A Year in Review at the Mission

Updated: Sep 11, 2019

You may notice the morning star design at the top of the newsletter. For the Lakota, the Morning Star-- the traditional design for quilts--is the symbol of wisdom and hope. And every year, at the Easter Vigil, Christians sing of “the one Morning Star who never sets, Christ, who coming back from death's domain, has shed his peaceful light on humanity.” 

As the star quilt is used to wrap newborns and to honor people and, finally, to wrap the coffins of the deceased, so St. Francis Mission strives to wrap the Lakota community at every moment of their lives with the wisdom of our elders and the hope of Christ present in his Body, the Church. 

Religious Education

In 2018, our Religious Education teachers worked with 4 public schools on the reservation. We had over 250 grade school children in our classes. Jen Black Bear, Religious Education Program Director, incorporates both Catholic and Lakota teachings into these classes to strengthen the children’s connection to faith and spirituality. Our sacramental prep programs worked with several people for Confirmation, and dozens of families for Baptism and First Holy Communion. We are inspired by these families’ commitment to their Catholic faith. 

Body, Mind, Soul

Our summer program--Body, Mind, Soul--was a great success again this year. Over 150 children participated in weekly programs in five different locations across the reservation. Service teams came from three high schools: Cristo Rey in Minneapolis, Cheverus in Portland, ME, and Tampa Jesuit in Florida. 

One Tampa student wrote about his experience: “This trip really humbled me and put things into perspective, because these kids go through so much but still have a great attitude. This experience will stay with me forever. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the Lakota community.” 

Youth Group

After numerous successful fundraising events in the area, the St. Francis Youth Group traveled in July to Tacoma, WA for the annual Tekakwitha Conference. While there, they also met with parishioners of our sister parish, Sacred Heart, in Bellevue, WA. The Youth Group is working hard to raise money to go to the 2019 Tekakwitha Conference which will be in Sharonville, Ohio. Because many youth on the Rosebud struggle with depression and hopelessness, on November 8 the Youth Group organized and led a Suicide Prevention Glow Walk. 

White River Recovery

This year we served 2,265 people in our recovery and sobriety programs at the White River Recovery Center. An average of 189 people a month participated in 12-step meetings--Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Al- Anon, 12-hour Family Recovery Program, as well as Traditional ceremonies and Christian services, and in programs at treatment centers or retreat houses. We help connect people to social services at the tribal, state, and federal level. 

Jim Stands, the Director of the Center believes that, “The road to recovery is one of faith and spirituality, walking on the Red Road.” 

This year two recovery retreats were held at the Sioux Spiritual Center, in Howes, SD. In June, 17 people came together for a weekend of food, fun, and spiritual fellowship and in September, 15 people went on retreat together. 

Dental Clinic

SFMD hosted 12 week-long clinics with volunteers from 5 Dental Schools, including Creighton U., Indiana U., U. of South Dakota, U. of Nebraska, and U. of Missouri-Kansas City. Additionally 36-licensed dentists (15 from out of state), 21 dental assistants (5 from out of state) and 8 registered dental hygienists (3 from out of state) were hosted. TOTAL VALUE OF INKIND VOLUNTEER SERVICES $593,600! In 2018, our volunteer clinics provided $370,607 in treatment production and 1440 patient treatment visits. Because dental health is extremely important to people’s physical health as well as their self-esteem and sense of confidence, our clinic is an essential part of our efforts to promote wellness in the underserved Rosebud community. 


Sapa Un took great strides this year to provide a quality education built on the foundation of Catholic and Lakota values. Enrollment K-8 increased from 35 to 50 as families showed a growing commitment to our educational model. We are grateful for the supporters who made it possible for us to renovate part of the administration building and bring SUCA classrooms under one roof, helping us develop a greater sense of community. 

Icimani Ya Waste Recovery Program

The director of our recovery programs is Geraldine Provencial, a Lakota woman who has worked at the St. Francis Mission for many years and who recently graduated from South Dakota State University with a Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Her office and programs are housed on St. Francis Mission grounds while Jim Stands works 40 miles away in White River. Both attended the Betty Ford Institute and continue to receive training and support from it. Programs that focus on family dynamics, well-being, and support are held monthly. 200 inmates at the Adult Correctional Facility attend our recovery support program each month. In 2018, we began to provide court-ordered “Driving under the Influence” (DUI) classes every month and were able to reach 35 people through them. Every month we host a 12-Hour Family Program in communities across the reservation with each session helping as many as 12 people. We began creating radio shows to promote recovery and wellness across the Rosebud and beyond. 

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