In Solidarity

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system and the school-wide intranet for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Friday, 15 March 2019—Poverty Awareness Week)

Let us remember that we are in God’s Holy Presence.

Today’s Dress Down Day monies will go to our Rice Bowl collection for our twinned Lasallian school, the Rongai Agricultural & Technical Secondary School, located in Rongai, Kenya.

In our prayer today, I ask you to pray for the 400 boys enrolled there. The school was established 46 years ago by the Brothers of the Christian Schools. Most of the boys come from poor families. The low-cost tuition at the school allows them a quality formal education, educating their minds and hearts, and providing for their physical and spiritual salvation.

Take a close look at the boy in the image projected on your SMART Board.

During a Lasalle Academy Service-Learning trip, Mrs. Martinelli took this picture in the Kibera slums—the second largest slum in the world, in Kenya, AFRICA. She didn’t learn the boy’s name, so I will simply refer to him as “Joseph.” Note the jacket and sweater Joseph is wearing.  These are the only outer garments he owns so he wears them year round, even though the temperature was in the 80’s on the day she took this photo. At the time, she guessed he was 8 years old. If Joseph was lucky enough to secure one of the 400 spots in the Rongai Lasalle school, he’d be a 10th-grader today.

During the past months you probably saw some newly admitted students to La Salle shadowing; here we have approximately 365 spots in our freshmen class. At our Rongai sister school, there are only 90 spots available in Grade 9, and over 1,000 applications were received this year. Some of the monies that we raise in Homeroom this morning will help them repair and maintain classrooms, including the replacement of old student desks, chairs, and outdated computers. Many of the boys live in the school dormitories and work at the school as they come from impoverished families, or in some cases, have no family at all. Their day may begin as early as 4:30 am with chores and conclude as late as 10:00 pm. All of the students participate in sports and take part in community service. Some of the monies we raise in homeroom collections during Lent will be used for their sports program, and a school bus to take them to athletic competitions and service activities.

The school has a farm and produces its own food. They also raise pigs, cows, poultry and teach farm management skills. Some of the monies raised today will buy new farm and carpentry tools and animal feed; and unfortunately, this year, they may need supplemental food due to many of their crops dying from drought.

Other Lasallian schools throughout the United States are paired up with needy schools in Africa, in the countries of Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Eritrea.  Forty-two per cent of the Kenyan population lives below the poverty line. Our school partnerships bring together students on two continents, in solidarity as Lasallian brothers and sisters, to share our challenges, accomplishments and experiences. The next time you are standing outside the Academy Shop, I invite you to examine the large clock-face set up outside of Campus Ministry, that reminds us of the passage of time—specifically, the 300-year Anniversary of De La Salle’s death, and our motto- “One Commitment, One Heart, One Life” as Lasallians. As you look at the dozen numbers on the clock, look for the icon of the two hands shaking, in agreement or partnership, or even covenant. This icon symbolizes Solidarity—the notion that we must reach out to the needy in our world with sympathy and empathy, and our willingness to share our Time, Talent and Treasure to alleviate someone else’s suffering. God has given us all the same human dignity. However, due to geopolitical, economic or historical circumstances, many of our brothers and sisters in the world find themselves stuck in the quicksand of poverty.

Seven summers ago, students from La Salle Academy made a Service-Learning trip to Rongai, KENYA with Mrs. Martinelli and our former school nurse, Mrs. Cindy Steger. Just think—maybe, some day, when you are in college, or later in life, you could personally share your gifts and blessings with some students from Africa, as some of our graduates have done. Thank you for giving generously in this morning’s homeroom collection. From your contributions we can help our sister school, which is trying to provide these young teenagers a Lasallian education. God bless you for your generosity.

Let us pray: Master of the universe, help us to remember that we are all made in your image and likeness, no matter where we live on your earth.

Help us, Jesus, as Christians and people of faith, to follow through on your command to live in solidarity with the poor, fulfilling our social responsibility to others.

Holy Spirit, never let us forget that we are social beings in need of others—that we belong to each other, and that we must care for each other.

St. John Baptist de La Salle: pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts! Forever!

David Martinez–Religion Teacher (assisted by Leslie Martinelli and Christine Estes)

“I Am Not Free While Any Woman Is Unfree”

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Thursday morning, 14 March 2019—Poverty Awareness Week)

Good morning La Salle and De La Salle.

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of a loving God.

As I hope you know, this week is Poverty Education Week at La Salle.  March is also Women’s History Month.

So this morning, I’d like you to consider these realities:

According to statistics released last year by the National Women’s Law Center, 42 million women in the US live in poverty (that is 1 out of every 3 American women)  More than half of all poor children lived in female-headed families in 2015.  And one out of every six women in the world is a victim of attempted rape in her lifetime.  These women and girls are someone’s daughter, mother, sister, friend.

There are so many places in the world where it is just not safe to be a girl.

By now you’ve all heard the story of Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan—the young woman awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.   A prophetic and persistent voice for girls’ education, Malala survived a gunshot wound and attack as she traveled home from school one afternoon in 2012.

Perhaps you’ve also heard of Dr. Mona Attisha–a relentless and outspoken doctor who stood up to powerful politicians and spoke up on behalf of children being poisoned by their water in Flint, Michigan.  I encourage you to read her book What the Eyes Don’t See and to come to a discussion of this social justice crisis on Thursday, March 28, after school in the library.

And there are so many other stories, too numerous to mention here—of girls near and far sold into slavery and human trafficking, of female children arranged into marriages as young as 12 years old because their families cannot afford to feed them.

Until the day when ALL men and women live in the fullness that God intends for his children, there is much work to be done.  Imagine the world we could all have if women everywhere were not held in the shackles of poverty, sexual violence, and discrimination.  As the writer Audre Lorde reminded us, “I am not free while any woman is unfree.”

So what can you do?  How can you treat the women and girls in your life with dignity and more respect? How do we speak of women? in our society? in our school? in our communities? in our locker rooms? Do we listen to songs or watch movies that degrade and diminish women?   How do these lead us to treat the real women in our lives?  The women and girls in my life—my mom, my aunts, and my own daughter Madeleine inspire me to speak out.  I hope the girls in your life do the same.

Let us pray:

Jesus, our brother, friend, companion—You treated the women in your company as people in their own right and there were so many women–Mary Magdalen, Joanna, Peter’s mother-in-law, Jairus’ daughter, the woman at Bethany, Martha, the Samaritan woman, the widow of Nain, the woman bent in paralysis, the Syrophoenician woman, and so many of the unnamed ones.

We look to you as we ask forgiveness for the times we have hurt the women in our lives.  And we look to you to make us strong, so that we can create a world safe for all of us.

St. John Baptist de La Salle: Pray for us!

Live Jesus in our Hearts: Forever!

Christine Estes–Director of Campus Ministry

Poverty Awareness EVERY Week

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Tuesday morning, 12 March 2019—Poverty Awareness Week)

Good morning…

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.

As you know, this week is Poverty Week at La Salle Academy. If I am being  honest with you this morning, I have always been conflicted regarding this one  week being referred to as Poverty Week. Why one week?  There are 365 days in  the year. What about the rest of the year? Don’t these topics deserve much  more?

The fact is that in our society today there are millions of people who experience poverty. Twenty per cent of children in RI live in poverty. Fighting poverty can  seem like an unwinnable task, but there are many steps that we at La Salle  Academy can take. Organizations that dedicate their time to fight poverty suggest that the best steps we can take in order to help are by educating ourselves regarding poverty in our area, by donating to local causes that directly benefit those who need help, by volunteering, and by helping out an individual. All of these  opportunities are available through La Salle Academy. As a Senior, you will have an  opportunity through Christian Service, but don’t wait until Senior year.  As you engage in lessons this week that focus on poverty, reflect on the information that you receive and conversations that follow.

What can you, what can we all do, to make a difference?

Let us pray…Lord, we pray for those who live in poverty, especially children. We  ask that you empower us here at La Salle Academy to share our gifts and  resources with those in our community who are the greatest of need. Although we  put particular focus on the poor this week, help us to keep all who suffer from  injustice in our hearts and minds each day in hopes that we will continue to stand beside them.   Amen.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle, pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts,  forever.

Stephen Emerson–Mathematics Teacher

The Invisibility of Poverty

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Monday morning, 11 March 2019—Poverty Awareness Week)

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of a loving God.

I know a woman named Agnes at my church who runs a group with a simple purpose.  They keep their eyes and ears open for local people who need things, and then they do whatever they can to get those things for those people.

The things people need can be many and varied.  Sometimes, we need nutritious food or toiletries or help paying our bills.  Sometimes we need someone to talk to during a tough time.  Sometimes we need help finding a new job, childcare, or transportation. The people in Agnes’s group are able to find ways to meet these needs by always keeping their eyes on the big picture and connecting people who can help each other.  This sounds simple and not particularly glorious, but their simple, dedicated work can mean the world to someone who needs help.

From time to time, in fact, I think they work miracles.  I heard a story about a woman they helped who had become homeless and, as a result, three of her children were in the custody of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families while she stayed with a friend.  She had a source of income and had managed to find a new apartment, but she didn’t have enough money for the deposit and she also lacked most basic furnishings.  Also, she needed to get all of those things in 3 days in order to be reunited with her children.  After an untold number of phone calls and the involvement of many, many people, Agnes’s group convinced the woman’s future landlord to accept a smaller deposit that she could afford, found a number of people with extra furniture they were happy to give, and even found someone with a pickup truck to help with the move.  The story ended happily, with a reunited family and a fresh start.

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Agnes speak about her group at a fundraiser.  She quoted St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, which famously tells us that followers of Christ form “one body with many parts.”  The success of her group depends not on one person, but on the work of all the members together.  St. Paul goes on to say that “God has placed each part in the body just as He wanted it to be.”  The success of her group also depends on each member being in a certain place, with a certain gifts or talent, at a certain time.  One person’s kind and open heart makes them the person that another person thinks to call immediately when they realize someone needs help.  Another person knows someone with an extra twin bed.  Another person’s easy, calming conversational style makes them awesome at comforting the sick or asking tough questions about someone’s financial situation.  The list goes on and on.

This week is Poverty Awareness Week at La Salle.  Throughout the course of the week, we will gain a deeper understanding of the many different types of poverty that plague our neighbors, both locally and globally.  One thing I hope we will understand more deeply this week, is that no matter what type of poverty a person is experiencing, whether related to spiritual suffering or household income, extreme or relatively mild, one of the biggest problems related to poverty is its invisibility.  It is so easy for the poverty of others, even those in our own neighborhoods, to be invisible because we choose not to see it.  More than anything else, I think the remarkable thing about Agnes’s group is that they make a conscious choice every day to see the needs of other people, respond to them, and help others see them, too.  This week, I pray that we will all do the same.

St. John Baptist de La Salle – Pray for us.

Live Jesus in our Hearts – Forever.

Lia Wahl–Mathematics Teacher

Can We Understand Another’s Reality?

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Monday morning, 25 February 2019—Black History Month)

Let us remember we are in the presence of God.

Everyday we live in our own little reality. We experience different sights, different people, different ideas. However, we have no way of knowing how another person experiences each day. We could ask them how their day was, or what they are up to that day, but we will never be able to see for ourselves how they experienced their 24 hours. Since we don’t know how other people experience their day, it is easy to forget and overlook all the injustices people face each day.

We have no way of knowing how many times a man got pulled over because he is black.

We have no way of knowing how many times a Person Of Color got paid less at a job compared to their white coworkers.

We have no way of knowing how many times a black woman had her hair unwantedly touched or asked if her hair was her real hair.

We have no way of knowing how many times a woman didn’t speak up for herself for fear of being seen as an angry black woman.

We have no way of knowing how many times a couple got denied housing in a neighborhood because of their skin color.

However, what we do know is that all these injustices, whether big or small, persist in a disgusting reality.

Let us pray. Allow us all to always defend and uphold the rights of Persons Of Color. Give us the strength to fight against these injustices and injustice of all kinds, even when it is difficult. And let us remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle…pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts…forever.

Andrew Flaherty–Class of 2019

 

Flame of Faith–A Flicker to a Blaze

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system and through the intranet for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Friday morning, 15 February 2019)

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of a loving God.

On the SmartBoard in front of you is the “Flame of Faith.” This is one of the symbols or themes of the 300th anniversary of the death of our founder, St. John Baptist de La Salle, which we celebrate this year.

John Baptist de La Salle … now there’s a person of faith. What is faith? The word means different things to different people. The best explanation of faith I’ve ever heard has Jewish origins – Faith is “Trusting in the word of the One who is trustworthy,” “Trusting in the word of the One who is trustworthy.” When, by chance, John Baptist de La Salle met a school master named Adrian Nyel who wanted him to help found a school for poor boys in their town of Reims, France, he trusted Nyel and in God’s plan for them. When a conversation with the men who would become Brothers of the Christian Schools with him challenged him to give up the security of his family wealth, John Baptist de La Salle trusted in them and in God’s plan for them.

I’m no John Baptist de La Salle. I’ll be honest with you. I struggle with faith in a deep and real way. I struggle daily to “trust in the word of the One who is trustworthy.” As a Religion teacher here at La Salle, I have the privilege to spend my days talking about and listening to people talk about matters of faith, so it might be shocking for you to hear that I struggle with faith – trusting that God exists and that what God has revealed is true and good.

I sometimes wonder whether any of what I teach or that students teach me is true. Last week, in a class discussion, a student asked me “Mr. da Silva, what if someone made all this religion stuff up? What if there is no God? What if the Gospels are just made-up stories?” It was an excellent question. And I’ll be honest, I don’t think I had a very good answer for him. I mean, what if it IS all made up? It’s certainly possible. Then again, we believe biologists when they tell us that every cell has a nucleus containing DNA and we believe historians who tell us that the last king of Portugal abdicated in 1910.

Certainty and faith are opposites. Certainty is knowing without a doubt that something is true. Faith is trusting what someone else tells us is true. We all know that the basis of trust is a relationship with someone. Generally, the people we trust the most are people that we know – our family, friends, etc. I know for myself, I’m less likely to trust someone that I don’t know or don’t know well. Why wouldn’t this also be true of God? Why would I trust what God has revealed to be true and good if I don’t know God … if I don’t have a personal relationship with God?

Relationships are something that I think we do very well here at La Salle. Our whole community is based on building relationships – inside and outside the classroom. We trust each other because we know each other. We know each other because we spend time with each other.

If you’re like me and you struggle with keeping the “flame of faith” alive, why not take some time today and in the restful days ahead over February vacation to spend time in God’s presence in a more conscious and intentional way. We only trust people we have a relationship with.

God is constantly and at all times reaching out to each and every one of us, prompting us to deepen our relationship with Him. If you’re struggling with trusting in God’s word like I do, just tell Him. Conversation is the first step in any relationship.

Let us pray:

Lord God, You have revealed Yourself as a personal God – ever waiting and prompting us to reach out to You, to respond to Your invitation to relationship with You.

Open our hearts, Lord, to see You at work in our La Salle community and beyond. Give us the grace to trust what You have revealed is true and good.

Bless all Lasallians throughout the world during this tercentenary of the death of our founder, John Baptist de La Salle. May we be open to Your will and follow it as he did.  Amen.

St. John Baptist de La Salle … pray for us.

Live Jesus in Our Hearts … Forever.

Charles da Silva–Religion Teacher

Make A Difference

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Thursday morning, 14 February 2019—Black History Month)

Good Morning!

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of a loving God.

How wonderful it has been these past few mornings to pause and pay tribute to writers, poets, activists, and political leaders – in recognition of Black History Month.

We don’t do that often enough – pay tribute to those who have come before us.

I believe that when people leave a lasting impression—God helps us to remember them with a sense of clarity years do not fade. In such a way, I remember Madeline Rogers – with whom I crossed paths some 35 years ago.

It was the summer of 1984, between my junior and senior years here at La Salle. I got a job as a lifeguard at the Camden Avenue Pool in Providence. I never knew the pool existed. I had driven through the Smith Hill neighborhood – but I had never stopped.

You walked through the elementary school to get to the back, and there was the gigantic pool, glistening under the summer sun. Before it opened each day, a line formed – kids arrived on bikes, teenagers sauntered in – mothers pushed baby carriages.

Miss Rogers welcomed everyone into her orbit – some with a warm hug, others with that stern, motherly look. She made sure that pool was ready every day. She made sure the boxed lunches were in order – and that everyone received one. She tended to skinned knees. She calmed hurt feelings. She nipped potential incidents of drama in the bud. And she treated everyone – everyone – the same!

She made sure the only reason one would feel uncomfortable was the blaring sun. And it was, as I recall, an oppressive summer. Miss Rogers said if any of us lifeguards wanted a day off, she would have to close the pool. She said this with a smile – so we worked seven days a week.

I wish I had thanked Miss Rogers at the end of that summer for her kindness. I never did. As it turned out, my instinct was correct – she was a special person. Years later, when she died, the newspaper ran a story about her.

And while she may not have written a book or rallied thousands against an injustice, she did something every one of us could – she made a difference and left a mark in her corner of the world.

Let Us Pray

Dear God, help us to lead with kindness and respect for others – and just maybe, the rest will take care of itself!

Saint John Baptiste de La Salle – pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts – forever!

Michael Pare–English Teacher

The Power of Words

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Wednesday morning, 13 February 2019—Black History Month)

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of a loving God.

Words, with their power and potential, have always fascinated me. This is not surprising coming from an English teacher. Throughout my life I have been inspired by countless authors whose words and works have shaped me, comforted me, and challenged me. And while this list includes the expected names like Shakespeare and Dickinson, the author with the most profound impact on me is the current Poet Laureate of the United States, Tracy K. Smith.

Her impressive list of awards includes the Cave Canemen prize for best first book by an African-American Poet, and the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her book Life on Mars.

I had the privilege of taking her Poetry class in 2011 while she was still a professor in my Master’s Program. What astounded me most about her was not her accolades but the deep humanity of her presence and her spoken and written words.

While she was still quite young, Tracy began to understand the role language plays in the world. In her memoir entitled Ordinary Light, Tracy recalls a TV show from her childhood that made her feel connected and inspired her. She writes,

“Gettin’ to Know Me,” [was] the only show I’d ever seen that focused on a black girl – not only on her but on her parents and little brother and grandparents as well. It took her entire world into consideration instead of making her a satellite to more prominent white characters. In every episode, the girl, who would have been just a little older than me with neat braids or bushy loose ponytail, learned about Black History from her grandmother…The girl on “Gettin’ to Know Me” never clammed up when she felt herself getting close to the pain of Home. She knew which questions to ask. She was brave, strong in her sense of what that heavy history added up to…

It is this history that is part of Tracy’s focus in her current mission as Poet Laureate.

In a recent cross country tour called “American Conversations” Tracy’s goal was to help others see the “humanizing power of poetry.” She believes that, “poems put us in touch with our most powerful memories, feelings, questions and wishes,” and that, “talking about poems might be a way of leaping past small-talk and collapsing the distance between strangers.”

During Black History Month it is important not only to remember the towering figures of the past but also the very real and very powerful individuals present in our lives today who continue to inspire the conversations that bring us all closer together..

Let us pray,

Heavenly father,

Tracy’s poetry and prose reminds us that we all possess the power to transform the world in which with live. Let us pray that words can indeed have the power Tracy, and so many others believe they can to transform, challenge, and unite.

Help us to live with a strong connection to our own humanity and in doing so become closer to each other and to you.

And, like the little girl in Gettin’ to Know Me, please help us know which questions to ask and, when we get the answers, to be strong in our sense of what history adds up to.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle…Pray for us

Live Jesus in our Hearts…Forever

Emily McLean–English Teacher

 

 

A Prayer for Healing

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Tuesday morning, 12 February 2019—Black History Month)

Let us remember we are in the holy presence of God.

On January 28, 2000, Cornel Young Jr. was shot and killed on the corner of Atwells Avenue and Valley Street in the city of Providence, Rhode Island.

At the age of 29, the life of a young black police officer of three years came to a tragic end. Cornel Young Jr, a graduate of Classical High School was the son of the Providence Police Department’s highest ranking African-American officer, Major Cornel Young Sr.

At the time of the incident, Cornel Young Jr. was off duty eating at a late night diner called Fidas when a dispute between two customers escalated to an extent that resulted in police being called to the restaurant. When two uniformed police officers arrived, one of the patrons involved in the dispute pulled out a firearm. Officer Young, dressed in plain clothes, saw the fire arm pulled and, as a result, he pulled his service weapon, which all off duty officers were required to carry at the time.

The uniformed police officers began to shout, “Drop your weapon, drop your weapon.” Officer Young assumed they were shouting at the customer who was part of the disturbance, as he approached the officers. Instead the officers fired on their fellow officer Cornel Young, who they claim they did not recognize as the incident unfolded.

Cornel Young was shot six times and was pronounced dead hours after arriving at a local hospital.

Today the Young & Woods Providence Public elementary school bears the name of Sergeant Cornel Young Jr. and serves as a daily reminder of the complicated history of black males falling victim to lethal force, perhaps none more complicated than a black male police officer falling victim to a police shooting.

Let us pray for peaceful communities.

Let us pray for our law enforcement who risk their lives to protect us all and are daily forced to deal with the consequences of a long legacy of globalized racism.

Let us pray for reconciliation and healing for the institutional racial discrimination that continues to influence and shape our society.

Let us pray for all victims of gun violence, especially young black males who are disproportionately victims of the gun violence found in the United States.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle… Pray for Us

Live Jesus in Our Hearts… Forever

Mark Carty–Social Studies Teacher