BSM Blog: Many Languages. One Voice.
I attended the World Congress on Lasallian Education last week in Mexico City. It was an amazing experience and one I won’t soon forget. The purpose of the Congress was to discuss, analyze and share perspectives on the future of Lasallian education on a global level. There were 600 participants from around the world, representing 41 different countries. What impressed me most was that while participants spoke many different languages, our Lasallian identity was clearly one voice.
Benilde-St. Margaret’s is part of a world-wide network of Lasallian schools and other organizations. The word Lasallian refers to organizations that share a common heritage with the Christian Brothers. St. John Baptist De La Salle, patron saint of teachers and educational innovator, founded the teaching order of the Brothers more than 300 years ago. Today, the Lasallian network consists of more than 90,000 brothers and lay partners serving almost one million students in 77 countries in the world. Our Lasallian identity is rooted in our shared commitment to acknowledging God’s presence, providing an inclusive, respectful and quality education to our students, and always considering the needs of the poor.
At dinner one night I sat next to the President of the Lasallian school in Singapore, In small group the following day I discussed the keynote address with a teacher from Peru. At the next day’s Q & A session, I chatted with two Lasallians from Belgium about the comments made by the speaker from Togo. At one point, I was in a session where the speaker spoke in Portuguese while the slides were written in Spanish, and the kind man next to me was translating in English. All of these experiences reiterated the important lesson, I learned, that in our beautiful diversity we find unity in our shared values of dignity and respect, all in the context of providing our students with the very best faith-based educational experience possible. Many languages, but one distinct voice.
With the Congress ending midday on Saturday, a small group of six of us took the opportunity to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This is the site where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego in 1531, providing him with messages of hope. The site is visited by several million people each year for the purpose of offering intercessions and prayers on behalf of those in need. I couldn’t help but feel the spiritual power, not just in the different shrines and chapels located on the grounds, but in the vibrant faith of the people gathered there.
Both at the Congress and at the Basilica, I felt an overwhelming sense of how beautiful the diversity of the Catholic faith can be, and within that diversity, we find our unity. Our shared belief in God, our devotion to the spiritual practices of our faith and at the end of the day, our willingness to respond to the call to be in a vocational ministry dedicated to educating students, the future servant leaders of tomorrow.