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.

'Summer brothers'

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.

New experience

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 with God."

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 life."

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.)