It Starts With Love

How did I get called to the Lasallian Mission?

I am a ‘cradle Catholic’ and it was important to my family that I went to Catholic school. But, for me, school was school…I got up, I learned some cool stuff, I did some homework and, occasionally, I went to mass. School was just something I did and the whole ‘Jesus thing’ was there, but almost always in the background. It wasn’t until my time at Christian Brothers High School in Memphis, Tennessee that my faith and my education took on an important role in my life and helped me find my calling as a high school religion teacher.

If I am being honest, I was a real jerk and a kid with a really bad attitude when I first started high school. I cannot even imagine the stress and the hardship I put people through (I guess I can now that I am a high school teacher, ha). But the one thing that my teachers made sure I knew and understood was that no matter what I did or how bad my attitude was or how mean I was to other people, including them, I was loved. I was loved, pure and simple. Not because of anything I did (I cannot imagine I did too much right my freshmen year), but simply because I was one of their students and a child of God. I simply was and that was enough to be loved. This is the first thing we are taught and experience at any Lasallian school. And I know that God put people like Joe Hughes, Dylan Perry, Dustin Perry and too many others to be named, in my path so that I could remember how good I was and how loved I was. I cannot say enough about what this did for my faith, my education and my life.

I am so blessed to have learned and experienced that kind of love early in life, and I am even more blessed now that I can share that love with my own students at another Lasallian school, St. John’s College High School in Washington, DC.

So, live Jesus in our hearts…and share that love that Jesus has for you with everyone you meet.

#mylasallianstory

Spencer Macklin

 

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Teach By Example

“Teach by example. Put into practice what you want your students to believe.”- Saint John Baptist de La Salle

When I was a sophomore in high school, I was an extremely shy kid. I only had a handful of friends and, like many 15-year-olds, I was insecure and lacked confidence. It was at this peculiar time of my life that I had a social studies teacher and coach, Coach Mann, who took me under his wing. He believed in me, taught me about the importance of hard work, and encouraged me to recognize my own potential. Unfortunately, at the end of my sophomore year, he passed away, and I never had the chance to tell him how much his mentorship meant to me.   

Two years later, when it came time to go to college, I chose Lewis University, with no knowledge that it was a Lasallian school or that Saint John Baptist de La Salle was the patron saint of educators. By the end of my sophomore year, I had decided to major in education, with the hope of one day inspiring young people the same way my high school teacher inspired me.

As a young, aspiring educator, I found hope and courage in the life of De La Salle. He was a wealthy, powerful priest when he decided to renounce his wealth and position of power within the church to start schools for poor children in France. Almost everyone in his life questioned his decision, but he was motivated by a calling from God and a firm belief in the transformative power of education. Over the years, I have found myself thinking a lot about De La Salle’s decision to give up his wealth and power to start schools for marginalized boys in France, and his story has been a constant source of encouragement for me to live out my convictions; to practice what I preach; to teach by example.

A few years ago, after five years of working as a teacher and campus minister at Lasallian institutions, I took a leap of faith and switched careers, motivated by a long-held conviction to work on issues of food justice in my hometown of Chicago. Today, I work for an organization that builds gardens at Chicago Public Schools, empowering teachers and students to grow their own fruits and vegetables and learn about the importance of healthy eating. I also co-run a community farm that provides local, sustainably-grown produce for people at an affordable price. Though I am no longer teaching in the classroom, working with students is a significant part of my daily work, and I am still deeply committed to living out the Lasallian charism. I continue to draw inspiration from the life of De La Salle and the Christian Brothers.

A few years ago, I tracked down the number of Coach Mann’s wife and called her. I introduced myself and explained how I never had the chance to thank him for the positive impact he had on my life. She thanked me for calling and asked about where I lived and what I did for work. I told her my story and, with hesitation, mentioned my recent decision to leave teaching and pursue work to help create a more equitable food system in Chicago. She paused for a moment and said with sincerity…“he would be very proud of you.”

#mylasallianstory

Sean Ruane

Lasallian Since Birth Without Even Realizing It

“Live Jesus in our hearts, forever.” Since I was born and throughout my life, my family would end Grace before meals with “Live Jesus in our hearts, forever.” It was a family thing. I didn’t know where it came from. I never knew anyone else who said it; it was just something my family did. When looking at colleges, my dad gave me a brochure for this school in the bluffs in Winona, Minnesota. I didn’t really know what bluffs were, the cold of Minnesota wasn’t appealing to me, and I had no idea how my dad even knew about this school. Instead, I went to both my parents’ alma mater, Lewis University. It was that “one commitment [that] led to another in a way I did not foresee in the beginning.”

Lewis was amazing. When I went to Mass for the first time there, they ended with “Live Jesus in our hearts, forever.” I was speechless. The unknown family prayer had a much deeper meaning, and I realized this is where my parents got it from. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but something about that university was special. Along with the other Brothers, Brother Phil Johnson, Brother Tom DuPre, and Brother James Gaffney were amazing people and great role models. Although I studied accounting, and did fairly well, I wasn’t ready to work 60-70 hours a week. Plus, there was this volunteer program I heard about. Sophomore year was when I came up with this great plan. I’m going to be a Certified Public Accountant. After college, I will join the Lasallian Volunteers, get the Lasallian Scholarship, get my MBA, become a CPA, and make the big bucks in Chicago working for one of the Big Four.

The plan worked out well. Accounting degree – check, LV – check. I was sent to Philadelphia where I taught 3-8 grade gym. It was amazing. Teaching gym had this “it” factor that I could never put it into words. Something was different. Something was unique. I realized what it was while I was a Lasallian Volunteer.

It’s Lasallian.

It’s as simple as that. The learning environment, the care and love shown by the Brothers and Lay Partners, they’re Lasallian. Lasallian, for me, is all of that. Yes, it is educating children, especially the poor with Catholic values, but it is so much more. Even now, I have a tough time explaining it. Brother James Gaffney is a great example of what it is to be Lasallian. He truly cares about those entrusted to his care. He was somehow at every event at school and knew students (and their families) by name. Brothers Bud Knight, Leo Smith, and Eddie Koronkiewicz are also great examples. Their genuine love for what they do and who they serve radiate through them. All three are very different, yet so similar. They helped me to truly understand the mission of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.

These people and places were very formative in my Lasallian journey and who I am today. There have been many other experiences and opportunities that have shaped me, but I won’t go in depth here. Maybe another time I can talk about the 10-day International Marketing class at La Salle Barcelona, my 3 weeks in Rome for the “Walking in the Footsteps of the Early Christians” Jan Term class through St. Mary’s College of California (SMC), working in the Mission and Ministry Center at SMC, attending retreats at St. Joseph Camp at the Russian River, working at La Salle Manor Retreat Center in Plano, Illinois, and now teaching theology at Montini Catholic High School in Lombard, Illinois. All these commitments led to another which led me to Montini. And through all this time…Live Jesus in our hearts, forever!

#mylasallianstory

Denis Block

Coast to Coast

When I was applying to college, I only knew three things: I wanted a school with a good education program, I wanted to stay in Illinois (this will be funny later), and I wanted to be at a school with small class sizes. When I visited Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois, I knew it was the right place for me. The fact that it was “A Catholic and Lasallian University” really didn’t matter; in fact, I had no idea what “Lasallian” meant.

As I went through my first two years at Lewis, I was happy. I made friends who I knew would be lifelong. I started education classes my sophomore year, finally studying what I wanted. But it wasn’t until my junior year that I really came to appreciate the fact that I was attending a Catholic and Lasallian university. I was invited to go on a retreat called Koinonia, with the promise of the chance to “discover God, yourself, and others.” I can honestly say that attending this retreat was life-changing. I went on to lead the retreat three times after that, and each time the retreat brought me something different in terms of God, myself, and/or others. In my last semester at Lewis, I student taught. I think I was Lasallian at this point, but I didn’t quite know it yet.

As graduation approached, I thought about applying to be a Lasallian Volunteer. I had heard about the program several times from my friends who were applying, as well as from alums and grad students. I went back and forth, and ultimately decided I still wasn’t ready to leave Illinois.

A few months after graduation, I felt I had made a mistake. I was definitely being called to be a Lasallian Volunteer. As soon as the applications came out for the next service year, I started filling one out. I applied, I interviewed, and I was accepted to the program. They told me they thought I would best fit in a science and math teaching position at an all-boys middle school: The San Miguel School in Providence, RI.

Before I knew it, I was visiting. I immediately knew this was where I was supposed to be. The sense of community and love at The San Miguel School was astounding.

I attended LV orientation and really learned about St. John Baptist de La Salle and the Lasallian mission. When I officially started teaching at San Miguel, that mission was put into action. Here was a school who was giving a quality education to under-served boys. It was exactly what De La Salle imagined and wanted. It wasn’t long into my first year as a volunteer that I knew I would be staying for a second year of service.

As my second year as an LV was coming to an end, I wasn’t ready to leave. I felt that teaching at a San Miguel School was exactly where I was called to be. One day, Brother Lawrence Goyette was passing by, and he mentioned that he was about to go visit Concord, California, where they were getting ready to open a new San Miguel School. Well, I had always wanted to live in California… so I applied, interviewed, and ended up getting a job as a founding teacher at De La Salle Academy. Time to move across the country!

I taught there for four years, and once again, it was a place that De La Salle himself would have been proud of. I grew the most as a Lasallian educator while working there, and teaching those boys filled my heart with such joy.

So, there you have it… I’m Lasallian from coast to coast, as well as in between.

#mylasallianstory

Carly Myrtle

It’s Forever

“Lasallian.” I heard this throughout my arrival at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota as a first-year student. Lasallian this. Lasallian that. WHAT IS LASALLIAN. Unknowingly, this practice that nobody could define for me would be a defining practice in my life.

The first course I took at Saint Mary’s introduced me to Brother Pat Conway, my first ever interaction with a Brother of the Christian Schools. His nourishing zeal for the Lasallian order was inspiring to me. I was enticed during every class as we learned how Saint John Baptist de La Salle and all those who followed him did, and still do, so much for children. Learning about De La Salle’s dedication to children was inspirational. He is literally SO awesome. SO AWESOME.

Fast-forward to the end of my first year at Saint Mary’s. I was selected to attend the first Lasallian Leadership Conference. Unbeknownst to me, I agreed to attend an international gathering. 35 Lasallians meet in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at LaSalle University. This conference exposed what “Lasallian” means to me today — the pure joyfulness of people from all cultures, backgrounds, and beliefs, working together to support the most marginalized of kids and their families in the hopes of growth.

This experience was my guiding practice throughout the rest of my time at Saint Mary’s. As I approached graduation, I was worried how leaving the SMU community would impact my life. My graduate school experience at Arizona State University showed me not to worry. I was introduced to San Miguel High School in Tucson, Arizona where I was able to continue my connection with the Lasallian experience through supporting high schoolers.

Since completing graduate school, I have moved to North Carolina to work as a program director for a child and adolescent mental health treatment center. Despite being away from a physical Lasallian location, my experiences and the Lasallian mission are close to heart. My connections are so far and wide that I feel at home, like I did when I first was introduced to Saint Mary’s.

It’s hope. It’s zeal. It’s forever.

#mylasallianstory

Samuel Kreutzfeldt

Full Circle

My Lasallian journey started simply enough. As a freshman at Christian Brothers High School, I was asked to attend the Lasallian Youth Gathering that summer at Bishop Kelley High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, along with a few friends. It is interesting to note that two of those friends are now teachers at Lasallian high schools as well, one of which is a Brother.

This trip began my attraction to the Lasallian mission. Seeing that we were part of a much bigger family than just the boys at CBHS gave me a greater sense of purpose, and it became the most important part of my high school career. At these summer gatherings we made friends from around the Midwest that lasted well past high school day. Continuing to Christian Brothers University, my love of the charism was strengthened, and when a teaching opportunity popped up at CBHS, I jumped at it.

As a teacher at CBHS, I was able to give back to the family that I held so dear. This is when I gained a greater sense of belonging to the Lasallian Family and a responsibility toward it and the mission. Every decision to do more and continuing to be more deeply involved, has deepened these feelings. As a member of the Regional Council of Young Lasallians and trips to the Generalate in Rome, I have gotten to see Lasallians from around the country and around the world, and it continues to affirm my love and devotion to our shared mission.

#mylasallianstory

Dustin Perry

A trip to Missouri changed my life…

Full disclosure: I had no clue what “Lasallian” was before applying to college. And little did I know that the Five Core Lasallian Principles would change the course of my future when I decided to go to Lewis University. One of the principles is: “Concern for the poor and social justice.” To me, that ideal is expressed through the phrase, “Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve,” and that is exactly what happened to me.

The very first day of college I met a girl who lived across the hall from me and we instantly clicked. The next year we became roommates and made the decision (through some pushing by her) that we would sign up for the first ever spring break LUMINATE service trip that Lewis had to offer. We traveled to a boys ranch in Missouri, and as they say, “the rest is history.”

That service trip was a gateway to many other experiences throughout my four years at Lewis. I led four other service trips to various states, went on a pilgrimage to Arizona, led a social justice retreat, traveled to Bolivia for my first out-of-country service immersion, and even received the De La Salle Medallion for Excellence Award at the end of my senior year, which is awarded to two students chosen by staff for their service work. Because of those trips and being surrounded by some of the most amazing people (who I eventually became friends with), I decided to do a year-long postgraduate volunteer program called the New York Intern Program. 

Who would have guessed that my roommate pushing me to go on that first trip would have shown me that I love to serve others. It is my passion and now, as a social worker, I am able to live out that passion every single day. I am beyond grateful that I had the opportunity to become a part of the Lasallian community because I know, without a doubt, that community helped me find this path and become the person I am today.

#mylasallianstory

Erin Richards