Monthly Archives: March 2014


Current LVs and Alumni Connect at LA Religious Education Congress

Lasallians from across the Region gathered and attended the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress from March 13 – 17, 2014, in Anaheim, CA, which also served as an opportunity for some current Lasallian Volunteers and alumni to come together. Fifteen Brothers in various stages of initial formation attended the LA Congress for the Brothers in Initial Formation Spring Workshop, where the De La Salle Brothers had a vocations exhibit booth at the event that promoted the Brothers, Lasallian education, and the LVs.

Current and Former LVs at the 2014 LA Congress

Current and Former LVs at the 2014 LA Congress

The full Lasallian group also included lay Lasallians and 12 members of the Regional Vocation Formation Committee (RVFC), who also held a meeting March 16 – 17. This combination of Lasallian presence at the LA Congress was a chance to promote vocations and highlight the Lasallian world, including distribution of posters of St. John Baptist de La Salle, the patron saint of teachers.

Shannon Guscetti, first-year LV at San Miguel High School in Tucson, AZ, realizes the importance of sharing the idea with others that doing a year of service and being Catholic is a good thing that can present interesting opportunities. “I feel the LVs are showing people what it means to be a Lasallian, and we are spreading the beliefs of De La Salle in a fun and exciting way to everyone,” she wrote.

With a theme of Hope: A World Afire!, the more than 40,000 total LA Congress participants attended various sessions and listened to national and international speakers address topics related to religious education and the Church at large.  Sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Office of Religious Education, the workshops and masses were held in multiple languages and included numerous cultural influences. The exhibit area hosted hundreds of exhibit booths, each showcasing resources available for the attendees and their ministries.

See more pictures from the LA Congress >

By |March 28th, 2014|Categories: news + events, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Current LVs and Alumni Connect at LA Religious Education Congress

Kat Merry: A Little Victory and a Side of Chili

Kat Merry (left) with fellow community member Katie Worsdale (right), 13-14, De La Salle North Catholic, Portland, OR

Kat Merry (left) with fellow community member Katie Worsdale (right), 13-14, De La Salle North Catholic, Portland, OR

One thing all my fellow LVs working in a school can agree on is that we are starting to finally empathize with our old teachers. Discipline in a high school is never easy and it is always exhausting. Whether it’s tackling the under-the-desk-texter in class, correcting the dress-code-violator, or addressing the curse-word-abuser in the hallway – the struggle is real and I have learned that one of the biggest challenges is having faith in students who keep misbehaving, rejecting your efforts, and ignoring your guidance. My time as an LV has been sprinkled with, what I like to call “little victories-”moments when all of my efforts finally pay off and I finally see a breakthrough in a student. This is a story of one of my little victories:

This past weekend, Katie Worsdale (Lasallian Volunteer) and I had the opportunity to chaperone a group of 8 students on a JOIN Immersion trip. JOIN is a program that invites students to spend 24 hours exploring the homeless community of Portland while providing a fully immersed experience: sleeping on the floor in a shelter, finding a meal given only one dollar, and participating in discussions and walk-abouts with Portland’s own homeless residents. I was naïve and convinced that each of the 8 students would be so enthralled and blown away by seeing the way the homeless live that they wouldn’t even think to pull out their cell phones and they wouldn’t complain about the cold or the fact that they were eating on a dollar. I thought, “wow they are really going to appreciate the simple things in life when they see how the homeless live.” I would say the majority of the students were in fact quite engaged in the activities and although the unusually cold and wet weather can encourage crankiness, they remained enthusiastic throughout the trip. Unfortunately, every rose has its thorn and let’s call this thorn, for student anonymity purposes…Michelle.

I don’t know how this particular student found so many things to complain about on the trip, but if I could list them all my head would start spinning.

kat merry“It’s too cold,” “I need to brush my hair,”  “why can’t we have a real lunch,” “why can’t we sleep in real beds?” “I don’t want to be here,” “why can’t I have my cell phone,” etc. Now, I am normally a very patient person but considering the content of the complaints mixed with the subject matter of our trip – I was starting to lose it a bit. I kept trying to remind Michelle WHY we were here, WHY it is important to learn about the struggles of the homeless. All I managed to get out of her were slight nods and more eye rolling and after an exhausting 7 hour battle of “Michelle, put your phone away,” “Michelle this isn’t the time to be brushing your hair,” and “Michelle please consider your tone when you ask someone why they are homeless,” I was finally ready to give up- ready to throw my hands in the air and just hand over the reins to her for the remainder of the trip. In our last group discussion after a day of touring and talking to the homeless, we prepared to have dinner with two guests of the JOIN shelter. I made a general announcement to my group reminding them to be respectful and mindful of their words at dinner when speaking with the men who call or called the shelter a home. My announcement could not have been more clear, and although most students nodded with sincerity, I couldn’t help but notice the rolling eyes and intentionally loud exhale combination coming from the back of the group- I concluded that Michelle was officially checked out of this entire experience.

“I was brushing my hair.” An exasperated Michelle said as she sat down late to dinner. All my frustrations with this student had me about ready to faceplant in my bowl of chili- until she quietly asked me, “Miss Merry, can I read my reflection on the weekend to the group?” To be honest, I think I blacked out for a second. I was shocked to hear that she even took the time to write a reaction on paper. I announced to the dinner table that she wanted to read her thoughts and before I knew it, Michelle was sitting on the counter in front of the group waiting for everyone to quiet down so she could begin. What happened next was incredible. Her words were powerful, honest, and so deeply reflective. She reflected on how appreciative this trip made her for what she has and she described her empathy for the homeless in such a mature and thoughtful way. She described her guilt for complaining about being cold, when there are people who aren’t able to come home to a warm house and bed. Michelle concluded her essay, to our amazement, by stating her plan of action- to make a bunch of PB&J sandwiches each week and deliver them to the homeless people in her area. At this point, Katie and I were choking back tears – we probably blamed it on the extra hot sauce in the chili, but we both knew that some kind of miracle came out of the battle we had both been fighting with Michelle that weekend. Something struck her about her experience, so much so that she wanted to share with the entire group her thoughts and feelings. I was convinced that the JOIN Immersion had been wasted on this one student- but after listening to Michelle read her reflection I realized that the comments, rolling eyes, and complaints that she threw at me since we hopped on the bus, were not indicative of the kind of heart she has and her behavior did not represent the way she absorbed the experience in her head. When she finished speaking, everyone clapped. This was one of my prouder moments as a Lasallian Volunteer this year. Michelle sat down, and I told her how wonderful her essay was. She smiled and said “thank you, I really like to write.” Then without even taking a second breath she announced “This chili is kind of gross do I have to eat it?” I smiled…I guess I’ll take what I can get!

Kat Merry is a 1st year LV serving at De La Salle North Catholic in Portland, Oregon and is a 2013 graduate of Manhattan College.

By |March 17th, 2014|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on Kat Merry: A Little Victory and a Side of Chili

Former LV Lives out Mission in New Role

Dr. Craig Junker, Lasallian Volunteer (LV) alum, has been named the new president of Totino-Grace High School in Fridley, MN, effective July 1, 2014. After an extensive search, Junker proved to be a good fit for the school bringing more than 20 years of experience in Catholic and public education.

Junker served as an LV for two years, teaching English and religion at St. Joseph’s High School in Greenville, MS, which was a Lasallian school at the time of his service. Described as a strategic thinker and mission-driven leader, Junker brings a lot of experience to his new role, as he has held numerous positions including coach, teacher, principal, president, and superintendent. Currently, he is the superintendent of Lake City Public Schools, and he previously served as president of Cotter Schools in Winona, MN.

His Lasallian connection extends further as he also holds a Master of Arts in Instruction and a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership, both from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. Junker is looking forward to being part of a community where faith is present.

“What excites me about Totino-Grace is that the staff meets students at the door and helps them to become the person God wants them to be,” said Junker in this message. “Once people are part of Totino-Grace, they belong to a community that will have a life-long impact. People profoundly care about one another and are invested in each other’s success. Totino-Grace is for life.”

 Read more from Totino-Grace >


By |March 12th, 2014|Categories: news + events|Comments Off on Former LV Lives out Mission in New Role

Liana Vantrease: Helping the Poor(er)

Liana Vantrease, 12-14, De Marillac Academy, San Francisco, CA

Liana Vantrease, 12-14, De Marillac Academy, San Francisco, CA

Walking through San Francisco’s Tenderloin District every morning to get to school, I am constantly reminded of the overwhelming amount of poverty in the area. I walk by the Housing Projects which a number of our families live in, pass lines of people waiting for meals at the soup kitchen, step over cardboard box beds and shopping cart closets, and try not to disturb the homeless neighbors who are trying to get whatever sleep they can on their concrete mattresses.

Even though our students at De Marillac Academy are living in poverty themselves, they recognize how blessed they are just to have the bare necessities that many of the homeless around our school are lacking. This quarter, my fifth grade class is writing a persuasive essay that is encouraging them to reflect on all that they should be grateful for and challenging them to advocate for those who are less fortunate.

While we do a number of activities to help the homeless in our area, our Persuasive Unit raises awareness of the extreme poverty in Third World countries.  Our school participates in a beautiful initiative called the Twinning Program in which we raise money to help provide resources to our twin school, the Child Discovery Centre in Kenya, Africa. Thanks to the Student Council, our students participate in a fundraiser called the Cha-Ching Challenge to raise money for the Centre. In order for our class to raise extra money this year, they are writing essays attempting to persuade a stranger to donate to our twin school.

After they complete their essays, I will be sending them to different foundations to see if the students successfully used their persuasive strategies to earn donations for the Centre. I am also challenging them to go out in the community and use their persuasion skills to get donations to add a service project component to this unit.

While this project has been extremely rewarding so far simply because we are helping people in need, it has been particularly special to do a project like this with these students. Even though they have so little, they want to give so much. I planned the project this way so they would not have to ask their parents for money to donate for the fundraiser, but many of them want to donate anyway. They brainstormed the things they could sacrifice in order to give the little money that they have to those who have even less. The poor helping the poorer. How beautiful is that? I can’t help but be reminded of the Bible story of The Poor Woman’s Offering. It is one thing for the rich to offer some of their surplus to the poor, but it is a completely different story for those that have next to nothing to donate the little that they have to help those in need. It is beautiful to think that my students are comparable to the woman from the Gospel (Mark 12:44): “For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

With that being said, I can’t wait to see how much money the students will be able to raise for the Child Discovery Centre; I also can’t wait to see the effects of their compassion for others and their new-found gratitude for all that they have. Live Jesus in our hearts…forever.

Twinning Program

Child Discovery Centre

Liana Vantrease is a 2nd year LV serving at De Marillac Academy in San Francisco, California and a  2012 graduate of Lewis University.

By |March 11th, 2014|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on Liana Vantrease: Helping the Poor(er)

March 2014: Whitney Wozniak

Service Site: Br. David Darst Center, Chicago

Whitney as "Rosie the Riveter" for Women's History Month at the Darst Center

Whitney as “Rosie the Riveter” for a Women’s History Month project at the Darst Center

College: Loyola Marymount University

What do you do?

I serve as a Retreat Facilitator. At the Darst Center, we lead urban immersion retreats for high school and college students. Groups come and stay with us at the Center, and we spend a week or a weekend visiting a number of different agencies in the Chicagoland area and explore issues of social justice through experiential learning and in-house discussions/reflections. I am also the Outreach Coordinator, keeping in touch with all students who pass through our doors and staying connected with them after they leave the retreat experience.

What is the most important “thing,” do you think, that your students need from you?  

La Salle High School- Cincinnati, Ohio

La Salle High School- Cincinnati, Ohio


My work is all about relationships. When students come to the Darst Center, some of them have never heard the term social justice before or haven’t yet begun to consider the reality of issues such as homelessness, generational poverty, racism, etc. The most important thing that students need from me is a safe and welcoming environment in which to explore the tough issues that we witness while on retreat. This means meeting people where they’re at and creating a space where students feel they have an opportunity to reflect and share their opinions and experiences comfortably. We walk with students as they witness and experience injustice in an urban setting, sometimes for the first time. To provide this kind of environment, it requires me as a facilitator to be vulnerable, open, authentic, and warm. It’s also really important to have a sense of humor and laugh when things don’t always go according to plan, because they almost never do. Students respond really well if you’re able to laugh at yourself.

Loras College- Dubuque, Iowa

Loras College- Dubuque, Iowa

I don’t need to look too far ahead in the future to know that my experiences have changed me. I can already tell! In a few years I will be in graduate school, pursuing my dreams of becoming a psychologist, and I anticipate that all the skills and tools that I have gained as a full-time volunteer and an intentional community member will be able to help me and have prepared me well in so many ways. These skills include but are nowhere limited to flexibility, sacrifice, empathy, patience, understanding, advocacy, a great knowledge of self, being able to know when to ask for help, and the list goes on. (Of course if you include what I have gained specifically from working at a small, non-profit retreat center, that list of skills expands to gardening, speed dishwashing, neatly folding sheets, expert in Costco floor plans to shop most effectively and swiftly, and that list goes even further.)

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

Darst Center Staff

Darst Center Staff

When I’m not facilitating retreats, my day-to-day job allows me to send emails, send justice updates, work on our eNewsletter, and find various ways to keep in touch with our students after they leave the center. It is very rare that I get direct responses to these emails right away or even at all, but when I do, I see that as a sign of success. On our retreats, we talk about the harm that our language can do to others and we are intentional about speaking about others in a compassionate, respectful way, which is something we try to encourage our students to do, as well. I got a message recently from one of my students who was on retreat with us last summer and he said that his school textbook referred to undocumented citizens as ‘illegal aliens’ and how upset it made it him and how it reminded him of his time here. When our students leave our space, we don’t expect them to drop everything and go change the world because that’s unrealistic. However, we encourage them to start to see things a little differently so that maybe one day they can make impact in their own unique way, and this message from this student allows me to see that. His response gives me a lot of pride in what I do.

What would you say to a friend from home who questioned why you chose to live with the Brothers?

What better way is there to emulate the ideals and mission of a program than to live with those who have dedicated their lives to that same mission? Living with the Brothers seemed like a no-brainer! It’s the ultimate learning experience.

Why would you recommend a contribution to the LV Program from a prospective donor?

The LV program isn’t just a program. It’s a life-changing experience that allows us to reflect, learn, grow, make mistakes, and explore our paths and vocations in life. It has been my LV experience that has directly influenced my decision to pursue graduate school and to use my degree to create social change using my own unique gifts, which I wouldn’t have been able to explore as in depth as I would have without my volunteer years.

By |March 3rd, 2014|Categories: lv of the month, news + events, Uncategorized|Comments Off on March 2014: Whitney Wozniak