What does “being Lasallian” actually mean?

That was the focus of the annual freshmen retreat last week, a day for students to reflect on their faith and explore how they can be of service to others.  Approximately 125 of our new Saints gathered for the day-long retreat to listen to members of the Saint Raphael Academy community—and the surrounding community—and discover the significance of being Lasallian.

The retreat, along with retreats for all other classes during the year, was planned by Pastoral Services  and embraced this year’s school-wide theme of “Faith, Service, Community,” the three tenets of the Lasallian tradition.

The morning began with students bringing canned goods to school, which were given to the food pantry at Holy Family parish, followed by community-building activities in Alumni Hall. Students then gathered at the Coutu Theater for a presentation on the “Lasallian Perspective on Faith, Service, Community.” Allison Amodie, English and theology teacher, spoke about faith and the many dimensions it has, and she encouraged students to look deeper into their faith lives. On the subject of service, Dan O’Connell, a theology teacher and a Lasallian Volunteer, reviewed the legacy of St. John Baptist de La Salle’s service, and asked them to be open to learning from the people they serve.  Denny Majewski, Director of Advancement and a former Lasallian Volunteer, explained how students are already a part of many different large and small communities, including the Lasallian community at Saint Raphael and worldwide.

Upperclassmen members of the Lasallian Youth Group talked about their experiences at the 2014 Lasallian Youth Assembly, a summer retreat for high school students from Lasallian youth groups around the U.S. and abroad. A video was featured from that assembly that highlighted many Saint Raphael Academy students who attended the retreat, including senior Alyssa Fletcher, who summed up her experience with, “Little things teach you so much about big things.”

Mary Beth Reynolds, Director of Pastoral Services, echoed that sentiment. “If everyone says, my ‘little’ is going to matter, imagine what the world would be like.” She advised each of them to listen throughout the day and ask themselves, “Who do I want to be?”

Community members from Pawtucket and Providence volunteered to speak with students about service. Melissa Flaherty, resident services manager at Pawtucket Housing Authority, shared practical ways to help the homeless, and described activities that other Saints students have organized and helped with at the Housing Authority. Diana Ditto, project manager at Collette Travel, shared her knowledge about starting and maintaining a community garden and the need for fresh, locally grown food for many underserved groups. As the executive director of the Pawtucket Soup Kitchen, Adrienne Marchetti spoke about local issues concerning hunger and food insecurity. Tom Darnowski, a second-year Lasallian Volunteer teaching science at The San Miguel School in Providence, inspired students with advice about the importance of maintaining hopefulness while doing service. Finally, Saint Raphael’s former Assistant Director of Pastoral Services, Nancy Benoit, gave a talk about global poverty. The speakers and their messages were well-received by the students.

Service to others has always been an important part of Saint Raphael Academy’s teachings. Students volunteer many hours of service in towns and cities across Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts. Saint Raphael Academy recently received a citation from the Rhode Island Senate in recognition of students’ numerous hours of service to the Pawtucket Soup Kitchen. Saint Raphael students have also volunteered many hours to the Pawtucket Housing Authority, organizing an annual Senior Prom, as well as visiting regularly with residents and participating in activities.

After the presentations, students enjoyed a pizza lunch and had a prayer service at Holy Family Church, where upperclassmen and faculty shared their personal faith stories.

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