Mission to Rosebud
Local Catholic youths return from South Dakota reservation
BY KAREN MAHONEY
KENOSHA NEWS CORRESPONDENT
Twenty-five youth and three adult leaders from six Catholic churches in Kenosha recently returned from a weeklong trip to Mission, S.D.
The group spent the week of June 16-23 on the Rosebud Reservation, home of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate Band of the Teton Sioux, on a trip coordinated by the YouthWorks! organization.
Located in the second poorest area of the United States, this community struggles with massive unemployment — about 80 percent. The poverty this creates, as well as other stresses of reservation life, makes family life difficult for many. Gangs, drug and alcohol activity coupled with the highest teenage suicide rate in the country is a difficult environment for Rosebud youth to thrive.
The group spent time painting murals in St. Francis Hall, a room frequently used to hold teen funerals, said Corinne Dillon, adult leader and religious education director at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St. Therese, St. Elizabeth and Our Lady of the Holy Rosary parishes. This was Dillon’s 18th YouthWorks! mission trip and fourth trip to Rosebud.
“Painting the murals was one way to add pride back to the community, as the residents are so very sad,” she said. “We also had a work crew go to the women’s center to plant a garden, and the teens worked to plan and host a Kids Club, which is similar to a Vacation Bible School for kids from ages 4 through 11.”
For St. Mary parishioner Camron Johnson, 16, the trip was his first mission experience and one that left him with the desire to do more for others.
“It was nice to step back, slow down and think about others and help them,” he said. “My favorite part happened when we were painting the murals. There was a kid named Shane, who was one of the Lakota Indians; he gave us directions on what pictures to paint where, and the meanings behind all of the colors and pictures. We learned why certain things had sentimental meaning to them, and that everything has a purpose to them. It was interesting to see how laid back it is there, to learn about their beliefs and see how differently they live.”
While Elizabeth Ann Dillon (no relation to Corinne), Youth Ministry director at St. Mary parish, had gone on mission trips when in high school, this was her first as a Youth Ministry leader in Kenosha. Despite the disturbing teen suicide statistics, she was impressed by the way the young missionaries rallied together to help.
“It was really spectacular watching the teens stretch themselves and grow as they learned to get along with each other, bond and address the issues in the Rosebud Community,” she said. “The high suicide rate was disheartening for the students, but the more they learned about the issues that teens face on the reservation, they were certainly empathizing to their situation. The students seemed to come back with a greater appreciation of their own life and the struggles in our own community.”
What surprised 17-year-old Grace Reyes, a member of St. Elizabeth parish, the most was the openness and welcoming feeling of the Rosebud community.
“They were so nice and so grateful for us coming there to help,” said Reyes. “I really enjoyed helping with the painting, crafts and activities, but I especially enjoyed helping the youth get ready for their annual four-day tribal celebration where they travel on horseback to retrace their ancestors.”
The mission experience sparked an interest in the youth to find new methods to give back to the Kenosha community, as well as foster a greater appreciation of their Catholic faith.
“We really brainstormed about ways we can help others here in the Kenosha area,” Reyes said. “It made me think more about people other than me, my family and my friends. I was able to get closer to my faith, too.
“I wasn’t good at openly expressing my faith before, but the group worship activities helped me to connect with other Catholics and I feel a greater connectedness than before.”