Lasallians from around the world gathered at the Generalate in Rome for the Institute’s Centro Internazionale Lasalliano (CIL) formation program April 17-28, 2023.
Themed “Women in the Lasallian Family: Moving Forward Together as Leaven for Transformation,” 50 participants from all five Regions, including seven from the Lasallian Region of North America (RELAN), gathered for a transformative and collaborative two weeks following the metaphor of baking bread, as inspired by The Leavening Project.
Janell Kloosterman, AFSC, director of leadership formation for the District of San Francisco New Orleans, described her CIL experience as life-giving.
“Hearing varying perspectives on local realities brings a sense of the challenges, needs and celebrations of women from around the world. Sharing these perspectives leads to the realization that the opportunities for Lasallians to gather makes the world smaller,” shared Kloosterman. “Barriers are broken down when we can build relationships with those who have different cultures and experiences. In the end, we all want the same thing—opportunities to make an impact, large or small, because we have been given a voice at the decision-making table.”
Brother Robert Schieler, FSC, former Superior General (2014-2022), attended the CIL representing the District of Eastern North America and Brothers in RELAN.
“The program was an explicit effort to give life to recent Institute documents and experiences,” said Brother Bob. “It was an expression of the hope voiced in the Declaration on the Lasallian Educational Mission, which states, ‘… it is necessary to promote intentionally, from a spirit of fraternal communion and apostolic zeal, the presence, voice, action and representation of women in all areas of the institute, especially in the areas of leadership and decision-making’” (p. 52).
The first week of the formation program began with remarks from Brother Superior General Armin Luistro, FSC, as well as a presentation on women in the Bible and the early Church. Three educators from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota were featured presenters. Mary Catherine Fox, AFSC, presented on women in the life of the Founder, and Beth Seebach and Sue Hines shared findings of the Lasallian Women’s Need Assessment Survey Report (April 2022).
Julie Baillargeon, executive director of Villa des jeunes, a Lasallian retreat center in the greater Québec City area in the District of Francophone Canada, felt that delving deeper into the report “opened our eyes to the different realities and diverse needs expressed by Lasallian women.”
Week one concluded with a retreat day for reflection and processing the presentations, followed by a weekend of free time.
The second week kicked off with a presentation from the Institute’s Solidarity and Development Secretariat (ONLUS) on the current realities and challenges facing women and girls.
Presentations on women in the synodal process, leadership and current trends and realities rounded out the program.
“The glass ceiling still exists,” Baillargeon remarked. “It prevents women from contributing to their full capacity and potential.”
“There is an immense need for leadership training and mentoring. Women have challenges that are unique because of their gender,” Kloosterman said. “Women need and are crying out for networking, collaboration and skill-building opportunities so the playing field can be leveled when women seek executive leadership positions.”
Participants were given time to plan individually, Regionally and by integrated language groups to create initiatives in support of women and girls within their own contexts.
“This acquired solidarity will translate into projects, new implications and the development of creative and innovative actions,” shared Baillargeon. “The sharing of knowledge and training remains a central point that will allow us to concretize what was proposed during this rich stay.”
Sarah Laitinen, director of education and formation at Christian Brothers Conference, shared that participants were empowered to bring their experience back to their ministry, District and Region and continue to find ways to support women and girls in the Lasallian family.
“On a Regional level, we are planning to continue having the story of women in the founding story represented in the Buttimer and Johnston Institutes,” continued Laitinen. “We are currently in conversation on new programming and initiatives that can best support the needs articulated by women in our Region.”
Reflecting in summation, Brother Bob described this CIL program as “a launching pad for a more intentional commitment to the promotion and full participation of women at every level of the Institute, local ministry, District, Region and Institute.”
Above: RELAN participants (from left) Sarah Laitinen, Brother Bob Schieler, FSC, Julie Baillargeon, Abby Michels, Martin Lapointe, Andrew Kuffner, Janell Kloosterman, AFSC, and SMUMN presenter Mary Fox, AFSC
Photos Courtesy Communications and Technology Service, Generalate