Lasallians from around the world gathered at Manhattan College in Riverdale, New York, from June 25 – July 8, 2023, to participate in the Buttimer Institute of Lasallian Studies. Annually, this two-week intensive formation program takes place over three consecutive summers and allows participants to cultivate and build up the greater Lasallian community through daily prayer, classes, reading time and socials. Students also participate in a co-curricular practicum of their choosing to meet with throughout their three years of study.
Thirty-two first year students made up the Buttimer I cohort. Led by Tim Gossen, their studies focused on the life and person of Saint John Baptist de La Salle and the time of which he lived. These origins of the Institute were presented through various readings, discussions and The Letters of the Founder. Diving into the life of the Founder coincided with the personal theme of one’s own vocational journey.
In reflecting on her first-year experience, Buttimer I student and coordinator of peer ministry and service at Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois, Nia White, expressed her feeling of being at home within the Lasallian family. “I learned about the humanity of the beginnings of the Institute and the worldwide reach it has today,” shared White. “It was fascinating to see the way the mission and charism is presented throughout the world.”
This year’s Buttimer II class consisted of 28 students. Greg Kopra, AFSC, led these participants throughout an examination of the Founder’s educational vision, delving into The Conduct of the Christian Schools and De La Salle’s main pedagogical writings. Buttimer II students were then able to put these teachings within the contemporary context of the Lasallian educational mission today.
Buttimer II student Christine Joy Ballada, Ph.D. reflected, “While reading the early works of De La Salle and the Brothers, I realized how their commitment and dedication to the mission have set the stage for us who continue the ministry of teaching in the 21st century.” In expressing her deepened appreciation of Lasallian pedagogy, Ballada, the dean of student affairs at De La Salle University in Manila, Philippines, noted that she hopes to “practice creative fidelity to the Lasallian mission by carefully discerning our response to the challenges of modern times.”
The Buttimer III class, made up of 23 students, studied the Founder’s spiritual vision, guided by Brother Timothy Coldwell, FSC, and Brother William Mann, FSC. This graduating class of participants immersed themselves in Meditations and An Introduction to the Method of Interior Prayer. Holistically integrating the entire Buttimer experience of the two previous years, participants were able to apply this learned Lasallian spirituality to their own lives, enhancing their individual personal spirituality.
The final night of the program celebrated the Buttimer III graduates, allowing time for all participants to build community. Campus minister at La Salle Academy in New York and Buttimer I participant Brother Richard Galvin, FSC, noted, “As ‘One La Salle’ becomes more and more a theme globally, I feel blessed to experience it through the Buttimer Institute.”
Recent Buttimer III graduate and religion teacher at La Salle College High School in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, Doug Demeter, called this intensive experience a great opportunity to learn more about the charism and mission. “If you think you know a lot about the Founder and the Brothers, there is still so much more to learn,” he said. “There were Brothers who have been involved with the Christian Brothers for 40 or more years who not only added to the experience but also were able to learn things themselves.”
This year’s Buttimer Institute welcomed 83 participants from the Lasallian Region of North America (RELAN) and worldwide, representing 20 countries. In reflecting on the diversity of participants, Ballada affirmed being able to see how the Lasallian mission is lived out with creative fidelity. “I saw similarities and differences in the ways we respond to our current realities and gained a deeper appreciation of the mission that has been handed down to us,” she said.
In summation, Doug Brummel, pastoral director at Mullen High School in Denver, Colorado, called the Buttimer Institute “a place to go and simply be yourself, being truly open to encountering each person you cross paths with for the two week [program]. It really brings the Lasallian mission to life in an authentic experiential way.”
The Buttimer Institute is a Regional program of Christian Brothers Conference. Established in 1986, this program is names in honor of Brother Charles Henry Buttimer, FSC (1909-1982), the first American Superior General (1966-1976) of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.