Future Priests of the Third Millennium

A little insight into the life of seminarians from various dioceses preparing for ministry as Roman Catholic priests, including daily activities, personal interests, special events, the spiritual life, news from the seminary, and almost whatever comes to our minds!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Rez*- Day 1

My summer assignment has taken me to the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in West Central South Dakota. I arrived on June 1 just in time to receive a quick tour of the rectory/offices, to receive my key to the front door, and to learn that beggars could receive a peanut butter sandwich, but were not allowed into the rectory. The pastor then left for a week of retreat, and I was left, ostensibly, to fend for myself. I began the tedious task of unpacking (only slightly less irksome than packing) and was about half finished when two of the sisters ministering here called and invited me to join them for dinner at the local Dairy Queen.

Dairy Queen is ubiquitous. It is found in nearly every small town in Midwestern America. Eagle Butte, the village in which I am living for the summer, maintains this pattern. With a population of just a few hundred people, Dairy Queen still manages to stay in business. After our chicken strips and fries, the sisters showed me around town. Eagle Butte is a nice looking town in many ways. With recent rains, the area is green and the lilacs are in bloom. Perhaps it is just the hope inherent to spring, but this reservation does not seem to possess the same sense of desperation that I have noticed on other reservations.

As we drove, the sisters pointed out the thirty homes built by Jimmy Carter, et al., some years ago. They showed me where the tribe has begun a new housing project. They showed me the local satellite college with a nursing program and an early childhood education program. They showed me the new nursing home (still under construction) and they dropped me off at the rectory to muse over my own observations:

  1. Eagle Butte, like other reservation towns I have visited, is full of dogs. They are friendly and safe, but have no apparent owner. They just roam the reservation eating what they can, when they can.
  2. There are children everywhere. They appear to be well-fed. I wonder what their home life is like.
  3. The town is filled with trailer homes. I have nothing against trailer homes, but I wonder why there are so many.
  4. Alcoholism is a big problem here. The sisters told me not to answer the door late at night, as it is always an intoxicated person who may or may not be safe.
  5. Security is a problem. The rectory was burglarized three times by the same person in its recent past. The sisters and the priest were emphatic. LOCK EVERYTHING!
  6. On the reservation, tragedy is omnipresent. Two toddlers were recently killed in a house fire. Their older brother (in his teens) had intentionally started the fire.

I am not sure what this summer has in store for me, but I am certain of this - mine will be no ordinary summer placement.

* Rez is a local term used by Indian and Caucasian alike to refer to any of the Reservations in the area.


J. Thorp said...

May God be with you and bless you in your work, Tyler.

Adoro te Devote said...

I have a friend who has been leading Mission trips out to a res in SD (maybe ND?) for about 10 years. I'm betting she could come out there and give you lessons in the culture. It is a very difficult culture to "break in to" but once you're in, you're in. So they'll distrust you and test you.

Also, they're very superstitious, having to do with their Native spirituality. So my friend has had to do things that are against our beliefs (not outright), but making accomodations in order to prevent literal hysterics; such as shooting off firecrackers at night to keep the spirits away.

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