Lasallian Brothers check up on BSM’s progress

Lasallian Brothers check up on BSM's progress

Megan Beh

Lasallian Brothers Mark and Larry spend the day touring BSM and observing school progress

Giulia Imholte, Student Life Editor

Lasallian Christian Brothers Larry Schatz and Mark Snodgras were welcomed into the hallways of Benilde-St. Margaret’s on Nov. 29 for a visit––which included a student-led tour of the school as well as many meetings––scheduled with the purpose of evaluating the community’s progression towards becoming an official Lasallian ministry. This title was previously donned by Benilde High School during a previous affiliation with the Christian Brothers. The reestablishment of this connection will reap benefits for the school, faculty, and students, while still allowing BSM to maintain loyalty to the other two founding orders.

An Old Connection

In ninth grade religion classes, all Benilde-St. Margaret’s students learn about the religious orders that helped to build the foundation of this school: the Christian Brothers, the Benedictans, and the Sisters of St. Joseph. Prior to 1970, when the Christian Brothers left Benilde High School and the Benedictans stepped in, the all-boys half of what is now Benilde-St. Margaret’s was considered a Lasallian ministry.

Following BSM’s discontinuation as an official ministry, Ms. Connie Fourre (previous Vice President of Faith Formation) came into contact with Brother Larry Schatz regarding this school’s previous Lasallian connection. “The Christian Brothers left in the 70’s, so then my predecessor, Ms. Fourre, was invited to attend a formation event called LSJI [Lasallian Social Justice Institute], and that invitation came from Brother Larry,” said Mrs. Holly Hoey-Germann, current Vice President of Faith Formation.

Even though BSM hasn’t been an official Lasallian ministry since 1970, the core teachings of the Christian Brothers, as well as the teachings of the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Benedictans, have been included in the foundational values of this community since the two high schools joined together. “We are not discontinuing our affiliation with the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Benedictan community by reaffiliating with [the Christian Brothers],” said Dr. Bob Tift, President of BSM.

Encouraged Progression

Following Ms. Fourre’s research into the Lasallian association, the process for becoming an official Lasallian ministry again kicked off. “[Ms. Fourre] actually started looking into the process, so then when I took over, I continued to forward the process. So, then, two years ago we actually started the official process,” said Mrs. Hoey-Germann.

Being established as a Lasallian ministry is a five-year discernment process which greatly consists of self-evaluations by members of the school community. “Part of what is done is asking the teachers ‘what does it mean to be a Lasallian?’ It has to do with the whole school community agreeing that it describes ‘who we are and who we want to be,’” said Brother Mark.

The visit from Brother Larry, who has visited previously due to his participation on the board of directors, and Brother Mark is an encouraging sign that BSM is well on its way to succeeding in becoming an official ministry like many other schools in the Twin Cities area including Totino-Grace, Cretin-Derham Hall, DeLaSalle, and Holy Family. “Even though we are in the discernment process, the fact that [Brothers Larry and Mark] are visiting is showing that they are considering us as one of their ministries and one of their schools,” said Dr. Tift.

Brothers Larry and Mark are required to check up on the various ministries in the area as part of their jobs as leaders for the Midwest chapter of the Christian Brothers. This was Brother Mark’s first trip to BSM, and the various activities throughout the day––a tour led by senior Neil Davis, a panel with the Student Leadership Forum, and a faculty panel, to state a few––were planned with the intention of enlightening him to the spirit and dynamic of the community, things that Brother Larry is no stranger to. “I feel no qualms that this is in fact a strong Christian community. It’s very clear in our talking with the students that they are very at home here. They don’t see divisions that they may have experienced at other schools, it’s a very welcoming environment,” said Brother Larry.

Looking to the Future

The visit from the Lasallian Brothers also served the purpose for assessing BSM’s strengths and weaknesses in comparison to the core pillars of the Christian Brothers. The main area that must be stregthened is affordability and accessibility. “On the one hand is the strong service program and service learning and campus ministry. Something that has just been beginning over recent years is the outreach to find and invite students from different backgrounds, the diversity initiative. When we talk about a growth plan, there is room to grow in that area,” said Brother Mark.

The administration has taken strong consideration of the fact that BSM should be more accessible to low-income families. “We spent the entire last year as a board and as an administration focusing on affordability and accessibility for people coming to our school. Right now, we are developing a strategic plan, and an important part of that strategic plan will be what makes our school affordable,” said Dr. Tift.

Administrators and board members are not the only people in this community looking to improve the financial outreach at BSM, but teachers have also made a “simplicity initiative” one of their main focuses in the process of making this Catholic education affordable. “Our faculty and staff is very interested in simplifying our life here at BSM––determining what are our wants versus our needs. The element of taking care of the lost and the least is in our social justice work, we can go out and help other people through the common basket and service work. Also, having our diversity initiative and our exchange program, all of that is tied to our mission,” said Mrs. Hoey-Germann.

While striving to attain the balance between upholding the high standards of BSM but at a more manageable price, the focus must also remain on maintaining the spirit of the school’s community. “It’s one thing to cover tuition, it’s another to provide a welcoming environment when [students] are here. Would [students from low-income families] feel supported and welcoming in this community, and are we sensitive to that difference in economic class,” said Dr. Tift.

Should accessibility be improved, the renewed connection with the Lasallians would reap benefits for the BSM community. “They have many things for faculty and staff to attend for religious formation, kind of like a retreat, so that one can take care of their spiritual life and be present in their religious life at a Catholic school,” said Mrs. Hoey-Germann.

However, the benefits of being an official Lasallian ministry will not change the foundational values of BSM. “There’s not going to be really any changes. The faculty and staff being authentic people of faith will continue to grow, and I think in that way our students lives are impacted,” said Mrs. Hoey-Germann.