The Lakota children play on T-ball teams in the spring.

I got it, I got it!

Hello all you blog readers!

This is Nancy the Nurse reporting in from St. Joseph’s Health Center. Ahhh yes, spring is here! Bring on the sunburns and mosquito bites.  Ok, I may be jumping ahead a bit… The mosquitoes are still wearing their winter coats, but the sun is blessing us with longer hours and warmer weather (after the big spring storm, anyway). The Lakota children at St. Joseph’s Indian School are now riding their bikes, participating in track and dodging facial blows from the tether ball, baseball, basketball, T-ball, whiffle ball, football, and golf ball.  Life is good!

The flu season had a short run and not too furious.  Around 30 of our Native American children ended up with the flu this winter.  High School sports took a toll on knees and fingers. It seemed there were more of these injuries than usual.  Most of the Lakota students have healed nicely, but there are a few still in physical therapy.

Bones aren’t the only thing breaking around here.  We’ve had too many broken pair of eye glasses to count!  They just don’t make ’em like they used to.  Oh wait, I guess those goofy- looking, thick plastic frames are coming back in style…  We’ll have to encourage more children to choose that kind. J  The eye doctor’s receptionist keeps a kind, but frozen smile on her face every time we bring in a pair for repair.

Safety is a top priority at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

The Lakota students always wear helmets and other safety equipment when playing.

So what else is going on at the Health Center?  We are seeing students with strep throat, colds and an occasional stomach virus.  We had a student who needed an appendectomy this fall and another one this spring. I hope we are done with that!

We are also finishing up the children’s dental work at Dr. Daily’s office in Chamberlain.  That makes the children VERY happy.  So, that’s a little summary of the last several months.

So what can we expect the next couple months before school is out? Although safety is a big priority around here, there will likely be another broken something or other, a scraped knee or elbow and a set of stitches across someone’s skin.  Did I say life is good? IT IS!

Enjoy your spring everyone!  And remember to duck if you see a ball coming your way.

Nancy the Nurse

The Lakota (Sioux) children at St. Joseph’s participate in the Rites of Initiation with the support of their families.

The Lakota students who will be baptized or receive communion make stoles to wear on their special day.

As our students prepare for to receive the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation, our Rite of Christian Initiation included a retreat for the 11 Lakota (Sioux) families participating.

We began with lunch and introductions, then broke into six workshop stations. Each lasted a half hour, and the families rotated to different activities. Delores and Karen helped the students make the stoles they will use on their special day. Mary Jane and Claire helped with a bread making activity. Steve gave them some treats and prizes to help them learn and remember the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (i.e. “smarties” candy to represent the gift of understanding). Joe taught them a song for church. Mary showed them a movie about a family sharing bread and much love.

Father Anthony and I led the workshop in Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel. Ours was entitled “Holy Things” but we informally named it, “What’s it for, What’s it called???”

The Native American children and their families could wander around the church and ask questions about anything that caught their fancy. Fr. Anthony had a set of vestments sitting out, and kids were tickled when he stood each of them on a stool and dressed them like a priest, explaining each of the vestments and symbolic colors.

I had all the things you use for mass on the altar, and those students who were curious could even taste one of the unconsecrated hosts, to take some of the mystery and worry out of first communion. (Two told me they tasted like chips, but with just whole wheat and water they really are quite plain).

Questions ranged from statues and stained glass to cabinets and storage room. Two groups wanted to get the view from the choir loft, and we let them hear what the pipe organ sounds like up close. The students got excited about the interaction. As always, our main goal is to help them know and love God more dearly.

At the end of the retreat, we had our weekend mass for the whole school Saturday evening. The candidates and catechumens wrote their names in the Book of Enrollment. We will celebrate the sacraments of initiation the Sunday after Easter.

If that wasn’t enough for a Saturday, the 6th-8th grade basketball players, both boys and girls, were given the chance to travel to Mitchell, South Dakota for a college basketball game at Dakota Wesleyan University. The two highlights were Thomas making a 3-point shot during half time to win a bottle of pop, and our kids seeing the live action cam broadcast their faces on the jumbo-tron scoreboard.

We’ve just returned from our Sarasota donor luncheon trip. After walking along the beach barefooted and enjoying supper at a an outdoor sidewalk café, coming home to -5 degrees and scraping snow and ice off the windshield was quite a shock to the system!

Why couldn’t I get any sympathy from the staff who were here all along facing the frigid wintry blast?

To make matters worse, a semi truck slid into an electrical pole and knocked out power for an hour Sunday night. At St. Joseph’s, we have a fuel-powered backup generator, and were able to keep key areas of campus warm until the power company got things squared away. In the winter, I say regular prayers for those who work in the cold to keep us safe and warm.

There was a big crowd in the gym last night for fourth, fifth and sixth grade boys basketball games against Chamberlain. When we have three games like that, the other Lakota children come and go for supper, homework and other activities, but everyone stops by for a few quarters to cheer the teams on.

It was also the debut of St. Joseph’s cheerleading squad. They added spirited encouragement and got the stands more involved. Their new pom poms added to their look, and they wildly waved them at exciting moments throughout the night.

All the games were very close, with Chamberlain winning the first two and our St. Joseph’s students prevailing in the nightcap. In a few years, many of these boys will be competing alongside each other instead of against one another, and we work hard to build good sportsmanship.

While I missed the weekend performances of the high school’s one act play, I did get home in time to enjoy their last dress rehearsal before they took it to Pierre for the regional competition. There they received a first place rating, and will continue on to the state competition.

Congratulations!

I’m glad and proud when our Native American students have opportunities to participate in arts activities.

After being gone from campus for a few days, I made the rounds to different departments and checked on how things are going around campus. The warehouse was stacked with bales of cardboard and shredded paper ready to be trucked off for recycling. While we actually earn a few dollars over the course of the year for doing so, the big benefit is that it doesn’t just go to the landfill as garbage, but can be reused and we help do our part for the environment. That was one of the goals of our last strategic plan.

For our current plan, we’re holding more listening meetings with staff again this week. It’s been time consuming; over two weeks I’ve met with 15 different small groups for an hour each. But we’ve heard good ideas and answered questions as we try to move forward with improving student achievement and success, and a host of other goals.

Over and over again, I appreciated how committed and passionate our staff is about trying to improve in every area on campus.

We had a farewell for Amy K, who is leaving her job in the mail processing room to go back to school. It’s always sad when part of our community moves on, but I’m happy when people take the chance to improve their education and set themselves up for better opportunities. We wish her all the best!

Hau kola – hello friends!

My name is Marina and I have worked at St. Joseph’s Indian School since 1971.  As you can imagine I have seen many changes and they definitely have all been GOOD!

I work in our business office where I manage our mail schedule and send out all the special packages you receive, keeping you informed of what the Lakota boys and girls are doing.  Over the years our mail program has changed in many ways. We are always looking for new ways to share information with you on what the students are doing, how they are progressing in school and the importance for each child to be proud of and learn about their Native American culture.

For those who are just learning about our work with Native American children I invite you to visit our website, www.stjo.org. It is filled with information that will give you an inside glimpse of what we are all about.

Although, I don’t work directly with the students I am proud to be a part of their tiyospaye extended family.  To see the happy faces of the children as they play outdoors, participate in our annual powwow and just enjoy the safety they feel in their homes and classrooms is simply amazing.

Thank you for the special part YOU play in making their dreams come true as you share your blessings with each Lakota child!

I hope the photos and mailings I send your way bring you a sense of joy and pride for all you do for the Native youngsters on the prairies of South Dakota.

May our paths cross as we put our efforts together to provide a hope-filled future for the Lakota boys and girls.

Yesterday I was making my rounds on St. Joseph’s Indian School’s campus and ran into the Summerlee Home girls (4th -5th grade) heading out for a walk. They are in temporary quarters while their home is being remodeled. On a Saturday, the maintenance crew was off and no work was being done inside, so I invited the girls and houseparents in to check on the progress.  Much of the construction is done and walls are being painted. Damara is a fifth grader and remembers how the home looked last year. She showed the other girls where her bedroom was and could see big changes in the floor plan and space usage. We hope to have them in the home before the school year is out, and get started on the next home.

The girls filled me in on plans for one room that even I didn’t know about. In one of the family rooms they hope to have a mini “beauty parlor.” The last few years the Summerlee girls have been cutting and counting donated soup labels and box tops so they can redeem them for a vanity with nice mirrors. If they get enough they even want to get a beauty shop chair and sink that they can lean back in and get their hair washed. Probably very different from what 10-year-old boys want in their house, but a fun and exciting possibility.

The girls had so much fun jumping and climbing around!

After the home tour they invited me to walk downtown with them. They were headed for the McDonald’s a mile south of campus. Each of the girls got to choose three items off the dollar menu and enjoyed lunch on the town. Afterwards they made a beeline for the play area. Fourth and fifth graders are still at an age where they have the freedom to enjoy slides and climbing ropes. It did my heart good to hear them laughing and giggling.

Our final stop on the way home was the Dollar Store. The girls used some of their allowance money to get such luxuries as nail polish, ribbons and barrettes. After the brisk walk they planned to spend the rest of a lazy Saturday afternoon painting their nails and watching a movie.

Today at mass, it was Fr. Anthony’s turn to preside and preach. He normally does a fine job, and today he was especially animated. He preached about the gospel quality of being childlike and contrasted that with the selfishness of being childish. To demonstrate his point he acted out a temper tantrum, feet a stomping, and had everyone’s attention.

As our children’s choir continues to practice and learn new service music for liturgy, it has added more life and spirit to our prayer times. I appreciate good music so much in creating an atmosphere of celebration and hospitality. I am noticing better sound and participation coming from the rest of the pews.

Keep up the good work, and make a joyful noise unto the Lord!

Hello!  My name is Geri and I joined St. Joseph’s Indian School on August 20.  I’m delighted to be a ‘guest blogger’ and hope to share with you my ‘new to St. Joseph’s’ impressions!

What a warm, welcoming atmosphere!  I’ve had a variety of past work experiences, but none can compare to how welcome and comfortable I’ve been made to feel in the month since I’ve started.  I live in Mitchell and carpool with other St. Joseph’s employees Monday-Thursday and telecommute on Fridays.

Friends and family have asked me how the hour-long commute is going and I’ve honestly responded,

“It goes by remarkably fast, as we’re usually deep in conversation and surprised to see our exit sign.”

I’m amazed by how many people have worked at St. Joseph’s for 20, 25 or 30 years and very outwardly admit,

“I love working here – it’s a great place to work.”

I’ve had an opportunity to meet some of our Native American children and travel to the two reservations that 40% of our students come from, Lower Brule and Crow Creek.   The children are beautiful – and from the two times I’ve dined with them, amazingly polite and well-behaved.

The houseparents I met over dinner recently, Aleece and Leonard, are wonderfully kind and patient and have been at St. Joseph’s since 1988.  Their 1st-3rd grade boys were a joy to be around –proudly showing their regalia for the powwow and honestly remarking on my height (I’m north of 5’10”).

You may be wondering what my job at St. Joseph’s entails – let me tell you about that.  My title is Director of Major Gift Services and currently I’m working to gain an understanding of all that is happening in our development program while working towards the development of a major gifts program.

I have so much to learn, but it’s exciting!  I am looking forward to getting to know our supporters better and finding out what specifically they are passionate about and why they support St. Joseph’s, while at the same time learning all that I can about St. Joseph’s.

Feel free to share your thoughts with me!  My e-mail address is geri.beck@stjo.org.

For today’s National Day of Prayer, the Chamberlain ministerial association sponsored a community prayer gathering at one of the downtown churches. Representatives from local government, the public school system, the hospital, farmers and ranchers, and the Native American community spoke about issues close to their hearts. I talked about the concerns we at St. Joseph’s pray for, and asked the community to lift those issues up in their prayer as well.

I am thankful that because we are a faith-based organization, not only can we pray, but we do regularly pray – in the homes, in the classrooms and dining hall, and of course in Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel.

What I hear our Native American children praying most for is their family. Most of our students’ families face some big issues, and our students are all too well aware. About one-third of our students don’t live with either of their parents, so we pray for a strengthening of families in our world.

We also pray that, in the face of high drop out rates, our young people will stay in school and fulfill their potential. We pray they will avoid the scourges of drugs and alcohol that are so problematic in our country, but particularly in the communities our students come from.

From another perspective, we get many prayer requests from our donors when they send us a note along with their donation. The economy is such a huge issue right now. People are praying for better employment opportunities for themselves or a family member. We frequently hear from people when they are facing major health struggles or are grieving the death of a loved one. We try to include all those intentions in our prayers. I was heartened to be in such an ecumenical gathering where we could pray for each others’ needs and the needs of our bigger world.