MANHATTAN — It will always be a point of pride for Peter Paolo that he interned at the United Nations headquarters this past summer. At age 22, he was able to overcome the initial awe he felt when he first walked into the hallowed halls of the famed intergovernmental peacekeeping organization and focus on holding down a job there.
It was even more satisfying to Paolo that he was one of the six students interning for the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations. The mission represents the Vatican at the U.N.
Attending meetings, summarizing dialogue, and serving delegates, Paolo was thrown into the intricacies of worldwide political advocacy from a Catholic perspective.
“I was definitely part of something much larger than myself. It was important that the Catholic viewpoint or the Catholic ethos was there … it was a presence in the room,” he said.
For Catholic students wanting to remain in a faith-filled environment while in college, there are opportunities available — if they search for them. Paolo found his internship with the mission by searching for it online, and the Whitestone native’s involvement in campus ministry at St. John’s University helped prepare him for the application.
Last May, Paulo completed his undergraduate education with a double major in history and government and politics, and is now pursuing his master’s in government and politics.
As an undergraduate student, he served as president of the Delta Phi Omega fraternity, where he focused on service work and underwent leadership training. Paolo was involved in service “plunges” with St. John’s campus ministry as well.
He visited Denver and Macon, Georgia, for immersion trips during which he would support the local community and spread the Catholic faith. The internship with the Holy See felt like an intellectual extension of this service, he said, making him feel like he was putting his faith into action.
“Peter is super involved in service and that nurtures his prayer life and animates his faith,” said Victoria O’Keefe, residence director of the Catholic Scholars Program, Social Justice, and Retreats at St. John’s. “He is the highest caliber of student and servant leader that I know and an example for all at St. John’s.”
Paolo explained that the Holy See “is really the official governmental entity that has been [established] as a sovereign state so they can enter into relations with other states. So that’s why, for example, [at the U.N.] it’s the Holy See mission, not the Vatican mission.”
Right now, Paolo is not certain what his next career step will be, and is currently working toward completing his master’s degree. He plans to find a policy analysis job after graduation, where he would do behind-the-scenes work to help an employer understand the law. However, that doesn’t mean he has ruled out considering a vocation in the future.
“No one should ever close themselves off too much to the Lord,” he said.There are a number of Catholic internships available across the country, if one knows where to find them. One of the institutions that recruits young interns with faith-driven motives is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Among the internships offered under the USCCB is the Laudato Si’ Advocates Program, a year-long internship promoting integral ecology in the Church and advocating for the environment.
Flushing native Matthew Cutrona joined the Laudato Si’ Advocates in July. He is a junior politics major with a double minor in philosophy and sports management, at The Catholic University of America in Washington.
In his Laudato Si’ Advocates role, Cutrona, 19, manages some of their social media presence, reads government documents and articles about environmental advocacy, and most recently wrote a blog post about solar energy. All of this, he explained, is an effort to “promote being good stewards of creation.
“Faith isn’t solely in the building of the church, the cathedral, the basilica or a chapel,” Cutrona said. “It’s how you live your life every day. For me … that requires us to make sure that the environment we are living in is being treated humanely and justly.”