Fourth cohort participants of the Brother John Johnston Institute of Contemporary Lasallian Practice gathered at Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois, July 10-14, 2023, focusing on Lasallian vocation, spirituality and association. This gathering was the first time the entire cohort has come together, with previous gatherings taking place by District.
Being together as a full group and seeing the mission from a wider perspective was powerful for participants like Darius Jutzi, an English teacher at De La Salle High School in New Orleans, Louisiana.
“Sure, we all know that we as individuals are chipping away at our work in our own schools,” Jutzi said. “But being able to connect with [other] people chipping away at the same big ideas is inspiring. We’re all working on something bigger.”
The program began with Dr. Kurt Schackmuth, Lewis University vice president for student life and chief mission officer, leading participants through the history of the Founder’s encounter with Adrien Nyel, a pivotal moment in Saint John Baptist de La Salle’s life. This moment is depicted in The Encounter monument and sculpture on campus.
A variety of presenters offered sessions to explore this gathering’s theme. Janell Kloosterman, AFSC, District of San Francisco New Orleans director of leadership formation, and Brother Armand Alcazar, FSC, Midwest District special projects coordinator, led sessions on Lasallian vocation and included a special emphasis on the five thresholds of the Lasallian formation journey as described in Lasallian Formation for Mission: The Pilgrim’s Handbook (2019).
Niki Creamer, religion teacher at Calvert Hall College High School in Towson, Maryland, called the focus on these thresholds incredibly impactful. “It gave me a really concrete way to understand my place, and the place of others, in my ministry and to appreciate the place where every person finds themselves,” she said.
Brother John Crawford, FSC, Ph.D., associate professor religion and theology at La Salle University, led sessions focused on Lasallian spirituality. During three sessions on association, led by Christian Brothers Conference executive director Tom Southard, participants began reviewing the historical foundation of Lasallian association. As an anchor to dialogue, understand and explore their contemporary lived experiences of identity and belonging, participants discussed the future possibilities of association in their lives, ministries, cultures, the Institute and greater Lasallian world.
Margi Beima, athletic director at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory in San Francisco, California, reflected, “Association to me means that I have an understanding of the Lasallian mission and of my small part of moving the mission forward in my daily work as an athletic director.”
Brother Michael French, FSC, led a World Café session with the goal to learn about our Regional community through a ministerial lens. This collaborative conversation method aimed to cultivate discussion through a variety of people and contextual dialogues, questions and perspectives.
Small group “casa conversations” gave participants the opportunity to process each session and reflect on ways to integrate these learnings into their Lasallian practice, experiences in their ministries and more.
“I am always most impacted by how relevant all of the conversations we have are to my own experiences,” shared Creamer. “It reminds me how amazing we can be as a community to be able to share our trials, ideas, best practices and put them to use for the young people entrusted to our care.”
Jutzi noted digging deeper into the roots of Lasallian community as a highlight. “Each individual works within the Lasallian system, and everyone internalizes what the Lasallian charism means to them,” he said. “[Wider] perspectives reveal, challenge and translate the Lasallian charism of the Christian Brothers and the Founder himself.”
Participants will gather again for their final online session in September and again in person by District in October 2023 before closing out the program in March 2024. The fifth cohort of the Johnston Institute will start in the summer of 2024.