Six St. Joseph’s Academy students joined students from sister schools in Cleveland, Ohio, and LaGrange Park, Illinois, for the annual CSJ/SSJ Student Leadership Conference. The gathering was held June 5-9 in LaGrange.
Representing SJA were rising seniors Claire Holder, Rachel Sanchez and Emily DeMeulenaere and rising juniors Kynleigh Avants, Elizabeth Lemann and Danna Thompson. They were accompanied by Principal Stacia Andricain and theology faculty member Hugo Andricain.
This year marked the fifth time SJA students participated in the gathering. "It was another wonderful year to bring students together who have a background in the history and charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph and to go deeper with them on what it means to live a life of serving the dear neighbor without distinction," Stacia Andricain said. "Our six SJA students fully embraced meeting students from other areas of the U.S. who want to become better leaders, better people and better at learning to serve."
Students from SJA, St. Joseph Academy in Cleveland, Nazareth Academy in LaGrange and SSJ schools Mount St. Joseph High School and St. Teresa's Academy gained a better understanding of the Sisters’ founding history and the charism that has continued for hundreds of years. In addition to their studies, participants enjoyed a variety of workshops and a day of service. On their final day, they took in the sights and sounds of Chicago. The day ended with the celebration of mass at St. Francis Xavier.
Lemann said the conference was enjoyable and inspiring. “Conference directors broke down the CSJ charism to its core, which is an all-inclusive love for God’s creation,” she said. “This dynamic approach involves spreading the love of Christ to all, regardless of race, social status, religion or political views. I also loved meeting people from all the different schools and building friendships with them.”
DeMeulenaere said the conference was an unforgettable experience. “We learned what it meant to be a good leader and how that fulfills the promises of the Sisters of St. Joseph,” she said. “On the day we went out to serve the people of Chicago, I was assigned to work the food pantry at the Marillac house. Working there, alongside my new friends, we began to understand what it was like for those who lacked basic necessities. After having served them, we began to question ways we can further our reach and help those in other communities around the world. This trip has encouraged me to think of ways I can incorporate the term leader to go out and serve the dear neighbor. It also left me with tons of new friends and experiences that will shape my life forever.”
Thompson said she thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of the trip. “We had the opportunity to meet teenagers from around the U.S. who had a lot of common interests and experiences,” she said. “We participated in many workshops that taught us how to be better leaders with the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph in mind.”
Sanchez said her participation was transformative. “It really opened our minds to what a leader is and does,” she said. “We got to see firsthand what the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph is all about. It was hard to say goodbye to the people we met and the friends we made, but we will stay in touch with them. I will never forget this trip. I arrived as a shy, quiet girl not wanting to branch out, and I left renewed and full of joy having made friends and experienced life-changing things. I’m so glad I got to go on this trip.”
Mindy Brodhead Averitt