We left Albuquerque at 6:30 am and arrived back to campus in time to be home for the second half of the WSU game , about 7pm. It was a long but uneventful drive. I asked each participant to write a reflection of their experience . Here are their words.
Carmen Stephens- There are too many wonderful moments from the Crownpoint service trip to share in a short space. There will be a lifetime of memories: a lot of laughing, meeting Sr. Maureen, Sr. Michelle, Father Al, Deacon Sherman. The dinners of cultural learning, Chaco Canyon, Barrego Pass Trading Post, Keihlynn’s weaving, Ella’s story and the moving testimony of Rita, Marilyn and Christine about their fight against uranium mining on the Navajo Nation. The week flew by. It was a great time working hard, learning about the Navajo culture, shopping, seeing the sunrise and being blessed. A mountain top experience beyond my imagination.
Cody Larkin- Crownpoint was a rewarding and uplifting journey. from day one we were welcomed into the Sister’s home and it felt like a home away from home. Through trash cleanup and cleaning the church hall sounds like work but with each other it was interesting and fun. Fun was all around too. I don’t think that I have laughed that much before; you never know what is around the corner, petrified prairie dogs or water buffalo ( this is an inside joke), All in all it was a fun and rewarding way to spend my spring break. We got to help the community by helping the Sisters and also have a lot of fun doing it. I would like to thank the Sisters, Father Al, Deacon Sherman and out nursing chaperones. Thank you for a life changing trip.
Kaitlin Warnke- The experience of this trip was eye opening. It truly was in the deepest sense of the word a service trip. We not only had the pleasure of getting to help the people of Crownpoint, but we got to help the Sisters as well. It was by no means easy work and there was a lot to do. Between sweeping, scrubbing and picking up trash though, we were ;laughing a lot and getting to know the other people in the group. By far my favorite points in this trip were learning about the tradition of rug weaving and receiving a Navajo blessing before we left.
Kathleen Barrett- I was looking forward to this trip but did not realize how profoundly it would affect me spiritually, culturally, and personally. It was very humbling to see that some people have difficulty finding 50 cents to spend and that a door prize of laundry soap is like winning the lottery to some. It reinforced to me that our gift of time to assist others is priceless. To Sisters Maureen and Michelle, Father Al, the people of Crownpoint, exceptional NU students, wonderful colleagues: You have touched me and I have grown.
Victor Phan- The 4 mountains are sacred to the Navajo. As Deacon Sherman said, the mountains are very important in the scriptures. Going up to Crownpoint was a spiritual and cultural experience. Seeing the blending/coexistence of cultures in the Catholic Church was very moving. Seeing how the Navajo have looked towards God in the Catholic religion and in their traditions showed that there is a common thought, love and peace between people. I would recommend this trip for students who are looking for a different point of view.
Wesley Williams- This trip highlighted how two cultures can be very different and similar at the same time. It also showed how different cultures can influence one central idea differently. What is viewed as “traditional” in a church in Wichita would be foreign to the Catholic Navajo people who incorporate elements of their culture into the Church. The methods may differ, but the God is the same.
Jane Weilert- Every time we start this trip I hope that things go well and everyone will stay safe and get along. And on this trip, things went well and everyone is home safe and we all got along. Thank you to everyone on the trip for making it memorable,
As always, I am in awe of Sister Maureen Farrar and Sister Michelle Woodruff. They are living the ASC mission and let us into their lives once a year to assist them the best we can. Thank you ( Sisters ASC, Newman University) for the opportunity to take this trip. I also want to thank Sr. JoAnn Mark for the suggestion to write a blog.
See you next year!
The shopping continues
It is hard to believe our time at Crownpoint is over. The week has gone by almost in a blur. Very early this morning some very adventurous people climbed to the top of the mesa near the compound. Sr. Michelle, Eve ( the dog) Carmen, Cody, Victor and Kaitlin trekked to the top to watch the sunrise. Upon their return they all stated it was worth the early morning hike ( they left at 6:45am). This so like the traditional Navajo who greet the dawn each morning with prayer to thank the gods for another day and a promise to live well that day.
Fr. Al came by to give us a blessing. He related one of the creation stories of the Navajo. This one was about the Twin Heroes who slayed the monster that lived in Mt. Taylor ( one of the 4 sacred mountains). Their father, the Sun, gave them all the tools and knowledge they needed to get the job done. Fr. Al stated that we all have monsters ( our struggles, difficulties) and that God the Father gave us all the tools we need to slay them. Obviously I do not do justice to his allegory but it was well done. After blessing us individually with holy water, he told us how much he appreciated all the work we did for the parish this week.
We hit the road and our first stop was the Chaco canyon Trading Post ( like the last one a Quicktrip with a large Native American arts and crafts store. This one is off of I 40 so much busier and more up to date then the trading post in Barrego Pass. The big surprise was the artist of Cody’s kachina he bought at Barrego Pass has some smaller ones for sale in this store. Cody bought 2 more,.
We made it to Albuquerque and spent a lovely afternoon exploring the shops , helping the New Mexico economy and enjoying the warm day .The trees and flowers are blooming in NM. That evening we gathered at Little Anita’s Mexican Restaurant for a final dinner together. The biggest question of the night ( and one you hear all over New Mexico) is red or green? This refers to the chili sauce you want with your entrée. The prevailing advice ( from the Sisters) is get both on the side!! A few of the group tried the red and the rest of us used the green! A good time was had by all.
Next time : Reflections
Why go shopping in Paris or Milan……
Wednesday is Customer Appreciation Day at the St. Paul’s Clothes Shop. The clothes shop has been around since the Sisters have been in Crownpoint. Donated clothes, furniture and various other items are donated ( mostly from the Hays, KS area) 2 times a year. The shop is managed by Ella and she was very pleased to have the student help. Cody and Kaitlin decorated 84 cupcakes to give away. Wesley and Victor helped Ella and Sr. Maureen set up gifts and prepare the shop. The faculty sponsors went back to the Parish Hall to finish up the details. At noon the doors to the shop opened and the crowd rushed in for the bag sale ( $2 for the medium sized bag and $3 for the charge bag, all you can stuff). Carmen and Kaitlin offered blood pressure checks. Everyone had a station and began enjoying the experience. During the slow times everyone found something to bring back to Kansas. Wesley was the big winner with 3 suits and a sports jacket. Cody found a bunch of Newman University t-shirts ( sent by Rosemary from various Neman events ). Victor we found out has a surprising knack for fashion. By the end of the day all the cupcakes were gone and 39 blood pressures were taken. There was much laughter as everyone found certain items and just had to model them for the group. Just so you know, this was done after the shop had closed. Ella could not say enough about how much the students helped with the day. I was also very pleased with the day.
Deacon Sherman and Alice joined us for dinner again ( I must correct an earlier entry, Deacon Sherman is 75 not 85). The bowling tournament on Sunday did not go so well. And lo and behold Wesley had been a member of the Newman bowling team and is an avid bowler. So he and Deacon Sherman had about a 30 minute conversation abut the finer points of the sport.
After dinner we went to the church for a Navajo Blessing from the Deacon. Before he began he talked about living in a Hogan, the traditional 5 sided rounded building used by the Navajo. The church is shaped like a Hogan. In a Hogan the entrance always faces east and the entrance to the church faces east. He talked about living in a Hogan and sleeping on sheepskin and said it was the best sleep you could have. The Navajo Blessing involves incense and an eagle feather. We started with a prayer and then we were each blessed with the incense and the eagle feather. He spoke to each of us and told us what he wished for us. It was a moving ceremony and everyone felt it. It was a perfect ending to very busy day.
Next time: The shopping continues.
Cleaning the hall part 2
After breakfast on Tuesday the work began again. Fr. Al came in. Let me stop here and introduce another character in this story. Fr. Al Ebach is a Precious Blood priest who has been pastor at St. Paul’s for the last 9 months. l. He being her has enabled Sr. Maureen to retire ( well semi retire) from the administrative part of running the parish. Sr. Maureen says that he is fitting right in and embracing the people and the role of the parish in the community. He was a major figure in the clean up last Saturday. Fr. AL joined us for dinner most nights and has great stories to tell. Sr. Maureen believes he may have Navajo blood in him.
Now back to the story of the day. Fr. Al stole the gentlemen and they spent the morning painting the outside of the church. The ladies went back to the parish hall. The Latrine Queens (Kathleen and Carmen) set to the restrooms. Every once in awhile they would they would come up for air and complain, I mean comment on the toileting habits of some people (especially from Carmen in the men’s restroom). Kathleen , in the women’s restroom was heard to say often, “God, give me a happy heart”. But as with all things, the work got done and the restrooms would pass any ones inspection.
We had lunch today at the Tailgate Café. Basically several food vendors open up on a vacant lot in the middle of town. It is one of the only restaurants in town (Rosemary, a restaurant opened up the Basha’s shopping center). Friends of the Sisters operate one of the stands ( actually a converted horse trailer). The food is traditional with mutton on fry bread being very popular. So we had a lunch of mutton sandwiches ( grilled mutton and frybread with a green chile), Navajo hamburgers ( a hamburger on fry bread), Navajo tacos ( fry bread covered with pinto beans, lettuce and tomatoes) , and Sr. Maureen had the mutton stew. I was very proud of the group for trying new things. And it has been that way all thru the trip. Everyone was up for the experiences that were being offered.
After lunch Sr. Maureen took us to the trading post at Barrego Pass, an isolated village about 20 miles from Crownpoint, We drove thru beautiful canyon land. Trading posts were ( an sometimes even now) the economic life blood of the Navajo Nation. In the past this is where people would sell their sheep, wool, rugs and then get credit to buy staples like flour and sugar from the trader. It was also where people shared news, paid bills, had important papers (unusually from the government) translated and pawned items when money was needed, This trading post has been in existence about 100 years and is now part gas station, part Quicktrip, part video store and part consignment shop for Navajo arts and crafts.
When all was said and done everyone bought something and the trader said we had made her month! Cody was the big winner buying a wood carved kachina of an eagle dancer about 14 inches high. Kachinas are a ceremonial figure mostly seen in the pueblo ceremonies and are highly collectable. Sr. Maureen had never seen a wooden carved kachina in all her time here.
At dinner we had guests . Ella and her son Rudy ( both long time friends of the Sisters and parishioners of St. Paul’s) Rudy was in grammar school when I started coming to Crownpoint. He has since graduated from New Mexico State in Las Cruces a with a degree in business with an IT concentration. He is now the IT director of the Community School in Crownpoint which is a part of the Bureau Of Indian Education which is part of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. As is the Navajo way, after dinner we had a 2 hour or more rambling conversation/discussion of the trails and tribulations of trips to receive care from the Indian Health Service and trying to make sense of the bureaucracy of the BIA and the IHS. In both cases funding (federal and tribal) has been cut and the consequences of those cuts are being felt by the people. The conversation eventually lead to tribal politics, It is said that the Navajo learned politics ( in every sense of the word) from the white man and has improved on it!!!!!!!!! Washington D.C has nothing on Window Rock, AZ. Needless to say it was an enlightening evening for everyone.
After dinner the bakers ( Cody and Kaitlin) began making cupcakes for the big event tomorrow at the clothes store. We have such talented students at Newman.
Next Time: Why shop in Paris or Milan when you can shop in Crownpoint.
Cleaning the Hall Part 1
Before I write about our day, let me introduce the group. The other faculty along for the trip are 2 nursing faculty, Kathleen Barrett and Carmen Stephens . The students are Kaitlin Wernke (nursing), Victor Phan (biology), Cody Larkin (biology) and Wesley Williams ( theater/pre law), everyone is enjoying each others company and laughter is a common sound around the house.
Let me preface this blog by writing that one of the purposes of this service trip is to assist the ASC Sisters in their work in Crownpoint anyway we can.
Monday morning at breakfast Sr. Maureen gave us a type written page, single spaced, of chores to do in the parish hall. The parish built a hall that is open to the community. It is available for rental for graduation parties, retirement parties , funeral dinners etc. Also visiting groups use it as a dormitory It has not been deep cleaned for quite awhile and Sr. Maureen was just waiting for an enthusiastic group of able bodied workers to do the job, And we fit the bill!. The jobs were divided up and we got to work cleaning floors, light fixtures, oven, refrigerator…….and the list goes on. I would like to let the mothers of the students know that they taught their children well when it comes to cleaning! A petrified mouse was found and we all learned a lesson when it comes to cleaning fumes ( ventilation!).
By late afternoon the hall was looking spectacular and Sr. Maureen gave her seal of approval. We decided to keep the bathroom cleaning until tomorrow. We anticipate it will take all day.
After a delicious dinner made by Kathleen we settled down to a presentation about Navajo weaving. Keithlynn Smith , the daughter of a long time parishioner, is a weaver. She is a recent grad of the University of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff AZ. with a degree biology ( minor in chemistry). She is living at home while deciding her next step, possibly grad school. Keithlynn explained in detail the intricacies of weaving. Every tool used ( from the loom to the wool) is symbolic and is treated with the utmost respect. Weaving is actually a ritual governed by many rules and taboos. Keithlynn did a marvelous presentation. It is obvious she embraces her culture and is very proud to be Navajo. She is the future of the Dine (Navajo people) and the future looks bright.
Another busy day .
Next Time : Cleaning the Hall Part 2 : The bathrooms
Our most excellent adventure at Chaco Canyon
Sunday morning we were welcomed by the St. Paul’s parish at mass. The students sang in the choir with one faculty member ( well ,they were the choir with Sr. Michelle) . After mass the nursing faculty and nursing student took blood pressures and had a chance to interact with the parishioners. Brunch followed and Deacon Sherman and his wife Alice joined us. Deacon Sherman is 85 years old and as in the Navajo tradition a wonderful story teller, He was telling us that as a boy his job in the summer was to move the sheep up the mountain for better grazing. he would stay there for the summer ( with a tent) and tend the sheep. His parents would come up and check on the sheep once in awhile and there better not be any missing! He and Alice n now have 26 sheep and are preparing for the lambing season, As he was leaving he told us he had to get to Gallup ( about 50 miles away) because he was bowling in a league tournament!
After brunch the intrepid crew took off for Chaco Canyon about 40 miles away. 20 of those miles are on an unpaved, unmaintained road. Needless to say it was a bumpy ride. 2 of the students had a bout of motion sickness.
Chaco Canyon is a National Cultural Park run by the National Park Service. It is also a World Heritage Site as designated by the United Nations. “Chaco Canyon was the center of the Chacoan culture 1000 years ago. The Great Houses were built in the mid to late 800′s, By 1050 Chaco was the ceremonial, administrative and economic center of the San Juan Basin with a large sphere of influence ” (taken from the NPS brochure). The Great Houses ( what is left of them) are the main attraction. Experts can identify 5 different building styles. A few of the buildings were 3 stories high. It is amazing what the Chacons did without computers, modern materials, no power tools and no written language, We were led on a park ranger tour if Kin Klesto the last Great House to be built. Range G. remembered the “group from Crownpojnt” from last year.( he gave the tour to us then also.) He is an astronomer and an expert in archeoastronomy and Chaco Canyon is on of the preserved dark spaces within the National Park System and a mecca for stargazers
Ranger G explained the alignment of the building with the summer and winter solstices and the importance of those events held for the Chacon and many other ancient cultures and even for people today.
My take away from the tour was that no one really knows what happened in Chaco Canyon or what happened in the 1200′s that was the end of the era for Chaco .All we have is insightful speculation. But as Ranger G said many times during the tour is not the buildings that are important but it was the people who lived and came to Chaco and all the human experiences that happened here from birth to death and everything in between. And that’ s the story of Chaco that people lived. WOW. Pretty thoughtful words as you are looking up at a Great House and surrounded by the cliffs, the sky and the wind and imagination.
Changing seats in the van helped to prevent any more motion sickness ( and a dose of dramamine helped). Another wonderful meal prepared by Srs Maureen and Michelle and another day is ended.
next time: Cleaning the Parish Hall Part 1
This is a blog from Crownpoint, New Mexico. A group of students and faculty from Newman are on a service trip. My name is Jane Weilert and I am the faculty sponsor of this trip. Crownpoint is on the Navajo Nation. We are staying with Sr. Maureen and Sr. Michelle ASCs. The ASC have had a presence here for over 30 years. We are the guests of St. Paul’s Parish , where the Sisters help administer the parish.
We left Wichita Friday early morning and drove thru very windy conditions to Crownpoint. We arrived here about 8pm MST. We were fortunate enough to be here on an evening of a Navajo rug auction in Crownpoint. What wonderful rugs we saw and all out of our price range!
Saturday morning we woke to howling wind. This was the day of the parish sponsored clean up of the road that runs in front of the church. So the 7 of us and a dozen people from the parish and other surrounding churches collected 3700 lbs of trash!!! It was taken to the closest landfill about 25 miles away. The discussion among the Navajo working was what has happened to the Navajo way of respecting Mother earth. No one had an answer. At lunch that discussion turned towards the issue of uranium mining on the Nation and the environmental and health effects. It is a real David and Goliath story of grassroots efforts to protect the environment vs huge mining conglomerates. The struggle continues,
Next time: Our most excellent adventure to Chaco Canyon
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