Monthly Archives: March 2017


Katie O’Leary: Comfort in Community

Katie O'Leary, 15-17, De La Salle Academy, Concord, CA

Katie O’Leary, 15-17, De La Salle Academy, Concord, CA

Do you ever just walk into a building (such as a school or a church) and just feel immediately comfortable? Something about the whole vibe of the place puts you at ease. It could be the smell, the colors and paintings on the walls, or the people who are in it.

Every Lasallian community that I have been a part of has given me this same sense of security and comfort.

I am from Chicago. I went to a Catholic grammar school (or for those outside of the Chicagoland area – grade school, k-8). When it came time for high school, I knew that I was going to a Catholic high school. However, Chicago has quite a few to choose from. It was similar to figuring out which college to go to, but way less serious. I toured and shadowed a couple of the schools throughout my 8th grade year. The tours were blah, the students I shadowed were blah; I just didn’t care for any of them.

I specifically remember the day that I toured De La Salle Institute in Chicago. It was around Thanksgiving. I don’t remember who my tour guide was or any specific people from the tour, but I remember how I felt. It wasn’t blah. I felt so comfortable. I went home that day knowing that I would go to “D.”

Katie O'Leary and Emily Vogel

Katie O’Leary and Emily Vogel

Attending De La Salle Institute was one of the most transformational experiences in my life thus far. Ms. Emily Vogel, LV 99-01, introduced me to Lasallian Youth and invited me to become more deeply connected to the Lasallian Mission. It was during that first introduction that I realized at my core I was already Lasallian, even before I knew the word; I felt deeply connected to the five core principles and I met some great people, who were also actively living out the Lasallian mission.

During my time at DLS, I participated in a “Lasallian Youth Gathering (LYG)” in the summer of 2010 to Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. It was my second LYG and I was so excited to be going to a new state and seeing some friends from the previous year. When I first stepped onto campus at Saint Mary’s, I fell in love. The bluffs, being surrounded by nature, and the pond; everything was serene.

I went back for tours and overnights in my junior and senior year, to see how I felt when school was in session. I remember feeling right at home while walking around with my host. I pictured myself in that hustle and bustle of going to class or to lunch, talking with friends, going to the library for homework.

When it came time to choose a college to go to, I was stuck between Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois and Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in Winona, Minnesota. I kept going back to the safe, comfortable, homey feeling that I felt when I was at Saint Mary’s. Even though I had things in Chicago that would be hard to leave, I took the chance and I am so glad I did. I had incredibly giving, knowledgeable professors who taught me how to be a Lasallian educator. I also met my best friends whom I could share my excitement for the Lasallian Mission with.

Katie 2Fast forward to a more recent experience. As I was going through the application process for Lasallian Volunteers, I was anxious to hear where I would be placed. I found out I would be teaching in an all-boys middle school in Concord, California. I was so excited to be going somewhere new. When it came time to do a site visit, I was incredibly nervous. Living in California was the easy part, I was more nervous about being an actual teacher.

Those nerves soon faded after arriving at De La Salle Academy. To my surprise, these young men, were welcoming and gentlemanly. I had never seen or heard of kids shaking hands so professionally before. I immediately felt completely comfortable and eager to start my journey at this school. It also helped that I had some amazing and gracious hosts in both Concord and San Francisco! After that short visit, I knew that I had a new home in California.

Each of these Lasallian communities that I have been a part of all had 2 things in common:

  1. I instantly knew it was where I was meant to be.
  2. I met people that would transform and complement my life as well as people who made me more passionate to be Lasallian.

In all of the Lasallian communities that I have been a part of, I have had people that made it special and “magical” for me. These people were a huge reason that I felt a strong sense of comfort and community. I hope that I can foster this sense of comfort and community for my students and those that I encounter.

Katie O’Leary is a first year LV serving at De La Salle Academy in Concord, California and is a 2016 graduate of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

By |March 22nd, 2017|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on Katie O’Leary: Comfort in Community

Abbey Sorensen: You Make Plans And God Laughs

A recurring quote in my community is the saying, “You make plans, and God laughs.” This saying resonates with me because I am a planner in every sense of the word. I enjoy living my life with the comfort of knowing what will come next. I plan for things to go as planned, and if they veer off course then I am not a happy camper. That is what made my LV application process so unique, because it was not exactly “planned.”

Let’s set the scene: I have a few weeks left in college at the University of Rhode Island, where I have just wrapped up my student teaching and am counting down the days until graduation. Over the past few months, I had put all of my energy into applying to a local graduate school program, only to be denied. I had put all my eggs into one basket, knowing that the chance of getting a job as a teacher right out of college in Rhode Island was not very likely. In Rhode Island, teaching jobs are few and far between, even more so for someone like me with limited teaching experience. I felt my future slipping out of my control and I didn’t know what to do.

Abbey Sorensen, 16-17, De Marillac Academy, San Francisco, CA

Abbey Sorensen, 16-17, De Marillac Academy, San Francisco, CA

I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and this experience was no different. Just a few days after hearing back about grad school, I received an email from the Lasallian Volunteers staff encouraging me to apply to be an LV before the final deadline that was a few short weeks away. The email explained that there were limited spaces and sites available, but still encouraged all to apply. I had signed up to receive information about this program in the fall, but had chosen applying to grad school over this avenue. Applying to be an LV had been moved to the back burner, and I hadn’t considered it as any part of my future plan.

I toyed with the idea of replying to the email from the LV staff simply for the fact that I had nothing to lose, and I ended up doing so. I responded by asking if there were any service sites still available where I could teach, explaining my current situation. I wrote that this next year was crucial to my professional career so I needed to spend it gaining teaching experience in a classroom to work towards my dream of being a teacher. Katie Christensen, recruitment coordinator, responded right away by saying that they did still have spaces available in the program that would fit my needs for the next year, while also providing me with a multitude of other reasons to apply. Feeling uncertain yet optimistic, I applied.

Within days, the staff got back to me and scheduled an interview. Katie was so welcoming and helpful; answering all my questions and inserting helpful tidbits of information about her experience as an LV. This made me feel so comfortable with her and eased me into opening up to the idea of taking part in this program. The process moved along quickly and within a short period of time I was accepted into the program and notified of my potential site. Through the staff’s support and belief in me, they affirmed me in my decision to say yes to moving across the country. Their understanding of all the factors that came into play in my unique decision making process provided me with the extra boost of confidence that I needed to make my decision. For me it was not so much saying yes, as it was how could I possibly say no to this once in a lifetime opportunity?!

Abbey Sorensen #2 editedThe support that the staff provided me with throughout the application process helped me to trust not only in them but also in God; that this program would lead me to where He needed me to be in my year of service as an LV. And yes, that did mean leaving the state that I had spent my whole life in surrounded by the most supportive family and friends, to move across the country to San Francisco, California. Some days I wake up here and still cannot believe that I said yes to this experience. But then I realize that I did not say yes for myself, that instead I said yes to God. Every day I say yes to Him and to the unplanned: to the lessons gone array and the Facetimes at all hours of the night with family and friends back home due to the time difference. To the whirlwind of this ever-changing city that I live in, and to the opportunity to shape young lives while changing my own in the process. I say yes to all of that because of Him, and because of the faith that I have in this program.

So, if you’re reading this and are even remotely thinking of applying, the moral of my story is JUST DO IT. If you have a question or something that is holding you back from applying, reach out to someone to get an answer. Ask a staff member, a current LV or an LV alum; there are so many of us who can help you! If I hadn’t taken that leap of faith and been direct with Katie in asking her about the program, I can guarantee you that I would not be where I am today:

-Teaching in an amazing school and gaining immense experience and support as a first
year teacher.

-Learning to love myself for who I am and where I am at right now in my life.

-And most of all, deepening my relationship with God through His presence in all aspects
of my life.

I didn’t plan on getting that email from the LV staff, and I didn’t originally plan on replying to it or eventually applying for the program, but I did, and the results have been life changing. Planned or unplanned, there was a reason this program came into my life and I am embracing it each and every day of my service year.

So, no, this year of service may not have been what a planner like me had in mind, but yes it is what I was called to do. And if you feel that call like I did, then this program will be the perfect fit for you too.

Abbey Sorensen is first-year LV serving at De Marillac Academy in San Francisco, California and a 2012 graduate of La Salle Academy, Providence.

By |March 8th, 2017|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on Abbey Sorensen: You Make Plans And God Laughs

Ministry of the Month: DeLaSalle Minneapolis

In this month’s “Ministry of the Month,” the Midwest District is featured. The ministry is DeLaSalle High School of Minneapolis and the Lasallian Volunteers are John Schatz, 15-17, and Viviana Ortiz 16-18. John is a graduate of La Salle University and Viviana is a graduate of the University of Arizona.

 WHAT IS DELASALLE HIGH SCHOOL? DeLaSalle High School opened in 1900 as the first Catholic high school in Minneapolis. Administered by the Christian Brothers since its inception, “De” has been co-educational since 1971-72. Over 15,000 men and women have graduated from DeLaSalle, which is still located on historic Nicollet Island, within walking distance of downtown Minneapolis. Today, DeLaSalle educates students from over 116 different Twin Cities grade schools, from as far away as 30 miles in each direction. Still the only traditional college prep Catholic high school within Minneapolis, De is also the most diverse private high school in Minnesota in terms of ethnicity, socio-economics, and family background.


For John, it was the next step after he went to both La Salle College High School and La Salle University. He had been encouraged by another volunteer in the program to send in an application. He says, “Samantha Hyland, 14-16, recommended that I apply for the program. I sent in an application, and received a phone call describing what sounded like the most amazing position. I knew and loved all of the Brothers I had met in high school and college, and I loved the job description that was provided to me. Everything just made sense.” Viv is also a graduate of a Lasallian high school, but on the opposite side of the country, in Tucson, Arizona. She credits San Miguel High School and her experience at leadership opportunities with the District of San Francisco New Orleans for igniting her passion for post collegiate service. She says, “I decided to be a Lasallian Volunteer because I was involved in the SFNO District with various Young Lasallian events and I was encouraged to become a part of the program after graduation from the UA. The Lasallian charism has been a part of my life since I was in high school so I wanted to give back to the community that has supported me so much throughout the last 8 years.”


Viv serves in the offices of Lasallian Ministry and Guidance. In schatz-johnLasallian Ministry, she helps with liturgies and prayer services. In guidance, she serves as support for the counselors in guidance controlling student traffic in the office and updating the school’s scholarship bulletin boards. John serves in the Learning Specialist Office. The office has nearly 80 students on its caseload. Along with the Learning Specialist, he meets with a portion of these students every week individually to keep them on track academically and make sure they are given the support they need to succeed and fulfill their potential. John goes over their assignments with them, outlines their future assignments, and helps them study and understand material with which they are struggling.

HOW DO THESE VOLUNTEERS TOUCH MINDS AND HEARTS AT THEIR SERVICE SITE? John and Viv have a really unique situation where they live in a community that is attached to their service site. Their backyard is DeLaSalle’s athletic facilities and they are right in the heart of Minneapolis in one of the longest standing Catholic high school’s in the city. They recognize that their job is to become immersed in De’s culture and thus, really bond with their students. John says, “The students I work with brought their friends into my office or students I met in the library would come down and visit. I felt like I was providing a relaxing, safe environment for the kids and whether they realized that or not, they wanted to spend time with me.” Viv has had similar experiences with her students in campus ministry and guidance. She says, “I know I am making a difference when my 9th grade mentees feel comfortable enough to let me help them navigate through a hardship of their first year or when I get the chance to help senior students with their college applications and financial aid questions. It was a great feeling when I was informed that a senior student had received a scholarship for college, a scholarship I had given her the application to and encouraged her to apply for, that was definitely a sign of success.”

Viv Ortiz, 16-17, DeLaSalle HS, Minneapolis, MN

Viv Ortiz, 16-17, DeLaSalle HS, Minneapolis, MN


HOW HAS LIVING WITH THE DE LA SALLE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS IMPACTED VIV AND JOHN AS LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS? Both John and Viv spent significant time with Brothers during their high school and college years. Each volunteer was quick to credit the Brothers in their community for enhancing the volunteer experience they are currently having. Viviana says, “It’s great being able to share this experience with them and hear them share past experiences with us volunteers. Coming from a newer Lasallian high school, I love being able to spend time with them individually and having them tell me about the history of the Lasallian schools and Christian Brothers in the Minneapolis area, more specifically at De. It’s interesting to hear about how much the schools and the Brothers vocation have changed since they became brothers and started teaching. It has definitely been a different experience living with individuals who are about 60 years older than me, but they are all very wise and have given me a lot to learn from.” John agrees with Viv and says, “Out of all of the experiences I have had as a Lasallian Volunteer, living with the Christian Brothers has changed me the most. I am fortunate enough to live with some of the most compassionate, aware people I have ever met. The biggest change I have experienced is a desire to become a more positive person and to complain less. More importantly, I have role models who give me hope that such a change is possible.”

WHAT DO THE VOLUNTEERS IN THE 2016-2017 COHORT SAY TO COLLEGE SENIORS ABOUT LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS? John and Viv both recommend applying to Lasallian Volunteers to college seniors! They have both had tremendous experiences thus far and credit personal growth in their professional and spiritual lives. John says, “Practically and objectively, Lasallian Volunteers provides an opportunity to practice adulthood with training wheels. However, you get to serve in a full-time position and adjust to what is going to be the rest of your life in a safety net with multiple levels of support. Being part of the program speaks to both your competence and your character. Subjectively, it has been a learning and life giving experience. I love the work I do with my students. I’ve had an overwhelmingly positive experience for nearly two years in my faith, service, and community.” Viviana echoes this when she says, “The program offers you a lot of support both professionally and individually, which is really helpful when you are just starting off after college. You also meet so many individuals that are willing to help you grow and walk with you as you discern your vocation, not just those that are directly a part of the program, which is really reassuring to know you are never alone. It’s a great experience that pushes you to grow in three very different aspects.”

By |March 7th, 2017|Categories: lv of the month, news + events|Comments Off on Ministry of the Month: DeLaSalle Minneapolis