St. Lawrence Seminary High School Alumni are the foundation of our brotherhood. They represent not only our past accomplishments but also our current and future ideals. SLS Alumni can be found in nearly every state across the U.S. and in many countries around the world. They are doctors, lawyers, teachers, religious leaders, fathers and so much more. Their successes are why we continue to educate young Catholic boys — so our future graduates can carry with them the Calvary Spirit and the values learned at SLS. As husbands, fathers, men of faith and citizens of their communities they bring to life the morality and values inspired by the Gospel of Jesus taught at St. Lawrence. This week, we chose to highlight another alumni brother, Jose Alonso, so you can get a glimpse of the many and diverse accomplishments of our brothers.
Jose Alonso (Class of 1999) is an attorney in Chicago, focusing on immigrants and workers’ rights. He is married to Sandra and together they have a son.
What led you to attend SLS? How did you feel during the transition?
I had an atypical road to SLS. I was accepted as a freshman, but I decided to go to a public high school in Chicago instead. I told myself that I wanted to be close to my family, but the honest truth was that I was scared to leave home. The high school I attended had a few thousand students and I easily became lost in the sea of students. At the end of my freshman year, I had a low GPA and academics were no longer a priority. I wasn’t a bad kid by any means, but I was good at making bad decisions. After a close relative fell victim to gun violence, I decided that my life needed a change. Fr. Bruce Wellems reached out to Fr. Dennis on my behalf and Fr. Dennis told him that SLS would extend a seat for me in the Sophomore class. I was still sad and scared about leaving my family, but SLS was a fresh start in my life when I desperately needed one.
Name a valuable lesson or skill learned at SLS.
My transition from a Chicago public high school to SLS was not smooth, particularly when it came to academics. From the beginning, SLS offered a high-level, challenging education. I felt up to the challenge, but it took a while for my actions to catch up. I recall people around me excelling academically and I also wanted that. At the end of my first semester, a few of us met with Fr. Dennis before we left for winter break. We were talking about academics and I told Fr. Dennis that I would make Dean's List the following semester. He responded by saying that he would give me a car if I made Dean's List. I thought, “Yeah, right. A car? Is he questioning my ability to make Dean's List? I’ll show him." I felt excited and ready for the challenge.
The next semester I hit the books hard. The strict daily schedule helped get me into a routine. Seeing others putting in hard work also motivated me. I was determined to prove that I could succeed in a challenging academic environment. Study hall was my home away from the dorm and soon, I began to see improvement in my grades. While I was studying, I was also learning integrity and self-worth — values that I learned from my parents, but at SLS, I was given an opportunity to apply it to academics. At the end of the semester, I made Dean's List! I ran to find Fr. Dennis the following semester to tell him that I had made Dean's List (and looking for my car). When I showed him my report card, he was ready to pay up. He reached into his drawer and pulled out a small Hot Wheels car. I chuckled and took the car.
How did the life skills you learned at SLS help prepare you for fatherhood or adulthood?
I honed so many skills at SLS, but I especially appreciate the opportunity I was given to learn how to take care of myself, prioritize tasks, and manage my time. I felt fortunate to start college with many skills that I noticed others struggled with. The strict schedule, high expectations, strong brotherhood formed with fellow classmates, and the support and accompaniment from the teachers, religious, and staff, all helped me grow into a mature, responsible, and professional individual. I would have eventually picked up these skills, but I am grateful to have learned these skills as a teenager at SLS.
How did your spiritual growth at SLS help you in becoming a better husband, father and man?
Upon entering my first year at SLS and learning that I would be going to prayer service a couple times a day, mass a few times a week and frequent meetings with a spiritual director, I was shocked. It seemed like too much church. My family took me to church once a week and I thought that was plenty. As I reflect on my journey of spirituality, there is no question that there was a tremendous amount of growth during my SLS years. I learned the values of compassion, kindness, love, charity, service, and forgiveness at home and at my home parish before I got to SLS. However, St. Lawrence’s focus on spiritual growth helped reinforce those values at an important time of development in my life. As an adult, I have accepted the calling of serving others, professionally, in my community, and in my family. The rich opportunities to develop and expand my spirituality at SLS helped form who I am today.
Did you have any mentors during your time at SLS that helped you become a better man?
SLS offers great mentors, who modeled positive behavior. Two individuals who were great mentors to me personally were Fr. Dennis and Fr. Ed. Those relationships were tested my senior year when I got into a fight with another classmate. Fr. Dennis was the Rector and Fr. Ed was the Dean of Students. In any other school, I would have probably been expelled. Instead, Fr. Dennis and Fr. Ed showed forgiveness and utilized the experience to teach me how to deal with conflict in a healthy way, how to deal with anger, and to use this opportunity to teach others the importance of peace. By working with me, challenging me, and not following the traditional disciplinary path, I was given a second chance – a chance that people from inner cities are usually not afforded. More importantly, they taught me the importance of forgiveness and the impact that it can have on others when I am open to giving the gift of peace and forgiveness.