Respect for All Persons ∘ Concern for the Poor and Social Justice ∘ Inclusive Community ∘ Quality Education ∘ Faith in the Presence of God
When I went to college, I thought the hardest part of my experience would have been being a non-Catholic on a Catholic college campus. I could not have been more wrong. The most challenging part of my college career was learning about privilege, being an advocate, and the journey of self-discovery I underwent during my four years at Saint Mary’s College of California. While attending SMC, I learned about the Lasallian Core Principles as any good resident advisor applicant did just in case I was asked about them during an interview. However, the core principles of Lasallian living stuck with me. I lived them out to the best of my ability with limited knowledge and resources. After two years of being a resident advisor I decided I would dedicate a year of my life to serving with Lasallian Volunteers. Beginning my time with LVs was, in many ways, even scarier than walking onto a Catholic college campus for the first time: I learned during my time at SMC that while I can appreciate many different religions that I am more of a spiritual person, I am queer, and I care about cultivating a better world for everyone by dismantling harmful systems and structures. So, I came into my time as a Lasallian Volunteer being certain in my identity, uncertain of how to practice my faith, and terrified of being judged. I made the commitment to move halfway across the country from California to Wisconsin, practice being Lasallian in the way I worked and lived, and dedicate myself to another year of growth.
I was fortunate to find that I was not the only person joining the LV cohort who was newer to the Lasallian charism. I wasn’t alone. There were also people who had been involved with Lasallian practices and living for the majority of their lives, and others who had started their journey only a couple years before mine. This disparity in where everyone was on their path encouraged me to be authentic to who I am and live my life helping others in a new way.
My time at John XXIII Educational Center exposed me to many narratives: single mothers raising children, students who felt their teachers did not care about them, people who felt silenced or unallowed to challenge the beliefs of those around them, others who wanted to create change and advocate for the disenfranchised in their community. The folx (a gender neutral collective noun used to address a group of people) I got to know this year, in my cohort and the community I lived in, showed me that everyone is at a different point in their journey. Furthermore, it showed me that there is not one correct way to live a Lasallian life. There are five core principles in the Lasallian charism, and each individual might place different emphasis on each of those principles based upon where they are at in their journey. What connects us all is the drive to serve others and grow into the values that bring us to the same ideals. Those five core principles help us through our toughest times and encourage us to be better to the people around us.
I am grateful to have found a group of people and an organization that not only strives to help others, but encourages everyone to grow into their identities and practice being Lasallian in new and authentic ways. This year has pushed me to be more accepting, less judgmental and more committed to the growth of myself and those around me. So, I can tell you that being a Lasallian Volunteer was 100% more difficult than walking onto a Catholic college campus as a non-Catholic. I was pushed in my health, in my identity, and challenged to become a better advocate. I taught others about privilege, I did not just learn about it. I gained many new skills and a great group of people I call my friends and family, and I thank whatever higher being I am still learning about for everyone who has entered my life during this past year.
As a Lasallian, I am queer, I am an advocate, I am learning how to practice my faith, and I have been called to help. We all have. We may have been called to help in different ways. No matter the differences we hold, no matter our race, religion, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender we must live authentically. We must live Lasallian.
Nic Pezzola is a first-year volunteer at John XXIII Educational Center in Racine, Wisconsin, serving as the middle school supervisor and outreach facilitator. He is a 2019 graduate of Saint Mary’s College of California with a degree in ethnic studies.
Learn more about our LVs at John XXIII Educational Center by clicking here.