Dear La Salle community,
As I was preparing to write this letter to all of you about students asking us to help them find their voice in these challenging times, I looked to my faith, my church and my Lasallian formation to guide me. I was immediately called to Luke 11:33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar, but on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light.” We as Lasallians are called to be a light and to use the light entrusted to us to guide not just ourselves but also others. The truth of the world today for our young people is that there are many “lights” competing for their attention and devotion.
Recent events in Parkland, Florida and the subsequent reaction and call to action is a poignant reminder of the responsibility we feel as educators to help our young people find their light. If we do not engage them in critical thinking, thoughtful reflection and both internal and external discernment we run the risk of leaving them bare to the many alluring trappings and messages of those who may not have their salvation at the core of their purpose. We must, at the very least, respond to the invitations young people give us to help them in the process of discovering and igniting their light.
In this context, we are working with a group of students who have approached us with a desire to raise their voice with others on March 14. This date is significant for them because it is one month after the shooting in Parkland. At 10am on this date and for 17 minutes, many youth across the country are planning to memorialize the 17 victims through prayer and calls to action. We plan to not only make a safe space available for this on our campus, but to help guide our young leaders towards raising their voice to deliver a message of peace, hope, solidarity and love.
We Lasallians must not only be a light for others, but we must fervently work to develop a capacity to discern which light to follow. Pope Francis articulates this beautifully in his most recent Pope video (https://thepopevideo.org/en.html) “The times in which we live demand that we develop a profound capacity of discernment… To discern, from among all the voices we hear, which is the Lord’s voice, which is the voice of Him who guides us to the Resurrection, to Life…” This is a daunting task for all of us, especially when the suffering in our world is great, and the tragedies that inflict this suffering happen so frequently.
Through active engagement and discernment, we can remain focused on where our Catholic and Lasallian mission calls us, instead of the divisive and polarizing messages which can overwhelm and marginalize. To make the option for engagement on March 14 available to our community, we affirm our respect for their dignity and our responsibility as Catholic educators to guide them towards the light of Gospel values of social justice and peace. Making safe and directed space available on our campus for this gathering allows for an option for participation in something led by their peers, not aligned to or led by outside political groups. Students will not be penalized if they respectfully participate in the tribute. At the same time, there will be no expectation nor requirement for anyone to join in. We’ll tell students about their options as we get closer.
We live in interesting times, for sure. I don't think I ever imagined when I was an education major at the University of Portland way back in 1995, that I would be signing up for a profession that would eventually become a target for such terrible tragedies. I feel a deep commitment to keeping students safe and joining them in a sincere call for all leaders to put aside differences and work for effective responses to such increasingly common and devastatingly impactful events. Thank you for the trust you put in us and for the value you place on our work of helping our young people find their voice in the light of Christ.
Live Jesus in our Hearts,