This summer, 20 Lasallians gathered at Christian Brothers University (CBU) in Memphis, TN, seat of the modern day Civil Rights Movement in the U.S., for the 2011 Lasallian Social Justice Institute (LSJI). From July 10 -14, they were immersed in civil rights and related social justice concerns, including the Rights of the Child, an Institute priority which supports the right of children to a quality education and the Church’s call to solidarity with the poor.
Mary Hesser, Principal of Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento, CA, called LSJI a powerful, compelling, transformative experience. “It was jam-packed with relevant and important activities and events that coalesced into an informative and educational formation experience,” she said.
Speakers included Reverend Samuel “Billy” Kyles, who inspired participants with stories of his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement and his first-hand account of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. assasination. Former CBU President Brother Terence McLaughlin shared the story of his role in admitting the first black student to Christian Brothers High School. Bro. Ernest Miller, the District of Eastern North America’s Associate Director for Mission and Ministry focused on the message of “justice demands action” in his presentation.
On association for mission, Lois Harr, Director of Campus Ministry and Social Action at Manhattan College in Riverdale, NY, said, “There are some times when you have to overtly discuss and reflect on association. There are other times when we just have to be doing it. I think that’s what LSJI was like for me.” Hesser said LSJI helped participants to experience association in a real and powerful way. “The program also raised our awareness of the needs of underserved children and youth in Memphis, and by extension, throughout the U.S.,” she explained.
Participants have lined up plans to create programs on social justice in their respective ministries. Hesser has already scheduled a time for LSJI participants in her school to share their experiences at a meeting. She is also in the process of bringing Rev. Kyles to CBHS to speak with the students and faculty.
LSJI grounds Lasallians experientially, practically and spiritually in the Catholic Church’s teachings on social justice and in the Lasallian mission of serving the poor. In Memphis, participants visited the Jubilee Schools and the Civil Rights Museum. They also took a firsthand look at Catholic Charities programs, including talking with refugees in housing projects and in English as a Second Language class. Additionally, they examined the Lasallian tradition, Church teachings, and sociological commentaries on poverty and social justice.