On the Shoulders of Giants

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Wednesday morning, 27 March 2019–Grandparents’ Day)

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

“We are standing on the shoulders of giants.”

I like to present this quote to my Senior students each semester as we begin our vocation class. As my Noni, my mother’s mom, would often say, in order to know where you’re going it’s important to know where you’re coming from. What I take from this quote is that no matter who we are, whether a Senior getting ready to graduate, a Freshman finding their place in high school, a teacher, a parent, a coach, or administrator, we all have at least one thing in common, not one of us has gotten to where we are without the love and support of those who came before us. We all have “giants” in our lives who have paved the way for us by sacrificing their time and resources, encouraging us when we need a lift, and inspiring us by their humble faith and work ethic in order that we may realize our God-given potential.

Today is Grandparents’ Day at La Salle. A hearty welcome to all our visitors in the building. In anticipation of this day I have been reflecting on my own grandparents, in particular my Noni. Just last week my Noni celebrated her 91st birthday. Praise God, she still has her mental faculties, which includes her witty sense of humor and a storehouse of practical godly wisdom she has acquired throughout her lifetime. My Noni stands shy of 5 feet tall but believe me, she is a giant. Born in Germany she experienced some dark times to say the least, including living through World War II. In fact, my grandfather was an American soldier and met my Noni during the Allied occupation of Germany following the war. My Noni came to America not knowing much English but she learned through the help and friendship of her mother-in-law, my great-grandmother, who ironically, spoke primarily Italian.

My Noni is a master storyteller. Some of my favorite memories are my conversations with her over the years. She loves to ask me about my children and my students, of whom I’m never hesitant to boast, and she quite often reminds me how she was a bit mischievous in her hayday. She always had a soft spot for the mischievous ones so perhaps that explains her affinity for me. When she tells me stories of her childhood days in Germany when times were much simpler in many ways, to the stories of her raising five children on her own and how much she loved all the neighborhood kids and tight-knit community, she can really paint a picture with words. It’s amazing how much we can learn through story.  After all it’s how we truly get to know and love someone—listening to their story and sharing our own, all the while becoming a part of one another’s story. Sacred Scripture is comprised primarily of stories, stories of faith and hope and God’s love for us, His people. My Noni was always a faithful follower of Jesus as far back as I remember, though I have come to learn that wasn’t always the case in her younger years. Her faith in Jesus is a huge part of the man I am today. She always appreciated me going to Church with her on Sundays when I was young, and I always appreciated the fruit flavor mentos she would always offer me as they helped me through what I often saw then as a long, boring sermon. Despite my lack of understanding of God and Church at the time, I did feel the spirit of a faith community through the people at her humble Baptist Church. And I always felt the love of God through the love I received from my Noni. She always made me feel like I was special, reminded me that God had a plan for me, and her humor, wisdom, encouragement, and example helped me to seek that plan for my life.  My hope and prayer for you all is that you have someone in your life who inspires you to do the same.

Let us pray…

Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of the giants You put in our lives. Thank You for the parents, grandparents, and loved ones who support us in every way to make it possible for us to achieve our God-given potential. Today let us thank those in our lives who have played an integral role in shaping who we are, and who we are becoming. Grant us the strength to put the values of faith, love, and self-sacrifice that they have modeled for us into action today and everyday. And grant us the time to spend with them and listen to their stories, in order that we may understand more fully where we come from, and in so doing, perhaps gain a better understanding of where we are going.

Saint John Baptist de la Salle…Pray for us.

Live Jesus in our Hearts…Forever.

Anthony Russo–Campus Minister

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

Women—All Are Meant To Shine

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Friday morning, 8 March 2019—International Women’s Day)

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

As Victoria mentioned on Tuesday, this month is dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women throughout history, along with celebrating things like Pi Day (for my math people), St. Patrick’s Day (for my Irish friends), and even Peanut Butter Lovers’ Day.  But today, March 8th, has been marked as International Women’s Day. I’m going to read a short passage from the International Women’s Day website, because it’s written better than anything I would have come up with on my own.

“Throughout ancient and modern history, women have collaborated and lead purposeful action to redress inequality in the hope of a better future for their communities, their children, and themselves. Whether through bold, well-documented action or through humble resistance that never made it into the history books, women have united for equality and achievement forever.”

The first officially named International Women’s Day event was held in 1911, and still to this day, International Women’s Day is a powerful platform that celebrates the achievements of and drives action for women. As I was thinking about this prayer, I started to think of all the important women that have been a part of my life:

My sister, Erin, whom I wished for so badly as a little girl, and who always shows me the true meaning of hard work and dedication.

My friends: Jackie, who has the kindest heart; Kelsey, who is the quickest to jump in if I need help and is always down to cause a little trouble; Casey, who can make me laugh, even after the worst of days; and, Angie, who challenges me to step out of my comfort zone.

My Nan and my Noni, who lovingly took care of me when I was younger, and who always had the best snacks, as most grandmothers do. And my mom, who showed me the importance of education and who will always be my best teacher.

So I ask you to think about a woman or women in your life. Does she inspire you? Does she support you? Does she challenge you to be a better human? How can you show that you value her? Do you say that you love her enough? What can you do to lift her up?

Show her.
Tell her.

And so we pray…Let us remember that we are powerful beyond measure. As humans, we are more frightened by the light within us than the darkness. Playing small does not serve the world. We were all meant to shine, and that light isn’t just within some of us; everyone possesses it. As we let our light become visible, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. Guide us to always choose light over darkness.

St. John Baptist de La Salle, pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts, forever.

Morgan Kane–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

A Different Kind of Lenten Fast

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Thursday, 7 March 2019)

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

When I was praying about what to share with you this morning, I just kept thinking about the words: Love, Acceptance, Respect and Tolerance.

There seems to be a shortage of all of those these days.

As we begin our season of Lent in the Church and we try to decide what it is we are going to give up this Lent, I would challenge you to take a different approach.

What if we decide to take on something instead of giving up something. Oh yes! we should fast and pray and give alms, but what if we also try to do something good that we ordinarily would not do?

I recently saw a sign that was outside a church that read: “ Love one another. Do not judge each other. I will sort them all out in the End! God.”

I really like this because it says that our only job is to accept each other and take care of each other. It is not our job to judge. It’s not up to us if someone is not living up to our standards. Even worse, it is not up to us to judge who should receive help and assistance and who shouldn’t. Think of the last time you passed a homeless person on the street and made a judgement as to why he/she was there but did nothing about it.

Our Holy Father Pope Francis challenges us to be more tolerant of and more loving to each other. God knows we need more of that!

My challenge this Lent is to think of the places in your life that you can be more tolerant and less judgemental. Where can you do something good for someone else? Where can you possibly forgive someone who hurt you? Where can you ask for forgiveness from someone whom you have hurt?

Can we fast this Lent from hatred, jealousy, intolerance, being judgemental, and unforgiving?

Even Jesus associated with sinners and the marginalized in society.

Let’s make this a good Lent this year. Let us work to build up the Kingdom of God and our community here at La Salle Academy

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

Live Jesus in our hearts……forever.

Patricia Ducharme–Religion Teacher

Spring Cleaning for the Soul

(Prayer offered on the public address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Wednesday, 6 March 2019)

Good Morning.

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

Today is Ash Wednesday, marking the start of the Lenten season.  Interestingly, Lent comes from an Old English word meaning “springtime.”  Much like how people do a spring cleaning for their houses, Lent is a spring cleaning for the soul.

The Gospel tell us that Jesus was led into the desert where he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. During these next 40 days of Lent, we too are called into the desert. We are called to fast and pray to purify our hearts and souls to draw closer to God and to ultimately renew our relationship with Him in preparation for His Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

During Mass today, Father Woodhouse will be placing ashes on your forehead and will say the phrase: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  While the ashes are meant as a reminder of our mortality, of the finiteness of our time here on earth, what they will mean to each of us in that moment may be different- what will they mean to you?  Are they a sign of repentance?  Are they a sign of imperfection?  How about faith?  Or devotion?

Regardless, the ashes call each of us to a common goal: self-reflection..  So, use the ashes you get today to help you self-reflect.  Use the Lenten season to give up something negative in your life.  Use the next 40 days as Jesus did.

Let us pray.

Gracious God, today begins a period of inner reflection and examination. The days stretch before me and invite me inward to that silent, holy space that holds your Spirit. This special time beckons me to see my life through Christ’s eyes and the truth and reality of your love incarnate. Give me the grace to enter the space of these days with anticipation of our meeting. And, when I open my soul to your presence, let your loving kindness flow over me and seep into the pockets of my heart. I ask this for the sake of your love.  Amen.

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

Live Jesus in our hearts.  Forever.

Jeff Miszkiewicz–English Teacher