St. Augustine Indian Mission
Sister Frances Betz, OSB on 10/05/2016
Praised be the Lord for sustaining us through many challenges this summer. Without Sister Hilda, we tried to “stand up and deliver” as best we could. Our Omaha language and culture teacher and the mission secretary took charge of the summer work groups. The two largest ones consisted of about 90 persons, all housed in the school building for a week at a time.
One huge task this year was beautifying the cemetery in Macy, restoring especially the veterans’ section, by cleaning and raising tombstones and pouring cement bases for many sunken markers. Then there was the Bible School held in Walthill with a crew of 110 people from St. Robert’s Church in Omaha. We sisters had ample opportunities to mingle with these college and high school students and share in their meals.
On July 3 the parish welcomed our new Mission Director, Father Mark Beran, with a pot-luck after the Sunday Mass. (The sisters usually set up and clean up for these regular monthly events at St. Augustine’s and Our Lady of Fatima churches.) Father’s first great challenge at his new assignment was the death of his mother. Other challenges followed: hiring six new staff members and going out to parishes on many weekends for preaching to keep the mission with its 25+ staff members solvent.
Sr. Deana took home visit to Ohio to celebrate a special birthday with her twin brother. July 20-24 Sr. Deana and Sr. Jane attended the annual Tekakwitha Conference in Burlingame, California. The following week was POW WOW. We had overnight guests: two Sisters, SMIC overnight guests, Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception from New Jersey who were touring the country, and our own Sister Ellen Marie. Sr. Deana’s relatives also made a few days’ stopover at the Mission on their way to Norfolk for the big jubilee celebration, August 14.
Two notable personnel changes took place: Sr. Deana was appointed August 16 as sister in charge for one year, and Sr. Madeleine is now the fourth member of our community. She received a full-time teaching position in the religion department of Heelan High School in Sioux City. Her “full” day starts daily at 7:30 a.m. in the classroom.
The new school year at St. Augustine School opened on August 17 with Mass, solemn flag raising, and cedar blessing by a tribal elder. Our K-8 enrollment is 105, considerably more boys than girls. The children started school with gusto and are good sports with learning and practicing a new discipline approach: DWP, Discipline with a purpose.
Our Indian corn field held us in suspense. We were usually well into “doing corn” or even finished by the time school started in the middle of the month. Picking finally began 8/20 with a trip to the emergency room in Pender. A volunteer helper needed stitches for a cut from a corn blade. A few weeks earlier a very heavy rainstorm had wreaked havoc in the cornfield where many stalks had grown 12 ft. high this year and now looked more like rubble after an earthquake. Picking was hazardous. The yield this year was only 130 quarts of this Indian corn specialty, compared to 335 last year.
A day with very heavy cloud cover suddenly became radiant when Peter and Theresa Vu and their daughter Tiffany entered the business office, asking if anyone might be still here who would remember the Vietnamese family of eleven whom Msgr. Hulsman had sponsored and given refuge at the Mission in 1975. Connection was quickly made. Sr. Frances was the one.
Old Trumpet Calls yielded an extensive write-up and lovely pictures of the family with three children, one grandfather, three grandmothers (two of them blind) and two aunts. It tells how Sister Dorothy and her kitchen staff had prepared a delicious meal for them and the guests who accompanied them, being very mindful that rice is the basic staple at every meal. (Copies of that TRUMPET CALL, vol.31, #4, December 1975 can be requested.)