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So far Kathleen Swain has created 182 blog entries.

December Ministry of the Month: Bethlehem University

In this month’s Lasallian Volunteers “Ministry of the Month,” the Lasallian Region of North America is featured. The ministry is Bethlehem University in the Holy Land and the Lasallian Volunteers are first-year LVs George Boateng and Jarred McKinney. George is a 2018 Graduate of Boston College with a bachelor’s in History and Sociology and Jarred is 2018 a graduate of Emory University with a master’s in Global Religions.


Bethlehem University is a Catholic co-educational institution in the Lasallian tradition whose mission is to provide quality higher education to the people of Palestine and to serve them in its role as a center for the advancement, sharing and use of knowledge. The university emphasizes excellence in academic programs and the development of students as committed people prepared to assume leading positions in society. The university fosters shared values, moral principles, and dedication to serving the common good. Founded in 1973, current enrollment is 3,295 students with 77 percent female and 23 percent. Of those students, 76 percent are Muslim while 24 percent are Christian. Students come from the areas surrounding Bethlehem with 46 percent from Bethlehem, 44 percent from Jerusalem, 8 percent coming from Hebron, and 2 percent coming from other places in the region.


George coordinates the English language tutoring program and works as a TA for an English class. Jarred spends most of his time tutoring in English, is also a TA for an English class, and writes and edits for the Bethlehem University newsletter.


For Jarred, he felt called to the mission of both the LV program and of Bethlehem University. He wanted to work for educational opportunities for people who might not otherwise get them. He says, “I became a Lasallian Volunteer because I believe that everyone loves learning, the first step is just learning how to learn. So, there is no venture more worthwhile than to accompany students in the journey of falling in love with learning.” For George, a trusted mentor introduced him to the program. He felt it was the best way for him to continue with his passion for social justice. He says, “I have always engaged in the civil activism. I believe in using my privilege to help people not blessed as I am to share in my freedom and rights.”


Many Bethlehem students have to travel a great distance to get to the university. The political climate in Palestine is very unstable and can be dangerous. George and Jarred, along with the Brothers and Lasallians at Bethlehem University, offer safety, stability and quality education to the students entrusted to their care. George says, “Bethlehem University encounters the same challenges every person and institution confront in the West Bank due to socio-political reasons. However, amidst these struggles the institution endeavors to provide an education that is academically, socially and psychologically uplifting because of the belief that a well-rounded education is the best vehicle for positive changes. The most important thing my students need from me is my attention and dedication.” Jarred speaks of his experience when he says, “I think Bethlehem University attempts to combat this by instilling the idea that although Israel may occupy their physical bodies and their material resources, they cannot occupy your mind if you do not allow them to do so. That is the power of education, it is a liberating, life-giving force, and I think Bethlehem University aims to embody that. My students most need from me is to see that learning can be play, it can be fun. This removes the pressure and emphasis on grades and allows the learning experience to be enjoyable.”


Neither Jarred nor George had experience with the Lasallian charism or De La Salle Christian Brothers prior to their service experience. However, both volunteers have very positive things to say about their community experience at Bethlehem University. Jarred says, “Living with the Brothers has placed an emphasis on prayer and paying attention to the happenings of my life. Thus, praying multiple times a day has led me to be attentive to the presence of the Divine in the world. If, then, I am attending to God, my self-understanding rests in God. But, there is a lot of grey-area in this. Living with the Brothers has helped me to see that this grey-area is, in fact, holy ground.” George shared, “My time with the Brothers has taught me that they are just like everybody else, but they live a life dedicated to education. My experience has instilled an appreciation to living simply.”


George says, “The volunteer year should not be about you, but about the people you are serving and the mission of the place you are serving under.” Jarred says of serving for a year after college, “I think sometimes that we make things too formulaic. A leads to B, B then to C, and so on. Perhaps it is better to think about life as a pilgrimage.”



By |December 12th, 2018|Categories: lv of the month, news + events|Comments Off on December Ministry of the Month: Bethlehem University

Lasallian Volunteers Apparel for Sale!

Lasallian Volunteers has partnered with Tommy Hilfiger to provide LV apparel! Support the LV program by purchasing an assortment of items for yourself, current LVs, Alums and children! Lasallian Volunteers will receive a portion of proceeds from sales. As part of this ongoing partnership, items include: sweatshirts, blazers, sweaters, polos and more! All items purchased will be shipped directly to you. Enter CHRI05 as the school code.

Shop now >  

Click here for ordering instructions >

By |December 12th, 2018|Categories: news + events|Comments Off on Lasallian Volunteers Apparel for Sale!

Storms Can’t Dampen Spirit of LVs Run

The 2018 LVs Run didn’t go exactly as planned, but it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of Lasallian Volunteers who were prepared to run.

LVs Run was scheduled to take place on Saturday, November 3, 2018, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, as part of the larger Race by the Bay. However, faced with severe weather and high winds, Race by the Bay was cancelled. The cancellation didn’t deter the 26 LVs gathered in Pawtucket who still wanted to run—so run they did! Starting at Saint Raphael’s Academy, a Lasallian high school, LVs ran or walked about three miles on late Saturday morning after the storm had passed.

The weekend celebration began on Friday evening with a pasta dinner hosted by Christian Brothers Center and Ocean Tides in Narragansett, Rhode Island. Brothers, LV Alumni, parents, family and friends joined LVs in the opportunity to carb-load and celebrate all they had accomplished in preparation for running the next morning.

“As a new Lasallian Volunteer, I viewed our fundraising goal as not only a dollar amount, but as an opportunity to share my experience at DeLaSalle High School and the program with our generous benefactors, family and friends,” shared Joseph Rogers, a first-year LV serving at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “My connections that I built with our greater Lasallian family were personalized because really it was an invitation for them to join me on my journey this year since it is their support that makes this possible.”

Maddi Larsen, a second-year LV serving at The San Miguel School of Providence, Rhode Island, oversaw the logistics of the weekend as it was her community that hosted the LVs. Maddi shared, “Hosting the Lasallian Volunteers for the run was honestly such a joy. While having 29 people in the palace (the affectionate nickname they call the community) can be stressful, being surrounded by all these people brought me so much peace. They are absolutely like a second family to me and help to make my experience as an LV and the work that I do absolutely worth it.”

LVs Run surpassed its goal of $60,000 on Friday, November 2. Donations are still being received.

See more pictures >

By |November 8th, 2018|Categories: news + events|Comments Off on Storms Can’t Dampen Spirit of LVs Run

“And Just Like That…”

It wasn’t until I began reading the specifics of my potential role as the El Otro Lado Border Immersion assistant that I realized how much of “The Other Side” I had never actually encountered: I have never owned a passport, I have never left the mainland United States, no one in my immediate family has owned a passport or left the country… Yet, I would be doing all of this in a short span as I acted as an agent of Lasallian charism, as a facilitator, as a pupil myself. I took my photo, acquired my passport and booklet, underwent background checks, packed up my life as I knew it into two suitcases…

4:15 a.m. And just like that, the alarm is blaring again. I plug in my string lights next to my bed and stare at the ceiling, and then at my altar in the corner of my room. I roll out of bed, light my altar candles, and hype myself up as I prepare for the day. In the shower I ponder the day’s meetings, Google Spreadsheets, work to be done at Casa Guadalupe, emails to be written to Border Patrol, what I’ll be making for dinner in community that night as it is my night to cook and lead prayer. The internal to-do list swirls around in my head as I paint my face and pour my coffee and slide on my wristwatch. Then it hits me: only a few more days! And just like that, my purpose is renewed. The morning fog clears from over my inner-monologue as I remember what the weeks of anticipation have been leading up to: our first El Otro Lado Border Immersion of the 2018-2019 academic year. Up until this point about two weeks ago, my inner-dialogue, my anxieties, my experiences of joy and excitement looked a bit different, as I began to find my footing as a Lasallian Volunteer: What business does a witch (without a broom or cauldron) have living in a Catholic religious community? I heard the word “antiphon” for the first time at the Kitson Institute, I still do not have my Hail Mary memorized perfectly, I sometimes struggle with finding my Canticles in time. And just like that, I remember the laughs at dinner or during chores; the questions I was nervous to ask but that my community members were incredibly patient in answering; the moments of genuine human connection in the midst of an airport pick-up, or a hospital drop-off, or when a source of anxiety back in our hometowns came to the fore—and I remember that community has become a brave space, not only for myself, but for all folx (a gender neutral collective noun used to address a group of people) who dwell there and those who visit. And just like that, I have gotten a taste of what it means to live in community. To be a part of a unit, a little pocket of safety on the Southside of Tucson, while life continues on for each of us inside and outside our shared space…

And just like that, I took my first ever trip out of the U.S. ever a few weeks back when Sr. Jodi, Mrs. Alma Mejia-Garcia (founder of El Otro Lado at San Miguel High School in Tucson), and myself did a site visit to HEPAC (Hogar de Esperanza y Paz), an organization that works to support womxn (an inclusionary, non-binaried gender term) and youth who are fleeing from South and Central America mostly, a few folx have sought aid from Mexico; HEPAC is run by a mother-daughter duo who work in tandem with the surrounding community in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico to provide support and empowerment to their clients, with the nurturing and maintenance of human dignity at the crux of the organization’s mission statement. They provide opportunities for the folx they help serve through work, allowing them to keep half of what they earn to accrue savings as they start fresh, the other half of their income going toward facilities expenses and the education of the youth they were traveling with [all folx receiving aid from HEPAC live on-site in residence halls]; tutors, teachers, rec leaders and volunteers visit multiple times a week and facilitate multiple-subject lessons and recreational activities for the children and help facilitate fun activities the whole community can take part in. It was a profound experience, crossing over for the first time, and seeing first-hand the differences in what goes into crossing over to Mexico versus coming back to the U.S. And just like that, my eyes began to open wider: While I am aware of my intersectional identities as a Pan African woman in the United States, I was able to obtain my passport with relative ease, I was able to pass freely through a port of entry, which is anything but “easy” as a site, as a social/cultural/political symbol. Never have I had to consider my citizenship status, or my first language, or my name, or the reality of being separated from family as the result of economic or socio-political devastation. And just like that, my self-concept—much of which had been formed through the lenses of my experiences of marginalization—shifted drastically: How do I unpack my positionalities of privilege to hopefully become an agent of positive change and to be in solidarity with the folx I am striving to serve, over the course of my service as an LV and beyond?…

I serve as an El Otro Lado Border Immersion assistant at San Miguel High School. I work directly alongside Sister Jodi, a literal Goddess (she would throw a fit if she knew I called her that in this blogpost). She used to work at Saint Mary’s College of California  in the Mission & Ministry Center. And just like that, I am reminded as to how wildly chance/fate/luck has worked in my journey as an aspiring Lasallian. She left campus right as I was entering in 2014. And here we are, a full four years later, two women from the Bay Area who narrowly missed each other in Moraga, leading Border Immersion Trips in the middle of the desert.

Each Immersion trip consists of a different theme each day, one day we have an orientation/prep day; one day we do a six-mile hike for a water/supply drop along a popular cross-route in the Sonora Desert alongside the Tucson Samaritans, a humanitarian organization; one day we connect with Border Patrol and public defenders who are living and breathing the realities of Operation Streamline; one day we help serve at a Comedor in Nogales; one day we visit part of the Tohono O’odham Reservation and receive a her-storically silenced narrative of indigenous folx from Southern Arizona whose nation is obstructed by a border wall they are supposed to be completely independent from, we are seeking to unpack a narrative which has been largely silenced, so as to absorb El Otro Lado as not only a two-sided or black-white issue, but as the multifaceted, gray reality that it holds…

And just like that, I am about to lead Mullen High School from Casa Guadalupe over to breakfast on campus as we prep for our hike and supply drop in the Sonoran Desert.

Savannah Mattox is a first-year LV serving at San Miguel High School in Tucson, Arizona. She is a 2018 graduate of Saint Mary’s College of California.

El Otro Lado, which means “the other side”, is a US/Mexico border immersion program hosted by San Miguel High School. This program provides Lasallian students with the opportunity to explore the US/Mexico border and learn about the many complexities of immigration. Through this five-day immersion program students and participating staff members learn about, and experience in part, the hard journey our brothers and sisters that cross from “El Otro Lado” endure. In addition to informing participants of the hundreds of migrant deaths that occur in the Arizona desert, El Otro Lado allows students to interact with humanitarian aid groups, Border Patrol agents and those directly impacted by US immigration policy.

By |October 31st, 2018|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on “And Just Like That…”

Restorative Justice: The Quiet 21st Century Lasallian Undertaking

Many of you reading this are familiar with the Lasallian mission and the history of St. John Baptist de La Salle. If you aren’t, the very short version is this: there was a man who saw that poverty-stricken young men were not being educated, and he thought that they should be in order to become literate citizens – gentlemen in society. Many weren’t happy about this, but he did it anyway. Fast forward 300 years later and you have De La Salle Christian Brothers and other lay people who continue his legacy and the mission he founded on a much larger scale.

I am serving in a particularly unique ministry, Catalyst Maria School, which is a K-12 charter school on the South Side of Chicago. Up until this point, I had only seen the Lasallian charism presented through Catholic ministries but Catalyst Maria functions in a secular manner with Lasallian roots. As a non-Catholic Lasallian this is something incredibly unique and something I am excited to be a part of. After many late-night conversations with my community members about De La Salle, his legacy and the many forms that it has taken over time, I still marvel at De La Salle himself. He was a radical man, who had unconventional and widely unpopular ideas. He drew attention to the need to educate marginalized young people when so many others had discarded their well-being as unimportant. There are many ways to accomplish that goal and one way that I have observed that being done – rather quietly – is through the work that Catalyst is doing via restorative justice. At Catalyst a key component to serving scholars in marginalized communities who have often experienced trauma and other forms of oppression (when conflicts arise) is through restorative practices. Just as De La Salle made it a goal to educate marginalized poor young men to be literate and gentlemen, Catalyst has made it a goal to educate our marginalized scholars to be literate, and socially and emotionally healthy. We aim to educate the whole person.

Restorative practices can look like peace circles used to resolve conflict before it turns into violence, or as a healing practice after violence has occurred. It can also look like restorative consequences that involve healing and growth for the person who has caused harm and others who have been harmed. For example: If one student has bullied another, a restorative consequence can be that they must create and present a PowerPoint on the effects of bullying and present it to their class. My job as a circle keeper is to create and hold a space where people can feel safe to express what they need to express and talk to one another openly and honestly.

The students I serve fall under many categorizations of marginalization, and while educating a young person is hard enough, the adversity they face as marginalized youth adds extra layers of complication. This also means that your approach to education must be radically different as well. How you would teach a student who has experienced trauma is marginally different than how you would teach a student who has not. When you work with marginalized students and with a restorative justice approach, you learn how to ask questions differently. If you’re trying to solve a conflict, the root of the answers are rarely ever in plain sight. Restorative justice mindsets cause your approach to change because that’s most likely what the student needs to process whatever is going on with them. If a student acts out, instead of asking, “What is wrong with you? Why won’t you quit doing this?” we ask, “What is going on with you? How can I help you work through what’s causing you to do this?” A student does not raise their voice and get angry for no reason, nine out of 10 times that reason they’re angry isn’t actually you or what you did, it’s something else going on behind the scenes. That reason – the way that possible trauma and whatever else is happening out of your eyesight – is just as important. Restorative justice practices are key to providing a space for someone to learn how to talk about what is on their mind and communicate with someone they may be having conflict with.

These practices are absolutely essential in the approach that must be taken while I work with students who are a part of marginalized communities and who have experienced repeated trauma, poverty, violence, various levels of oppression, and students who living with disabilities or going through the immigration process. Schools help students get closer to the school-to-prison pipeline by suspending and expelling students when they act out and disobey school policy. Restorative justice helps students take steps back from the school-to-prison pipeline because it helps teach skills of processing information, ownership of impact, and the importance of maintaining and building healthy relationships. The growth of communities that experience trauma and poverty is often stunted by continuous changes and lack of relationships being built. We work with many students who have experienced trauma and their immediate response (due to the neurological effects of reoccurring trauma) is fight or flight. Often this response is translated by those who don’t understand it as unnecessary and intentional aggression when it is often uncontrollable. This is yet another way in which Lasallian educators are doing their part in educating the whole person. It is wonderful if our students are literate but how can we not address the troubles they are facing at home and within their communities and expect them to succeed?

I call restorative justice “the quiet 21st century Lasallian undertaking.” We work with incredibly vulnerable and marginalized populations and providing restorative justice practices for those we serve is something that I find to be essential to a quality education and some of the adversities they face. Many Lasallian ministries are already on board. Perhaps in the coming years, we will see and hear that all of our Lasallian ministries have implemented restorative justice practices into their culture. Young people from marginalized communities are still not being fully educated to be functioning members of society because conflict resolution and healing is not seen as a necessity – just look at the school-to-prison pipeline. Young people from marginalized communities are not being given other options on how to solve conflict or heal in ways that don’t involve violence, and thus they not given options to build and maintain relationships with those they are having conflict with. Catalyst Maria seeks to change that through their work and for the rest of my year and career as a Lasallian educator, so do I.

Carly Cohen is a second-year LV serving at Catalyst Maria in Chicago, Illinois. She is a 2016 graduate of La Salle University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


By |October 3rd, 2018|Categories: blog, news + events|Comments Off on Restorative Justice: The Quiet 21st Century Lasallian Undertaking