At the end of September, I reached the end of my second summer working at Salt + Light. It had been another enriching and exciting several months spent with wonderful, warm, and dedicated people in a close-knit and faith-filled working environment. But this time, instead of heading back to McGill University to continue my studies, the end of my time at Salt + Light was the beginning of a journey southbound, the start of something new, something exciting: an adventure. Thanks to the kindness and generosity of Fr. Tom Rosica, our CEO, I was off to New York to serve as an intern with the diplomatic mission of the Holy See to the United Nations!
Two months into the internship, it’s still as exciting as it sounds! Living in New York, working at the UN, and serving the Church in such a unique way, each day brings fresh excitement and a new reason to be thankful and rejoice.
There are seven interns in total: two from Canada, two from the United States, and one each from Spain, Kenya, and Syria. They’re all wonderful and gifted people and it’s been a blessing to experience these months together. (Pictured left are the seven of us with our boss, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, and his predecessor Cardinal Renato Martino, who established the internship program together with Fr. Rosica. I, Julian, am second from the left, next to Guy-Anthony Gagliano, the other Canadian intern, whose grandfather founded Salt + Light.)
Each of the interns is assigned to a different committee or council of the UN, follows the meetings of that body, and writes daily reports on their proceedings. My assignment is to the Security Council (pictured at right), which is the body entrusted with the maintenance of international peace and security on behalf of the nations of the world. Thus, the matters addressed by the Council cover a wide range of peace and security issues, which range from eliminating chemical weapons in Syria to fighting piracy off the Somali coast to resolving the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As the most powerful organ of the UN system, the Council generates a high degree of interest and draws an impressive array of guests. This past week alone, the it heard briefings from the Prime Ministers of Serbia and Kosovo, and one of its committees was addressed by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair on the importance of fighting religious extremism through education. Needless to say, it’s an incredible place to be and work and every day brings the urge to pinch oneself to make sure you’re not dreaming. To put it one way, it’s UN-believable!
Our day begins at 9:00 in the chapel of the Holy See Mission, where the entire staff gathers to pray Midmorning Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours. From there, we have a morning meeting to review the UN Journal of the day’s meetings and events before heading to UN headquarters for the first sessions of the day, which begin at 10:00. Between morning and afternoon meetings, we all return to the Holy See Mission to come together and share a meal. Together with Midmorning Prayer, this is a crucial mainstay to remaining united as a community of disciples at the service of the Church.
In the same vein, during the course of our internship, we live together at Ss Peter and Paul, a vibrant and active parish in Hoboken, New Jersey—right across the river from Manhattan. The view is spectacular and the experience of living in community is superb!
In a setting as secular but significant as the UN, how essential it is to remain focused on our true mission of serving the Lord. Living the call to discipleship in the midst of all the prestige, power, and politics, but also the crises, the suffering, the tragedy and injustice. In a place where debate too often outweighs decisive action, we are present not to be swept up in political division and partisan vitriol but to be a leaven: to bring hope, to see with faith, and to plant seeds of unity and peace.
Amid such a formative and exciting experience, I want to express my profound gratitude to Fr. Rosica, without whom none of this would have come about or been possible. His strong support has been a great gift to so many young people, and I consider myself blessed to be among them.
Until next time, peace and blessings from the Big Apple! The adventure continues!
Julian Paparella is a third-year Biology student at McGill University in Montreal. He has worked as a production intern at Salt + Light for the past two summers, and is currently interning with the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York City.