Salvatorian Sister Patrice Colletti writes her Glimpse God blog from South Dakota, where she teaches on the Sisseton-Wahpeton reservation there. Sister Rita Vogelsang has also served in Sisseton since October 2016, and will now join our Sister Darlene Pienschke in Tucson, Ariz. to minister to people crossing the U.S.- Mexico border.
In Dakota, there is literally no word for “good bye.”
Toksta ake is what people say when parting.. .whether it’s parting from work until tomorrow, parting for a journey, or even parting for the final journey home to God.
Toksta ake translates to “see you later.” In fact, in English, “See you!” is what everyone around here, both Native and non-Native, use to say “good bye.”
So, at 2:00 in the morning, after a 95 mile drive up to Fargo, that is what S. Rita and I said to each other. The prior two weeks had included a long litany oftoksta ake‘s and thank yous…. Rita was thanked and celebrated at gatherings, at Billy’s Cafe, by parishioners, by individual residents at the nursing home, by nursing home staff, and by people in each of the many, many circles of relationships she’d created over the past three years.
Friday evening was filled with the stress and hustle of getting her final items sorted and packed, with not a few pauses to take a deep breath and glance at the racing clock. With true Salvatorian collaboration, we did get everything packed, with a pile for Goodwill, a pile for the trash, boxes to be mailed to Tucson and suitcases to be lugged to Milwaukee. Amtrak beckoned, so we set off across the northern prairie in the dark of midnight, watching the quarter moon rise orange in the east as we drove.
With only one eastbound passenger train, the Fargo, ND Amtrak station is not exactly a bustling hub of inter-city transit. But, by the time of our arrival, it was at least open (they open it 1 hour before the train comes through, and close it soon after.) Bags checked, ticket ready, spearmint lifesaver candy at the ready, S. Rita settled down till time for boarding.
After a hug, and a heartfelt “toksta ake,” Rita launched into her next adventure as a Salvatorian missionary, witnessing to, living, and inviting others, in her gentle and person-centered manner, to come to know and welcome God’s saving love.
She will be missed.
And, the people in Tucson will be blessed to welcome her.