Dear Viatorian confreres,
I am grateful for the opportunity to share my personal perspective and experience of the meaning and value of Viatorian religious life with the International Community. Throughout my formation, Viatorian religious life‒our identity, mission and common life‒has been an ongoing topic of conversation among my confreres in the US. In 2017, a multi-generational group of Viatorian religious in Arlington Heights and Chicago began to intentionally and regularly discuss our personal experiences and perspectives of Viatorian religious life.
Our Provincial, Fr. Dan Hall, has built on our ongoing dialogue and organized regional discussions about the meaning and value of the evangelical counsels. I have found the diversity of experiences, views, and visions of Viatorian religious life to be enriching; they have encouraged me to reflect and pray deeply about my vocation as a Viatorian religious.
On June 12, 2019, my perpetual profession of vows was above all a response to my experience of God’s love, and a desire to love Jesus Christ and the People of God in an absolute and total way. In a spirit of thanksgiving for the gift of the Viatorian charism, I made my definitive commitment to our community and mission. The Viatorian charism has been a living and dynamic reality in my life since I was a student at Saint Viator High School (2003-2007), and most especially, in the past 6 years. For me, the meaning and value of Viatorian religious life is perhaps best exemplified by my personal experiences of living and serving with my confreres.
My years in formation radically altered and deepened my relationship with Jesus Christ. My confreres introduced me to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and showed me how to nurture and deepen this relationship. The guidance and support from my confreres have been integral to my spiritual growth and development. Br. Michael Gosch, Fr. Corey Brost and Br. John Eustice opened my eyes to encountering Christ in those accounted of little importance; in particular, asylum seekers seeking refuge in the US.
My experiences in the unaccompanied youth shelters and houses of hospitality for asylum seekers located around Chicago exposed me to the urgency and value of bringing God’s love to the least privileged and abandoned in our world; and the inseparable link between God’s commandment to love thy neighbor and advocacy for justice. With the guidance of my confreres, my ministerial experiences with youth and young adults pushed to the margins of our world cultivated my deepest desires to live a life centered on the Gospel. My relationships with Viatorians no longer in active ministry living at the Province Center in Arlington Heights also had a profound impact on my personal growth and commitment to the Viatorian mission.
During my novitiate, I developed many relationships with Viatorians who shared with me their vocation to the Viatorians, experiences in ministry, and the changes and developments of Viatorian religious life. Daily, I had the privilege to listen to their stories. The late Fr. Robert Erickson, Fr. Frank White, and Br. Leo Ryan spoke with passion and joy about their life as a Viatorian; they were proud of the Viatorian tradition and heritage they helped build. Their lifetime of ministerial experiences in secondary and post-secondary schools and parishes provided me a sense of the diversity and scope of the Viatorian mission. The support and witness of many senior Viatorians provided me with an appreciation for the significance and impact of the Viatorian mission, and deepened my desire to build on the heritage passed down from generations of Viatorians.
When I attended Saint Viator High School as a student, Br. Michael Gosch and the late Br. Robert Ruhl both taught me literature; they were excellent teachers who created an engaging learning experience. Despite these two witnesses, I never thought about teaching before I started the pre-novitiate. Initially, I was primarily focused on becoming a priest. As a pre-novice, I tutored students and worked in Campus Ministry at Saint Viator High School for one semester. I noticed my experiences in the classroom and working with students brought me a lot of joy. My prayer life affirmed my ministerial experiences: I began to feel God calling me to teach. My novitiate experience deepened my sense of responsibility and commitment to carry on the tradition of Viatorian education. I have been teaching and coaching football and basketball at Saint Viator High School for the past 2 years; and today, I am currently preparing to teach 9th and 10th grade theology at Cristo Rey St. Viator College Prep in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience provide a structure and form to my life that facilitates my desire to love God and the People of God in a total way. The vow of poverty first calls me to acknowledge my life does not belong to me: it belongs to God and the world. Poverty itself is an evil that plagues our world. Some religious call for us to replace the word with something different. For me, the word poverty is akin to the ‘Cross’. Christ transformed a symbol of evil into a symbol of hope. Admittedly, poverty is humiliating to profess because I am not nor ever will be truly poor, but I think that is perhaps the point. Just as Jesus invites me to ‘take up my cross’, so too as a religious I must never forget the poor, oppressed, and rejected in our world. Poverty calls me to radical solidarity and fraternity with those the world has thrown away.
The vow of chastity directs my capacity and desire to love others with disinterest: to love others without distinction and expectations. Chastity gives me the freedom to strive to live in solidarity and fraternity with others, especially those who are accounted of little importance. The vow of chastity mirrors the Incarnation: an expression of God’s love and desire to be in communion with humanity. For me, chastity calls me to be the eyes, ears, and heart of God in the world. Prayer is essential: daily, I strive to be in communion with God, and I open myself to God’s mercy and love. Yet, the vow of chastity also involves a sacrificial dimension. I have entered into a covenant that entails a total offering of my life to God and the world.
The vow of obedience calls me to listen deeply: to God, the world, and the Viatorian Community. It calls me to be present and participate in our common life. I am called to share my life with my brothers in community, and to listen deeply to the wisdom and guidance of my confreres. For me, discernment is never a private process. On the other hand, I am called to share the fruits of my personal discernment with my confreres: to place my ideas and desires in the hands of my confreres. Obedience necessitates vulnerability: to trust my confreres with my life; and earn their trust, so they can trust me with theirs.
The Viatorian Community gives me a Gospel-centered life that is a constant source of new life and joy. Viatorian religious life is demanding; it requires a total commitment that seeks communion with God and the world. My life is shaped by the values of solidarity and fraternity on multiple levels: my relationships with confreres, the people I serve, and God. The Viatorian charism continues to nurture my deepest desires, and specifically, has drawn me to educate young people who do not have access to quality education nor faith formation. I am proud to be a Viatorian religious and to carry on the tradition built by generations of Viatorians. Ultimately, the meaning and value of my life, our Viatorian religious life, lies in the heart of the Triune God.
In Fr. Louis Querbes and St. Viator,
Br. Peter Lamick, CSV
Adored and loved be Jesus