Young Volunteers Embrace the Lasallian Mission for Life

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Heather Ruple serving with the young Miguel Men at San Miguel School Providence, RI

Heather Ruple serving with the young Miguel Men at The San Miguel School Providence, RI

Early on September 1, 2001, Heather Ruple, a recent graduate of St. Mary’s College in Moraga, CA, walked off a red eye flight at T.F. Green Airport in Providence, Rhode Island, to receive a warm embrace and welcome from Brother Lawrence Goyette.

“She is amazing,” says Goyette. “She promised to return when she finished her JAN term semester with us.” And she did.

It was Heather’s first day as a Lasallian Volunteer and she was assigned to The San Miguel School in Providence. The school’s mostly Latin American immigrant neighbors in Olneyville struggled to make a go in Providence. Thanks to the creative educational program Brother Lawrence and two volunteers started eight years prior, neighborhood families had a new place to enroll their middle school aged sons.

Heather fell in love with the young men she met as a novice teacher. For the first time she experienced a school community of adults who worked together, supported each other as counselors, teachers, fundraisers, writers, and managers. In this incredible environment she found her deep passion for service—the feeling of enthusiasm and excitement for meeting the basic human needs of the boys and their families. So inspired, Heather went above and beyond—she continued her daily job after school in the Graduate Support Program with the Miguel Men who had already moved on to high school. And one time she led the whole school on a weekend outdoor experience at the Empowerment Center in Goshen, New York.

As a Lasallian Volunteer in Providence, Heather shared her life with another volunteer, Brother Lawrence, and three additional Brothers in the Miguel House Lasallian Community on Manton Ave. They cooked for each other, discussed life issues, prayed together, cried together and grew into a Lasallian family. This began a forever friendship with Brother Lawrence and a lifelong commitment to the Lasallian mission.

After two years of formation, Heather joined the staff of San Miguel as a full time teacher and later as Academic Dean. She joined other teachers in forming RILAG, the first associative group in the District of Eastern North America (DENA). It was initiated and directed by Lasallians themselves, to share best practices and build a sense of family to encourage their institutions to network together. It was a bottom up effort to spark local leadership and the first of its kind in the USA.

Heather’s leadership potential was recognized in the Lasallian Region of North America (RELAN) by the invitation to attend the 2nd International Symposium of Young Lasallians held in 2006 in Rome. She returned to Rome in 2010 to participate in the CIL session on Lasallian Association. The Rome connection enabled Heather to meet International Coordinator for Young Lasallians Joe Gilson. The pair fell in love, a not uncommon thing to happen in the Young Lasallians world.

Continually moved by Heather’s presence in the Lasallian mission, Brother Lawrence Goyette encouraged her to join with almost 100 other Lasallians in the three-year formation program called the Lasallian Leadership Institute (LLI). As a leader par excellence himself, Goyette recognized Heather’s potential for leadership and encouraged her every step of the way. In the LLI she learned the theories and practice of leadership. “It was a natural extension of her two years as a Lasallian Volunteer,” says Goyette. It was both practical and academic—just what she needed to grow as a leader.

After 10 years at The San Miguel School in Providence, Heather moved to Napa, CA, in a leadership position as Director of Young Lasallians for the District of San Francisco New Orleans. According to their website, Heather’s areas of responsibilities for the district include: “The annual Lasallian Student Leaders Gatherings and Lasallian Youth Assemblies; the Lasallians without Borders Initiative; the Vandhu Paaru immersion experience; annual Campus Ministry, Student Activities, Student Life, and Vocation Coordinators workshops; the Called and Chosen Vocation Retreats, Lasallian Renewal Retreats, Lasallian Collegians, and Lasallian Fellows retreats; as well as many District school retreats and workshops.” What a workload!

When I reflect on the years I have seen Heather grow and transform, taking on the next level of leadership with great gusto, I have a name for Heather’s influential leadership in the Lasallian family here and abroad—The Ruple Effect.

Brother Ed Phelan, FSC, with one of his favorite Lasallians, Heather Ruple Gilson

Brother Ed Phelan, FSC, with one of his favorite Lasallians, Heather Ruple Gilson

I believe it is largely the result of her two year formation experience with Brother Lawrence and the San Miguel community in Providence. As the poster young Lasallian for many who are hidden in plain sight, she is not alone in this role—there are over 80 additional extraordinary women and men who, since their formation as Lasallian Volunteers, continue to minister in other Lasallian programs. There are another 80 who minister and serve in programs and places not called Lasallian but yet are essentially that. If De La Salle would return today he would make them all honorary Brothers because his humility might prevent him from using the term Lasallian. Each exert their leadership in different and distinct ways—not all had the benefit of a Brother Lawrence but each do their part in the mission and demonstrate the effect of Lasallian Volunteers. It is The Ruple Effect.

Many of them marry, sink their roots, have children and settle in the shadow of a Lasallian institution. Some have already passed their 25th Lasallian anniversary, and soon there will be a few who qualify for retirement. Each in their own way carry on the mission. This is The Ruple Effect.

After graduation from college, these Lasallians like Heather left home, friends, and familiar surroundings to go to far away places. They lived in Christian Brothers’ communities, survived on a small stipend, and worked with families and children who had been ignored by society. With the Lasallian Volunteers, they had a common formational experience in a year or two of intensive training in prayer, community building, and mission effectiveness. Through this they found real community, warm camaraderie, a sense of adventure, and devotion to a cause that had been missing from their prior lives. They found their vocation as Lasallian educators. As Lasallian Volunteers they had the best training available for their mission and the closest to what Brothers had when they entered the Lasallian family in the novitiate. Today these Young Lasallian Professionals—mostly in their late 20s and 30s—have embraced a role traditionally held by young Brothers, and are contributing far beyond their age.

Many like Heather Ruple Gilson (she married that young man whom she met in Rome) are the leading teachers, counselors, school managers, campus ministers, principals, presidents, district and regional leaders in the Lasallian network today…The Ruple Effect.

Ask any one of them for the most influential person in their lives and a Brother Lawrence clone will be number one or two. These Lasallian leaders are responding to a vocational call and carrying on the mission once exclusively the domain of the Brothers. Their contribution and role is noted in the Brothers Rule and General Chapter resolutions—the mission today is in their hands:

“Today, the Brothers pursue the Lasallian mission in partnership with men and women who recognize the relevance of the Lasallian charism.” The Rule of the Brothers

These leaders are a small but significant portion of all the hundreds of men and women partners who serve in the Lasallian mission in the US. They are the lucky ones who were steeped in Lasallian values early in their careers right out of college.

They are not to be singled out but only to be recognized as a special group within the Lasallian family network where they have an effect way beyond their numbers—The Ruple Effect.


Ed-Head-faviconBrother Ed Phelan, FSC, 75, is a friend of Heather Ruple Gilson who danced at her wedding and who is awed by the potential for good in the young women and men like Heather formed by the Lasallian Volunteers.

Lasallian Volunteers Alumni: Working in Mission Today

Chenelle Alana Bruce, St John’s College High School

Saul Alerman,  Martin De Porres

Megan Alexander-Short, Justin Siena High School

Molly Allen, St Marys University Grad. School of Bus and Technology

Kenenna Amuzie, San Miguel High School – Tuscon

Paul Avento, Seton Education Partners

Joan Bachynsky, Christo Rey High School NYC

Alina Baietti, De La Salle INC St Louis

Elizabeth Barr, Christo Rey High School Philadelphia

Mark Barry, San Miguel School – Chicago

Andrew Blake, Totino-Grace High School

Denis Block, Montini High School IL.

Kayla Bryson-Tucker, De La Salle High School MN

Katie Burns, St Cecilia School St Louis, MO

Stephanie Carlsen, Mount Carmel Holy Rosary School NYC.

Sophia Cartagena, Tides Family Services, RI

Katie Christensen, Lasallian Volunteers

Kerry Conroy, LaSalle Academy – NYC

Dana Cook, Martin De Porres Schools

Carrie Davis, St Marys University CA

Megan Davison, Midwest District Office

Douglas Demeter, La Salle College High School PA

David Desmond, Christian Bros H.S. – Sacramento CA

Frank Ercole, La Salle Academy NYC.

Shanae Farrell, Lewis University IL

Mike Fedoruk, San Miguel School – Chicago IL

Joe Finn, CBA – Lincroft NJ

Dennis Galvin, Midwest district

Chris Giangregorio, De Marillac Academy CA

Kathleen Glackin, Lasallian Volunteers

Gordan Hannon, Catalyst Schools IL

Samantha Herbst-Nelson, De La Salle Blessed Sacrament MO

Megan Hill, Martin De Porres Schools NYC

Matt Joram, La Salle Academy, Phil, PA

Craig Junker, Totino-Grace High School MN

Rosa Kadera-Redmond, St Mary’s Press

Ted Kanelopolus, La Salle High School – Yakima WA

Andrew Ketchum, Christo Rey Brooklyn NY

Joe Kilmade, St Cecilia St Louis MO

Joe Kolar, St Mary’s University MN

Sarah Laitinen, San Miguel School RI

Dave Levasseur, Christian Bros H.S. – Sacramento CA

Alisa Macksey, St Mary’s University MN First Generation Initiative

Sarah Maher, De La Salle North Catholic Portland OR

Amy Majewski, San Miguel School RI

Dennis Majewski, St Raphael Academy RI

Jackie Markowski, Christian Brothers University MN

Br. Anwar Martinez, La Salle Academy NYC

Karin McClelland, St Mary’s College of California

Kat Merry, De La Salle North Catholic Portland OR

Brianna Mustard, San Miguel High School – Tuscon AZ

Jeb Myers, Christo Rey High School MN

Carly Myrtle, De La Salle, Academy Concord CA

Alison Orbin, San Miguel School, Chicago IL

Marilyn Paquette, De La Salle Academy, Concord CA

Allan Parham,  St. Joseph High School, Westchester, IL

Dylan Perry, Lasallian Volunteers

Michael Phipps, Novitiate

Sean Ruane, Lewis University IL

Josh Rundle, St Josephs High School IL

Heather Ruple Gilson, De La Salle Institute CA

Sandra Sanchez, La Salle Academy NYC

Natalia Schorn, Christian Bros H.S. – Sacramento CA

Tad Smith, San Miguel School Chicago IL

Chris Swain, Christian Brothers Conference

Chay Tanchanco, De Marillac Academy CA

Jennifer Tyndall, De La Salle Middle School St Louis MO

Zac Ufner, Calvert Hall MD

Liana Vantrease, De Marillac Academy CA

Susan Vaughan – Fier, Cretin-Durham Hall High School MN

Emily Vogel, De La Salle Institute, Chicago IL

Jolleen Wagner, Brilla College Prep, Bronx, NYC

Amanda Weingarten, Manhattan College, Bronx, NYC

Andrew Weingarten, Manhattan College, Bronx, NYC