Scott Marracino doesn't know yet if he has a vocation to be
a Christian brother, but he's willing to take time to explore the option.
"To live with the brothers is to see if religious life
appeals to you, if you like the structure of it. It helps to shed light in
that regard," he said. "If you're going to think about getting
involved in religious life, try it out."
Mr. Marracino, 18, is one of several college-aged men who
are spending a month in a religious-life immersion experience at LaSalle
School in Albany this summer.
Living in community with religious brothers, and helping out
in classrooms, recreational programs and offices, the young men are called
the "summer brothers."
They have not made a commitment to the LaSallians outside of
one month's service, but they don't want to rule the option out. They
believe that gaining experience with community life and seeing real brothers
in their day-to-day lives will help them make a decision.
"They get to walk the talk and see what the fit feels
like," said Brother James Martino, FSC, assistant executive director
for medical and support services at LaSalle.
He should know: Brother James was once a "summer
brother" himself. His month at LaSalle was one of the things that
convinced him to follow a religious vocation.
Roberto Martinez, 20, is from Los Angeles. A cancer survivor
and nursing student at Santa Monica College, he spends his afternoons
working with students and healthcare professionals in the infirmary, and his
mornings as a teacher's aide.
He remembers the brothers at his school "always there,
helping you out," he said. When he fell sick, "the brothers were
there for me. They were a family. I wanted to do what I can to give back to
the community and be thankful."
Mr. Marracino, a Buffalo native who is a sophomore in
political science and religious studies at Niagara University, was
encouraged to participate after friends came back with positive stories of
their own time as summer brothers.
What convinced him to go was "the way their faces lit
up when they talked about it."
Mike Zaccardelli, 20, from Shelby Township, Michigan, is a
lacrosse player and coach who spends his mornings as a teacher's aide and
his afternoons in the after-school recreation program.
While knowing how religious brothers live is one thing,
actually "living in community with others is another thing to
consider," Mr. Zaccardelli explained.
Mr. Martinez enjoys the opportunity for morning prayer,
noting that "life is so fast, and you don't have to sit down and talk
Mr. Marracino, who is working in the main office during his
stay, notes that "I can see that the people in the office really love
the kids -- and that's the essence of being LaSallian."
Mr. Zaccardelli decided to volunteer for a second year to
expand his own thoughts about religious life.
"The more you get involved, you get more of an idea of
whether it's a good fit for you," he said. "Just one month -- can
that really explain the brotherhood? Each summer, you come back with
something new and different."
Mr. Marracino agreed, noting: "You can't answer all the
questions you have in one summer. As you do more ministry work, you develop
a better idea of whether you want to make it a part of your entire
No matter what decisions they make, Mr. Martinez says he'll
count the month at LaSalle as a valuable one because "you're always
going to learn from every experience you have."
(LaSalle School, a multi-faceted child welfare agency,
serves youth and families in need through a residential school, day services
and prevention services. Boys, 11-18, are referred through family court
systems and social services agencies.)