Brothers of the Christian Schools hold ‘dual vocation’ as religious and educators

Bro. Robert Carnaghi, FSC, left, and Bro. Ken Kalinowski, FSC, professed members of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, serve at De La Salle Collegiate High School in Warren.
Courtesy of Vicki Granger

Warren — While some may not have heard of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, they have quietly been making in impact at De La Salle Collegiate High School since 1926.

Like many religious, the brothers live in community and take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. But the Brothers of the Christian Schools also take a special vow to teach the poor. All brothers hold a degree in education and typically teach at all-boys schools.

Bro. Ken Kalinowski, FSC, teaches at De La Salle High School in Warren.

“It’s almost like having two vocations: one to be a religious and one to teach,” Bro. Kalinowski said. “Parents are the primary teachers, yet we are all one Church. We bothers are here to be Christ-like to the kids.”

The Brothers of the Christian Schools were founded by St. John Baptist de La Salle, the patron saint of teachers. The schools follow a Lasallian model of teaching, centering on Catholic values, personal relationships and academic excellence.

The brothers teach and minister in colleges, high schools, middle schools and ministries around the world and in 80 countries. As missionaries, they rely on donations and diocesan mission appeals to carry out their work. The order abides by the tenets to “teach passionately, live simply, pray deeply and stand with the poor.”

“We exist to give a human and Christian education to the poor and the needy,” Bro. Robert Carnaghi, FSC, said.

Bro. Carnaghi took his vows with the Brothers of the Christian Schools in 1949. At just 17 years of age, after graduating from a Lasallian high school, he joined the community because he knew he wanted to spend his life serving others.

“I went to St. Joseph in Detroit on Gratiot and interacted with the brothers there,” Bro. Carnaghi said. “I really enjoyed being around them, and that had an impact on me.”

He taught in missions in Jamaica and Africa and has been in Detroit for the last 14 years. Bro. Carnaghi no longer teaches in the classroom, but he remains a strong presence at De La Salle High School as president emeritus. He likes to give vocations talks to the boys and tell them about the Brothers of the Christian Schools.

When Bro. Carnaghi entered the order, 33 novices were discerning with the Brothers. This year, six novices have joined, a slight rise from recent years.

All five brothers who serve at De La Salle High School are from the Detroit area.

“We go wherever we’re sent, so it’s almost a blind faith,” Bro. Kalinowski said. “But I believe every place I’ve gone has been a blessing.”

Bro. Kalinowski has served in Papua New Guinea and New York City. He notes that each mission has a different need. In Papua New Guinea, for example, education for women is not a priority for the government. Though the Brothers typically work in all-boys schools, they made a commitment to enrolling 40 percent girls in the school there.

At De La Salle High School, Bro. Kalinowski teaches theology and history, but he interacts with the students outside the classroom whenever possible.

“Sometimes just our presence — standing in the hallway or being at a game — makes a difference,” Bro. Kalinowski said. “With the vocations crisis right now, there are fewer of us than ever, so it’s all the more important. You never know who you’re talking to and what that might lead to, and if kids know you care about them, they respond.”

The brothers’ mission to help the poor gets passed on to the boys at De La Salle High School. When the football team was scheduled to play Brother Rice High School this fall, De La Salle students held a “rice challenge” to collect rice for food pantries serving those affected by the devastating hurricanes in parts of the U.S. and the Caribbean. More than 5,000 pounds of rice was donated by the 750 boys, far exceeding the goal.

Both brothers encourage everyone to pray for an increase in vocations for all religious communities.

“Each of us in religious life has a different charism. Some of us call ourselves Lasallian, some are Jesuit, but in the end, it means we’re all trying to be Christ to those around us,” Bro. Kalinowski said.