Young Volunteers Embrace the Lasallian Mission for Life
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.
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.
Brother 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