Posted by Br Mandy Dujunco
on 9 August 2017
Being Brother (in my own words)
Last June 26 to 30, 2017, I had the privilege to once again visit St. Michael's College in Adelaide. As always, I visited classes where I talked about my usual topics: God, Vocations, happiness as well as "Dabs", "Nay Nays", fidget spinners, and whatever it is that currently captures the attention of my audience. Given that I am already 38, it is not always easy to cope without looking like a "poser".
This leads me to my thoughts for today: authenticity. During my visit, a bright student asked me: "In your words, what does it mean to be a Brother today?" I can honestly say that this is one of the few times that I was made speechless by a question. I have been asked many things in my wanderings. In fact, more often than not, I get asked questions which are too inappropriate for this blog! Quite often too, I get asked to perform the latest dance craze. In such cases, I am more than happy to oblige. This time, however, I have to admit that I did not have a ready answer. I hope this blog could be sent to that student because I genuinely feel that my answer in class was not substantial enough.
Before I proceed, I would like to talk about another encounter I had in St. Michael's. One of the students is the younger brother of a friend. That being the case, I made sure to seek him out and say hello. I was told later on that the young man was quite impressed that I remembered him and made an effort to seek him out. I was happy that he was happy, but deep inside, I was also thinking, I am a Brother. This is what I am supposed to do, and I was quite pleased that someone was actually happy to see me.
Two weeks after my trip to SMC, I had to be in Sydney for the Lasallian Youth Gathering, an assembly of young Lasallians from the District of ANZPPNG which only happens once every two years. In this event, I was humbled by the efforts which some of the delegates took just to be able to make it. A special shout out goes to the delegates of PNG and Pakistan for coming over despite the difficulty. Truly, you are one with us and we are one with you!
As I attended this meeting of youth, the question that was asked in Adelaide was not too far from my mind. I really think that it is important that I give a good answer.
I think to be a Brother today involves being with the youth. Often, they are criticised for being so different from people who are older. I would like to think that the youth of today are misunderstood. I also think that they are like that because of a lot of the decisions which their elders have made... so, if we are playing the blame game, there seems to be plenty of blame to share... but I digress.
I think that being Brother in these times requires first and foremost the desire and willingness to be present to the students. I get to chat with many former students and they would always remember that the Brothers they met in school were always willing to help them out with whatever problem they had or were willing to listen even if they had the silliest concerns or ideas. To be a Brother is to listen to each individual student's fears, hopes, dreams, and joys! It is impossible to reach them all, but we reach those that we can and pray that others will one day come to join us in this work too.
To be a Brother also means that we should learn to look with an open and searching heart. What are we searching for? Just like De La Salle three hundred years ago, we are searching for the best ways to offer education; practical and relevant education. The answer to this cannot be found in the past, rather, we must look into the current realities of the youth and the needs of the society at large, as well as timeless values which we have embraced regardless of our culture or faith tradition. It is in this modern day arena that the Brother has to be attuned.
A Brother must be present to the students. We have to be present so that they get to know us and trust us. We hope that our students would trust us enough to tell us about big crises they will encounter but this will not happen unless there is a trusting relationship that is fostered.
This brings my thoughts back to LYG. In the week that we were together, we had many of these small encounters with each other. I have gotten to know so many wonderful young men and women, teachers and
students. each of them had their own unique story. Each of them found joy in being part of this wonderful family that was passionate about education.
I realise that my words will never be enough to fully describe what it means to be a Brother today. It is clear to me however that the presence of the Brothers is deeply appreciated even if some are too shy to approach us to have a chat. It almost seems like the mere presence of the Brothers is enough to encourage and strengthen everyone else who is involved in the mission.
Once again, words fail me, but I definitely feel the trust and assurance that we bring to others. Being in LYG was a very clear reminder to me that there is still much need for the Brothers in the world today and that I am profoundly grateful to have had the foolishness and courage to have said yes years ago.
So what does it mean to be a Brother today? The answer dawned on me as Br. Lewis and I were on the dance floor breaking a few moves with the youth in the closing party. Being Brother means being present and attentive to the youth and our partners.
As far as I am concerned, to be a Brother is to be a reminder to all our "brothers and sisters" that there is a God and that God loves each one of us and that God is behind us, giving us all the support we need.
To be a Brother is to accept that God loves me and sends me to show others God's love as well.