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Sheen Panel Gives Students New Perspectives in Community Service - Catholic New York

Morgan Mangual learned more about her future than her present as one of more than 250 students from 35 archdiocesan high schools participating in the second annual Catholic Leadership Conference at the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture March 5.

The theme for the panel discussion was “Civic Engagement: A Catholic Lens.”

“It showed me not who I am, but more who I’d like to be, and how I’d like to contribute to people who are vulnerable in society,” said Morgan, a junior at John S. Burke High School in Goshen and a parishioner of St. Stephen-St. Edward in Warwick.

Dr. Timothy J. McNiff, superintendent of schools in the archdiocese, then followed opening remarks and prayer by presenting New York state troopers Thomas Karasinski and Robert Troy with the 2018 Faithful Citizenship Award, a last-minute addition to the morning program. The two officers were recently in the news for purchasing a one-way plane ticket to Florida, costing almost $700, at LaGuardia Airport for a distraught Jordana Judson, who lost a family friend in the Parkland school shooting.

The panel was introduced by moderator Lisa Giovinazzo, an attorney who has served as a legal correspondent on Fox News, CNN, NY1 and PBS. She also welcomed the high school students, who are members of Generation Z.

“We would like you to go forward and become what we call an ideal democratic citizen,” Ms. Giovinazzo said to the students. “To become an ideal democratic citizen, we would like to empower you to be a person that understands the issues. You’re informed. We also hope you’re tolerant of opposition, that you just don’t allow it to happen, you think about it and try to understand the rational behind it. We want you to be actively engaged, and we want you to promote Catholic values.

“One thing they say about Generation Z is that you really want to change the world and I think you’re on the right track.”

Ms. Giovinazzo was joined on the panel by Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities; Kenneth Hicks, a 2011 graduate of Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx who is a news assistant at The Wall Street Journal; Janet Petro, one of the first women to attend the U.S. Military Academy in West Point and deputy director of NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida; Father Pat Conroy, S.J., chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives; and Lt. Gen. John Wissler, retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant general.

Lt. Gen. Wissler also served as the keynote speaker.

“You represent the future not only of our country, but the future of our faith,” he said. “You are a distinguished group of young Catholic men and women who have a tremendous responsibility.”

The panel answered questions from the moderator in the first part of the discussion before answering questions from the students. Questions from students focused on topics such as daily prayer, deficiencies seen in community service, the role of the Church in politics and whether the voting age should be lowered to 16. The question on the voting age led to a debate among the students supporting both sides.

Msgr. Sullivan reminded students the right to vote goes beyond just voting for president. Local, state and federal representatives are voted into office, too. “You are not going to save the world with one vote,” Msgr. Sullivan said to the students. “It’s over time that changes get done.”

At the conclusion of the program, Dr. McNiff encouraged students to bring back what they learned to their peers at their high schools. He added a student chosen by his or her faculty advisor will represent his or her school on an overnight trip to Washington, D.C., this spring to meet government leaders and visit landmarks in the nation’s capital.

“I was very pleased,” Dr. McNiff told CNY. “I loved the questions the students asked. I really loved that all of our panelists were genuine and personalized the topic, so the kids could see how they deal with it personally. I think they learned a lot from them.”

Kayla Klein, a sophomore at St. Vincent Ferrer High School in Manhattan, said she thought the panelists were great because they represented Catholics from different callings and professions with their own perspectives and experiences. Kayla, a parishioner of Annunciation in Crestwood, added that each member of her sophomore class will complete 40 hours of community service in the 2017-2018 school year.

“It’s shaped who I am as a person, but it gives me more perspective,” Kayla said. “Having us go out, learn for ourselves, do community service and be with other people who do not have the same experiences we have as students, it’s really powerful. It gives you an education that can’t be learned, it has to be experienced.”

Marc Guglielmo said seniors at Moore Catholic on Staten Island are required to do 45 hours of community service. The St. Charles parishioner, who will play baseball next year while on scholarship at Long Island University-Post, said he teaches baseball to young children on Staten Island as part of his community service.

“It’s fun to be around the kids and teach them the game,” Marc said.

“Being involved in your community is really important. You can learn a lot from it, socially and morally. It’s very important to help others with community service. I think more people should be doing it.”

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