One of the early Religion Chair gathering, pre-COVID.

While a Lasallian District is both a canonical and civil structure, looking beyond the legal organization reveals a web of relationships.  When we think “District,” we think about those from 22 ministries with whom we have discussed best practices, prayed, engaged in deep dialogue, shared a meal, laughed at socials. Through our structures and relationships, we bind together as a community of communities.

When the pandemic crisis forced the closure of our campuses and the move to distance learning, our first reflex was to reach out to one another across our District family.  Chief administrators, board chairs, Young Lasallians, directors of finance and admissions, religious studies chairs – all began connecting.

Religious Studies Chairs began Zoom gatherings this past April.  The chairs had met for workshops previously at Mont La Salle in February of 2019 and at the Solomon Episcopal Conference Center (Loranger, Louisiana) in February of 2020.  Through our face-to-face gatherings, the religious studies chairs have established a foundation of trust.  Our Zooms were welcomed gatherings of colleagues and friends – no need for icebreakers or tiptoeing.

On May 21, we held our last Zoom of the 2019 – 2020 school year with the promise that we would stay in communication through our Basecamp group during the summer and with the commitment that our Zooms would continue in the next school year.  Rather than attempt to express what I believe the impact of these Zoom gatherings to mean for our religious studies chairs, I share their words below.

In this distance learning environment, it is tempting to fall into the trap of self-referential, isolated teaching.  Having the opportunity to gather—digitally, anyway—with Lasallian colleagues from all around our district opens things up for me.  We are not alone, we all care deeply about these young people in our communities, and we don’t have to re-invent every wheel each time we want to move forward.  These encounters help to open up a new light on a challenging situation.”

Jeremy Marks, Religious Studies Chair
Saint Mary College High School, Berkeley, CA

In a time of isolation, the Zoom meetings provided me with spiritual connections that fed my soul and inspired me in my work. I felt like we as a District are truly in this together even if thousands of miles apart. 

Diahann Larson, AFSC, Theology Department Chair
St. Michael’s High School, Santa Fe, NM

The groups’ experience and wisdom made for powerful sharing.

The Zoom meetings were so important to me that I always tried to schedule around them.  In the midst of all of the academic challenges, worry about my students’ home lives and the heaviness of the news, the meetings kept me focused on the heart of my ministry—being a companion for my students and colleagues during a challenging time.  Speaking and listening to people who were on the same journey as Lasallians reminded me to be open to God’s grace, to be resilient, and to remember to laugh once in a while. 

Polly Waibel, Religion Department Chair
De La Salle North Catholic, Portland, OR

At a time when we are all educating from home, it is hard to be disconnected from the usual form of a Lasallian learning community of students and teachers.  Being able to connect with theology chairs throughout the District, discovering that others were encountering similar struggles, and talking through them with trusted colleagues, was a beautiful support and relief in the middle of a week.

Jerry Meyer, Campus Minister
San Miguel High School, Tucson, AZ

Our next school year is likely to be a very challenging one, but we really do have each other.

Story contributed by Charlie Legendre, AFSC, Director, Evangelization & Catechesis, District of San Francisco New Orleans.

Photos San Francisco New Orleans Communications.