Monthly Archives: February 2013

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Jackie Markowski: A Shared Relationship

Jackie Markowski, 12-13, De La Salle Blessed Sacrament Elementary School, Memphis, TN

One evening at community prayer, I decided to take a different approach and try something new. At our Lasallian Volunteers Orientation, one of the LVs used the story “Oh the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss for prayer. He used the story to explain that there are times in your life when you feel like everything is going great and other times when things don’t feel as great, but in the end everything will work out. I decided to use the same story in a different way. We went around the circle and read the story and reflected on the idea of success; how success is not always measured in material items but can also be had in faith or helping others. We talked about how success comes from within and if we constantly look for success in other places we could be searching forever.

After prayer, many of the Brothers shared that they had never read a Dr. Seuss book before. A few mentioned that they had never even heard of Dr. Seuss, which was a HUGE shock to me because I grew up with Dr. Seuss. Most of the Brothers, having been used to more traditional prayers, mentioned they were refreshed when LVs introduced new ways to pray. Some Brothers remarked that they had never thought to use a Dr. Seuss book for prayer. We talked about how the simplest things can make the best prayers.

This interaction with the Brothers made me realize that not only do they help give us perspective, insight, and guidance, we also give to them the same gifts. The relationship between LVs and Brothers is unique and powerful. LVs not only look to Brothers as mentors in faith but also in life. There have been many times when the Brothers have helped me through situations where I was stuck and I didn’t know what to do.

I had thought it was mutual and my suspicions were confirmed when I sat down with my community directory and he told me that we were having a big impact on the Brothers. He told me that the Brothers had been talking during their weekly community meeting about how they love having LVs around because we keep them youthful and also give them a new outlook on life. Sitting back I reflected on how much they helped me, I realized that the relationship shared with the Brothers was just that; a shared relationship.

Jackie Markowski, 12-13, De La Salle Blessed Sacrament Elementary School, Memphis, TN

By |February 25th, 2013|Categories: blog|Comments Off on Jackie Markowski: A Shared Relationship

John Joyce: “Placing” Myself as a Lasallian Volunteer

John Joyce, 12-13, De La Salle Blackfeet School, Browning, MT

In mid-June of last year I went on my site visit to Browning, Montana. I stayed in community there and visited De La Salle Blackfeet School, my prospective service site for the coming year. I committed to Browning and was convinced to return as a Lasallian Volunteer, in part because of the uniqueness of the site compared to other options. Those who have visited our community know that the natural beauty of the area is unsurpassed. Our house sits on a roughly 1000-acre property that includes a section of the Two Medicine River and is within sight of some of the last buffalo jumps—small cliffs used to hunt bison—used by the Blackfeet tribe. To the west are usually visible snow-capped Rocky Mountains and Glacier National Park. We are continually visited by our animal neighbors, including coyotes, mountain lions, and bears. And the bird life is rich, with magpies, finches, hawks, owls, and the occasional bald eagle flying above the tree line or perched, searching for food.

A less natural—though still spectacular—feature of our community is the ruins of the Holy Family Mission boarding school, a Jesuit-run school that housed and educated Blackfeet children for 50 years beginning in 1890. Though the school closed in 1940, the ruins of the dormitories are yet visible next to a church that still celebrates Mass each Sunday. The school was but one part of a nationwide project of Indian education that lasted from the mid-19th century through much of the 20th. Its purpose was to assimilate Native American students and use education to enculturate Indian children according to European-American values. This project included the prohibition of Native dress and language, as well as customs and religious beliefs. As Captain Richard Pratt, who started the infamous Carlisle Indian School, stated, these schools were intended to take Native American children, “kill the Indian in him and save the man.”

Though I cannot speak with any degree of authority as to how exactly Holy Family Mission fit into this larger project, it was still connected in ways that make me wonder about what this history means for us today. Having the school so present in our daily lives requires some engagement with this history. It also means that to live and work here demands that we think about what it means to be a Catholic educator on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. When the Jesuits began educating Blackfeet children over 100 years ago, their mission was in part tied to a government project to make “respectable” citizens and Christians out of Indian children. Today, as Lasallians, we are tasked instead with a mission to educate the whole child in a way that is appropriate to their circumstances and context, and to respond to the social justice needs of children in our world.

In Browning, this means being attentive to the lived realities of our students as well as the particular needs of Indian students living on a reservation today. Admittedly this is not always easy, but it is critically important because it helps us to shape the future for our students as well as ourselves. Talking to fellow volunteers at this point in the year, it is clear that many of us are facing this similar issue, of trying to integrate ourselves into our local communities and learn what we can in order to more effectively address the needs of our students and clients. Whether we are teaching or working outside of the classroom in schools, serving in retreat centers or administrative posts, or filling one of the many roles that we are given at any time, our challenge is to always learn, to never stop being students. As we learn from our students and clients we must always learn what we can to prepare ourselves to live and work with others. As volunteers, community members, and citizens we are given this challenge, and as Lasallians we must read the “signs of the times” and the signs from history that can teach us how to respond.

John Joyce, 12-13, De La Salle Blackfeet School, Browning, MT

Trafzer, Clifford E., Jean A. Keller, and Lorene Sisquoc. “Origin and Development of the American Indian Boarding School System.” In Boarding School Blues: Revisiting American Indian Educational Experiences. Omaha: University of Nebraska Press (2006), 2.

Zitkala-Sa, “Holy Family Mission.” http://www.browningmontana.com/ mission.html

By |February 18th, 2013|Categories: blog, news + events|3 Comments

Carolyn Morison: Remembering Brother James Miller

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” ~1 Corinthians 13:4

Carolyn Morison, 11-13, De Salle Middle School at St. Matthew's, St. Louis, MO

As we approach a holiday where people show someone special how much they love them, why not celebrate all reasons to love? We focus all of our attention on just one or two people, but what about our vocations, our friends, or even those that we serve every day? This is a story of one man who loved every part of who he was and what he did. The love he had for those around him is a real love, a love that most people never get to experience. It is with his story, that we reflect on what it means to love: to love life itself.

Brother James ‘Santiago’ Miller was born and raised on a farm in Wisconsin. When he was fifteen years old, Br. James attended a high school where he was taught by the De La Salle Christian Brothers. It was then that he realized that he wanted to become a brother, so he left the farm to attend the Brothers formation school in Illinois. After taking his first vows in the early ‘60s, Brother James taught at Creighton High School, but felt a strong pull to serve the poor in the missions. His love for serving the marginalized is something that as Lasallians, we are called to do. For him, it was what he knew God had called him to do and did with his whole heart; his whole being.

Brother James Miller

When an opportunity to serve in a mission arose, Brother Santiago moved to Nicaragua. He was there for ten years teaching, building and maintaining schools. He even started a volunteer fire department. His love for working with his hands and helping the poor were evident in the work he did while abroad. In 1980, it was too dangerous for him to stay, so he moved back to the United States. Brother James knew that his time serving in the missions was not done yet, so when another opportunity in Guatemala came up, he took it. He moved there in 1981 to teach the young men to become teachers for their own people.

On February 13, 1982, Dia del Cariño, also known as the Day of Affection, or Valentines Day, Brother James was returning from the celebration with some boys. The boys went inside and Brother James stayed outside to do some work on the exterior wall. Not too long after, three men approached Brother James. During this time in Guatemala, there was violence going on against politicians and religious persons. These three men took Brother James’ life. A day that is filled with love, was also a day that took a man who loved his work and those he worked with and for.

Brother James ‘Santiago’ Miller shows us what  it is to love, and an example  of what we are called to do. In his last conversation with Ralph Miller, of Brother James said, “I am no martyr.” What he was doing was something that he loved, something that the love of God had planned him to do. Though the love of his work ultimately took his life, we can learn from Brother Santiago the real meaning of love. It is not the hearts, chocolates, or flowers of a loved one, but the acts of kindness, compassion, and work we unselfishly do those around us. Remember that with each day our vocation is the love that fuels our fire to serve the poor and to make a change in the world. We live each day with Jesus in our hearts…FOREVER!! Never let us forget that great love that Brother James ‘Santiago’ Miller shared every day with those he served, as we do today.

 

Carolyn Morison, 11-13, De La Salle Middle School, St. Louis, MO

By |February 11th, 2013|Categories: blog|2 Comments

Whitney Wozniak: I’ve Been Bitten by the Justice Bug

Whitney Wozniak, 12-13, Br. David Darst Center, Chicago, IL

Thanks to a wise Brother who I am fortunate enough to call a coworker, a mentor, and a dear friend, I can officially say that I have been bitten by the ‘justice bug.’ What is the justice bug, you ask? Well the justice bug isn’t literal; it’s not an actual bug, it can’t physically bite you. It’s a state of mind. It’s a feeling that makes its way deep into the recesses of your heart and it never leaves. The justice bug finds you as soon as you experience injustice for the first time and decide to act against that injustice. It hasn’t been my experience as an LV that caused me to be ‘bitten’ but it was because I had been bitten that I was inspired to become an LV and dedicate a year of my life to fighting injustice. The Lasallian Volunteers is my outlet and has allowed me to explore the world of social justice on a whole new level. Once you’ve been bitten, it never goes away.

I currently serve at the Br. David Darst Center on the Southside of Chicago, Illinois. We serve mainly as a retreat center, welcoming high school and college students from all across the country to join us for a week or weekend to explore various issues of social justice. Some participants come to us to strengthen their faith. Some come to us because they have a strong desire to serve. Some come never having done service before. Whatever the case, they come here open to learn, and not in an academic way.

As a retreat facilitator, I have had the opportunity to witness these students become saddened; become upset; become angry because of the injustice that exists in our world today. On our retreats, they may tutor a child who has a 1 in 200 chance of graduating from high school. They may initiate a conversation with a man who got divorced, lost all his money, and ended up on the streets. They may listen to a man tell his story about how he spent 29 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, only to come back to a new, technologically advanced city where few are willing to give him a second chance because of his label.  Most importantly, they witness the commonality in all of these people, and in turn witness the commonality between these people and themselves. They begin to bridge the gap between ‘us’ and ‘them’ and I get to be there when the justice bug finds its way into their hearts. As a result, I find it really hard to say that we are just a retreat center. We provide opportunities to speak to our fellow brothers and sisters, one on one, and hear stories of how someone else failed them, or how the system failed them, or in some cases, how they failed themselves. These experiences, coupled with the opportunity to reflect and discuss, provide a view of humanity that can’t be attained in the classroom.

In one of my favorite books, I learned the most important, yet simple lesson in regards to humanity that has shaped who I am today. In his book, Tattoos on the Heart, it was Father Greg Boyle who taught me that “a person becomes a person through other people.” The simplicity of this message is astounding. I am who I am because of other people in this world, but it is not just passively being with other people. It is through understanding and through listening, with a compassionate heart, to the stories of other people; the hopes, dreams, struggles of others that allows me to be the person I am today. And that is what we do at the Darst Center- allow people to become people through talking and trying to understand other people.

When our retreat participants come to us, it is not our goal for them to drop everything and go save the world. It is our goal for them to understand people for who they are, not as the label that oppresses them in our society. It is our goal for our participants to try to understand someone else from a perspective other than their own. It is our goal for them either in this retreat space, in one of our agencies, or even in their hometown when they leave our space, to feel the bite of the justice bug and act on that feeling, because once you’ve been bitten, it never goes away.

Whitney Wozniak, 12-13, Br. David Darst Center, Chicago, IL

By |February 4th, 2013|Categories: blog, news + events|1 Comment

February 2013: Carly Myrtle

Service Site: The San Miguel School in Providence, RI

University: Lewis University

What do you do?
I teach Math to the 6th grade and Science to the 7th and 8th grade. I am the coordinator for our Adult Mentor Program, which is a program where an adult from the community is paired up with one of our students. Once a week, the adult comes into school to have lunch with his or her mentee. I am also the coordinator for our Embrace-A-Family support program; most of the work for that happens around Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am also willing to do whatever else may be asked of me!

Why did you choose to become a Lasallian Volunteer?  Have your hopes about the Program been realized?
I chose to become a Lasallian Volunteer because I wanted to gain teaching experience while giving a year of service. I wanted to make a difference in my student’s lives. In college, I was a part of many ministry activities and they made my college experience so wonderful and helped me grow in my faith. I wanted to continue to grow in my faith. I also wanted to gain life experience by being in a new place with new people. I had heard so many good things about the LV program and I knew in my heart this was something that I was called to be a part of. On my application, I wrote, “I know that the children may not come from the most privileged backgrounds and they may not have had the most prosperous opportunities, but I am sure that they will make me want to come to work everyday.” My hopes about this program have definitely been fulfilled. My students are the reason I love coming to work everyday. I am gaining teaching experience while making a difference in their lives. I have also gained so much life experience being on my own for the first time in a new place. I am so happy I chose to accept this calling to the Lasallian Volunteers.

If you could project ahead a few years and look back to now, how do you think your experiences with those you serve and with the Brothers will have changed you?
I think I am becoming an all-around better person by working at The San Miguel School and by living in a Christian Brothers community. I do not know where exactly I will be in a few years, but I know I will be teaching somewhere. If I am able to teach at a Lasallian school, I will be extremely blessed, but I don’t know if I would have thought to work at a school with a Lasallian mission until now. I love the sense of community that I feel all of the time when I am at school, at our community house, and when I am getting involved at different events with other Lasallians in the area. I have grown as an educator, learning new things from my students and my colleagues every day. I have learned so much from the Brothers I have interacted with, especially living with Brother Michael Reis and working with Brother Lawrence. They are both so wise and open to everyone and everything. I am grateful that they are in my life as I am on this LV journey. I have no doubt that when I look back on my LV experience as a whole, I will feel happy.

Give an example of a time when you knew you were making a difference.

As a teacher, my main goal is to make sure my students are learning. I love watching their faces change when they are learning something new; it is almost like I am seeing their brains work. They start at the furrowed brow “what in the world are you talking about” face, change to the inquisitive “OK, I see what you’re saying, but I’m still not sure” face, and then finally arrive at the happy and relieved “understanding” face. Once I see that face, I know the student is ready to apply their knowledge. I also love when a student who starts off struggling finally shouts, “Ooooooh! I get it now!” It’s the greatest feeling in the world when a child finally understands something and is now confident with what they are doing. I don’t think I can pinpoint one moment when I knew I was making a difference, because there have been several wonderful moments. It’s the little things that the students say that show me that serving at San Miguel is where I am supposed to be. One student made me a card that said, “I hope you don’t leave next year. You teach math so well that’s why I understand everything.” Another student was writing a letter to his sponsor and included, “I remember I hated science but Miss Myrtle has made it one of the best.” Another student came in one morning with a candy bar for me and when I asked him what it was for he said, “It’s just for being a great teacher.” I could keep going, but I’m sure you get the idea. Having the students learn from me and having them be so appreciative of the fact that I am here has shown me that I am making a difference.

Why would you recommend the LV program to a college senior considering volunteering?
I have never been able to say, “I love my job,” until now. Yes, at first, I was scared to be so far from home for the first time in my life. I was nervous about having so many responsibilities at school. I was skeptical about living in a community with people I didn’t know, including Christian Brothers. But now, I can honestly and happily say that joining the Lasallian Volunteers is the greatest decision I have made in my life.  It’s still tough being away from home, but the positive experiences I am having here outweigh the things I may be missing. I am so happy coming to San Miguel every day and I love the work I am doing with my students.  I enjoy coming home every day and spending time with my community members, who I have grown to love like family. I would encourage anyone who is considering a year of service to join the LV program. You would be doing God’s work by serving the poor and receive support as you are doing so. You would gain so much experience along the way; both career experience and life experience. I have grown so much so far this year, and I cannot wait to keep learning.

By |February 1st, 2013|Categories: lv of the month, news + events|7 Comments