A few disclaimers before we begin:
- This post contains a lot of pictures, because I couldn’t decide which ones to exclude
- This post is being written after an extremely long day, and at a time when I’m more emotional than the others.
As I said previously, there is no decision that I’ve made as influential as the decision to enroll at Manhattan College. I’ve decided that this post will have more to do with my college experience than it will with my decision to join the Brothers, since, at the time that’s what was more prevalent in my life.
I also want to apologize in advance for the people and events I will not write about. It is not because they were insignificant, but because I’ve been told that I need to work on being more concise which goes against my nature.
OK, here we go:
Freshman Year: I was in the greatest dorm any freshman could be in (Chrysostom) and taking one of the worst courses we were required to take (Nature and Experience of Religion). In a polite manner of speaking, the other students in the course did not like me because I enjoyed sharing my opinion every chance I got. One hundred percent of the time that opinion was counter to the opinions of the other students, except for one guy who looked like he belonged in a club as opposed to a classroom. This guy was Steve, and after one class he and I spoke about how we were the only two that didn’t think Christianity was a joke. A few days later we’d head out on the Freshman retreat. A friendship was formed right there.
I was the Sacristan at the College and a part of Campus Ministry. There were many inspiring events we would embark on, including a service trip to West Virginia. It was during that trip that Andrew (another great friend) and I got lost in the woods, and encountered some locals who gave me the opportunity to shoot my first gun. I did not expect that experience, but the adrenaline rush is right up there with watching Lou Flores win our 1st round match up in the NCAA tournament against Florida.
That June, Steve, Andrew, and I would join 17 other students for a study abroad program in Florence. It was there that I fell in love with Cintia, and it’s her that I blame for my inability to drink Tequila to this day…
Freshman year was a pivotal year in that I also got involved in Student Government. I was never involved in Student Council in high school, but I remembered the words of Br. Rob and decided to try and make my mark. I don’t remember what position I held that year, but I know that Student Government would help define my time at Manhattan. I also remembering seriously discerning priesthood during that year. Our time in Italy was extremely conducive to that type of discernment, and I began thinking, for the first time, that religious life was something I might be interested in. Once I returned, however, I did not seriously think about that much more.
Sophomore year was the year I made one of my biggest decisions. I switched from ‘undecided’ to the School of Education. I had never, not once, thought about becoming a teacher. I though that anyone who chose to spend more time than needed in a school was crazy. But I spoke to a Brother and professor I had for 1 course (Br. Ray) about wanting to become a salesman (and eventually working for the company my Dad works for). He said to me: “If you’re going to sell anything, why not sell kids on becoming life long learners?” Such a simple question had a profound impact on me.
During that year I attended a dinner the Brothers community hosted for the Lasallian Collegians. At that point I was barely involved in the group, but the ability to attend a meal that wasn’t served by Sodexo (seriously? Was that real food???) was too good to pass up. I remember one moment so distinctly because I’m ashamed of it, but also because of the life changing impact it had.
After the president of the club told the brothers about the work the Collegians were doing, Br. Ray (yet again) asked: ‘All of that is great work, but what connection does it have with La Salle?’ It was a great question, and I realized I had to earn my undeserved meal by answering the question. I don’t remember what I said, but I know that one specific Brother, Brother Luke Salm remarked that it was an impressive answer. I didn’t think much of it, and went on to dinner satisfied that I had earned my plate.
A few days later I received a phone call from a brother- Br. Joe Jozwiak. He told me that I had received a compliment from Brother Luke, and that was worth a phone call. I was ignorant at the time (still today?) and didn’t know who Br. Luke was, until it was explained to me that he was the most respected brother when it came to Lasallian history. He invited me to join the ‘Contacts’ program and teach for a summer in Harlem, while living in community with the brothers. I jumped at the opportunity.
I won’t say much about that summer, other than the fact that I met a brother who has had an incredible influence on my life. A brother who is flying in from Mexico to bear the responsibility of being my sponsor as I receive the Habit on Saturday. Br. Pete Killeen. Bro Pete is the type of guy who is extremely serious, but knows how to not take himself too seriously. He taught me that you can care deeply, work hard, and still laugh at life.
I continued to increase my involvement in Student Government, and in the process made some incredible friends, and had the ability to get close with the administration and staff at the college. It was here that I discovered a big part of the Lasallian charism. That caring for the whole person is an absolute: it doesn’t matter your age, your position, your salary. What matters is that we are all called to care for one another. The physical plant guys: Rich, Vic, Stan, Andrew; the admissions team: Dean Bisset and Kevin; the people who worked with finances: George, Lisa, Margaret, Ed; the people who worked in Student Life: Elaine, Shannon, Erin; the phenomenal people who left us too soon: John Daly, Ed McMahon; and the countless staff that worked every day to insure that each Jasper had the best experience possible.
Entering my Senior Year I was fortunate enough to represent the student body as Student Body President. Because of the people before me, I knew that this was a position that was to be respected and an opportunity to bring our student body together. It also allowed me to work closer with the brothers and the administration. During the summer entering my senior year I was asked to represent the NY District of the Brothers at the International Young Lasallian Symposium. To be honest, I didn’t know what this meant, other than a free trip to see my family in Bari and a free trip to Rome. Obviously I said yes..
What it resulted in, was me seeing the global Institute of the Brothers for the first time. I saw the work they were doing in the rest of the United States, and around the world. I also met amazing Lasallians from the U.S. who spoke glowingly of the Lasallian Volunteers. To be honest, up until that point, the program was pitched as a last ditch effort for teachers who couldn’t find a job. It was nothing that I wanted to be a part of. I quickly learned that this couldn’t be farther from the truth. They spoke about the schools they taught in, and how the experience changed them; and how they made an impact in those roles. After hearing this I decided that when I graduated I would become an LV.
Of all the amazing things I experienced on that trip, the influence to become an LV would end up being the most influential experience. It is that decision, that would slowly lead to the next one; all the way out in San Francisco…
But not before senior year…