Marist Chicago juniors Sarah Cintron, Tara Cronin, Madison Kuziela, Justin Lee, and Luke Schuler attended LaValla Weekend at the Marist Brothers Center at Esopus in New York with Religious Studies teacher Br. Sam Amos, FMS. Students from nine U.S. Marist schools and one Canadian Marist school gathered for the annual event that not only connects fellow Marists in their shared charism, but opens students' eyes to the experiences of the least favored around the world.
The weekend focused on learning about the experiences of migrants and refugees around the world, a topic the Marist Brothers are focusing on throughout the year. Marist Refugee Awareness Week will take place in March across the country. Schuler, who was unsure initially about going said he learned a lot about the life of others, and noted that the activities related to migrants allowed him to see past the surface and consider what others experience.
Students participated in ice breakers and activities throughout the weekend. They also worked on needed improvement projects on the retreat center property and at local organizations in need.
"The best part was meeting people from other Marist schools," Schuler said. "I'm in group chats with them now and we talk about our classes and schedules. I would regret it if I had not gone on the trip."
There were different prayer experiences incorporated into the program, including Eucharistic adoration and a water prayer during which water from Esopus, N.Y., the Gier River near the Marist Brothers’ original home in France, as well as from each school group was poured into a large fountain to symbolize the shared Marist heritage.
There is also a spring program in New York each year for students, as well as adult formation retreats for faculty, staff, and lay people to grow in the Marist spirit.
The name La Valla comes from the small rural village where St. Marcellin Champagnat, founder of the Marist Brothers, was first assigned as a young priest and was moved to start the order.