” of summer. By that I am referring to that belt of calm air and sea where literally nothing is going on… a ship can get quite stuck. Without the structure and activities that mark the school year, children find themselves lost, becalmed and irritable.

They are used to the directives and organization of school, and it takes work to help them be positively self-directed during summer. My children would pick on each other and complain about everything. “I’m bored” was their mantra. In my first years as a parent of grade-school children, I was baffled by this phenomenon. “It’s summer,” I thought. “We all should be happy!”

As I realized what the problem was, I started our summers with as much structure as I could. We read a book at breakfast. They had worksheets to do. They had chores, and organized outings, and bubble wands, and as many activities as I could lay out.

Did this keep up all summer long? No. Just until they became used to the freedom and figured out how to enjoy it!

We wish you an enjoyable summer, as well as to every one of St. Joseph’s Indian School’s “summer geniuses.”

God bless!

Clare, Director of Pastoral Care

Marjorie overheard her two twin second-grade boys talking to friends. “We’re

Clare, St. Joseph's Director of Pastoral Care

Clare, St. Joseph’s Director of Pastoral Care

getting baptized next weekend,” they said with excitement.

“What’s that?” a friend asked.

“I was just amazed at what they said and how they retained what they had been taught,” their mother, Marjorie, relates. “They said you go to church, and water is poured over you. You receive power from Jesus.”

“Like superpowers?” the friend questioned.

“No, not superpowers, but strength and power to do good from Jesus,” answered one of the twins.

On April 12, the Second Sunday of Easter, the twins, Hector and Raymond, received the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist (First Communion). The festivities began with a fried-chicken dinner for 21 families the evening of April 11 in St. Joseph’s Dining Hall.

“It was so wonderful to be together as a family,” says Marjorie, noting that her brother and his wife, who are godparents for the boys, were able to be there. “We don’t get to see each other that often, so it was very special.” Hector and Raymond’s two older brothers also were there. One brother, Nicholas, made each of the boys a special cross necklace for the occasion.

The emphasis on families that Marjorie felt is part of the mission of St. Joseph’s Indian School.

Twenty-one students at St. Joseph’s were baptized with the support of their families.

Marjorie watches with pride as her son is baptized.

When we respond to a family’s request to prepare a student in the faith life of the Catholic Church, from the beginning of preparation we are in contact to make sure we are in step with what the family desires for the faith life of the child. We are in regular contact by phone and mail, and this year the process culminated with a family meal the evening prior to our “Easter celebration.”

“This is good,” one grandmother said about her three grandsons who were baptized that day. “They have learned the traditional ceremonies, and they have this, too, now. Wherever we go to pray, we pray to the one God.”

Twenty-one families joined us on campus for the event this year, some with ten or more members. “It was big,” says Marjorie. “I had no idea it would be that big. It was just beautiful.”

Nineteen other schoolmates of all ages from St. Joseph’s Indian School also received the three sacraments alongside the twins. A fifth-grade girl, baptized in another Christian tradition, made a profession of faith in the Catholic Church, was confirmed and had her First Communion. Nine additional Catholic second-grade students received their First Communion.

Thank you for the opportunities you help provide the Lakota children and families!


Director of Pastoral Care

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.

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

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

Good afternoon! I am Clare, St. Joseph’s Director of Pastoral Care and Native American Studies.

Spirituality is an important part of our mission at St. Joseph’s Indian School: to educate for life – mind, body, heart and spirit.

Last week, you read LaRayne’s blog post about smudging. In addition to traditional Lakota ceremonies, we provide our students with opportunities to learn about the Catholic faith and, if their families choose, to be baptized.

It’s important to note that students are not required to be Catholic to attend St. Joseph’s, though more than half of them are. When students are enrolled at St. Joseph’s, I interview their parents or guardians to make certain that instruction in the Catholic faith is their wish for their children, and I am in regular communication with them throughout the process.

Many families express gratitude that we can provide this faith dimension for their children. At home, they often live more than 30 miles from the nearest Catholic parish (many lack transportation) and are unable to provide this education for their children.

St. Joseph’s students and their families decide if they want to be baptized or receive Communion.

The Lakota children who chose to be baptized received candles lit from the “Christ light” and were instructed to keep the flame of faith burning brightly throughout their lives.

When we work with children to join the Catholic faith, we use a year-long process (at least) that really helps them to discern what faith means in their lives. We are careful that we are not “doing something to” them, but rather they are “choosing to do something.”

Last spring, we celebrated the initiation of 16 students into the Catholic faith, and four other students joined us at the Eucharistic table for the first time. It was a joy-filled experience, and one of our houseparents remarked that it seemed even more so than previous years.

These 20 students, grades 1 through 5, brought such enthusiasm to the day. “Enthusiasm” means to be filled with God. In their bright smiles, eagerness to come to the water and be sealed with the Spirit and desire to share in the Eucharist, God was indeed visible.

I remember one special moment very clearly: I could see down the row of children who had just received the candles lit from the “Christ light.” They had been instructed to keep the flame of faith burning brightly throughout their lives. The flames danced and were mirrored in their eyes… I prayed that it would always be so.

Though their faces were bright from water, oil and candlelight, I am confident that they shone more completely because of the inner light of faith enkindled in them. What a treasured journey it is to travel alongside of them!


The Lakota students and their parent or guardian decide if they want to be baptized or receive Communion.

Last spring, 20 Lakota (Sioux) students chose to be baptized or receive the Eucharist.

It’s that extraordinary time of year when Mother Nature’s emotions run from the peace and beauty of gently falling snow to the terror of a blizzard to the dreary, chilly

St. Joseph’s students all take Religious Education as part of their regular curriculum.

The Lakota children create prayer flags in their Religion class.

in-betweens when melting snow gives way to drab patches of brown and grey.

Last year, we struck upon an idea to help brighten the winter landscape at St. Joseph’s Indian School – prayer flags. The Lakota (Sioux) students created colorful flags bearing messages of hopes and dreams, grief over lost loved ones, wishes for a better world and any other prayer imaginable.

It was a wonderful success, so we decided to do it again this year.

We begin the process with a short video teaching about how prayer flags originated in Tibet. We also discuss different forms of prayer: petition, intercession, adoration, blessing and thanks.

Our Native American students answer questions about their hopes, dreams and the most important things in their lives. Next, they choose a theme for their flag and draft a pattern on paper. The final flag is painted on fabric using special markers that won’t fade in the weather.

Some interesting flags emerged; some are memorials, many are dreams for the future, many more honor family.

When the flags are finished, they are ironed to set the colors and then hemmed to string on clothesline.

The most treacherous part of the project involves getting out the tall ladders and hanging the flags.

Prayer flags originated in Tibet and are now displayed at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

The prayers of our Native American students float on the South Dakota wind.

Religious Studies Associate Joe bravely mounts the ladder to string the flags from tree to tree along the front walk to the school. There they will fly through May carrying the students’ prayers on the wind.

Clare, Director of Pastoral Care

In honor of the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1, the older Lakota children at St. Joseph’s Indian School used their Religion class to take on a building project.


The Lakota tradition teaches that we are all related. In the Catholic tradition, this truth is called the communion of saints. For the Lakota (Sioux) people, this concept extends to all of creation. Our brother St. Francis and the Catholic Celtic tradition of Ireland also affirm the belief that God is present in earth, wind, fire, water and indeed all of creation.


When Jesus went to return to the Father, he unleashed his Holy Spirit in the world in a new and remarkable way. And through that Holy Spirit ̶ present in each and every one of us ̶ we share in a special communion. In the same way, we share in that togetherness with all of the people who have gone before us. We are all related.


Because of this wonderful connection, Catholics turn to the holy ones who lived before us, like St. Joseph, and we ask them to pray for us. We also keep their memories alive and look to them as role models. Our role model, St. Joseph, understood that all people were his relatives, too, and worthy of love and respect.


So, when he could have, by law, had Mary punished for being with child, he chose not to. And when he was encouraged by an angel to take her in, he did not hesitate. Because of his generous heart, he opened his life to her and her unborn son. He became the foster father to Jesus and I imagine that, while he taught him his trade as a carpenter, he also schooled him in seeing all people as related to him and worthy of love and respect. Perhaps that became the foundation of Jesus’ teaching, “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”


Inspired by St. Joseph’s trade as a carpenter and his generosity, we built a shed, which we donated to the Missouri Valley Crisis Center in Chamberlain. The center responds to the needs of our brothers and sisters in the world who find themselves in need of special help, not unlike Mary when she faced uncertainty in her life before Joseph took her in.

Entering into the hopeful spirit of the Advent season.

Entering into the hopeful spirit of the Advent season.

In Religious Studies, as we prepare the students for the coming season of Advent, we have invited them to enter into the hopeful spirit of the season. We talked about the hope that surrounded the first coming of the Christ child in Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago; how we still long for the presence of Christ coming into our everyday lives; and how we wait in joyful hope for the coming of Christ in the fullness of time.

The topic provided a valuable opportunity for our Lakota students to gain perspective on the much-needed hope in their lives. We talked about patience, courage and persistence as essential for enduring hope.

That is when one precious first-grade girl helped to define patience as,

“Being able to wait for your turn to use the basketball without getting unhappy.”

The same wise little one explained that courage is,

“When you are learning to write in Kindergarten, and you aren’t sure you’ll be able to do it, but you keep trying.”

Ah, keep trying! That explained the value of persistence, as well.

This led into viewing the video “Keep Going” by Joseph Marshall III, writer, speaker, actor and technical advisor for films, who was born and raised on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation. His short but valuable message encourages viewers to use the storms and difficulties of life to grow stronger. He advises that even the smallest, weakest step made in hope is stronger than any trial we encounter.

To round out the lesson, our students were invited to write down three things for which they hoped. These hopes were recorded on “leaves,” which my partner and I are assembling into an Advent wreath made up of all of the hopes and dreams of the students at St. Joseph Indian School.

Sure, there is more than one hope about what will be found under the tree on Christmas morning. But reading hope around this precious circle, one finds messages of healing brokenness in families and the world.

For me, the most tender hope was expressed by one little boy who recently lost his mother.

“I hope my mom can hear my prayers in heaven,” he said.

“She can,” I dared to promise him.

The hopes and dreams of the Lakota students at St. Joseph Indian School.

The hopes and dreams of the Lakota students at St. Joseph Indian School.

My name is Clare. I am the new Co-Director of Pastoral Care for St. Joseph Indian School, and this is my first blog. My career has included being a freelance graphic and editorial consultant, pastoral ministry in parish settings, campus ministry in a high school setting, teaching theology to youth and adults, and work as a designer, educator, artist and writer in the healthcare setting. I am delighted to be able to focus these coming years of my career with the students and staff in this very remarkable place.

In just six short weeks, I have already experienced many blessings. I’d like to tell you about an experience with one of our younger students. When he came into the room for the last class of the day, my little third-grade friend had racked up a full day of consequences for misbehavior.  Shortly into the lesson, my teaching partner, Joe, and I gave him one strike in our “three-strikes-and-you’re-out” method of keeping order. (Out means you head to the office.)

Joe and I team-taught during the first two weeks, getting to know our 160 children in grades one through eight. We had a lesson planned where, as we tossed a ball of yarn from child to child to create a spider web, they learned the meaning of their names (I explained to the students that whoever had given them their first name, made that choice for his or her own reasons. I explained that the meaning I was going to provide them had to do with the basic origin of the name/word itself. Some names are from places, others from things in nature and others have to do with qualities). Once we got around the room, we unwound the web and recalled as much as we could. We had done this with other sections, including the other third grade, but our little friend was making it look impossible for this group. In short order he received strike two.

I looked at the eager little faces wanting to know the meaning of their names. Joe and I decided to risk it, modifying the web so that each time the yarn would be tossed back to him in order to maintain a little more control. About three tosses into the game, I realized that Joe was actually becoming entangled and wouldn’t be able to help with the fidgety little two-strike child at my side. That is when I looked down and saw his name means “strong and intelligent.”

“I know what your name means, and if you sit still, pretty soon you will, too,” I said, hoping to buy time.

“It’s a girly name,”

he said, for the first time losing the bravado he’d been hiding behind all day. Beneath his tough-guy facade, I could see the little bullied boy who wanted to be valued, and I felt the spirit of mercy.

“You know what?” I said. “I can tell by the meaning of your name that Joe is going to really need you in few minutes, but that means you are going to have to be last so that you can help him.”

His eyes got big, and he waited through 24 tosses of the yarn until it landed in his lap and I told him his name meant “strong and intelligent” and that Joe was going to need him to walk around the web and help untangle it.

“I know you can do this,” I told him, “because you are strong and intelligent.”

When the bell rang, the lesson was accomplished. More than that, a little mercy was just the right medicine for a child whose spirit needs much more healing.

God of mercy, send Your spirit into our hearts. Awaken in us the wonder of what mercy can do when we extend it to each other. Amen.