Brother Ray Morris’ ministry at Florida State University can seem like play. “Basically I walk around campus playing sports and sharing meals with students,” he says. But don’t be fooled. The point, he says, is “building relationships and (hopefully) leading them closer to God. It’s fun at times and disheartening at others but always worthwhile.” He loves working alongside his brothers to reach out to students in part because he was once spiritually adrift himself.
Why did I choose to join the brothers? The answer is simple but profound: community. The brothers were my first experience of Christian community, an experience that triggered my search for religious life.
He lives in Philadelphia now, but Brother Kyle Mena, F.S.C. is a “New Yorker at heart,” having been born and raised there by his mom and abuelos (grandparents). He realized his calling to religious life slowly, and even sees it linked to construction in his college dorm: “As the jackhammers rang outside and clogged pipes led to sewage backup in our rooms, at times, I sought refuge in our school chapel and campus events, including campus ministry.” His faith flourished in college, and then he providentially met a De La Salle Christian Brother, who opened up a whole new world—one that he eventually came to join.
Bronx native Brother Luis Ramos, F.M.S. still remembers how different the brothers who ran his high school seemed when he first met them. From their unusual clothing to their atypical life of community, prayer, and ministry—brothers caught, and held, his attention. Today Ramos is preparing for full membership with the Marist Brothers. He works with various student groups at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, and has ministered among migrant workers, youth, and young adults.
It’s not surprising that Brother James Jensen, O.S.B. considered life as a priest or brother when he was young. He grew up in a church-every-Sunday family and attended Catholic schools for 12 years. An avid teenage golfer, he daydreamed about a combo career as a pro-golfer priest, “but that wasn’t realistic,” he realized. His early interest never left, however, and five years into a career as an accountant Jensen started exploring religious life seriously—a move that ultimately led him to become a Benedictine monk, praying seven times a day.
Not everyone in religious life comes from a family that is full-throttle Catholic, but Brother Chris Patiño, F.S.C. does. He considers himself blessed to have parents who met through young adult ministry and who made Catholic education a priority for him and his sisters. From his Catholic immigrant roots, to his love for teaching, it was a natural path for Patiño to join the De La Salle Christian Brothers, an order dedicated to education.
Many people wander from their faith for a period, and Brother Juan José Jáuregui, O.F.M. is no exception. His life today as a Franciscan Friar, after a period of distance from his childhood faith, is proof that you can not only return, but also find a richer, fuller life in the doing. He belongs to the Franciscan Friars of the Saint Barbara Province, headquartered in Oakland, California, and ministers to the sick as a nursing assistant in a healthcare facility.
Brian Poulin fell away from the church for 13 years. He had always been interested in the same things that religious orders care about: education, international cultures, helping the poor, and after he returned to the church with renewed faith, he began wondering about religious life. Soon he experienced another kind of homecoming when he was called to the Marist Brothers’ way of life. In a surprising twist of fate—or perhaps providence—he entered the same community that had once attracted his own grandfather to its novitiate for a short period.
Having stepped out of the full-time teaching for a year of clarifying their understandings of themselves, three novice De La Salle Christian Brothers are growing into their vocation and preparing to return, deepened, to the ministry of education.
Brother Joe Ruiz, O.S.A will come right out and tell you: “Religious life is not easy, and the same can be said for any vocation: married, single.” But if he sees that faithfulness exacts a cost, he is equally quick to say, “I am convinced it’s worth living in the 21st century. Our world needs healing and positive role models that reflect Christ’s love without discrimination.”
Brother Joe hails from a Mexican American family of eight in Texas, where he learned the traditional folk dances of Mexico he now teaches to kids in Chicago. That’s a side ministry, though, to his main gig as campus minister to students at St. Rita of Cascia High School in Chicago. At the close of each busy day filled with young people, he heads home for meals and common prayers with the Augustinian friars—his brothers.
Marianist Brother Mike Chiuri, S.M. grew up in Nairobi, Kenya in a large Catholic family. With an aunt who is a nun, an uncle who is a priest, and a grandmother who encouraged church vocations, he was no stranger to the possibility of religious life. After establishing himself as a businessperson, however, he began searching for something more.
After two and a half years of torturing myself as a biochemistry major and having a wonderful experience working summers in a program for delinquent boys run by the brothers, becoming a brother began to make more sense to me.