By Tim Gossen, Dean of Students, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, Winona
About one week ago I left Winona on a very cold morning. The temperature was -10 F and once I reached the Twin Cities it warmed up to 0 F and it started to snow. As my family of three children (Damian – age 4, Clara – age 2, and Allyn – age 7 months) and Ashley (my supportive and understanding wife) left me at the airport I began to get excited and immediately started to miss them. For months I tried to prepare myself not only for an international experience but also for leaving my family. Preparation for such an experience effects both me as well as four others within my family…some planning is needed.
When I reached Rome I was immediately reconnected with Lasallian family members that I had previously worked with at the same time I was being introduced to about forty other young and energetic individuals.
After listening to presentations and being assigned a work group, listen group, and thematic group I was able to meet even more Young Lasallians who are just as dedicated to the Lasallian charism. Each individual I met connected me with another “like minded” individual who was doing Lasallian work across the globe. I heard of great works happening in, but not limited to, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa, Hong Kong, Palestine, Spain, and Canada. In each of these cases Young Lasallians are engaging in works with Christian Brothers and other lay Partners who are called to the Lasallian charism. These inspiring and dedicated individuals are caring on the mission in various and unique ways everyday.
Each of the participants were impressive in their own right; especially those who were missing their students and in a few cases their children/special young ones. I was able to connect with two great Lasallians each of whom also have children. Not only were we able to discuss ways to move the worldwide Young Lasallian movement we were also able to focus our conversations on how to carry on this work as we balance family obligations. I was moved to hear how each of them balances life at the same time care for those entrusted to our care.
One of my favorite quotes was from one of my new Lasallian family members who has a two-year old-son, Tom. She stated, “It is my hope that Tom will be Lasallian even before he reaches school age.” She hopes to instill into him the Lasallian charism from an early age and I hope to do the same with my sons and daughter. I always knew parents were the first teachers of their children but I do not just want to be a parent who teaches our children I want to be a “Lasallian” teacher to our children. I thank my good friend for reminding me of this.
Now that the week is completed and I am on my way to the airport I am struck with the same feeling as I had when I left for Rome. I already miss my Lasallian family members that I spent the week with even though I am excited to get “home.” I used to say I had my SMU family and my immediate family. This experience has shown me that they are not independent of one another. My “family” members are worldwide…my sons and daughter, wife, and extended family, as well as my Lasallian brothers and sisters.
During the closing prayer service, Brother Álvaro talked about the “Lasallian Family.” He said, “Lasallian is family.”
The individuals I met this week, who I thought were my friends were not…they are my family. I pray for each one of my Lasallian brothers and sisters and take great pride in knowing that throughout the day, across the globe, colleagues and students are saying, “Saint John Baptist de La Salle, Pray for Us. Live Jesus in Our Hearts, Forever.”