Monthly Archives: September 2016

­

Lindsey Pamlanye: A Look Below

Lasallian means community. Lasallians are a community of people working together to serve those most in need in our communities. As a community we follow the Founder, Saint John Baptist de La Salle, and allow our actions to be a visible representation of our charism.

Visibility has become something I’ve learned not to take for granted, especially during my time serving as a Lasallian Volunteer.

Lindsey Pamlanye, 15-17, Bishop Loughlin Memorial HS, Brooklyn, NY

Lindsey Pamlanye, 15-17, Bishop Loughlin Memorial HS, Brooklyn, NY

September is Hydrocephalus Awareness Month. Awareness months often get lost in the shuffle of National Salami Day and Chocolate Milkshake Day, but this one stands out to me personally. Hydrocephalus (water on the brain) is a chronic brain condition that you can be born with or acquire. There is no cure, and the only treatment available is a shunt. Unpredictable brain surgeries, consistent pain, and all of the mental and emotional anguish that comes with so much being out of your control is the reality a person with this often invisible disease lives with.

I know that, because I have it.

My experience as a Lasallian Volunteer has been directly formed by my experiences as a person with Hydrocephalus. My motivation to work with students, to serve, to be intentional within a prayerful community is all rooted in what makes it possible to succeed despite an invisible disability. De La Salle said, “to look below the rags of the poor children whom you teach and see the Christ-child lying in the manger.” There are few things that humble me more than thinking about Jesus…JESUS…as a baby, reliant on the support of others. At the root of it all, we’re all humans who need one another. It’s been important for me to experience what it’s like to need people, and for people to understand me beyond what they see. Because of this, I can appreciate first hand what it might mean if I do so for a student of mine.

cropped-2

2nd Year Volunteers TJ, Lindsey, Julia and Ivette

All of the people in my life–my students and my colleagues, my cohort community, the community members I live with, and my family and friends–understand two kinds of things about me: what they see, and what I tell them. If I’m having a bad Hydrocephalus day, I can hide it and suffer alone, or I can reach out for help.

How many others around me are weighing similar choices? Struggle alone? Or allow somebody to see below? An aspect of the Lasallian charism that not only drew me into the community, but is something I strive to embody is the emphasis on togetherness. Together, with inclusivity and respect for all people, we serve one another. To me, Lasallians work to make sure nobody suffers alone. Lasallians make the impossible possible.

By giving preferential option to the poor, Lasallians seek to meet people where they are. Some people financially poor, or poor in spirit, or poor in heart, or physically poor, but together we work to fill the missing needs regardless of the starting point.

linds-3Sometimes (a lot of the times) this means making an extraordinary effort to look for the invisible things below the rags–good and bad. We celebrate individual talents and work through individual strife. I have been on the receiving end of that extraordinary effort, especially in community life as an LV. Home is a place I feel okay letting my invisible stuff come to the surface for a little while. I can shift the effort away from keeping them hidden, and instead put effort into feeling better. It takes an extraordinary effort to meet me where I am, and to understand how to help me succeed, but my community members do it. They are role models for how I strive to treat the students I serve.

I won’t always know what invisible things the kids who walk through the door of the Campus Ministry office are fighting. What I do know is that I am a Lasallian Volunteer. My t-shirts say it, my keychain, and probably my water bottle. Most importantly: my actions will say it. My goal is to treat every student with visible dignity and respect. My goal is to do the Lasallian charism justice. My goal is that when people see me sporting Lasallian swag, they know it means something good is bound to happen, that they have a community member to call home.

Lindsey Pamlanye is a 2nd year LV serving at Bishop Loughlin Memorial HS in Brooklyn, New York and is a 2015 graduate of Manhattan College.

 

By |September 21st, 2016|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on Lindsey Pamlanye: A Look Below

September 2016: Serviam Gardens

In this month’s Lasallian Volunteers “Ministry of the Month,” The District of Eastern North America is featured. The ministry is Serviam Gardens and the Lasallian Volunteers are Jacquie Martin, 15-17 and Jaime Turrentine, 16-17. Both Jaime and Jacquie are graduates of Saint Mary’s College of California. Jacquie is the class of 2015 and Jaime is the class of 2016.

WHAT IS SERVIAM GARDENS? Serviam Gardens is a low income senior housing project in the Bronx. Serviam provides safe and affordable housing to about 300 residents who live in three buildings. Serviam Gardens is a green building featuring many environmentally friendly features. Serviam provides social services for its residents and has many community gathering spaces available to them. A 30-year old non-profit organization, Serviam Gardens is a part of Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation which manages over 100 buildings in the Northwest Bronx in an effort to provide affordable housing to low income families.

Jacquie with Brother Richard Galvin and the St. Raymond's students on the intergenerational retreat

Jacquie with Brother Richard Galvin and the St. Raymond’s students on the intergenerational retreat

WHAT IS THE SERVICE THAT JAIME AND JACQUIE OFFER? Jacquie serves as the program coordinator. Her role consists of creating community among the residents of the building. She plans trips, events, and other activities for the residents each month. For example, she will organize yoga classes and movie nights once a week. She coordinates volunteers who want to do service hours at Serviam. “Twice a month I plan an intergenerational retreat with residents of Serviam and sophomores from Saint Raymond’s High School for Boys, a Lasallian high school in the Bronx,” said Jacquie. “I also help register our residents to vote and we provide transportation to our polling place on Election Day.”

Jaime serves an occupancy clerk. Her role is on the management side of things at Serviam. Jaime best explains her service in her own words when she says, “Every day is different, one day I could be interviewing potential tenants if we have vacancies in the buildings, I could be doing inspections in the tenants’ apartments, or keeping paperwork in order that contains information which insures that every person living at Serviam can remain a tenant there. I also help translate, we have a very large Hispanic population and many of them need assistance in Spanish.”

HOW DOES THIS MINISTRY AND THESE VOLUNTEERS BUILD COMMUNITY TOGETHER? One of the pillars of the Lasallian Volunteers program is community. For our volunteers, community is found at home with their fellow LVs and Brothers, but Jacquie and Jaime also experience a wonderful community at Serviam. Many of the residents live alone and do not have family near-by. Many times they just need someone to talk to and spend time with. They also do not get out a lot, so taking them on trips to give a change of scenery is important. Both women do their best to stop and spend a few minutes talking to residents as when they are walking by and if someone comes into the office to, they will talk to them or just listen for a while. Jacquie credits Lasallian Volunteers recruitment coordinator, Katie Christensen, LV 13-15 (who also served at Serviam Gardens) with inspiring her when she says, “Katie told me at the beginning of my first year that the residents are the reason you are doing service and they are the priority. If they are happy than you are doing your job, and I hope that I am living up to that.”

Jaime and Jacquie with a resident of Serviam Gardens

Jaime and Jacquie with a resident of Serviam Gardens

For Jaime, she sees herself creating community through language. She uses her ability to speak both English and Spanish to translate important documents for them.  Jacquie and Jaime both report that the seniors constantly shower them with love. They give Jacquie and Jaime hugs and kisses on the cheek, call them their daughters, nieces and other sweet names, bring Jacquie and Jaime food to try that they’ve prepared, and give the LVs blessings for their day. “Their constant effort to show their appreciation pushes me every day to provide the same love and dedication to make their lives as full as possible,” says Jaime.

HOW DO THE BROTHERS SUPPORT THE VOLUNTEERS IN COMMUNITY? When asked how the Brothers in the Lasallian Community at Bedford Park have impacted or helped Jaime and Jacquie in their service at Serviam Gardens, they both agreed that their volunteer experience wouldn’t be as rich without the help and friendship of their Brothers Joe, Ed, Michael, and Bill. Their Brothers have had such tremendous experience working in schools and community organizations that they have great advice to give. The Brothers are extremely supportive of their volunteers. Jaime and Jacquie both remarked on taking delight in having community dinners with their Brothers. Jacquie commented that the Brother have been volunteers at Serviam for major events since 2009, so they are well known by the residents which enhances the community feel. Jaime said of the Brothers, “They are my family and one of my strongest support systems so to be around such a positive environment, and people that have dedicated their entire lives to this type of service is always a motivator and a great way to serve and live out the Lasallian mission at our site.”

By |September 16th, 2016|Categories: lv of the month, news + events|Comments Off on September 2016: Serviam Gardens

Jeff Lucia: Seen and Unseen

Driving along the aptly named Ocean Road in Narragansett, Rhode Island feels like a journey into another world.  On both sides of the road, beautifully constructed homes of a variety of architectural styles dot the landscape, bikers and runners wave to each other as they cross paths, and landscape crews meticulously trim the tall hedges and trees that act as pseudo-walls for many of these residences.  Everything along this road seems to happen with strangely serene-like precision. If one were to pull up to the Christian Brothers Center, they may assume that they have reached the apex of their journey.  The Center itself sits prominently along the picturesque scenic road adjacent to a stony shore leading out to the Atlantic Ocean.  Instead of trees and concealing hedges, a modest stone wall about four feet high separates the road from a vast lawn, giving passerby an open and inviting view to the property

Facing the front of the Center, one notices three distinct buildings.  To the right stands Stevenson Hall, a three-story retirement community home to sixteen Christian Brothers and countless guests throughout the year.  In the middle is the Conference Center which hosts many outside groups for meetings, retreats, dinners, and other social gatherings.  The building on the left is home to the Chapel of Our Lady of the Star, a spacious place of prayer for both the Brothers and the public.  On the surface, one would think this is the last place on Earth they would expect to see any signs of chaos or disturbances.  Instead, one sees a peaceful and organized religious community.  However, tucked away behind the Chapel, often hidden from view from the people who visit the Christian Brothers Center, is the Ocean Tides School, a residential school for court-adjudicated male youths.

Jeff Lucia, 15-17, Ocean Tides School, Narragansett, Rhode Island

Jeff Lucia, 15-17, Ocean Tides School, Narragansett, Rhode Island

Walking through Ocean Tides presents a far more unique experience than one would have by passing through a traditional high school.  Indeed, the school stands as a stark contrast not just to the rest of the property, but to the surrounding environment of Ocean Road and beyond.  The layout of the school is familiar enough.  Offices of administration members, education specialists, and social workers line the halls of the ground floor.  The basement level is home to the classrooms, as well as the residential section of the school.  What sets Ocean Tides apart from the thousands of other schools is, of course, the young men who occupy it.

It’s challenging to summarize the average student at Ocean Tides.  Given the nature of the program, and education itself, each student is truly unique, though there are some common threads among them.  Most of the students are from lower to working class neighborhoods in towns and cities throughout Rhode Island and even some parts of Massachusetts.  Quite a few of them have Individualized Education Plans.  Of those students, some are on closely-monitored medication.  Their reasons for being placed at the school range from possession of drugs or weapons, property destruction, theft, and violence, sometimes gang-related.  Incident reports of these students often cite resistance to authority, threatening language, and otherwise destructive behavior towards themselves and others.  All of this information can be found on paper in neatly organized and categorized boxes and lines.  I have found, though, that to truly understand and ultimately appreciate and care for these young men, one must go beyond what they see.

My service at Ocean Tides puts me in a unique position.  My service position title is “Recreation & Activities Coordinator”.  I am not in the classroom with these students lecturing them about formulas or historic events.  From the minute they are out of school to the minute they go to bed is when my job is active.  I am part of a team that researches, plans, and implements a variety of recreational and extra-curricular activities for these students.  This gives me a wide berth for creativity.  Of course, to know what to plan requires knowing the students whom I serve.  This necessitates the effort and intentionality of spending time with them as much as I can, whether it be playing basketball, bringing them to the beach, taking them for a drive, or going on a bike ride.  It may all seem like fun and games to the uninitiated, but it is truly taxing work.  These students often have knee-jerk reactions to any disturbance to their established routines, which can result in confrontations with staff members or other students.  Once I learn more about these students, I also learn which personalities do not mix well with each other.  Learning what makes these students tick, as well as observing how they mold with other people in their lives, is perhaps the most interesting part of this experience.  It is also the most rewarding.

I find myself getting more and more out of this role by observing these student’s experiences and comparing them with what I have learned by working with them.  The same student who got into a fight earlier in the day also treats his favorite Christian Brother with the utmost respect and sincerity as he is working in the kitchen and serving him dinner.  Similarly, a student who cursed out a staff member is also working an internship at an auto repair shop with the plans of going to a technical college soon.  Even a student arrested for gang-related activities has a promising career recording music.  Spending time with these kids presents me these sorts of conundrums of figuring out just who exactly these students are and how I can be of service to them.

The dichotomies of order and chaos, hope and despair, and what is seen and unseen are ever-present at the Christian Brothers Center.  The property is an amalgamation of both years of educational expertise represented by the Christian Brothers and years of socioeconomic disparity represented by the students.  When they come together, it is an exceptional environment where your eyes only see part of the picture.  To view and understand it in its entirety requires the intentionality of placing myself among these students, the patience to respect and appreciate their backgrounds, and the belief that their identities and potential go far beyond what I see.

Jeff Lucia is a 2nd year LV serving at Ocean Tides School in Narragansett, Rhode Island and is a 2015 graduate of La Salle University.

By |September 7th, 2016|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on Jeff Lucia: Seen and Unseen

Brother Anwar Martinez, LV Alum, Professes Final Vows

Br. Anwar Martinez

Br. Anwar Martinez, FSC with Jesuit Volunteer Owen Speer during their service year in Camden, New Jersey

Brother Anwar Martinez, FSC, reflects on his experiences as a Lasallian Volunteer at the San Miguel School in Camden, New Jersey, from 2003-2005 and how his experience shaped his call to religious life, making final vows as a Brother of the Christian Schools this summer.

 How did your LV experience enrich your discernment to religious life (to the Brothers)?

I remember vividly that at our very first community meeting in Camden, New Jersey, where I served as a Lasallian Volunteer at the now closed San Miguel School, we read a line from the Rule, which stood out to me, and remains a source of inspiration in my ongoing commitment to the Mission: “Community is where the experience of God is shared.”

I yearned for such an experience – especially since it was “shared.”  I remember expecting, whether consciously or unconsciously, some type of “pull-the-rug-out-from-under-my-feet” experience of God, especially after pondering those words from the Rule within the context of this new community of which I was becoming a part.

Yet there was no “out-of-this-world” experience of God or of being utterly mesmerized. Rather, it was in the “everydayness” of living and working with the Brothers and other volunteers that I experienced something almost imperceptible, a subtle sense of fulfillment that I understand as God in community. It is as though this living in an intentional community, ministering and praying together, sharing joys and sorrows, and growing together as disciples and ambassadors of Jesus that this shared experience of God has been starting to feel a little more palpable.

How was living in community and ministering with the Brothers positive for you?

Experiencing community life and ministry alongside the Brothers and fellow volunteers provided me with a unique opportunity to take a good look at the Brothers’ way of life. I would often find myself somewhat perplexed and very much intrigued by the mere fact that they seemed genuinely content, even after a long week at school. They were doing what they loved and were very passionate about it as they poured their entire hearts and souls into it.

Br. Anwar Martinez, FSC. Photo credit Jonathan Giftos

Br. Anwar Martinez, FSC. Photo credit Jonathan Giftos

They were men in love with God, on fire with the Gospel and the Mission, and living happy, healthy and holy lives. This love was evident in their attention and care to the people with whom they came into contact both in community and at school. I would keep thinking to myself, “I’d like that in my life!” But don’t think that I jumped on it right away, au contraire! I took those years as a volunteer as a suitable and appropriate time to discern before I made the decision to enter the Brothers.

A Closing Thought?

It might sound cliché to say, “just try it on,” but life in community, whether as LV or as Brother, really has been about taking a leap of faith and “just trying it on.” I first tried it on as Mr. Martinez, a Lasallian Volunteer working with 6th graders in Camden, New Jersey, and later on as Brother Anwar (or Hermano Anwar) at La Salle [College] High [School] [near] Philly and La Salle [Academy on] 2nd Street in Manhattan.

Read a Reflection from Brother Anwar >

Learn more about Brothers Vocation here >

By |September 1st, 2016|Categories: news + events|Comments Off on Brother Anwar Martinez, LV Alum, Professes Final Vows