The Emmaus Journey 2020 Virtual Debriefing Retreat

The 2019-2020 Lasallian Volunteers gathered for one final time for the annual Debriefing Retreat. Due to the pandemic, LVs gathered virtually from Friday, May 22 through Sunday, May 24. Samantha Almanza, LV 09-11, and Chris Hueg, LV 11-13, facilitated this year’s retreat. The LVs’ time together focused on the Emmaus story and each of their journeys.

Over the course of the three days, the LVs gathered for prayer, small group time and socials. Almanza and Hueg creatively organized and facilitated the retreat for the 30 LVs who were gathered.

Davina Runkaputi, a second-year LV serving at La Salle Academy in Philadelphia, shared about the experience saying, “I was very unsure of how debriefing would go this year but kept an open mind about what it would be like and it surpassed my expectations. It was a new but also good experience. Though we didn’t get to see each other in person, it felt as if we were never apart. The instant connection we had when seeing each other was unexplainable and led to a lot of funny moments throughout. I specifically enjoyed the small group I was put with because we all had a similar level of comfortability with each other, which led to valuable conversation and brave space to share our experiences, both the good and the challenges. Though it is very sad to be leaving each other on this note, it was a very warm and positive way to end.”

“Our 2020 Debriefing Retreat was an amazing experience,” shared Almanza. “Although we were not together in the same room, the LVs and staff were very intentional on using the time together to truly listen, reflect and share. By using online platforms, Chris and I were able to accompany the Lasallian Volunteers on a reflective journey about the growth they have experienced in faith, service and community. The overarching theme of this year’s cohort was the ability to look at challenges as opportunities, and they have each demonstrated this as they have continued to serve their students and clients in innovative ways during this time. I am so grateful that I had the chance to be with the LVs!”

First-year LV Pepe Esteso, originally from Spain, served at John XXIII Educational Center in Racine, Wisconsin. Esteso is a longtime Lasallian and involved with Young Lasallians in RELEM. Reflecting on the retreat he shared, “The truth is that I personally did not trust this online way of living and sharing our feelings, our successes and failures during the retreat to be easy to do it through a screen… but without knowing very well how, we have achieved it. Our feelings have managed to go beyond the cold screens of the computer and have managed to reach our hearts, and we have managed to open up and transmit our experiences. One of the points that has helped make this possible was undoubtedly been Sam and Chris, the two facilitators who were looking for the most dynamic and easy way to make us feel as if we were all together in the same space.”

Hueg shared, “Being together with the Lasallian Volunteers each Memorial Day weekend is a highlight of my school year, and this year was no exception! Though we ventured into uncharted territories through a virtual retreat, the cohort rose to the occasion and provided meaningful reflection to create a memorable weekend. Each volunteer exhibits a great example of what it means to live a life full of faith and zeal. Their passion for those they serve is one that inspires me as an educator, and I know the future of education, social services and volunteering is in great hands. Going into the retreat, I was unsure what to expect, but like Sam and I used in creating the retreat, we began with the unfamiliar and unknown on the Emmaus Journey, and as the weekend progressed, our eyes were opened to the fruitfulness of each other’s experiences the same way the disciples’ eyes were opened. I am proud to be an LV alum, especially this year as the program concludes its 30th anniversary celebration!”

The final celebration for the 2019-2020 Lasallian Volunteers was the commissioning ceremony, which was held on Sunday, May 24. The LVs, staff and facilitators were joined by Brothers, site and community directors, LV alums, family and friends. The program blessed the 12 LVs who will be returning for a second or third year of service and the 18 who will be exiting the program at the end of their contracted service year.

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