Rome, Italy – The District of Eastern North America is blessed to have a number of Associative Groups. These are groups made of Lasallians (Brothers and Partners) who are joined together in Association for the mission. Associative Groups in the District help to strengthen the experience of belonging so critical to the journey of association. They are non-residential communities that create spaces for Lasallians to share spirituality, mission, and vocation. Some of them are organized by specific groups or activities.
The origin of Associative Groups was very organic. They were created in response to grassroots efforts to create creative models of association. After experiences of formation and networking, there was a desire from Brothers and Partners to make connections beyond the educational communities in ministries. There was a desire to live the idea of “Together and by Association.” Formation programs helped fan the flame for Associative Groups as Lasallians learned the gift there was in connecting with other like-minded people sharing the the Lasallian Mission. As Auxiliary Visitor, Brother Thomas Casey, says, “They (the groups) sprout up like weeds…and then bloom into flowers!”
Some of the groups pre-date the formation of DENA in 2009. When DENA was formed, these organizations already in existence wrote a letter to the Institute at the behest of Brother Charles Kitson, former Coordinating Secretary for Association for Lasallian Mission Committee (ALMC). This is a group of representatives from each of the Association Groups. ALMC meets three times per year to discuss what is happening in each of the groups, make plans for future activities, and join in prayer and fellowship.
Today each of the Associative Groups has formed their own unique identity. They are organized and run by Brothers and Partners. The groups are not run by the District office. They are open and welcoming of all who are interested in joining. The Associative Groups meet with varied frequency and for different purposes. Gatherings include prayer, service opportunities or projects, formation, and fellowship. They help create a deep sense of community and belonging. The greatest lessons that groups have learned is to keep it simple, meaningful, and focused on building communities for mission. Associative Executive Director for the Office for Mission and Ministry, Maryann Donohue-Lynch says that, ” the opportunity for Lasallians to gather around the principle of faith, service, and community and to determine how this is expressed via inter-ministry gatherings is indeed the gift that the Associative Groups bring to the lived experience of the Lasallian mission in DENA.”