“We want to respond boldly and creatively to the urgent needs of the vulnerable, (e.g., immigrants, refugees,
the homeless, unemployed youth, etc.) that are found on ‘the borders.’” (Circular 469: 3.26)
During the week of June 21-26, 2015, 80 high school students and their moderators from the Districts of San Francisco New Orleans and México-Norte gathered at the University of California, San Diego to explore the topics of immigration and Social Justice.
Responding to the call to look collaboratively and across District lines at the crisis facing migrant people, especially women and children, the group gathered to learn, pray, and plan to respond to this need. Using the framework of “What?” “So What?” and “Now what?” the diverse group journeyed through the week as members of the Lasallian Family. Representing eleven schools from the District of México Norte and eleven schools from the District of San Francisco New Orleans, the cross-cultural Lasallian community added a richness to the experience. The diversity created a unique opportunity to understand immigration from both sides of the border. United by Lasallian education and a desire to form relationships and understanding, cultural barriers were broken down and a community formed.
This year’s participating San Francisco New Orleans District schools were Cathedral High School, Los Angeles; Christian Brothers High School; De La Salle High School, Concord; De La Salle North Catholic High School; Justin- Siena High School; La Salle Catholic College Preparatory; La Salle High School, Pasadena; La Salle High School, Yakima; Mullen High School; Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory; and San Miguel High School.
The program began with a day of workshops asking participants to understand the “What?” of immigration at the US/Mexico Border. Three workshops were offered to the participants; “Towards the Lasallian Potential for Advocacy” was presented by Brother Ernest Miller, FSC; Dr. Celestino Fernandez presented “US/Mexico Border”; and “Advocacy in Action” by Mrs. Alma Mejia-Garcia, Lasallians without Borders Project Manager, and Ms. Adriana Jasso of the American Friends Service Agency.
The middle part of the week allowed participants to see how organizations around San Diego are responding to the needs of vulnerable migrants. From visiting social service agencies, to the US Border Patrol, participants considered the question of “So what?” in looking at the realities facing immigrants. Through ongoing prayer, dialogue, reflection, and the experience of Lasallian community, participants were challenged to move beyond themselves and internalize the Gospel message that “Whatever you do for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you do for me” (Matthew 25:40).
On the last full day of the program participants discerned as individuals, school groups, and as a whole community the “Now What?” of LYA 2015. Concrete ideas were shared and affirmed as the participants made plans to return home after the program. The closing mass was celebrated at the U.S. / Mexico border after a reflective pilgrimage of solidarity. A closing celebration where students shared cultural dance and songs concluded the week honoring the unique community that was formed.
One of the 14 students from the delegation coming from México-Norte reflected this way:
“Opening my eyes has been just the first step. That’s what we did in LYA 2015. The problems that we, humankind, have created without consciousness will have no solutions shortly
Story contributed by Heather Ruple Gilson, District Director, Young Lasallians. Photos courtesy Br. James Joost, FSC