Saint Mary’s Staff Has Impact at International Lasallian Alumni Conference

The UMAEL General Assembly elected new executive committee members for the 2019–2023 period: Alejandro Galván Illanes, president (Mexico); Courtney Carmignani Lohmann, vice president (Saint Mary’s College of California, Moraga); Olivier Collett, treasurer (France); Oswaldo Aguilar Rivera, general secretary (Mexico); Keane Palatino, PARC representative and Young Lasallians liaison (Philippines); and Fred Ne Tiabu, RELAF representative and Rumbek Solidarity Project liaison (Democratic Republic of Congo). Lohmann is the first woman to be elected to the executive committee.  The seventh World Congress of the Association of Lasallian Alumni (UMAEL) was recently held in Minneapolis. The international assembly, which celebrated its 25th anniversary, was significant for several reasons, including marking the first time the gathering was held in the United States  Additionally, its theme “Beyond the Borders: One Heart. One Commitment. One Life,” highlighted not only global commonalities and goals, but also new leadership opportunities for Lasallian women. 

“The real gift of this international association is that it is a coordinated effort to share and discuss the long-term priorities of the Institute of the Brother of the Christian Schools to make Lasallian education available to the most vulnerable, and in turn, it inspires us all to bring our gifts to the table to support these priorities—locally and beyond our perceived borders,” said Saint Mary’s Karin McClelland ’90 in a recent interview. In addition to organizing this Congress, McClelland, the director of the Mission and Ministry Center, served as the Lasallian Region of North America’s (RELAN) appointed representative this past year, and is the first woman to serve on the UMAEL executive committee.  

Another notable first at the Nov. 21–23 Congress included the election of Saint Mary’s Senior Director of Alumni Engagement Courtney Carmignani Lohman ’05, MA ’07, as vice president of the UMAEL executive committee. She is the first woman to hold the office. “I’m really excited to be a part of this leadership team,” said Carmignani Lohmann. “This is an exciting time for Lasallian schools in the United States, where many alumni are thinking globally about their identity with the Christian Brothers and how to partner together in the work of the mission throughout the world—in collaboration with our fellow international Lasallian institutions.”

The international gathering of Lasallian alumni featured several keynote speakers, including  Brother Superior General Robert Schieler, FSC, who encouraged UMAEL members to get involved in the Christian Brothers’ Beyond the Borders initiatives, set specific four-year goals, and set up a sustainable and effective channel of communication for Lasallian alumni. More specifically, he encouraged members to help with the Solidarity Project in Rumbek, South Sudan.   

Yolanda Franco ML ’18, who participated in the gathering and listened to the remarks of the Brother Superior and others, came away inspired. “What was most impactful about the UMAEL Congress was the convivencia (coexistence) of all participants despite the cultural and language differences,” she said. “Getting to know so many people from around the world who are committed to the Lasallian mission reminded me that Lasallian charism transcends any language, culture, and religion.”

Brother David Caretti, FSC ’99, the newest member of the Mission and Ministry Center, who directed the prayer services during the Congress, reflected on his experience as a Brother and an alumnus: “The UMAEL experience was unique among my encounters with our Lasallian Family.  For the first time in my years of ministry as a Brother, I was able to represent the Saint Mary’s College Community as not only an alumnus but also as a Brother. Without question, these are two major parts of my identity, and it was a privilege to share this with other Lasallian alumni from around the world whose lives have also been changed forever through their association with the De La Salle Brothers and Lasallian education. Through this experience, I realize that Saint Mary’s has new opportunities to connect our alumni with the Brothers, the wider Lasallian Family, and the Lasallian Mission for many years beyond those we spend on this campus. We now have creative avenues and possibilities to engage our own alumni in deeper ways to advance our Mission worldwide.”

Made up of more than 50 alumni associations and federations, UMAEL facilitates opportunities for global Lasallian networking and collaborating, as well as getting updates about dynamic alumni who are living out the Lasallian mission. This impressed SEAS Success Coach Hwa Seong “Christine” Oh. “One of my most memorable events at the Congress was hearing the news that Emily Redfern ’17, the first SMC alum in the newly established international Lasallian volunteer program for the Institute, is continuing her work serving those most vulnerable in Lebanon. She’s proof that our Lasallian mission doesn’t stop inspiring our students after graduation.”

The next World Congress will be held in four years, with the location being determined in two years. For more about UMAEL, read the Christian Brothers Conference’s story “UMAEL Congress Draws Lasallian Alumni to RELAN,” or email McClelland at klm14@stmarys-ca.edu or Lohmann at ccarmign@stmarys-ca.edu.