What a blessing to receive an invitation to share some thoughts about my vocation as a Brother of the Christian Schools.
I begin this meditation with this quintessential question: What does God require of you but to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God? It is essential for us all to consider. So, one must ask: how will one’s life respond to Micah’s question of discipleship?
The Synoptic Gospels each begin with an account of Jesus’ mission with dramatic calls to discipleship. Without preparation or even conversation, the unsuspecting brothers are summoned to follow Jesus and to join in his work of fishing for people. Simon and Andrew dropped their casting nets; James and John left their father, hired hands, and boats. All four “immediately” began to follow Jesus. They were ordinary folk who were summoned to begin a journey of discipleship. The story of the 12 apostles is told with disarming simplicity but carries the power of instruction and challenge for every believer who has felt the tug of the invitation to mission. In short, it is part of the wider Christian story, and thus it is my story.
My story begins as a young boy in New Orleans. I did not hear God’s invitation to become a religious brother because I encountered a burning bush or was knocked off a horse. No, the call to live and minister as a brother came through God’s presence mediated through ordinary people. After careful discernment and preparation, rather than immediately like the twelve, my response was yes. Let me step in and give consecrated life a go.
How did I hear my summons? First and foremost, and with holy gratitude to my mother, I was a church-child, that is, a boy who grew up actively participating in the church. I was a Methodist Christian until I made a lateral move in 8th grade to become a Catholic Christian. Second, I heard the summons as mediated through my relationship with the Marianite Sisters of Holy Cross who conducted St. Rita Catholic School where I was educated from first grade through sixth grade. But, I must single out Sr. Juanita Wood, MSC. She was my third grade teacher, a tremendous witness, who inspired me to aspire to become a brother-educator. She and other sisters gave me a dose of encouragement that I have the potential to become a religious brother. In addition, I must lift up the Brothers of Holy Cross who I encountered at The Holy Cross School, the middle and high school for boys I attended for six years. They were models of brotherhood to me, especially Br. John McLaughlin, CSC, my first headmaster, 10th grade math teacher, and confirmation sponsor.
Brothers from different religious institutes, the Marianite Sisters, a Jesuit priest-professor and a Jesuit scholastic were among those who helped me guide me early on to hear God’s summons to discipleship as a religious brother. I met a Brother of the Christian Schools for the first time when I was in seventh grade. The late Br. Andre Lacoste, FSC, of the legacy New Orleans-Santa Fe District, answered my phone call and invited me to visit him at the De La Salle High School community in New Orleans. After becoming a student at Loyola University, I became an aspirant in the NOSF District.
If there is one thing that kept tugging at me to solidify my choice of our Institute, it was the fractions of the Founding Story and Vision I was learning. More so, the care and attention these and other brothers extended to me, and the impressive global reach of John Baptist de La Salle’s legacy in more than 80 countries were also factors in my decision. Here, I lift up three spiritual sons of De La Salle who were key instruments of God’s grace in my vocational decision. Br. Kevin Dalmasse, FSC, (then an administrator/faculty member at Bishop Walsh Middle and High School) who I met during the summer of 1988, at the University of Iowa Debate Institute; Br. Edward Hofmann, FSC, (then legacy Baltimore District Aspirancy Director) who first reached out to me while I was studying at American University and interning in the U.S. Senate for a semester (I was a New Orleans-Santa Fe District aspirant at this time); Br. Dennis Malloy, FSC, (then Director of De La Salle Vocational School) who served as my aspirancy director and was my sponsor at habit-taking. Later as the legacy Baltimore District Vocation Director, Kevin Dalmasse facilitated my move into the Baltimore District aspirancy.
After 21 years, I’m still standing, finding joy in life as a Brother of the Christian Schools. I have been privileged to minister in three Lasallian secondary schools and serve five years in District administration. It is a grace to be a brother-educator inside and outside the sacred classroom. At the same time, let me not piously pretend that all my days have been a smooth road. But, this powerful Negro Spiritual keeps my original response to the summons fresh: “I Can’t Tarry” – “I’ve got to keep running, running, running as I ascend to the kingdom.”