On Oct. 24, a group of 25 St. John’s faculty and staff members gathered together with 18 Christian Brothers at La Salle Hall, the Christian Brothers retirement community in Beltsville, for a joint Heritage on Tap event.
The Brothers of the Christian Schools have always welcomed and encouraged lay women and men to fully participate in their educational mission as lay partners, known as association. “Together and by association” is the Brothers’ commitment to one another and their ministry. Laypeople are invited to be partners in the Lasallian ministry and mission by participating in formal formation programs and assuming leadership positions in their ministries. One way for SJC faculty to further their understanding of the Lasallian mission is through the Heritage on Tap series.
During Heritage on Tap meetings, faculty and staff gather together as a faith community to share their Lasallian values, learn from one another and deepen their knowledge of the Lasallian mission through guest speakers. Launched in 2002, the themed meetings take place three or four times per academic year. This year, SJC social studies teacher and Lasallian Animator Colin Crawford coordinated with retired SJC English teacher Bro. Martin Zewe, FSC, to bring the fall Heritage on Tap meeting to La Salle Hall for an afternoon of fellowship. The topic for the gathering, “teaching as a vocation,” included presentations by three speakers: Bro. Martin Zewe, FSC, SJC French teacher Randi Butler and SJC English teacher Bro. Paul Avvento, FSC.
Bro. Martin focused on St. La Salle’s belief in teaching as vocation. La Salle told his teachers they were called by God to be workers in his vineyard – their classroom. He also taught them that teaching the young is a gift from God, and schools must be based on Gospel values and treat all individuals in the school with the same respect Jesus showed each person he encountered. Bro. Martin said, “St. John Baptist de La Salle stressed that Lasallian schools must be advocates for the poor and make sure that all students understand their baptismal responsibility to be advocates for the poor. He wants teachers to touch the hearts of their students, so they are open to the call of Jesus.”
St. La Salle’s vocational journey resonated with Butler, who noted that like the Founder, she discovered her true calling over a period of time – with God imperceptibly guiding her from one commitment to the next. She was initially unsure if she wanted to become a teacher, but after discovering her passion for the French language, she knew she wanted to share the language with others and embraced the teacher vocation. As a Lasallian educator at St. John’s, she appreciates the guidance and support the community has provided, as well as the opportunities to connect with the worldwide Lasallian community. “We may not know where we are meant to end up in life or what we are meant to do,” said Butler, “but if we surround ourselves with people in the communities we build, those people help guide us along the paths we are meant to take.”
Bro. Paul concluded the presentations by sharing his vocation story, from his first encounter with the Christian Brothers while attending Manhattan College, to his first ministry assignment at St. John’s. Emphasizing God’s universal vocation call to Lasallian educators – to be like guardian angels for the students entrusted to our care – he said, “We believe that the Holy Spirit knows no bounds, and in turn we must push the limits of modern pedagogy and move beyond theoretical practices to touch hearts. The grades, the skills, the conduct and behavior are all outcomes of transforming students; and that is why we have been called to be Lasallian educators.”
The presentations were followed by a dinner social. “I am so grateful for the opportunity to be with the Brothers at La Salle Hall. It was a wonderful evening of fellowship and Lasallian spirit,” said President Jeff Mancabelli.