More than 50 student leaders representing nine different high schools participated in Catholic Leadership Day at Immaculate Conception Center, Douglaston, March 2, to continue formulating their leadership skills.
“I’ve met a few new people,” said Kevin Dellosso, a senior from St. Edmund Prep, Sheepshead Bay, and parishioner at Resurrection, Gerritsen Beach. “So hopefully their experiences can strengthen my faith and hopefully I can help strengthen their faith.”’
Faculty members accompanied students were from Cathedral Prep and Seminary, Elmhurst; Archbishop Molloy, Briarwood; The Mary Louis Academy, Jamaica Estates; St. Francis Prep, Fresh Meadows; St. Saviour, Park Slope; Bishop Loughlin, Fort Greene; Xaverian, Bay Ridge; Bishop Kearney, Bensonhurst; and St. Edmund Prep.
“It is the future of the Church,” said Father Michael Gribbon, chaplain at St. Edmund’s. “I see them daily in class and I hear them learning to articulate their faith and live their faith and stand for values in a very non-Christian world. They stand for Christ in so many powerful ways, particularly through acts of charity, kindness, proclamation of their faith in word and deed, it’s phenomenal. They’re great people, great young people.”
The student leaders took part in workshops that allowed them to creatively express their faith. Through group activities led by St. John’s University campus minister Dr. James Walters, students had a chance to write down their short and long term goals, draw themselves as future saints, and present their ideas to the entire group.
After the first group workshops, Mass was celebrated in the Bishops’ Chapel by Father Sean Suckiel, diocesan director of vocations and chaplain at Xaverian. Father Gribbon concelebrated and Deacon Basil Bliss from Bishop Loughlin assisted.
In his homily, Father Suckiel encouraged the students to maintain their relationship with God throughout their journey as young student leaders.
“Someone reached out to you and invited you here so that you can really come to know Jesus just a little more,” said Father Suckiel, “and also to become a leader in your faith… someone saw something special inside of you.”
The idea for the day came from students reacting to Pope Francis’ letter to young people regarding the upcoming Synod of Bishops on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” The Holy Father asked young people not to be afraid to listen to the Spirit who proposed bold choices and not to delay taking risks that allows their voices to be heard.
“The leaders from the high schools suggested that the diocese sponsor a
leadership training day for their students. I quickly began planning this program,” said Paul Morisi, diocesan youth and young adult faith formation director.
Young women spoke about how they want to embrace corporal works of mercy to serve others throughout the world. Bishop Loughlin junior Halle Primus said her Catholic foundation has influenced her and will continue to impact her in the future. She chose the Confirmation name of Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, because it relates to her goal to become a doctor and help women and children.
“If you are a leader and you’re a Catholic leader especially, you shouldn’t be afraid to express your thoughts and your feelings and your ideas because you’re doing the right thing,” said Primus, who attended Mary Queen of Heaven Catholic Academy, Mill Basin.
For Xaverian junior Louis Savoia, his passion sparks from international relations. During a group presentation, he stood in front of the whole room and spoke with fervor and grit.
“An issue that people don’t talk about is Yemen and how the United States
government is basically aiding what’s becoming a massive humanitarian crisis there,” said Savoia. “That’s just one example that I really care personally about and so when I think about how we need to change policy and things, it’s very important that we remember that we are young, we have the momentum, especially what we’ve been seeing in the past few weeks, in the aftermath of the shooting in Parkland.”
His classmate Joseph Wisidagama also shared his same desire for change that does not tolerate injustice or the globalization of indifference.
“I just think right now in America, it’s been so divided since the election that I think we need more youth to understand the history of the nation and the history of our culture and to understand that right now we can make a change,” said Wisidagama. “We’re young, we have the energy, we have the fight back, we have all that we need to help prepare ourselves to be able to fight for what we want and fight for America as a whole and not just stand idly by.”