(Prayer offered on the Pubic Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Friday morning, 1 February 2019—5th day of Catholic Schools Week)
Let us remember that we are in the Holy presence of God.
Good Morning Lasallians—
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Justin Pires. I am a proud alumnus, member of the Class of 2012, and currently a second-year law student at Northeastern University in Boston. And for those of you who do know me, you’re probably wondering the obvious—who in their right mind let this guy speak over the intercom?!
To mark Catholic Schools Week, I would like to share for you all how my Lasallian, Catholic education shaped me and my life choices. The fact of the matter is, La Salle made me a more prepared and stronger professional, and spiritually speaking, La Salle taught me how to love. But more on that in a bit.
Professionally speaking, La Salle prepared me incredibly well and opened many doors of opportunity for my future. I trace that down to having been blessed with such exceptional teachers. Whether it was learning how to be critical of my own writing to produce an exceptional final product in Mr. Pare’s English class; patiently working towards learning another language and appreciating different cultures in Sra. DiMascio’s Spanish class; or preparing a strategic prosecutorial argument for a mock trial in Mr. Pacia’s Legal Studies class, all these factors from my Lasallian education made me confident to go out into the world and chase after my goals.
La Salle challenged me outside the classroom as well. Be it Sondheim, Shakespeare, or Bernstein, I was always intellectually and creatively pushed by the fine directors of the theater program and came away from the experience with a better understanding of how to work collaboratively and efficiently with others to achieve something remarkable. The interchangeable skills that I obtained in the theater program are the very ones I use to my advantage in classroom oral arguments, in court, and with the clients I work with every day.
Spiritually speaking, and perhaps the greatest thing La Salle has taught me is how to love. Now when I say love, it’s not the kind of love where you hear Marvin Gay being played in the background. No, I’m talking about the love and service one can provide to humanity. In every Kairos retreat, morning prayer, mission trip, there is one central message—to love and serve your brother and sister to the best of your ability. This message is one I carry every day.
Aside from being a law student, I have worked in the field of immigration for over 6 years. The cases I have worked on cover a multitude of different areas in immigration law—asylum and refugee, adjustment of status, and naturalization cases are only a few examples.
Whether it is a sixteen-year-old boy from El Salvador seeking refuge in the United States because he refused to join a gang and was ultimately forced to leave everything behind for the opportunity to live in peace; or whether it is a mother of 4 children who suffered unspeakable abuse and neglect from her husband, seeking a fresh start and an opportunity to give her children the life she never had—every situation that has presented itself to me has involved a human being desperate for help—a human being willing to do anything and willing to go to extraordinary lengths to ensure their survival and family’s prosperity. In hearing their stories, the pain they have endured along their voyage, and their relentless desire for a better life, I cannot help but empathize. I cannot help but imagine being in their shoes, walking each mile, praying night and day for a solution to come. And in doing this, I completely surrender my heart, knowledge, and efforts to their individual cause.
Despite today’s trying times, it is vital to view the immigration situation not in a political light, but in a humanitarian light. Whenever I am presented a new client and case, I simply remember that whoever sits in the seat across my desk—wherever they come from and whatever story they may have– they are human beings seeking help. And so, to the best of my ability, I put forward all my efforts to love and serve them. Ultimately, I thank La Salle for molding me into a strong legal advocate, fighting each day to ensure humanity is loved and cared for.
I speak now directly to all you students sitting in home room. To put it all together, when I left 612 Academy, I wasn’t sure where my future would lead me, but I knew that La Salle blessed me with a vocation of my own—to help people and to make the world a better place one day at a time. Robert Kennedy once said:
Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts, will be written the history of this generation.
Know that when you leave these halls, as I did, you are all charged with a great responsibility– to love and to serve. In that love and service, you hold the power to make a lasting impact on someone’s life, and in doing so, you change the world.
Let us Pray…
In these trying times, please help us all to be more mindful, empathetic, and loving towards our brothers and sisters, no matter who they are or where they may come from.
Whenever we see one of our brothers or sisters lost, misunderstood, or in need of assistance– instead of turning our heads, ignoring them, and walking away—may you give us the drive, the courage and the compassion to turn around, walk towards them, offer our services, and show them love.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.
Saint John Baptist de La Salle: Pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts: Forever.
Justin Pires–Class of 2012