Seven pathways focused on solidarity, spirituality, leadership, the environment, association for mission, vocation and sustainability will guide the Lasallian mission for the next seven years. These pathways, or priority areas, were developed at the 46th General Chapter, which took place at the Generalate in Rome from May 1-22, 2022. They are commitments intended to provide direction to Lasallians worldwide, while allowing freedom to creatively achieve those goals locally. The Documents of the 46th General Chapter are now available, which include the pathways and more on the Chapter.
With the theme “Building new paths to transform lives,” the 70 Brother capitulants and invited experts and consultants at the General Chapter were called to re-envision and co-create Gospel-fraternity as leaven for the future of the mission.
“Constituted to represent the whole Institute, the General Chapter has been since the days of the Founder the ultimate expression of the communion that exists among all the Brothers.” (Rule, 112)
The initial phase provided the opportunity to understand the present-day realities with “boldness in truth,” where participants heard from various speakers who spoke to the challenges facing the Church and society today. Capitulants then reflected on how the Institute is being called to offer a response of those challenges through the Lasallian educational mission. This eventually gave way to articulating one key challenge, dream and set of values to guide the design process, which led to seven transformation pathways. Solidarity throughout the Institute, articulated as “One La Salle,” with an ongoing focus on the peripheries and co-responsibility, became a common thread of the pathways and the accompanying commitments.
Prayer and community rooted the experience for participants. A significant moment for many was the liturgy with Cardinal Michael Czerny, SJ, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. Reflecting on Fratelli Tutti, he shared that for Brothers and Lasallian Partners, “your primary role is to prepare us to live as siblings in society. Not to live comfortably or even morally at home privately, but to live as siblings in society. Because, to compress the Holy Father’s teaching very briefly, ‘if we do not learn to live as siblings in society then we and the planet are finished.’” (Cardinal Michael Czerny, SJ, Homily, May 1, 2022, Casa Generalizia, 46th General Chapter)
It is in this spirit that the work of the 46th General Chapter focused on building new paths to transform lives. On this page, participants from the Lasallian Region of North America (RELAN) reflect on various aspects of their General Chapter experiences.
With the pandemic halting in-person gatherings, including postponing the 46th General Chapter for one year, how would you describe your experience of being together with members of the global Lasallian family, as One La Salle? Avec la pandémie qui a interrompu les rassemblements en personne, y compris le report du 46e Chapitre Général d’un an, comment décririez-vous votre expérience avec des membres de la famille lasallienne mondiale, en tant qu’Un De La Salle?
Brother Michael Fehrenbach, FSC: Being with Brothers and Lasallian Partners from the corners of the world is always a joyful and fascinating experience. There is no real substitute to sitting in the same room or around a common table with people. So much of our life together requires in-person presence. I found the experience exciting, energizing, hopeful and inspirational.
Brother Richard Galvin, FSC: I was inspired to be with Lasallians from around the world. Learning about the delegates as individuals and the context in which they live and minister allowed me to grow in my awareness of what we refer to as “One La Salle.” My time away coincided with our Founder’s Week at La Salle Academy. Seven delegates from six different continents agreed to record “best wishes” videos which were shown throughout the week at La Salle Academy. This was a blessing to our school community and a reminder that we are “One La Salle.”
Brother Florent Gaudreault, FSC: Participating in a General Chapter is an extraordinary experience, and even more so when it is the first time that you take part in it. I was present at the previous Chapter, in 2014, but as a French-speaking secretary and not as a Chapter member; it was obviously very different. Knowing that you are part of the decisions that commit the Institute for at least the next seven years obliges each participant to weigh carefully how he will vote; each one must be involved in everything that has been decided and commit their District to it. The idea of “One La Salle” reminded everyone of our essential solidarity. Participer à un Chapitre général représente une expérience exceptionnelle, et plus encore quand c’est la première fois qu’on y prend part. J’étais présent au Chapitre précédent, en 2014, mais comme secrétaire francophone et non comme membre du Chapitre; ce fut évidemment très différent. Savoir que l’on fait partie des décisions qui engagent au moins les sept prochaines années oblige chaque participant à bien peser son intention de vote; chacun devra être partie prenante de tout ce qui aura été décidé et y engager son District. L’idée de « Un De La Salle » a rappelé à tous notre indispensable solidarité.
Heather Ruple Gilson: As a woman, a committed Lasallian Partner and co-secretary of Association, I recognize the privilege of attending and participating in the Chapter. Being able to engage in such a deep and meaningful way about the future of leadership and pathways to sustain the Institute and support the growth of mission and the Lasallian family will be a highlight of my journey as a Lasallian woman. It was not lost on me that the Lasallian Partners present were a part of discussions and discernment in ways not seen before in the history of a General Chapter. The Chapter process acknowledged differences yet celebrated and drew upon the strength of the diverse cultures and experiences present. I enjoyed being able to meet and get to know Brothers from around the world whose work and commitment serve as inspiration for the Lasallian family.
What was your biggest takeaway from the Chapter?
Brother Chris Englert, FSC: The 46th General Chapter brought together not only the Brothers, but also some of the most committed and insightful Partners in the Lasallian mission. Our history has never been without challenges, but the Brothers are surrounded by
knowledgeable and passionate Lasallians. The formation and affirmation of our lay colleagues must continue to be a priority. It’s what we need and what they want! Assured that we are doing God’s work, we left with a renewed sense of optimism.
Brother Michael Fehrenbach, FSC: One of the great takeaways from the Chapter was the consistency in our determination to find ways to be present with and in service to those people on the margins, the disenfranchised and those who have been victims of systematic injustice. We have continued this conversation since the 39th General Chapter (1967) that produced The Brother of the Christian Schools in the World Today: A Declaration. While so much of life has changed, this commitment continues to stretch us, motivate us and compels us to act on behalf of those who are poor.
Brother Richard Galvin, FSC: My biggest take away is that we have chosen a Superior and Council who are right for this moment in time. I had the opportunity to be in a language group with Brother Armin as well as other discussion groups. I believe he embodies one of the goals of this Chapter, to create a spirit of change. He is blessed with a General Council who will support him in leading the Institute through the next seven years, articulating prioritized values such as prophetic audacity, interiority and a culture of encounter.
Brother Dylan Perry, FSC: For me the most remarkable thing to come out of the Chapter was the “dream” statement that guided our work. This simple and powerful statement reminds the Lasallian family what we are about and helps us to answer the question, “What does it mean to be Lasallian?” We can all say, “We are…leaven for a more fraternal world, called to encounter God in those who are poor and to promote justice.” This is a powerful statement that applies in every context we find ourselves in and puts our educational ministry into a universal context while describing our role in the Church and the world.
Heather Ruple Gilson: I left the Chapter filled with a great deal of hope; hope for the calls of synodality, fraternity, change, for new and creative responses to the needs of the world and to our own structures for sustainability of mission and the Lasallian family. With deep gratitude and appreciation for the last Superior General and members of the Council, I look to the new leadership of the Institute with great esteem. I feel the vision of Brother Armin and the members of the General Council will help create new paths for the Lasallian family. They will accompany all of us connected to the mission with wisdom in the challenges and opportunities we will face as “leaven” for the world and for our Lasallian mission.
Brother Robert Schaefer, FSC: For me, the biggest takeaway was the Appreciative Inquiry methodology that was used to organize the Chapter. Appreciative Inquiry is a process for organizational change that focuses on areas of strength and potential for life-giving growth. Given our reality, globally and on a District level, what can we do to live in fidelity to our charism? That was the guiding question, and I believe it helped to establish a mindset that aligned with the spirit of the Institute—the spirit of faith and zeal. Face the many distressing realities before us and respond with faith and zeal.
Brother George Van Grieken, FSC: My biggest takeaway from the Chapter is something that we may often say but don’t really appreciate until it is experienced. It is captured in the phrase “unity in diversity.” Brothers often meet and interact with others who come from very different countries and cultures. This is especially true at a General Chapter. The striking thing for me was the breadth and depth of connection that very rapidly and naturally occurred among those who had come from vastly different backgrounds. It was joy to discover so many previously unknown members of the family and to find our own vocation blessed by the experience.
What stood out to you about the forthcoming pathways and commitments as particularly significant?
Brother Michael Fehrenbach, FSC: I think the emergence of Lasallian Partners as an increasingly important element in the Institute continues to surface in ways that demand more attention and inclusion insignificant decision-making roles. Integral ecology is also something we must pay attention to and ensure our educational mission addresses protection of the vulnerable—youth and adults—as well as our care for our vulnerable home.
Brother Robert Schieler, FSC: Renewed structures for the future and association for mission are the two essential pathways that must be embraced across the Institute if the Lasallian mission is to have a viable future. Lasallian association for mission is a gift of the Holy Spirit for our time. It is imperative that at all levels of the Institute appropriate governance and formation structures exist that ensue on the part of all Lasallians—Partners and Brothers—co-responsibility, solidarity, accountability and transparency. Committed and dedicated Lasallians deserve new structures and ongoing quality formation experiences that deepen their vocational journeys as ministers of the Gospel and ambassadors of Christ to all those entrusted to their care.
Heather Ruple Gilson: As the Lasallian family continues to live into realities of shared mission and Association, the pathways give some clear mandates to prepare, in the spirit of creative fidelity, for a future of mission and Association that is sustainable, reflective of our realities and to think beyond current structures. I think the calls for a better understanding of the Lasallian family as a part of the charismatic family movement within the Church, structures of shared mission that move to true co-responsibility and the calls to build intentional Lasallian communities will all need to be unpacked, discerned and planned for in all Regions of the Institute. These pathways, which affirm calls coming from other international gatherings, will call us further and deeper in a synodal process of listening, dreaming and action as “One La Salle.”
Brother George Van Grieken, FSC: Two things stood out to me about the pathways and commitments. The first is the fact that they were formulated relatively quickly at the end of a longer process of “appreciative inquiry.” The variety of group exercises, conversations and activities that at first seemed to me to be lengthy and random turned out to provide the foundation for putting together well-focused and articulate results. It was this prep work that enabled the pathways and commitments to emerge and come into focus. The second thing that stood out is that the process enabled individual pathway discussion groups to provide compelling and challenging language in their commitments, pivoting or editing elements when necessary after input on the Chapter floor. Each group was clear about its priorities and happy to adjust the smaller details accordingly.
Is there a certain pathway or experience you had at the Chapter that makes you feel especially hopeful about the future of the mission?
Brother Michael Fehrenbach, FSC: Our focus on education, evangelization and justice surfaced in several ways. The first pathway in the list of seven addresses these three domains as one integrated mission. And the pathway on integral ecology gives added emphasis to this as a substantive part of the shared and common mission.
Brother Michael French, FSC: Without a doubt I was struck most by the Chapter’s attention to Integral Ecological Conversion. Having attended five Chapters, I finally see us taking a clear stance as an Institute on our “common home” and the role our educational institutions play in moving us toward commitments to be carried out. It is expected that we say something about the future and our lives, but this is something truly new for us Lasallians.
Brother Ernest Miller, FSC: I served in the thematic group that developed the pathway with this focus: Creating a more fraternal world through education, evangelization and the promotion of justice. This pathway uncovers and recovers a significant aspect of understanding the Lasallian mission, encompassing the three intersecting fields. From our origins, the ministry of the Brothers of the Christian Schools and beyond was what former Brother Superior General Álvaro Rodríguez Echeverría, FSC, calls our “educational evangelical activity.” In other words, education and spiritual formation are, like faith and zeal, two aspects of the same coin. In the wake of Vatican II, the Institute recognizes that the promotion of justice makes complete the Trinitarian orientation of the Lasallian mission field. Specifically, this pathway uncovers and recovers Circular 412, The Educational Service of the Poor and the Promotion of Justice, a seminal text. In addition, this pathway accents the deep Lasallian heritage in the field of catechesis and evangelization, calling for us to renew our commitment to the catechetical and evangelical activity. Education with gravity and gentleness, evangelization with compassion and prudence, and justice promotion with wisdom and zeal provides the ground for the Spirit to transform lives.
Brother George Van Grieken, FSC: One of the most obvious and hopeful aspects of the Chapter was the fact that the attendees were well aware of the realities of the world today, and they recognized the providential limits and invitations that these realities provided for the Lasallian mission. Another hopeful dimension was the clear priority to move “to the peripheries” and “outside our comfort zone.” The Lasallian world is adjusting its focus toward a deeper engagement with the “especially the poor” part of article three in the Rule. Finally, the rather new pathway of Integral Ecological Conversion was both unexpected and evocative. It slowly emerged from a previously unseen cocoon and provided newly recognized areas of attention for the Lasallian world in line with the encyclical, Laudato Si’.
Based on the discussions at the Chapter, what do you feel are the biggest challenges facing the mission? Sur la base des discussions au Chapitre, quels sont, selon vous, les plus grands défis auxquels la mission doit faire face?
Brother Michael Fehrenbach, FSC: One of the biggest challenges is the diminishing number of Brothers and the large numbers of retired and infirm members of the religious community. Canon Law can get in our way, as well, should we want to make some more radical changes. We also claim 90,000 Lasallian educators but without adequate formation, a vast majority of these educators are probably in it as wonderful people but people who are more interested in having a job. It is incumbent upon both Brothers and Partners to accompany and offer opportunities for all 90,000 to grow and deepen their understanding of the charism and mission.
Brother Florent Gaudreault, FSC: I believe that the greatest challenge remains the Lasallian formation of all participants in the mission. We must ensure that all the members of educational staffs are sufficiently familiar with the story of the Institute’s foundation and aim to offer a holistic education to all the young people entrusted to their care; this is an important challenge, which must be taken up constantly, or it will never be completely achieved. Another challenge, in the context of “One La Salle,” will be for the Districts in a position to do so to contribute to the development of the works of Districts in financial difficulty. The goods of each District belong to the whole Institute. J’estime que le plus grand défi reste la formation lasallienne de tous les participants et participantes à la mission. Il faut s’assurer que l’ensemble des membres des équipes éducatives connaisse suffisamment bien l’histoire de la fondation de l’Institut et vise à offrir une éducation holistique à tous les jeunes confiés à leurs soins; il s’agit là d’un défi important et qui doit être relevé constamment, car il ne sera jamais complètement atteint. Un autre défi, dans le contexte de « Un De La Salle », sera, pour les Districts en mesure de le faire, de contribuer au développement des oeuvres des Districts en difficulté financière. Les biens de chaque District appartiennent à tout l’Institut.
Brother George Van Grieken, FSC: The biggest challenges facing the Lasallian mission today are professionalism, tribalism and cultural assimilation. Professionalism confines the Lasallian mission to solely practical means and ends, effectively leaving out interiority, integral human development and faith perspectives. For De La Salle and his followers, it is the latter that empower and help shape the former. Tribalism tacitly limits what is “good” to our own group or community, neglecting or dismissing the experience of others. It is much easier to be “together” within our own well-known group than “in association” with other groups. It works to avoid this “association” connection with other Lasallian institutions and communities. Cultural assimilation is an international challenge because the Western world’s sensibilities generally predominate over Southern or Eurasian ones, often quietly, implicitly and without malevolent intent. For an international Institute such as ours, greater international sensitivity, especially in terms of cultural and experiential priorities, is challenging to initiate, maintain and assess among the wide range of countries where we are present. This becomes especially important as the majority of growth in the Institute shifts to other parts of the world.
How do you feel the pathways respond to the Chapter theme of “Building New Paths to Transform Lives”?
Brother Michael Fehrenbach, FSC: If we are able to translate the pathways into strategic action in each local incarnation of the mission, we will be transforming lives. The challenge is turning the words into action.
Brother Robert Schieler, FSC: In his message to the General Chapter participants, Pope Francis artfully articulated our seven pathways and our relationships with those entrusted to our care. He said by choosing the pathways we did for Lasallian pedagogy in the 21st century we offer the essential values of our rich pedagogical tradition. “You educate in responsibility, creativity, coexistence, justice and peace. You educate to the inner life, to being open to the transcendent, to the sense of wonder and contemplation before the mystery of life and creation. You live all of this and you interpret it in Christ, and translate it into the fullness of humanity.” His words captured well the hopes and dreams for our transformative pathways.
How do you feel the outcomes of the Chapter speak to realities in RELAN?
Brother Nick Gonzalez, FSC: The creation of the international Solidarity Fund to help care for Brothers who have worked with the poor and in Regions without social safety nets will be a challenge for RELAN. It will require that we embrace the concept of being interconnected with the larger Lasallian world. It will require us to respond in creative ways to help fund it. It will, undoubtedly, challenge our Western need for ample safety nets.
Brother Chris Englert, FSC: Currently, the Districts of RELAN work well together, sharing many of our resources and best practices. The 46th General Chapter calls us to broaden our formation programs for Brothers and Lasallian Partners, explore new models of Lasallian communities and implement the final proposals of the III AIMEL in relation to association for mission. Despite the aging of the Brothers, we are surrounded by seeds of new life.
Alisa Macksey: In my opinion, the most relevant outcome for the Chapter is to think of new and innovative governing structures. We need to think of shared mission and co-responsibility differently in light of more and more Lasallian Partners who hold leadership positions, yet do not have authority or a seat at the table in decision-making for the District or Region.
Brother Dylan Perry, FSC: The educational landscape in North America needs a greater sense of meaning and purpose. Educators need deep and holistic support. Students are in search of meaning and need the skills to prayerfully evaluate all information and ideas they are being bombarded with. Lasallian institutions are struggling with boards and administrations with fewer Brothers. The pathway to deepen and clarify Lasallian spirituality and discernment methods is a way to bring the wisdom of the active-contemplative life to meet the challenges of education in RELAN.
The 2nd International Young Brothers Assembly and the 4th International Symposium of Young Lasallians both presented at the General Chapter. What did you find to be significant from their work?
Brother Michael Fehrenbach, FSC: I thought both groups brought great energy and enthusiasm for the mission. Neither group has finished their work. In the fall after they meet again, we will receive more of their deliberations and suggestions. Both the young Brothers and the Young Lasallians have challenged the Brothers and the Institute to be open about the future. They are, in some significant ways, telling us we need broad experimentation regarding community, service to those who experience poverty, and inclusion.
Brother Robert Schaefer, FSC: The reports from the International Young Brothers Assembly and the International Symposium of Young Lasallians inspired the delegates to the Chapter to be bold and courageous in looking to the future. The charism continues to inspire young people to engage in the mission. The most significant decision of the Chapter was inspired by the work of the Young Brothers. For the first time in recent history, a Brother will be assigned outside his District to a “beyond the borders” apostolate in service to those who are poor and marginalized as part of his initial formation. This is an act of creative fidelity to the charism.
As the General Chapter endorsed the proposals of the 3rd International Assembly of the Lasallian Educational Mission (AIMEL), what are your hopes for the next phase of AIMEL’s work? Comme le Chapitre Générale a ratifié les propositions de la 3e Assemblée Internationale de la Mission Lasallienne (AIMEL), quels sont vos espoirs pour la prochaine phase du travail de l’AIMEL?
Brother Michael Fehrenbach, FSC: AIMEL/CIAMEL are the vehicles through which we expect to see Lasallian Partners assume greater leadership in mission. Hopefully they discern and propose concrete strategies to make that happen. In addition, we talk a lot about association and what it means. I’m not sure we really know what we are talking about so maybe they will begin to clarify what it means in practice.
Brother Florent Gaudreault, FSC: There is plenty of room for optimism. I was amazed by the seriousness of the proposals made by AIMEL and by the very Lasallian zeal participants were able to demonstrate in their preparation. We cannot imagine the future of the Institute and its mission without the close collaboration of all Lasallians. Those who are not members of the Institute represent around 99% of our educational personnel, an enormous number. Their collaboration is more than essential, and their proposals must be taken into account. Obviously, this was the case in this Chapter. Tous les espoirs sont permis. J’ai été émerveillé par le sérieux des propositions faites par l’AIMEL et par le zèle bien lasallien que les participants ont su démontrer dans leur préparation. Nous ne pouvons imaginer l’avenir de l’Institut et de sa mission sans la collaboration de tous les Lasalliens. Ceux qui ne sont pas membres de l’Institut représentent autour de 99% de notre force éducative; c’est énorme. Leur collaboration est plus qu’essentielle et leurs propositions doivent être prises en compte. De toute évidence, ce fut le cas lors du dernier Chapitre.
Alisa Macksey: I hope that the in-person phase will create concrete ways to bring the proposals to life and make progress in each Region based on the local contexts and realities. This is where we can meet the rubber to the road and create tangible actions with real assessments of the actions.
Brother Ernest Miller, FSC: I hope that AIMEL’s attention to eradicating poverty is accented. The assembly’s focus on eradicating poverty coheres with the General Chapter’s pathway on Education, Evangelization and the Promotion of Justice, which spotlights the pressing need to end poverty. This focus of attention by the Chapter and assembly is a call to listen to the word of God, to listen to Catholic social teaching—especially in the pontificate of Francis—and to listen to our Lasallian educational heritage to not only serve those impoverished and marginalized, but also through education and advocacy to transform structures and systems that make people poor and disadvantaged. To this end, I hope that AIMEL will focus attention on why all programs for education and formation of Brothers and Lasallian Partners are infused with these foci. Our whole Lasallian orientation must be toward ending poverty. It is a long-distance struggle together with a wide latitude of other organizations within and beyond the Church.
In considering the call for “new pathways,” how would you describe the elections of the new Institute leadership?
Brother Michael Fehrenbach, FSC: Electing the first superior from Asia is an indicator that things must change and develop in new ways. The delegates were of one accord about who we wanted. Brother Armin was clear about the challenge of moving to the peripheries. Selling that to Brothers whose average age, in this country, is 75+ will be our challenge. Brother Carlos is from Colombia—no French, Italian or American candidates were even mentioned for these offices. I think this speaks clearly about the vibrancy of mission in Latin America and Asia, as well as Africa. North America and Western Europe have resources. The other countries have emerging ministries and needs. “One La Salle” will be our motto.
Brother Nick Gonzalez, FSC: The elections reflected a prayerful response to the Holy Spirit and a genuine response to the ground-level local hunger for an energetic General and Council to fearlessly lead the Lasallian worldwide community. To lead, not through more documents, but rather, through significant gestures and actions which inspire local responses. The new General comes from south of the equator, a nation with polarized politics and great socio-economic disparity. His home Region and District have been generating creative responses during his leadership. Brother Armin is not afraid to try new ways and he trusts his subordinates. His young and energetic Council, largely recommended by the General, are enthusiastic about being servant leaders.
Alisa Macksey: I think Brother Armin and the new Institute leadership will look at creating new and different pathways. The members of the Institute leadership are creative and innovative and understand the challenges we face and are open to looking at different solutions and ways of functioning than how we have historically done things.
Introduction: Brother Chris Patiño, FSC, and Elizabeth Moors Jodice
Editing: Elizabeth Moors Jodice
Photos: Communications and Technology Service, Generalate
Translation: Brother John Guasconi, FSC