Over 200 Lasallians from across the Region of North America (RELAN) gathered on November 17-19 in Minneapolis, MN for the 45th annual Huether Lasallian Conference. Under the theme, “Limitless Potential: Transforming Lasallian Communities,” Brother and Partners explored through presentations and conversations how the Lasallian mission is being and can be taken beyond the world’s geographical and social boundaries.
Four keynote speakers each presented on key aspects of the conference theme. On day one, Brother Téfio Raoul Traoré, FSC, and Peter Stemp, associate directors of De La Salle Solidarietà Internazionale (ONLUS), described how Lasallian ministries around are continuing the Lasallian ministerial tradition of observing local contexts, analyzing needs, and responding holistically to design socially transformative educational approaches. Day two speaker psychologist and performance artist Dr. Michael “Mykee” Fowlin combined humor and seriousness to offer his message on the importance of knowing persons, especially the young and the marginalized, for who they really are. On day three, RELAN General Councilor Brother Timothy Coldwell, FSC, led a panel of Lasallian educators – Brother Paul Avvento, FSC, St. John’s College High School, Chevy Chase, DC; Tess Falabella, STEM instructional specialist and science teacher, San Miguel School, Washington, DC; Brother Edward Phelan, FSC, director, senior Brothers, District of Eastern North America; and PJ Thompson, sales and marketing manager, Professor’s Choice, Saint Mary’s Press – on a reflective walk through their experiences of their vocational callings.
Twenty-seven breakout sessions provided participants with the opportunity to explore the Conference theme from a diverse range of pedagogical, pastoral, and sociological perspectives. Topics included global sustainability issues, increasing educational accessibility to at-risk populations, community-building in Lasallian ministries, catechetical and formation models for 21st-century youth, and a strand that called attention to the Year of Lasallian Vocations, which began on the final day of the Conference.
As always, the Conference also gave great attention to prayer, fellowship, and recreation. Each day began with well-crafted prayer services that drew from numerous key contemporary Institute documents. The members of each RELAN District had time for their own meeting together, as well as festive dinners at local restaurants. In addition, the approximately 60 first-time Huether attendees were brought together for a welcoming social prior to the start of the Conference.
The Conference’s closing Mass was celebrated by Most Reverend Bernard Anthony Hebda, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. This was followed by the traditional closing banquet, which each year features special recognition for several Lasallian educators from RELAN. Six educators from three Districts were honored as Distinguished Lasallian Educators for 2018, including San Francisco New Orleans’ (SFNO) Patrick Bonacci, AFSC from La Salle High School in Pasadena, California. In addition, the Regional Lasallian Education Council (RLEC) presented former SFNO Office of Education Director Gery Short, AFSC with its Brother John Johnston, FSC Award for significant lifetime contributions to the advancement of the Institute’s mission to provide a human and Christian education to the young, especially the poor.
In prepared remarks to a dinner crowd that included his family as well as many current and former colleagues, Short delivered a powerful challenge to his audience:
“Now, I want to put a stake in the ground and pass on to you a critical question and challenge for our future that is as significant as any we have had to face over the past 30 years. We must commit ourselves to firmly establish the spirit of faith as a foundational and effective reality in each and every one of our works. We must ask, how do we make prayer and spirituality, the spirit of faith, the core of who we are and what we are about? How do we make prayer and spirituality real for ourselves as educators and our students in an authentic, understandable, and deeply significant way?” Read the full text of Gery Short’s remarks.
For the Conference’s participants, Short’s message was a fitting conclusion to their time together. There was a consensus among them that this year’s Huether Conference served to inspire, energize, and affirm them in their commitment to the Lasallian mission. It will be remembered as three significant days of camaraderie, of both celebrating and anticipating the Lasallian adventure of serving those in need through an educational tradition that truly teaches minds, touches hearts, and transforms lives.
Next year’s Huether Lasallian Conference is scheduled for a return visit to Minneapolis, MN in the fall of 2019.
Portions of this story contributed by Elizabeth Jodice and Anna Waddelove, Christian Brothers Conference. Photos by Anna Waddelove, Christian Brothers Conference.