The autumn 2021 issue of De La Salle Today celebrates the Year of Saint Joseph, which Pope Francis declared to honor the 150th anniversary of the declaration of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. With this, the Superior General and General Council announced 2021 as the Lasallian Year of Saint Joseph. Regarded as a model, guide and protector, Saint Joseph is patron of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.
As part of the celebration, we are highlighting the “silent ones” in De La Salle Today, on our website, and on Facebook and Twitter. As Pope Francis wrote in Patris Corde (With a Father’s Heart), “Each of us can discover in Joseph—the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence—an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.”
In every ministry and community, you find people who quietly serve, offer hope daily, and are true witnesses of faith, service and community. No job is too big or too small. In all they do, they bring their signature love and care. They never ask for anything in return. They are the “silent ones.” Much like Saint Joseph, they serve behind the scenes, silently making a significant impact in all they do.
We put out an open call to help find and celebrate some of the many “silent ones” who quietly make a difference in their ministries. Most people featured were nominated by colleagues who experience firsthand the difference these dedicated Lasallians make in the lives of others. As you read about these individuals, we invite you to give thanks for these educators and for the “silent ones” who are making a difference in your ministry or community.
Associate Dean, School of Liberal Arts
Saint Mary’s College of California
Shawny Anderson has epitomized the Lasallian mission in every aspect of her vocation at Saint Mary’s College of California. It is the quiet way she leaves her door open so faculty and students can pop in for help or conversation. It’s the way she jumps in to help solve any problem—even when it’s way beyond her job description. It’s in the way she developed her immersion course on disaster relief, in which students learn that they are not there to help or fix, but to serve. They learn to work in community and support community efforts at rebuilding. This class is transformative and has led students to develop careers that foster community based change. Shawny has not only changed the lives of her students, but thousands of people in the communities where she works. She does this work not for recognition, but because it is in her bones. She does it with the humility, grace and love of our Founder.
Director of Community, Ministry & Mission
Christian Brothers School
New Orleans, LA
As an alumnus of Archbishop Rummel High School (New Orleans), Heath Barker knew up close what the Brothers of the Christian Schools stand for. He joined the Christian Brothers School faculty two decades ago and immersed himself in the charism, attending both the former Lasallian Leadership Institute and the Buttimer Institute of Lasallian Studies. Heath has been an incredible Lasallian influence at Christian Brothers School. In addition to his fifth-grade homeroom responsibilities, he doubles as the director of community, ministry and mission, and coordinates spiritual activities for faculty, staff and students, such as prayers and retreats. He has an uncanny ability to create spot-on retreats. He doesn’t just remind students that they are in the presence of God, he is a constant reminder with his demeanor and well thought out responses. He has been a Lasallian light to the school community.
Christian Brothers Academy
Matthew Butler has been a teacher and coach at Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) since 2007. While teaching both theology and physical education, he has been extremely active in the service component of CBA. He has introduced programs to help young men better understand the challenges of socioeconomic poverty and reflect upon how they can make a difference now and in the future. His relentless quest to inspire and help others is shown when he takes time to organize trips to in-need locations both in and out of state, cook for the hungry in the CBA cafeteria, and volunteer his time to deliver food to the needy on Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as weekly in Asbury Park with Lasallian Youth.
Frank Cafaro, AFSC
Guidance Counselor, Teacher
St. Peter’s Boys High School
Staten Island, NY
Frank Cafaro, AFSC, has served at St. Peter’s Boys High School in a variety of roles, including Lasallian animator, guidance department chair and teacher. He helps with college applications and guides alumni on evenings and weekends. He attends many student activities and is known for ringing his cowbell at home games. A graduate of the former Lasallian Leadership Institute and the Buttimer Institute of Lasallian Studies, Frank was a founding moderator of St. Peter’s Lasallian Youth Group and the District of Eastern North America’s Lasallian Youth Summer Assembly, to which he has accompanied students for 26 summers, in addition to traveling abroad with students. A few specific examples illustrate Frank’s connection to the young people he serves. One year, he rallied fellow faculty members to donate to help students struggling with tuition. A few years ago, a senior ran away from home, and his family called the school for help. Within minutes, Frank had located the student, reuniting him with his family. Frank is a man who touches students’ hearts and knows the young people he works with.
Information Technology Director
Christian Brothers High School
Marcello Donato embodies the virtues of Saint Joseph, quietly completing the tasks necessary to keep Christian Brothers High School running. As director of technology, the pandemic has truly tested Marcello. With only two days of transition, he guided the school from a traditional learning to first a total distance-learning model and then a hybrid environment. When it was impossible to a hold back-to-school night for parents in person, Marcello wrote a new program that enabled teachers to have class meetings with parents throughout the evening. Marcello leads the school through his presence, perseverance and faith in God. No technological challenge is too big for him to solve, including helping the Midwest District make its formation website more user friendly. Faculty and staff seek Marcello’s expertise and knowledge. He always makes time to troubleshoot and solve technological problems, produce custom reports, and write programs to make other people’s jobs easier. Always optimistic throughout any challenge, he completes these tasks seamlessly—and usually under a time crunch—with no complaints.
Brother Joseph Fabiano, FSC
Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep
San Francisco, CA
Brother Joseph Fabiano, FSC, is the epitome of the “silent one.” A great example of our Lasallian spirit, he has been a member of the Sacred Heart Cathedral Brothers Community for years after graduating from Sacred Heart Cathedral as a student. While most people are enjoying retirement, he continues to be a witness of Christ’s love for all students and staff. Students love him. He can be seen at almost every school function, including visual and performing arts presentations, athletic games and community life activities. In addition to his duties as assistant librarian, Brother Joseph also moderates a travel club. He may be soft spoken, but he is a pillar of zeal on campus.
Brother John Grover, FSC
Coordinator, Environmental Awareness Center
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
Brother John Grover, FSC, has served at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota all of his life as a Brother. Born in Fargo, North Dakota, he travels there to see family every couple months, but otherwise remains at Saint Mary’s in service. For more than 30 years, he worked in IT at the university and now is focused on environmental awareness projects. He offers canoeing, cross-country skiing, camping and other activities that introduce students to the natural environment. Brother John is also an avid gardener and grows a variety of produce, including strawberries and honey berries. Brother John is shy, maintains a low profile and works without any acclaim or notice. He has given his life to his students and the earth.
La Salle Academy
During hybrid and virtual instruction, David Martinez has gone out of his way to learn new methods, explore digital tools and share what he has learned with the rest of the religious studies department at La Salle Academy. Day in and day out, he has led the department by example, showing his colleagues charity, quiet kindness and a true collaborative spirit. In the weeks leading up to the opening of the 2020-2021 school year, Dave shared his expertise, strategies and positive demeanor with fellow teachers. At a time when so many teachers were anxious or scared to be in the classroom, Dave’s constancy, steadiness and gentle cheerfulness beamed like a beacon of light in school. Most recently, Dave applied to be part of the District of Eastern North America’s pilot program “Education to Build a Racially Just World.” He is also taking a course on Black Spirituals at Xavier University in the hopes of adding diversity to the school’s liturgical music. Dave is a true Lasallian who leads by quiet example, never looking for recognition or rewards.
Jerome and Mary Meeds
Dunrovin Retreat Center
Marine on St. Croix, MN
Jerome and Mary Meeds have raised their children from childhood—even infancy—while they have been faithful custodians and ministers of the Gospel at the Dunrovin Retreat Center. They have lived on the property, improved the property, served the poor and embraced the Lasallian charism and mission wholeheartedly. These are the quiet ministers of Jesus Christ who have sought no reward, never asked for anything, and created a safe space for people to encounter the sacred.
Brother Gérard Nolet, FSC
Novitiate, Retreat Centers, Mont Bénilde High School, Résidence De La Salle
Brother Gérard Nolet, FSC, was born in a poor, rural village in the Centre du Québec region, the 17th child in a family of 19 children. He has spent his life being at the service of others, namely, youth. He has worked in juniorates, novitiates, scholasticates, retreat centers, Brothers’ formation houses, Mont-Bénilde High School, summer residences and now Résidence De La Salle, the Brothers’ full-care community. At Mont-Bénilde, he devoted himself to the boarding school, to the games room (the young people affectionately called him “Brother Games”), maintenance of the pool and supporting the sports teams. Year after year, he collected empty cans to raise money, which he used to buy jerseys for the teams. Even when the school closed, he kept following former students in their tournaments. At Résidence De La Salle, he has served as a tailor, launderer, nurse assistant, treasurer, caretaker, maintenance manager and community director. He welcomes everyone with a smile and always has gentle words of encouragement. His charity and sincere love for the Founder is a strong inspiration for all educators who have had the chance to know him.
Math Teacher, Assistant Track and Field Coach
La Salle Catholic College Preparatory
Linus Oey, a math teacher at La Salle Catholic College Preparatory and 1987 graduate of the school, is a perfect example of quiet service. During his 28 years at La Salle, he has served in too many capacities to list, but is mainly known for his work as a math teacher and coach. It would be easy to take his service for granted as he requires no outward recognition. He is the first to volunteer when the call goes out. He shows up for everything, from staff socials to drama performances to basketball games. He always has an open door to his classroom and is consistently working late to help individual students to succeed. He seeks out those on the margins and enlivens in them an attitude of success and capability. He is genuinely interested in continuous improvement and invests 100% in the school’s collaborative professional development. He is a positive, encouraging and stalwart supporter of everything La Salle and the mission. He is a consummate big brother and an inspiration through his kind, gentle, consistent and dedicated service.
Event Services Director
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
Katherine Pederson is an excellent example of those individuals quietly, consistently and reliably working behind the scenes at Lasallian institutions around the world. A graduate of the Buttimer Institute of Lasallian Studies, Kathy strives to live the Lasallian charism both at work and at home. She has worked on the Winona Campus of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota for 16 years, the past seven years as the director of Event Services. As part of her job, she interacts with and tends to the facility needs of faculty, staff, coaches, administrators, students and hundreds of university guests. Whether it’s an event for a distinguished speaker, a diocesan retreat group or a wedding, Kathy is there to make sure everything runs smoothly. Her job is endless as each day (night and often weekend) is filled with planning and problem solving for numerous events—often behind the scenes and with little recognition. Kathy exudes a can-do attitude, is always willing to volunteer to assist others and is committed to Saint Mary’s mission.
Performing Arts Technical Director
La Salle Academy
When Elissa Pensa-Cerros speaks about the Lasallian mission you can hear the zeal in her voice. She was a founding member of Arts Alive at La Salle Academy (LSA), which makes performing arts available to inner city youth. She is also engaged in the school’s mission trips and community service activities, as well as offering faculty formation with a passion for the role of women in the Lasallian world. Students—especially those who find themselves on the margins—know that she is always a “safe place.” Her commitment to the mission goes beyond LSA as she has been quietly influencing the vitality of the global mission for decades. When the Young Lasallian movement was in its infancy, she helped to invite young Lasallian professionals to learn more about it. She served on the International Council for Young Lasallians and was instrumental in the development of the VEGA formation program. Elissa also serves as co-coordinator of the Rhode Island Lasallian Association Group (RILAG). She does all this without fanfare as she sees her vocational call to be that of a “lifelong Lasallian.”
Director of Campus Ministry
Christian Brothers University
Joseph Preston is always available to students, faculty and staff at Christian Brothers University (CBU). He serves on several committees and collaborates well with everyone, especially the two Brothers who work with him in campus ministry. He is a great advocate of the Brother’s vocation. He is Lasallian to the core. Joey genuinely cares about each person he encounters. He lives his faith, which is evident, while always showing respect for those who express their faith differently from him. Joey served for many years in campus ministry at Lewis University, where he absorbed the Lasallian charism. He is currently active with Young Lasallians in the Midwest District. Full of energy for the mission, he is tireless in creative approaches to serving students and staff at CBU.
Christian Brothers Academy
David Roache stands out as an educator whose efforts and attitudes impact virtually the entire school community. His duties as a teacher, Lasallian animator, mission and ministry team leader, faculty and new teacher formation coordinator and lecturer, long-term department chair, vice principal of academic affairs and mentor to all reveal the extent of his “public” involvement. But it is the more subtle, behind-the-scenes contributions that really make Dave worthy of gratitude. There are few events that take place without Dave’s helping hands and input. If there are chairs to be set up, books to be carried, events to chaperone, planning assistance needed, Dave is there, with his signature energy and humor, lightening everyone else’s load. No task, no committee work, no sacrifice is not worth doing in Dave’s eyes if it will help students. And if there is an occasion to celebrate or congratulations to express, Dave supplies homemade food and dessert or flowers whenever called for. Dave shares himself like a Lasallian Saint Joseph, a true witness of faith, service and community.
Religious Studies Teacher
Saint Mary’s College High School
Mike Sommers is Joseph on the Saint Mary’s College High School campus, acting as a loving father to everyone in the school community. A kind, caring, compassionate, cheerful and patient educator, Mike teaches by the example of his gentleness, generosity and Catholic faith. He is a graduate of the Buttimer Institute of Lasallian Studies and has received the school’s Lasallian of the Year award. Mike teaches how to serve Christ and find joy in service. Outside of school, he volunteers with the Alameda County Food Bank, a variety of marathons, the Prisoners Literature Project, fundraisers for multiple charities and so much more. Battling cancer multiple times in his life, you might think he would give in to despair, but instead he is a shining, confident example of faith to the school community and beyond. He is a steadfast and committed presence on campus, supporting students in their spiritual growth and caring for them. Mike treats each person with a gentle dignity. He does not seek praise, advancement or self-promotion but is instead a humble and kind servant-leader.
Grace A. Veloz
La Salle Educational Center
Grace Veloz has served as a board member at the La Salle Educational Center for the past 11 years in a variety of roles, currently as treasurer. Grace’s love for the center began with her father, a decorated alumnus from Cuba, and her grandmother. Grace spent her childhood hearing about Lasallian spirituality and the Brothers. When her dad passed away, Grace made it her mission to continue the tradition by attending alumni gatherings—many times being the only woman present. When Grace was asked to join the board, she was honored but also understood the work needed to support and grow the center. Grace brought many gifts and talents to the center from her background in finances and as a CCD teacher, youth group coordinator and mother of two daughters. Through her dedication, the center has expanded and become a financially stable ministry serving more than 300 migrant farming families. Not a day goes by that Grace doesn’t call the center to check on a specific student or to work out details for upcoming events.
Mary Wilby, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Nursing, Nurse Practitioner Track Coordinator
La Salle University
Humility about her expertise and her commitment to transforming her students into competent nurses are examples the silent service Mary Wilby, Ph.D., provides to the nursing department at La Salle University. The most recent example of her quiet yet critical impact was through her work on the La Salle University Pandemic Preparedness Task Force. Mary took a major role in developing the university’s contact tracing program, which became a practicum site for her nurse practitioner students. She provided guidance during the vetting process for COVID-19 testing and served as one of three administrators for the day-to-day operations of the testing site. She also serves on the executive board for the faculty senate and provides nursing care to students in the Student Health Center. Mary’s commitment to the mission extends beyond campus. She has participated in formation opportunities at the university, District, Regional and international levels and was a delegate to the 2017 Women’s Symposium in New Zealand. Mary also does extensive work with District of Eastern North America initiatives in Haiti and serves on the board of Lasallian Women of Hope.