Inspired and with renewed vitality and fraternity, approximately 300 Brothers from RELAN are returning to their ministries and communities with a hopeful outlook on their vocation as Brothers and on the Lasallian mission following the Called to Be Brothers (CTBB) assembly.
“It’s just been a great blessing,” said Brother Nick Gonzalez, Principal of Cathedral High School in El Paso, TX. “I think just in hearing each other’s stories it’s inspirational. I think all of us go back refreshed—I think that’s a great word—and recommitted to the Lasallian mission in the 21st century.”
The Regional gathering took place July 15-19 at Lewis University in Romeoville, IL, and included Partners in the last day and a half of reflective and forward-looking activities. CTBB featured prayer, small group discussions, reflection, a panel on vocation, socials, a banquet and a Mass honoring the Region’s jubilarians. Keynote presenters included Superior General Brother Álvaro Rodríguez Echeverría; Reverend Bernard J. Lee, S.M., PhL, Th.D., Professor of Theology at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, TX; and Sister Mary Sujita Kallupurakkuthu, S.N.D., Former Superior General of the Sisters of Notre Dame.
Praying for jubilarians
Called to Be Brothers began in 2010 following the 44th General Chapter in 2007 that put a focus on the spiritual lives and community lives of Brothers. A committee then organized a program designed for use in community during Advent and Lent. For the past two years, Brothers have participated in prayer services that allowed them to freely discuss their prayer lives, share their faith, and voice their hopes for the Brothers, their community and the Institute. This innovative program that united Brothers throughout the Region in their home communities with similar discernment and sharing activities was followed by District retreats in 2011 and culminated with CTBB.
Brother Álvaro, who participated in each day of activities, stressed the importance of the Brothers’ spirituality in his address, which also recounted his impressions of his pastoral visit to the Region in 2011.
He described CTBB as a wonderful experience especially in seeing the diversity and unity of the Brothers and the Partners. “I think it’s a strong moment and I hope after this experience the Brothers will feel a fire in their hearts to continue with the mission as Brothers and to realize that maybe the most important mission that we have is to be Brothers and to share with the others this brotherhood and this sisterhood,” he said.
Brother Tony Elfering, who serves at Bishop Kelley High School in Tulsa, OK, and will join the Novitiate in August 2013, called the event inspiring. “I know we talk a lot about hope, but it does give me hope just to see all these men—old, young, middle age—just so vibrant and still carrying on that mission,” he said.” So it really gives me a lot of hope for the future.”
Brother Fred Mueller from La Salle Academy in Providence, RI, said the gathering confirmed his two-fold hope for the future of Lasallian Education. “The future of the Institute is based on both the vocation to the life of the Brother, which I believe there is still a call to, and then vocations to the Lasallian life as a Lasallian associate,” he said. “So for me at middle age, it’s very hopeful because I feel like I still have the opportunity to accompany both groups—both the young Brothers and the Lasallians.”
About 30 Partners joined the gathering for activities Wednesday and Thursday along with about 20 Lasallian Volunteers who were preparing to begin their orientation program.
Being surrounded by so many Brothers had an impact on Sean Barber who will start his second volunteer year at San Miguel School in Tulsa, OK. He drew from the experience the importance of serving and being present. “You being there is already helping, so make sure you are there body and mind, not just a physical shell,” he said.
Ann Merchlewitz, Executive Vice President and General Counsel at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in Winona, MN, was excited to be invited. “To see this many Brothers together really gives you hope for the Institute,” she said. “To see the energy and the enthusiasm and the fraternity that is in the room is very inspiring, and to hear Brother Álvaro talk about hope for the Institute and hope for the mission, and then to see the energy that’s been here the past few days really makes you leave energized.”
Brother Roch Dufresne exuded that energy as he described his plans to share the excitement he experienced at CTBB with his students at Cathedral High School in Los Angeles, CA. “We need to give them a broader picture that we are not just Cathedral, we are part of a bigger organization, and this is—even for myself—it’s a way to wake up and say, ‘wow, I am not alone at Cathedral to do the work that we are doing,'” he said.
The program ended with small group discussions in which participants reflected on their experiences and developed some action items they wish to implement, which will be compiled at the Regional level in the weeks after the gathering and distributed to Districts for consideration.
“I think the action steps hopefully will be important to move vision and idea to innovation, that we move from a talking and a philosophical place to an action place and a ‘do’ place that’s not just repetitive of things we’ve already done,” said Brother James Martino, Director of Administration for the District of Eastern North America and Assembly Planning Committee Coordinator.
General Councilor Brother Robert Schieler hopes following this gathering that Brothers continue to make prayer life and community life priorities. “I think Called to Be Brothers has made us more conscious of the importance of our presence to one another,” he said. “As one Brother wrote in his evaluation: ‘If spirituality and the quality of our community life are issues for reflection, they are best done not at workshops that some Brothers from the community attend but done in community over a period of time with the Brothers I live with. The structured prayer services and days of recollection organized by the Called to Be Brothers planning committee has helped us in this regard.'”