The tradition of service has long been a part of the Lasallian mission. Christian Brothers and lay partners have served others for centuries by helping and teaching those in need. Today, Lasallian Volunteers has taken the traditional definition of service and redefined what it means to serve others. Providing dedicated, well-trained volunteers for one or more years of service to schools and agencies of the Christian Brothers, the LV program is changing the world for better and has expanded to a movement of more than 1000 years of combined service.
Although the program didn’t officially begin until 1989, the first volunteer, Charlie Brown, served in 1981 teaching at La Salle Academy in New York. At the time, Brown was a senior at University of Notre Dame and wrote a letter to Brother Henry Betz, FSC, offering to teach in exchange for room and board. Since that year, many volunteers have taught in schools totaling an impressive 1052 combined years. Brown has developed from a young volunteer to his current role as Archbishop, the Apostolic nuncio of Ireland. More than 250 years of service have been contributed to high schools across the country like La Salle Academy, including Matt Billings (LV 15-16), a Christian Brothers University alum who is currently serving at La Salle Academy.
Over 700 volunteers have followed in Brown’s footsteps and contributed to the many years of service. Of those 1052 years, 484 come from LVs giving one year of service, 550 come from LVs giving two years of service, and 18 come from LVs giving three or more years of service. These remarkable numbers represent the contributions of the volunteers and their supporters as well as the immeasurable transformation of those LVs and the countless people who have been served.
Like Brown, several other volunteers began serving in individual Lasallian ministries or within district efforts in the 1980s and early 1990s. These separate endeavors were recognized and combined into a single, national effort in 1993 when Lasallian Volunteers became an official program of Christian Brothers Conference. When the LV program began, the mission of the organization was simply to introduce recent college graduates into the lives of inner-city youth and families to help them earn a better education. The volunteers and their supporters utilized the Lasallian principles of faith, service and community to build the mission and get the LV program where it is today.
Volunteers have been empowered to serve children, teens and adults in underserved communities in the United States and beyond. Because of adequate training, support and passion fueled by the Lasallian mission, young men and women have served in ministries from Rhode Island to Yakima to countries including South America, Africa, Eastern Europe and the Caribbean.
“LVs have been in every type of educational ministry that the Brothers serve in: schools in grades ranging from kindergarten to college level, tutoring centers, social services, residential facilities, retreat centers and many more,” said LV Associate Director Brother Dylan Perry. “LVs have been on the founding faculty of schools and participated in the long history of some of the Brother’s oldest schools in the US. They even bring the Lasallian charism to organizations outside of the Lasallian network.”
One example of this is The San Miguel School of Providence, which opened in 1993. When it first opened, the school was staffed by Brother Lawrence Goyette, FSC, and two LVs: Licia Robertson (LV 93-97) and Mariesa Jozwiak (LV 93-95). This year, 12 LVs are serving in San Miguel model middle schools including Tom Darnowski (LV 14-16) and Julia Turner (LV 15-16) in Providence.
The LV program is not only about serving others in communities and responding creatively to the educational needs of those in poverty. The program is also about building relationships through intentional faith-based communities and supporting life-long service and spirituality – experiences that set volunteers up for future success.
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota alum Rosa Kadera-Redmond (LV 03-04) is an example of this. She served as an LV at the L.E.O. Center in Oakland, CA. After serving, Kadera-Redmond stayed in Oakland and the Lasallian family in a new role as Western Sales Consultant for Saint Mary’s Press.
All along LVs have served in community outreach and social service agencies that offer a different perspective and experience than a typical school. This year, volunteers are serving at Brother David Darst Center, Chicago, IL; Tides Family Services, West Warwick, RI; John XXIII Educational Center, Racine, WI, Serviam Gardens, Bronx, NY; and LaSalle School, Albany, NY. Overall, volunteers have contributed 350 total years of service to community outreach and social services like these.
“All of these ministries are a great gift to Lasallian Volunteers as a program and to each individual LV. They provide the daily formation and growth experiences at the foundation of this program,” said Brother Dylan.
Service has long been a strong pillar in the Lasallian mission and will continue to be through the work of the LVs. With continued support, training, education and zeal, the LV movement will keep expanding to serve those in need and transform the lives of those around them, living in association with the Christian Brothers and sharing community and faith in the tradition of St. John Baptist de La Salle.