Women in the Lasallian Region of North America (RELAN) made history this summer with the first RELAN Lasallian Women’s Symposium. With each District represented, 33 women and five De La Salle Christian Brothers gathered at St. Joseph’s Camp on the Russian River in California July 8 – 12.
Saint Mary’s College of California and Christian Brothers Conference co-sponsored the gathering, which offered opportunities for prayer, reflection, discussion and examination of challenges girls and women face today—from body image to finding their faith. The RELAN gathering follows the first-ever International Women’s Symposium, which was held in the spring of 2012 in the Pacific-Asia Regional Conference (PARC) in Pattaya, Thailand. The symposiums are in response to the challenges presented by the 44th General Chapter and Circular 461 to strengthen association with lay Partners and their contribution to the Lasallian Educational Mission.
Alisa Macksey, Regional Programs Director, attended the PARC gathering and served as symposium chair for the RELAN gathering planning committee, which included Dr. Margaret McCarty, Executive Director of the Office of Lasallian Education, Dr. Carole Swain and Sally Jamison with Saint Mary’s College of California, and Trish Carroll, formerly of PARC, who sent a recorded presentation on women in the life of St. John Baptist de La Salle.
Participants not only examined the history of women in the Lasallian mission, but they also looked to the future of the mission and their role in it with presentations from noted Lasallian scholar Brother Gerard Rummery on St. La Salle letters to women and Dr. Roxanne Eubank’s presentation “Lasallian Women Today.”
For Marianne Stich, Director of Campus Ministry at Bishop Kelley High School in Tulsa, OK, the gathering highlighted the important roles both men and women have in providing the best education and service to young people. “To try to do that without both voices being heard is like trying to breathe with one lung,” she said. “So this time together has given me insight and has challenged me to move forward into a future where both work together.”
Brothers in attendance echoed the significance of working together. Superior General Brother Álvaro Rodríguez Echeverría, General Councilor Brother Robert Schieler, Brother Gerard Rummery, former Saint Mary’s College of California President Brother Ronald Gallagher and recently appointed Auxiliary Visitor for the District of Eastern North America Brother Ed Phelan joined the women.
“It was a privilege to be among a group of inspiring Lasallian women who have a profound understanding of their vocation and love for the Lasallian mission,” said Bro. Robert. “This symposium, coupled with the research symposium sponsored by Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and Christian Brothers Conference, is going to open new windows on the Lasallian heritage and expand our knowledge for the charism as it can be lived today.”
Bro. Álvaro spoke about women and association in the Lasallian world and reminded participants that they are in the process of “creating a new reality” for association. As the women return to their ministries, they take inspiration from this gathering with them to help provide innovative and transformative experiences for those entrusted to their care.
• Read Bro. Álvaro’s address
• Read a reflection from Jolleen Wagner, Lasallian Volunteers Director, on what she will take back with her
• Read the District of Eastern North America blog
• More pictures
• The group sings Happy Birthday to Bro. Álvaro
“Our time together in prayer, reflection, and conversation has been a rich time of shared association in which we have both supported and challenged one another in terms of how we continue to be true to this Lasallian mission that we live out in our world today, in our individual ministries and within the communities we find ourselves in,” said Maryann Donohue-Lynch, Associate Director for Mission and Ministry for the District of Eastern North America. “It’s been a wonderful experience of both mission and association and something that I’m sure will bear fruit for many years to come.”