After a mild December, winter hit us with a vengeance and is refusing to let go. That's made me more aware than ever of the important behind-the-scenes work of John Swift, the manager of our maintenance efforts, and his crew.
In the summer they keep the grounds mowed and in the winter they plow, shovel, and spread salt to make sure the walks are safe for our students, staff, and parishioners. Even when it's snowing they are in the cemetery digging graves for those in the community who have passed on. They fix and clean our aging buildings - the administration building which now houses Sapa Un Catholic Academy, Icimani Ya Waste Recovery Center, St. Charles church, Buechel Memorial Lakota Museum, the Dental Clinic, various houses for volunteers, as well as other churches and buildings around the reservation.
Depending on finances, John is assisted by a crew of three or four. I'm inspired by John's dedication. He's here day or night when an alarm goes off or when it snows. John's work is more than a job. It's a service in which he takes pride. John grew up in the St. Francis community. He has worked at St. Francis Mission for many years and helps provide leadership and a sense of stability. When I asked him about what he most enjoys, he said "hearing outsiders say that the Mission grounds are the cleanest place on the reservation."
He also enjoys the "interesting people who come through here." From the Jesuits (whom I must admit can be characters) to the tourists, John finds the people he meets "friendly." John smiled as he told me about two "cowboys" who visited last fall. One wanted to see the church in which he was married 45 years ago and he was accompanied by "a Brazilian bull-rider" who was aspiring to be "the next PBR [Professional Bull Riders] world champ."
John is a good steward of our limited resources. Even without the propane and electricity it takes to run St. Francis Mission, our maintenance costs are over $280,00 a year. If you can help us out with those expenses, I'd really appreciate it.