In this month’s Lasallian Volunteers “Ministry of the Month,” the District of Eastern North America is featured. The ministry is Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn, New York, and the Lasallian Volunteers are first years, John Taylor (JT) and Isabella Virgen, both 2017 graduates of Saint Mary’s College of California (SMC) in Moraga.
WHAT IS BISHOP LOUGHLIN MEMORIAL HIGH SCHOOL?
Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School is a Catholic, college preparatory high school that draws its Christian perspective from the faith tradition of the Roman Catholic Church and the Lasallian tradition of the De La Salle Christian Brothers. Loughlin fosters academic success, builds character, develops future leaders and nurtures a vibrant personal relationship with God. Loughlin stimulates and supports a student’s quest for intellectual, spiritual, physical, moral and civic development. Students are challenged to achieve their full potential to strive for excellence and to further their education at colleges and universities. Loughlin students, faculty and staff are committed to an inclusive community that respects diversity in its many forms and values excellence in scholarship.
WHAT SERVICE ARE JT AND ISABELLA PROVIDINGAT BISHOP LOUGHLIN?
JT is an academic tutor in the school’s library. He is available throughout the day to students who need help with homework, projects, college applications, SAT/ACT prep, and anything else they might need. In addition, JT helps with the after-school homework center, a study hall environment where students can get homework and studying help from faculty members in each subject. Isabella serves incampus ministry and student life. She works closely with the campus minister to find service opportunities for the students, assist with liturgies and prayer services, and co-lead and facilitate retreats.
HOW WERE JT AND ISABELLA INTRODUCED TO THE LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS?
Both JT and Isabella were involved at Saint Mary’s in service and community activities through the Mission and Ministry Office. With a large LV Alumni presence on the campus, they became drawn to the program. JT says, “I had heard about Lasallian Volunteers when I started working in the Mission and Ministry Center at SMC, and it stuck in my mind as a potential post-grad option. When it came time to decide what I was doing after getting my degree, I job-shopped a little and decided that the LV program was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I should go for.” Isabella says of her decision to join, “I decided to become a Lasallian Volunteer because their core values of faith, service and community are values that I cherish and apply to shape my life. My family has taught me that my faith is something I can rely on in times of hardship as well as to remain humble and always be thankful for the opportunities I have received. It allows me to continue to remain consistent with my faith, dedicated to service, and become part of a community who cares about helping others.”
HOW DO ISABELLA AND JT TOUCH THE MINDS AND HEARTS OF THOSE ENTRUSTED TO THEIR CARE?
JT’s main service is helping students understand tough material from class. He works hard to help them feel proud of what they are learning. He says, “I think the most important thing I can give them is confidence. I’ve had some students come to me needing essentially a second lesson on what they’d learned that day, others needing help finding the information to get them on track, and many that just want me to look over their work. In all of these cases, my end goal is to have my students be confident in their own ability to perform and problem solve.” Isabella’s experience of touching minds and hearts of those entrusted to her, “In Campus Ministry and Lasallian Youth we give students access to outside service opportunities so they can get involved in not just their school community but their local community outside of school as well.”
HOW HAS LIVING WITH THE DE LA SALLE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS IMPACTED ISABELLA AND JT?
Isabella and JT interacted with the Brothers during their time at SMC. However, they did not truly get to know community life with the Brothers until they came to Bedford Park. JT says, “The passion for vocation that is evident in every Brother I’ve met has been an inspiration to me. They all have different ways of expressing the zeal that’s so fundamental to the Lasallian mission, and that has inspired me to give my pursuits the same level of commitment.” Isabella says, “My involvement with the Brothers has opened up a pathway to learn more about where I live and of the people who live in the community around me. Coming from California and having never been to New York before, living in community with the Brothers has allowed me to feel more comfortable being far from home as well as strengthened my faith.”
WHAT DOES THE 2017-2018 COHORT WANT TO SAY TO COLLEGE SENIORS ABOUT THE LASALLIAN VOLUNTEERS PROGRAM?
Isabella shares, “I would tell a college senior who is discerning a volunteer year that it is an experience through which they will see themselves grow and they will become comfortable with being uncomfortable and being outside of their comfort zone. They will live in a community and meet people who are generous and willing to put the needs of their community and others before their own. This is an experience through which they will make friends and they will be dedicated to serving the people in the community around them.” JT says, “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity not only to get to know new people and a new place, but also to get to know yourself so much more than you would otherwise. A volunteer year gives you the unique perspective of ‘I work for this group of people’ (in my case, students) rather than ‘I work for this business/organization.’ That may not seem like a big difference, but it’s a certain viewpoint that is hard to gain elsewhere and can change your worldview.”