Monthly Archives: March 2016

­

April 2016: Julia Kueter

Julia as her favorite children's book character Junie B. Jones

Julia as her favorite children’s book character Junie B. Jones

Ministry: Saint Cecilia School and Academy, St. Louis, Missouri

College: Christian Brothers University

What do you do? My day to day schedule contains a myriad of responsibilities: teaching K-8 Computers, facilitating the 6-8 Library, aiding in Kindergarten and Second Grade, moderating K-8 recess and lunch, attending K-8 fieldtrips, and facilitating our afternoon enrichment and aftercare tutoring programs.

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

This year I have had the opportunity to work with three exceptional kindergarten students three days a week. They are quite advanced in reading and math and extremely curious! Recently I have been doing a lot of full day subbing throughout our school, which has caused inconsistency in our enrichment routine. When I see their class in passing, one student in particular will ask “Miss Kueter, are you coming to get me today?”. The need for consistency is crucial even for our youngest students. To keep consistency (even when we can’t have our enrichment time) I strive to check in with these three students during recess, lunch, or other times on days that I am subbing.

Which of the core values (Faith, Community, Service) are most important to you? 

I find the core value of community unique to our program and essential to the service that we do. Community for me offers consistency, routine, and support. So much of my service day and week can be dynamic- changing on a day-to-day basis. Having a steady spot to slow down, refuel, and share with others helps to keep me grounded.

Bro. James Miller Community

Bro. James Miller Community

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’m quite certain that without serving as a Lasallian Volunteer for two years, I would not be pursuing a career in education. My combined experiences in Browning, MT and St. Louis, MO have been influential in my own personal discernment.

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

I would ask this friend why not live with the Brothers? The Christian Brothers are some of the most fascinating and inspiring men I know! They bring wisdom, experience, guidance, support, and lots of entertainment to community life.

Why would you recommend Lasallian Volunteers to a college senior considering volunteering?

If you are looking to do an intentional service year then I would highly suggest the LV program. The support network of the LV cohort, staff, Brothers, alumni, is highly impressive. This support network expands way beyond professional support at your service site. Being valued as a unique individual on his or her own spiritual, vocational, and personal journey is crucial. I never thought that I would build such strong friendships with people who live across the country and only physically connect with for a few days a year.

Why would you recommend that a prospective donor make a contribution to Lasallian Volunteers?

Contributing to the LV program is investing in: the future of our students and clients, the personal and vocational journey of our volunteers, and the continued presence of the Lasallian charism.

How would you like to continue your involvement with the Lasallian family after your time with the Lasallian Volunteers?mass with the pope

Before attending Christian Brothers University the term Lasallian was not a part of my vocabulary. Now it is a phrase I can’t seem to distance myself from. Following my time with the Lasallian Volunteers I plan to return to CBU to pursue my M.A.T. (Masters in the Art of Teaching). Whether or not my vocational journey leads me to a Lasallian school after graduation, I know that being Lasallian will remain core to who I am.

By |March 31st, 2016|Categories: lv of the month, news + events, Uncategorized|Comments Off on April 2016: Julia Kueter

Jeff Lucia: Expectations & Reality

I enjoy movies. Film, at its best, is not only a form of entertainment and escapism, but also a facet through which we can learn about ourselves. After all, filmmakers aim to tell a story, and all stories have a message. Actors, writers, producers, composers, cinematographers, and directors come together to share that message with the audience. It can be one illustrating the conflict between good and evil (Star Wars), humanity versus nature (Jurassic Park), and even hope (The Shawshank Redemption). These themes resonate with audiences, not just because they are eternal, but because the films in which they appear communicate that message so well. Smaller films, too, have the power to do this. One of my favorite films recently gave me a realization as I reflected upon my service year: the 2009 romantic comedy-drama 500 Days of Summer.

The film depicts the relationship between Tom and Summer, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, respectively. The film goes through the ups and downs of their relationship in a non-linear fashion, shuffling back and forth between important moments during the span of 500 days. One scene, in which Tom tries to rekindle his relationship with Summer, shows him attending a social at her apartment. The screen then splits into two juxtaposed camera panels, with the left panel showing the headline “expectations” and the right panel showing the headline “reality”. The panels continue throughout the scene side-by-side in two different viewpoints, one in which Tom’s expectations play out, and one in which the reality occurs. In Tom’s “expectations”, him and Summer laugh, bond, and end up back together. However, in Tom’s “reality”, the two share awkward banter, and Tom comes to discover that Summer has become engaged with another man. The stark differences between the two scenes is both jarring, but also serves as a sobering lesson that I have recently connected to my experiences this year.

Jeff Lucia, 15-16, John XXIII Educational Center, Racine, WI

Jeff Lucia, 15-16, John XXIII Educational Center, Racine, WI

I have spent a great deal of time thinking about expectations, especially how they have played out when they meet reality. Expectations cannot only be viewed as things we want to happen, but also standards that we have of others and ourselves. I had many expectations of my first year as a Lasallian Volunteer. I expected a thriving city where I would be able to explore, have fun, and experience new things. I expected a job where I would gain professional teaching experience, further confirming my goal of becoming a teacher. Overall, I expected things to work out for me and that this year would give me opportunities that I envisioned.

I have had many frustrations and struggles this year, from an inconsistent and ever-changing work environment to a city where life seems like it’s at a standstill. I also fell short of the expectations I had of myself. I often took on too many projects, or did not have the proper resources to do my job well. I had so many things I wanted to happen, but as time went on, fewer and fewer expectations came to fruition. I was burned out and had a difficult time trying to justify to myself why I was doing all of this. I blamed others for the way my service year turned out. Nevertheless, I made the decision to apply for a second year with the program, and during that process, I came to a realization.

When I filled out my application, I thought it would be a good idea to look at my first-year essays for the Lasallian Volunteers to see what I could learn. I was looking for parts where what I had in mind actually came to light. They were there, to be sure, but were few and far between. I looked over all my responses and realized that reality rarely, if ever, meets our expectations. However, I also realized that this is not a bad thing. Instead of asking myself “how did I expect things to work out?” I asked, “how did things actually work out?” By simply changing my perspective, I came to appreciate so much more about my service year.

Though I have not had the service year I expected, I learned so many things that were, for lack of a better word, unexpected. I had the expectation that I would be able to teach social studies, but instead I was able to sit down with my students and really get to know who they are. I learned their personalities, strengths, challenges, hopes, and dreams. I may not be a classroom teacher, but I’ve gained experience in helping students with college research, job applications, and life skills. I had the expectation that I would be able to explore a thriving city. Racine is classified as a city, but during the long Wisconsin winters it becomes a sleepy coastal town. Things slow down, and I learned to slow down, too. Instead of putting value in bars, clubs, and other social venues that twenty-somethings like to frequent, I came to value the people and the authenticity and generosity. I have worked with coworkers, students, families, and community members that make me see the value of my work in a different way. Instead of seeing things how I wanted to view them, I learned to see things as they are.

Expectations can be delicate. Not only do we have them of ourselves, we also have expectations of others and of our jobs. Whenever our expectations meet reality, they are subject to change. It is healthy to have a clear vision of what we want things to be, but we have to learn to be flexible. Real life has thousands of variables, and any one of them can derail our expectations. The hardship is learning to accept what we can’t control, and that is the most difficult challenge. After all, we want what’s best for ourselves and the people we serve. The problem is despite the expectations that we have, no matter how high they are, they almost never work out the way we planned. We may not be able to control how our clients act, or how the lessons or events we plan pan out when met with reality, but we can control how we view and react to the situation. We can choose to have an open mind. We can control how we roll with the punches. We can learn to appreciate the unexpected and the surprises that come with it. It helps shake up what we thought we knew. It gives us realizations that lead to new understandings. It is a struggle to reconcile our expectations and how they meet reality, but that’s how we grow in our service. Take time to look at your service and your life and ask yourself one question: what didn’t you expect?

Jeff Lucia is a 1st year LV serving at John XXIII Educational Center in Racine, Wisconsin and is a 2015 graduate of La Salle University.

By |March 30th, 2016|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on Jeff Lucia: Expectations & Reality

Celebrating More than 1000 Years of Service

Colleen Newell, LV 15-16, is a graduate of La Salle High School, Yakima, WA

Colleen Newell, LV 15-16, is a graduate of La Salle High School, Yakima, WA

The tradition of service has long been a part of the Lasallian mission. Christian Brothers and lay partners have served others for centuries by helping and teaching those in need. Today, Lasallian Volunteers has taken the traditional definition of service and redefined what it means to serve others. Providing dedicated, well-trained volunteers for one or more years of service to schools and agencies of the Christian Brothers, the LV program is changing the world for better and has expanded to a movement of more than 1000 years of combined service.

Although the program didn’t officially begin until 1989, the first volunteer, Charlie Brown, served in 1981 teaching at La Salle Academy in New York. At the time, Brown was a senior at University of Notre Dame and wrote a letter to Brother Henry Betz, FSC, offering to teach in exchange for room and board. Since that year, many volunteers have taught in schools totaling an impressive 1052 combined years. Brown has developed from a young volunteer to his current role as Archbishop, the Apostolic nuncio of Ireland. More than 250 years of service have been contributed to high schools across the country like La Salle Academy, including Matt Billings (LV 15-16), a Christian Brothers University alum who is currently serving at La Salle Academy.

Over 700 volunteers have followed in Brown’s footsteps and contributed to the many years of service. Of those 1052 years, 484 come from LVs giving one year of service, 550 come from LVs giving two years of service, and 18 come from LVs giving three or more years of service. These remarkable numbers represent the contributions of the volunteers and their supporters as well as the immeasurable transformation of those LVs and the countless people who have been served.

Like Brown, several other volunteers began serving in individual Lasallian ministries or within district efforts in the 1980s and early 1990s. These separate endeavors were recognized and combined into a single, national effort in 1993 when Lasallian Volunteers became an official program of Christian Brothers Conference. When the LV program began, the mission of the organization was simply to introduce recent college graduates into the lives of inner-city youth and families to help them earn a better education. The volunteers and their supporters utilized the Lasallian principles of faith, service and community to build the mission and get the LV program where it is today.

Volunteers have been empowered to serve children, teens and adults in underserved communities in the United States and beyond. Because of adequate training, support and passion fueled by the Lasallian mission, young men and women have served in ministries from Rhode Island to Yakima to countries including South America, Africa, Eastern Europe and the Caribbean.

“LVs have been in every type of educational ministry that the Brothers serve in: schools in grades ranging from kindergarten to college level, tutoring centers, social services, residential facilities, retreat centers and many more,” said LV Associate Director Brother Dylan Perry. “LVs have been on the founding faculty of schools and participated in the long history of some of the Brother’s oldest schools in the US. They even bring the Lasallian charism to organizations outside of the Lasallian network.”

One example of this is The San Miguel School of Providence, which opened in 1993. When it first opened, the school was staffed by Brother Lawrence Goyette, FSC, and two LVs: Licia Robertson (LV 93-97) and Mariesa Jozwiak (LV 93-95). This year, 12 LVs are serving in San Miguel model middle schools including Tom Darnowski (LV 14-16) and Julia Turner (LV 15-16) in Providence.

The LV program is not only about serving others in communities and responding creatively to the educational needs of those in poverty. The program is also about building relationships through intentional faith-based communities and supporting life-long service and spirituality – experiences that set volunteers up for future success.

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota alum Rosa Kadera-Redmond (LV 03-04) is an example of this. She served as an LV at the L.E.O. Center in Oakland, CA. After serving, Kadera-Redmond stayed in Oakland and the Lasallian family in a new role as Western Sales Consultant for Saint Mary’s Press.

All along LVs have served in community outreach and social service agencies that offer a different perspective and experience than a typical school. This year, volunteers are serving at Brother David Darst Center, Chicago, IL; Tides Family Services, West Warwick, RI; John XXIII Educational Center, Racine, WI, Serviam Gardens, Bronx, NY; and LaSalle School, Albany, NY. Overall, volunteers have contributed 350 total years of service to community outreach and social services like these.

“All of these ministries are a great gift to Lasallian Volunteers as a program and to each individual LV. They provide the daily formation and growth experiences at the foundation of this program,” said Brother Dylan.

Service has long been a strong pillar in the Lasallian mission and will continue to be through the work of the LVs. With continued support, training, education and zeal, the LV movement will keep expanding to serve those in need and transform the lives of those around them, living in association with the Christian Brothers and sharing community and faith in the tradition of St. John Baptist de La Salle.

By |March 21st, 2016|Categories: news + events|Comments Off on Celebrating More than 1000 Years of Service

Spiritual Companion Initiative

In the fall of 2014, the Lasallian Volunteers received a grant from the Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE) to further develop and support current Lasallian Volunteers in their vocational and faith journeys and engage LV alum to walk with them as Spiritual Companions.
IMG_3312The FTE grant allowed for the Spiritual Companion Initiative to come to life, first by bringing together a wide range of expert and experienced spiritual directors and Lasallian educators to develop a curriculum for training those LV Alums who will be companioning current LVs. Then, after an application and interview process, LV Alums who said yes to the invitation to be Spiritual Companions, were brought together for a training.

Spiritual Companions will begin accompanying current LVs over the summer and next service year. The Spiritual Companion Initiative is one aspect of many in supporting the faith journey and development of current LVs and LV Alum.

Companions on the Journey

a reflection by Erica Sage Pitts, 06-08

“Let Us Remember…” are three words that unite Lasallians worldwide and were the words that opened our training. A group of eight LV alums gathered to learn more about what it would mean to be Spiritual Companions to current volunteers.
As LV alums over the past 24 years, we served all across the country and currently live all over the U.S. as well. We said “yes” to being the first cohort of LV Alum to walk with volunteers on their spiritual journey in this way. The gracious religious order of the Cenacle Sisters, whose charism is spiritual direction, housed us at their convent in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, IL.

Spiritual Directors, Brother Michael French and Marci Madary facilitated the training and offering time for meditation, journaling, prayer, and song so we might dig deep within ourselves throughout the weekend in the hopes of tuning our ears to better hear and serve others.

“I was reminded that not only is the physical, day-to-day work of being an LV a great challenge, but perhaps an equal challenge is trying to navigate emotionally, mentally, and spiritually through all the experiences one has as an LV, said Tom Cook, 02-04, who served in Kansas City, Missouri. “On top of all that, an LV is trying to discern what their next step is going to be after they finish the LV program.”Pitts copy

As an alum who has been out of the LV program since 2008 and has since given a great deal of energy and attention to her husband and three children, this retreat was a chance to take a step back from where God has me currently and reconnect with a program that influenced me in a great way. Nervous about my five month old daughter being away from me for hours at a time and unsure of how this position as Spiritual Companion would take shape, I was quickly put at ease with Brother Michael’s opening prayer and exercise on the many images of our good God.   Throughout the weekend, I was reminded of the verse from James that calls all believers to “be quick to listen and slow to speak,” (James 1:19). As a group, we took part in multiple training sessions where we practiced improving our listening skills in an attempt to understand what it means to truly hear one another in a loving, nonjudgmental way. Our desire as believers of God and as Spiritual Companions is to be effective listeners who hear the cries of the hearts of current volunteers while walking with and speaking life to them.

“I felt thankful to be in the presence of generous LV Alums who are willing to give of themselves to serve the current LVs in our new roles of Spiritual Companions. I left thinking what a blessing it is to be part of our Lasallian family” said Tom Cook.

In much the same way that Saint John Baptist de La Salle did not intend for the Brothers to walk alone on their journeys as educators with the poor, we hope to encourage, affirm, and walk with LVs on their spiritual journeys.

By |March 17th, 2016|Categories: news + events, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Spiritual Companion Initiative

Heather Marsh: The Dance

To say these past few weeks have been challenging feels like one of the biggest understatements ever. The school year has continued to move on and chug through the third quarter, and I still feel like every day has been a new learning experience as I attempted to navigate my first year as a middle school teacher. During this time I was also deciding whether or not I would continue on in a second year as a Lasallian Volunteer, and, once that decision was made, what that second year might hold for me. While these challenges were a large part of coming into the second half of my service year, another presented itself shortly before we arrived back in Tulsa in January: one of our community members was nearing the end of his four year fight with cancer.

Heather Marsh 15-16, San Miguel School, Tulsa, OK

Heather Marsh 15-16, San Miguel School, Tulsa, OK

The news was devastating, and almost as soon as I finished reading the email my mind was already racing with thoughts and questions. I found myself wondering what the year would have been like if I had known where I would be standing. I have even asked myself if I had known even a fraction of what I know now would I have said yes to serving in Tulsa when I was first asked last May? If I had chosen to seek placement elsewhere, I wouldn’t be trying to navigate the journey of losing a community member who has become an important source of wisdom and support as I move through this unique opportunity in my life. Once your mind picks up on one “what if”, it’s hard to get it to stop wandering.

All of these thoughts, however, came to a head when I rediscovered the song “The Dance” by Garth Brooks after a discussion with Martin, my LV community member. Sometimes music gives us the exact words we need to hear, and this song was no exception. On the matter of my worries and fears, the song had this to say: “And I’m glad I didn’t know, the way it all would end, the way it all would go. Our lives are better left to chance. I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.” While it is easy to dwell on the pain and difficulty of walking the journey to the end of life with a community member, this chorus reminded me to look beyond the present moment and its grief and look upon our community experience as a whole.

While on paper it might seem like my community experience has been one of the most stressful parts of my service year, it has in actuality been almost the complete opposite. We came together in August having not spent any time all together in the same space, but through grace and God’s will the mix seemed to be just right. Martin and I were eager young teachers, and the Brothers in our community were more than willing to share their years of experience and teaching anecdotes to help us navigate through the craziness of the beginning of the school year. Both Brother Chris and Brother Richard were present to Martin and I from the start, and I, in return, tried to be just as present to my community members. It was this openness that set the tone for the rest of the year even as obstacles arose.

Part of the Bishop Kelley Community, Tulsa, OK.

Part of the Bishop Kelley Community, Tulsa, OK.

The community’s commitment helped to illustrate that simply being present to one another can create a big impact on the community as a whole. Whether it was sitting down to watch a movie on a weekend night, attending the Pawnee rodeo, feasting on one of Brother Chris’ amazing creations during community social, or sitting by the fire when the winter months started to set in, these times together became a bonding experience that allowed us to get to know each other better. Whether it was “talking shop” about dealing with difficult students or throwing around witty commentary about whatever movie we were watching, I found that both companionship and wisdom were available in spades.

The power of community presence, however, was not only palpable during these “good times” at the beginning of the year. There is power in trying to be present to each other in every moment you can be, even if it is in ways that you never imagined you would be called on to be. I think it was these experiences, handling things in the moment, helped me to understand just what the power of community can do. Things just need to be done, and the members move to accommodate this. As hospital stays became part of the equation, our community changed. Wednesday socials were held wherever the whole community could gather, shifting from the living room at the Brothers’ residence to the rooms of the care facility our community member moved into. It became a weekly ritual to join Brother Chris in his room to watch Agent Carter, enjoying each other’s presence and trading commentary as energy allowed. Each of us makes time in our schedules to visit as much as we are able.

It was these moments, often unspoken and unplanned, that showed just the power of togetherness and why community is such an important part of the Lasallian Volunteers experience. In a program where you are often taken out of your comfort zone in just about everything- moving away from your family, living in an oftentimes entirely different part of the country, and transitioning into the working world- the members of your community become your family, a support system through the good, the bad, and everything in between. Yes, this year has had its ups and downs, but when I look back on the community experiences I have had, there have been far too many positive ones to dwell on the negative.

As I sit here trying to conclude this blog post, I can only look back on these memories, this building of our community together, and see an intricate dance that we have choreographed over the course of the last eight months. I would not trade it for anything.

Heather Marsh is a 1st year LV serving at San Miguel School in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a 2015 graduate of Saint Mary’s College of California.

By |March 16th, 2016|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on Heather Marsh: The Dance