Brother Anwar Martinez, FSC, reflects on his experiences as a Lasallian Volunteer at the San Miguel School in Camden, New Jersey, from 2003-2005 and how his experience shaped his call to religious life, making final vows as a Brother of the Christian Schools this summer.
How did your LV experience enrich your discernment to religious life (to the Brothers)?
I remember vividly that at our very first community meeting in Camden, New Jersey, where I served as a Lasallian Volunteer at the now closed San Miguel School, we read a line from the Rule, which stood out to me, and remains a source of inspiration in my ongoing commitment to the Mission: “Community is where the experience of God is shared.”
I yearned for such an experience – especially since it was “shared.” I remember expecting, whether consciously or unconsciously, some type of “pull-the-rug-out-from-under-my-feet” experience of God, especially after pondering those words from the Rule within the context of this new community of which I was becoming a part.
Yet there was no “out-of-this-world” experience of God or of being utterly mesmerized. Rather, it was in the “everydayness” of living and working with the Brothers and other volunteers that I experienced something almost imperceptible, a subtle sense of fulfillment that I understand as God in community. It is as though this living in an intentional community, ministering and praying together, sharing joys and sorrows, and growing together as disciples and ambassadors of Jesus that this shared experience of God has been starting to feel a little more palpable.
How was living in community and ministering with the Brothers positive for you?
Experiencing community life and ministry alongside the Brothers and fellow volunteers provided me with a unique opportunity to take a good look at the Brothers’ way of life. I would often find myself somewhat perplexed and very much intrigued by the mere fact that they seemed genuinely content, even after a long week at school. They were doing what they loved and were very passionate about it as they poured their entire hearts and souls into it.
They were men in love with God, on fire with the Gospel and the Mission, and living happy, healthy and holy lives. This love was evident in their attention and care to the people with whom they came into contact both in community and at school. I would keep thinking to myself, “I’d like that in my life!” But don’t think that I jumped on it right away, au contraire! I took those years as a volunteer as a suitable and appropriate time to discern before I made the decision to enter the Brothers.
A Closing Thought?
It might sound cliché to say, “just try it on,” but life in community, whether as LV or as Brother, really has been about taking a leap of faith and “just trying it on.” I first tried it on as Mr. Martinez, a Lasallian Volunteer working with 6th graders in Camden, New Jersey, and later on as Brother Anwar (or Hermano Anwar) at La Salle [College] High [School] [near] Philly and La Salle [Academy on] 2nd Street in Manhattan.