Since the start of my first year as a Lasallian Volunteer in Minneapolis, I have noticed so much joy all around me. I never thought I would have ended up as a Lasallian Volunteer living on an island in the middle of the Mississippi River with the DeLaSalle High School community and having the opportunity to accompany students at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School Twin Cities. I knew that living in the Midwest would have its challenges weather wise for someone who has lived in California her entire life, but I could not have imagined a more life-giving experience than I have been blessed with at Cristo Rey. One of my favorite people and probably the best professor I ever had in college says it best when she reminds her students to keep their eyes and heart open, to live in the present, to find beauty in the mundane, in the ordinary day-to-day interactions, and that hard work with a shared commitment brings genuine joy. Being able to be present to those around me, to walk with and accompany my fellow LVs, the Brothers in Minneapolis, and our students at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School through their unique journeys has been an absolute blessing.
Accompanying students at Cristo Rey as a campus minister, teacher, tutor, and coach has allowed me to meet students in a variety of settings. While coaching volleyball in the fall, I saw so much growth in my students both on and off the court. One of the most meaningful memories at Cristo Rey happened a few weeks ago when our juniors had a social justice retreat where each group explored a different topic they wanted to learn more about. While on retreat, each group had the opportunity to educate one another on topics such as: human trafficking, homelessness, immigration, health care, and mental health; and develop action plans for moving forward. I feel incredibly honored to work alongside these students and hope that I can offer an extra set of hands to make the actions plans that they have put so much heart into come to fruition.
Community life has impacted my life in a big way this year. Entering into the program, I was looking forward to living in community with the Brothers. The De La Salle Christian Brothers have always had a special place in my heart, from meeting Brothers from around the world at various conferences, to working alongside Brothers at LaSalle Kirenge in the remote hills of Rwanda, and numerous Brothers from Saint Mary’s College of California that have all walked with me through my journey with such zeal and purpose. I am incredibly grateful I have been able to foster such a special bond with Br. Nick Geimer since being a LV. He has truly made my experience living in community filled with endless smiles and laughter.
Brother Nick is someone that I look up to daily. The first thing I do when I get back to the community house from Cristo Rey is walk to his weaving room or down to his workshop in the basement just to say hi and check in for a minute. Sometimes those “check-ins” last a few hours until one of us realizes that it’s almost dinner time with the rest of the community. It brings so much joy to be able to sit with Br. Nick and look through all of his photo albums, old coin collections from the time of the World’s Fair, and simply listen to his stories from his time as a Brother. I love sitting with him in his workshop, learning about what it takes to have just the right technique to make the perfect chair or podium, or sitting next to him while he’s working on a new weaving project.
Last November, Br. Nick offered to teach me how to use the loom. He sat next to me and would stand over my shoulder every once in a while to make sure I had just the right technique going on. While I was working on the loom, Br. Nick sat by my side the entire time. He went through each step in detail and was so incredibly patient until I got the hang of it, especially when it came to weaving the letters. He told me that weaving was a kind of prayer that he loved. I can relate in so many ways because Br. Nick and I love to work with our hands as a way to pray. It gives us an opportunity to think about and send good thoughts to the people we care about. Whether I am on a pottery wheel throwing a vase or bowl for a friend or fixing a roof for a local family in need of an extra set of hands, I try to be intentional by thinking about the person or the family through the whole process. The hard work is so much more meaningful when I take the time to contemplate and reflect, rather than just getting the job done. After he shared with me how he is a contemplative in action when it comes to his weaving, I decided my first weaving would spell out the letters that reminded me of a special group of people I travel to the Brazilian Amazon with in college. Throughout the weaving process, I had the chance to really reflect on the trips I was lucky enough to go on and send all the good thoughts and prayers to those who would be going on future trips. The day I was finishing up my weaving by tying those final knots on the ends, Br. Nick was sitting next to me when I got the news my grandfather had passed away. It was at that point, after shedding a few tears when I realized how lucky I was to have the opportunity to live with the Brothers and feel supported by the Brother who I care so much about.
Brother Nick is my main confident in community, the one I am blessed to be able to pull out a box of Lincoln Logs with and build a mini log cabin with, he’s my best bud on Sunday mornings as we walk to Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes in seven degree weather, my museum companion, my Saturday morning grocery shopping buddy, and the best person I could ever go on long walks with around Minneapolis, especially when those walks end up with him being on a swing set for the first time in sixty plus years. I am so incredibly grateful for the memories LVs are able to share with the Brothers. Br. Nick and so many other Brothers around the world live out this Lasallian mission each and every day and for that we are all blessed to belong to this one Lasallian family.
Suzanne Denson is a first-year LV serving at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School – Twin Cities in Minneapolis, MN and is a 2016 graduate of Saint Mary’s College of California.