Hear Their Stories

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy community on Monday morning, 30 January 2017–the first day of Catholic Schools Week)

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

“There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you hear their story.”

This is a quote that I first heard at La Salle and one that has stuck with me ever since.

This past week, I listened to the story of a woman and her child when visiting their home in the impoverished, rural community of Nidirí in Masaya, Nicaragua. I met a woman named Selvia, who lives with her little son Isain in a house made of metal sheets. The house has neither running water, nor electricity. While I played catch with Isain, as chickens and pigs ran around our feet, Selvia spoke about her life.

Several years ago, she had to move back home to the countryside, because there were no job opportunities available for her in the city. Arriving home, she struggled to feed her family, had no source of income, and lived in fear that her unstable house would collapse on top of her. After years of struggling, she joined a local organization that promotes woman’s rights, which allowed her to join a woman’s cooperative that specializes in creating natural medicine and hygiene products. This work allows her to give back to the community, while providing her with an income to improve her living conditions. Selvia now has the means to grow her own fruits and vegetables, raise chickens, and strengthen the infrastructure of her house. She thanks God for blessing her and her son and thanks Him each day for giving her life.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet this upbeat, compassionate woman during my immersion trip to Nicaragua with my school, the College of the Holy Cross. After hearing her life story, I could not help but be inspired by her strong desire to better her community, her immense love for her son, and her deep gratitude towards others. Hugging me goodbye with tears in her eyes, she thanked me for taking the time to come to her country and learn about her people. I promised her I would always remember her, and aim to serve others in any aspect of my life that I am able to.

Today marks the first day of Catholic Schools Week. Having attended Catholic schools for the entirety of my educational career, I am called to reflect on its great value. My desire to serve others, as I did on this international immersion trip, stems from the values and ideals instilled in me throughout my years spent at La Salle. During my four years here, I participated in clubs and activities such as the New Orleans service learning trip, Lasallian Youth, the Homeless Sleep Out, the Kairos retreat, and Senior Christian service. These life experiences taught me how to listen and learn from the stories of others and live the mission of Saint John Baptist de La Salle. Learning in a Catholic environment at 612 Academy Avenue, I encountered and was impacted by many people of faith. I heard stories while hanging out in campus ministry, while listening to prayers by Mr. Sirois in World Religion class, while attending Mass with the entire school, while talking with Mrs. Estes – each day I heard stories. These stories taught me how to think critically and virtuously, while instilling in me the ideals of service, community and faith. These stories filled me with love, filled me with passion and have helped me find my own story.

I was inspired to attend a Catholic college and continue to deepen my faith. At Holy Cross, I am a member of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Organization, and serve as a mentor to Malaysia, my 14-year-old little sister, who is always a bundle of energy and reminds me to always remain optimistic. Through my work with the chaplain’s office, I have promoted inter-campus peace and organized events to improve woman’s rights.  As the chair of our campus environmental group, I am able to raise awareness for environmental concerns that impact poor communities and harm the lives of others.

As a second semester senior, I am always being asked about my plans for the future. While I am not completely certain what I will be doing after graduation, I am confident I will be able to serve others, perhaps by working for a non-profit organization. Because of my Lasallian education, I feel called to have a career that allows me to better the lives of others.

I continue to learn from the stories I hear, and am forever grateful for the Lasallian community that taught me how to love others and serve in faith.

I call all of you to be inspired by others, love others and build your story each day.

Let us pray.

Dear God, may we deepen our faith in Jesus while appreciating His message and that of His church.

A quote from Father Pedro Arrupe titled “Falling in Love With God” says

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you will know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

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

Live Jesus in our Hearts … Forever.

Victoria Stephens–La Salle Academy Alumna (Class of 2013) and Senior at the College of the Holy Cross

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