USA – Bronx: Study Trip for Lasallian Students of Rome: Among the Old and the Young

USA – Bronx: Study Trip for Lasallian Students of Rome: Among the Old and the Young

This was a voyage of discovery of the Lasallian world in the United States, but it was also a vocational training experience in education for justice, according to Andrea Sicignano, teacher in the Istituto De Merode in Roma (Italy). It was the fourth occasion of the staging of the event and we can underline the following four points.

The visit to the Brothers’ house in Bedford Park, a mixed community of Brothers and young lay people from the “Lasallian volunteers” movement created some years ago. “This was a fundamental encounter which led our students to discover by direct experience the global dimension of Lasallian life. It was the starting point of their journey but also, in my view, the point of arrival for living in fraternity to be at the service of others.”

Visits to Ellis Island and Manhattan College, the Lasallian university in New York which was our base during our stay. “Visiting the Museum of Immigration, travelling through the city to become acquainted with the history of immigration from Italy. The museum recreates the journeys undertaken in hope by our compatriots, often with tragic outcomes.”

Caring for the elderly, in an establishment near Manhattan College. Fourteen of our De Merode students, ages 14 to 17, took part in this activity. “I saw young people showing great tenderness, capable of paying delicate attention, ready to take the initiative. In three morning sessions, we played music, sang, danced, listened to people and talked with them. Above all, we got to know them. Many of the elderly people had arrived as immigrants when young, others related the history of the United states through their own personal stories”. Francesco, 17 years old, declared, “I learned that the essential thing is to give unconditional affection to those who are dear to you and near to you, seeking to know them better. ” And Gemma said, “On one of the final days, a homeless man told me, with eyes towards heaven, that he was thankful for what he had, and that made me realise my own lack of thankfulness.”

Caring for small children in Concourse House in the Bronx. In the words of Eleonora Munaretto, a former student of the Istituto De Merode (currently in charge with Sicignano of the young Lasallians movement in the Istituto) “This is a safe house, where women who have suffered violent abuse from their partners can find refuge with their children, with a clean apartment and a chance of employment and schooling. We told them something about our Italian culture, organised cooking lessons and went on outings together. This year, thanks to the financial support of Giornata del Cuore promoted by the Istituto De Merode in Roma, we went to see the musical Aladin in a theatre on Broadway near Times Square, a place where these marginalised people normally never get to go.”

There was also some time for culture, “to learn about the world around us, to reflect on it and get to understand it. Every afternoon after our commitments, we went to visit a museum or to see some other particular feature of the city.”

As Sicignano says, “Of central importance in the whole experience were the times when we came together in the evenings as a community, to reflect on the day we had experienced together. This created a community of young people who will be leaders in our school for the service of the poor and education for justice.”

At the end of the first week, we participated in the annual Convention of the District of DENA, together with other students of the same age from the Lasallian schools in New York, Buffalo, Philadelphia and Washington. This too was divided between service to the poor in the morning, shared discussion in the afternoon and a community gathering in the evening. Our students joined in the discussions in English, getting to know the others and making themselves known. Rosanna said, “I learned to join in a group with others of my age and to appreciate their different qualities as individuals.” Livio said, “From it, I learned how to work together with others, to be a part of something and to do it with a smile, being willing to share with the other students of my school.” Flavia said, “I now know that I belong to a big family.”

We are already thinking about the next experience in 2018. In the words of Sicignano “It is something more than an opportunity for study. It is a voyage of service which will produce new leaders and a new sense of community and justice. It is an experience which in future we will seek to extend to students from other backgrounds.”

 

Adapted from the original text of Laura Galimberti (lasalleitalia.net)

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