A Summer Intern for the past two years at Salt and Light Catholic Television Network has been given the highest award presented by the London District Catholic School.
Julian Paparella has been named the 2014 winner of the Stewards in Catholic Education Award.
This is the eleventh year for the Stewards in Catholic Education Award - an initiative to profile London District Catholic School Board graduates who live the Ontario Catholic School graduate Expectations and who have made a significant contribution to the world around them.
The award is presented annually to a graduate of the system who demonstrates impact in professional and/or personal life in the following areas: spiritual, academic, aesthetic, social or physical; Demonstrates fulfillment of the Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectations; and demonstrates stewardship in Catholic Education.
Nominees are secondary school graduates of the London District Catholic School Board or its predecessor boards who demonstrate fulfillment of the Graduate Expectations and demonstrate stewardship in Catholic education.
This year, there was a field of outstanding nominees – which is a tribute to the many wonderful people who graduate from the LDCSB each year.
Julian is a graduate of Catholic Central High School in London, Ontario and in his short lifetime he has already made quite a name for himself.
His nominator described him as very strong in his faith, who is continuously eager to learn more.
He won the Father Ted Colleton Scholarship contest in 2010-11 on the subject of the sacredness of life and was published in the Interim Canada’s Life and Family Newspaper.
He interned at the Salt and Light Catholic Television Network for the past two summers and will join us one again this summer.
He interned with the Holy See’s Mission to the United Nations in New York City where he was assigned to report on Security Council matters for the Vatican.
He served the London District Catholic School Board as a high school student by travelling to elementary schools in his senior year, to sell them on the merits of attending a Catholic High School.
More recently, he Skyped to several classes from New York, describing his Vatican internship and sharing his experiences.
He has been a great supporter of the London Catholic District Separate School Board, a great friend and a great role model to his peers. Julian represents very well the Catholic School System in this province. Congratulations, Julian!
Below is Julian's acceptance speech.
Chair Hall, Director Staudt, esteemed Trustees, Father Mockler, members of Senior Administration, Principals, teachers, staff, and especially: dear students, dear parents, family, and friends, brothers and sisters one and all in our Lord Jesus.
What a joy to be with you and to accept this award. I want to begin with a couple of thank yous.
Thanks first of all to God, who has given us the gift of Catholic Education and brought each of us to this beautiful day of celebration.
Second, to Chair Hall for his very generous introduction. I know how painful it must have been for you to give so thank you. But sincerely, thank you for being such an incredible mentor and a very dear friend. I am so blessed. Thank you.
I would also like to thank Mr. Vince Silvestro, my Chaplain at CCH, who nominated me for this award to my very great surprise. Mr. Silvestro, I don’t know what you did or wrote but it must have been awfully convincing, so thank you. I am very grateful.
Next I would like to thank and acknowledge my family, my parents Evelyn and Nick and my two brothers Matthew and Marcus. Thank you not only for being here but especially for supporting and standing with me wherever I go, accompanying me with your love, care, and very healthy doses of humour and sarcasm, especially from the brothers.
Finally, I want to thank and congratulate our Spirit Award winners! Thank you for all you do to make our schools places where the Spirit is truly alive and for exemplifying in such significant ways the values of Catholic Education. You are an inspiration for your fellow students and for all of us and we congratulate you! Thank you!
When I was first informed that I was to receive this year’s Stewards in Catholic Education Award, I was filled with two emotions: gratitude and joy. Gratitude because of how much this Board has meant to me and shaped my life, and joy because of the opportunity to come and be with all of you, to share with you, and together to celebrate the great and precious gift of our Catholic Education.
At the same time, I feel deeply humbled because of how many people I could think of who are so much more deserving of this recognition, and who have contributed far more to my life and the lives of so many of us as students of this vibrant system. We are all indebted to so many dedicated teachers, principals, administrators, and staff and I accept this with a sense of deep gratitude and smallness compared to so many others.
It is also very humbling because as you may have noticed, I am very young. My lifespan extends barely three years more than that of the Grade 12s among us! But I think this also provides a great opportunity: I am one of you. I am a student. I am young. Like you: a learner, believer, family member, classmate, and friend.
I accept this award as one of you. Each one of us is called to be a steward of Catholic Education by recognizing the value of this great gift in our own lives, and fostering its growth in order that it can continue to impact the lives of many, many more students to come.
And so what has been the influence of Catholic Education in my life? It began at home. Growing up I was blessed with two wonderful parents, who as I mentioned are here with us tonight. Their love gave me life and continues to give me life to this day. They taught me the free and unconditional love of God by loving me freely and unconditionally themselves. They were the first teachers of the faith, first and foremost by their example. We would thank God at the end of every day, they would always tell me to do my best, and they would reinforce how important it was to treat other people well, as you wanted to be treated.
Reaching the ripe age of four, I had my first experience of Catholic Education at St. Paul’s in the Oakridge neighbourhood here in London: the first of three Catholic schools I would be blessed to attend. There in the early years the seeds of faith would continue to be sown and watered. Everyday after lunch in Grade 1 we would sing the beautiful hymn, “Though the mountains may fall and the hills turn to dust, yet the love of the Lord will stand.” In Grade 2 we received our First Communion and learned about the real presence of Jesus in our lives. In Grade 3 we re-enacted the Stations of the Cross to the very memorable music of Jesus Christ Super Star. In Grade 4 we received First Reconciliation. I found at St. Paul’s a community in which I belonged, with friends to laugh and play with, concocting some of the strangest games in the universe, witnessing an unsettling number of marriages during lunch recess, pretending to be animals and jumping rope: enjoying life with friends who would stick up for you and just wanted to have fun.
After 6 beautiful years, my journey in Catholic Education took me to St. Mary Choir School. There I had four of the most lively, creative, and formative years of my life. What I learned most at St. Mary’s was to be myself, and to be my best self. I had teachers that brought out the best in me and challenged me to go further, to grow, to develop, and to flourish. St. Mary’s taught me that excellence comes not from pursuing some generic ideal or vain success but by being the person that God has made you to be, with all your gifts, talents, quirks, interests, strengths, and even limitations, and to do so with gusto and enthusiasm!
My next four years took me to the best high school in our school system: Catholic Central. There I would throw myself into just about everything I possibly could, wanting to experience it all and make a difference. Thanks to a spectacular slew of very supportive teachers, and several wonderful staff, including Mr. Silvestro, I was allowed and encouraged to be fully myself and grow deeper and deeper in my relationship with Christ. The seeds of faith that had been planted at home and nourished through St. Paul’s and St. Mary’s as well as my parish at St. George were thoroughly fertilized at Catholic Central. Having a Chapel that I could visit every day – as often as I wanted. Being able to write prayers to read over the announcements for the days that Mr. Silvestro was away. Leading the Rosary weekly during the now-infamous “Mary Mondays,” which believe it or not I was allowed to publicize every day during morning announcements for the first month and a half of my Grade 12. Altar serving at school Masses and even distributing the Eucharist to fellow students and staff. These are experiences that have profoundly marked my journey of faith and ignited a living faith whose flame continues to burn to this day. Being able to develop the most fundamental aspect of my identity – my faith in Jesus Christ – was the greatest gift Catholic Education could ever bestow.
GOD is what sets Catholic Education apart. How evident this was after I graduated and continued on to McGill, moving eight hours away from family, friends, and anyone I knew. God was what remained with me no matter who I was with, where I was, or what I was doing. Starting university I began to see myself not only as a product of my environment or those around me but just me. Immediately I became involved in the Newman Centre – the Catholic student community on campus. Through the Newman Centre I was introduced to Salt + Light, the Catholic television network where I have been blessed to work the last two summers and where I will begin again next Monday. Through Salt + Light, I received the incredible opportunity to serve the Church through the Holy See’s diplomatic mission to the United Nations in New York. In the midst of all of these experiences, I have begun to realize what I truly value, what matters to me, what motivates and energizes me, what hold meaning in my life. I have realized that the most important part of who I am is that I am loved by God. He is with me. He leads me and walks with me. He is at my side and on my side. He carries me when I struggle and jumps with me when I’m joyful. God is present when I pray, when I study, when I succeed and when I fail. He is present even when the path is unclear, when my weakness is overwhelming, when my sin is like scarlet. God replaces my discouragement with determination, he turns resentment into reconciliation and grumpiness into gratitude.
The theme of Catholic Education Week for 2014 is “Serving in the love of Christ.” The verse accompanying this theme comes from the Gospel of Luke when Jesus’ disciples are arguing amongst themselves who among them is the greatest. Hearing their bickering Jesus asks them, “Who is greater, the one who is at table or the one who serves? Truly it is the one at table. But I am among you as one who serves.” These words tell us not only about who Jesus is, but also who we are to be as his disciples. Christ came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for the many. So too we as Christians called not to be served but to serve, and to give our lives for the many. We too are called to have the heart of Jesus.
Tonight you, dear students, have all received the Spirit Award. Why do we celebrate the Spirit? What Spirit do we celebrate? The Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus, who was sent out of the Father’s love to give his life for us. We celebrate the Spirit because the Spirit is alive in us and present in our midst: in our classrooms, in the hallways of our school, on the playground, the field, the track, the stage, and above all in our hearts.
Indeed the vision of this London District Catholic School Board is “Alive in the Spirit for the good of all.” And so the question arises: how is it that we are alive in the Spirit? What does it mean for the Spirit of Jesus to be alive in you?
The Spirit is alive in us when we feel overwhelmed with homework but take the time to help someone else with theirs anyways.
The Spirit is alive in us when we go and talk to the classmate sitting by him- or herself in the cafe or alone on the playground at recess.
The Spirit is alive in you when you smile and say “Thank you” to the teacher everybody dislikes.
The Spirit is alive when you keep powering through your homework even though you’d rather scour Facebook, text your friend, catch the latest score, or send something by SnapChat.
The Spirit is alive when you see someone being picked on and you stand up for that person no matter what others think or say, about them or you.
The Spirit is alive when we recognize how much God loves us, and do our best to love others in the same way. When we live as brothers and sisters, seeing the Spirit alive in each other, caring for one another, giving to each other, seeing the other with the loving eyes of God: serving one another in the love of Christ.
Truly the Spirit is alive in Catholic Education because the Spirit is alive in us – in you and in me. Exams and essays will pass away. Tests and textbooks will come and go. The curriculum will be changed, administrative policies and procedures will be revised but Jesus Christ remains. Graduating out of Catholic Education we may soon forget how to navigate a periodic table or experience great difficulty recalling our timetables to 12. But Christ remains. Our faith endures. The Spirit of God continues to fill us, animate us, bring us life and help us to love. The Spirit of God provides a light even when the darkness is overwhelming, it inspires us to go outside of ourselves, to be our best selves, and to live our lives for God and for others. In this way, dear brothers and sisters, we become fully alive and the Spirit is fully alive in us.
And so my words to you are: feel the Spirit within you, know that God is with you, follow Jesus wherever you go and whatever you do. Whether the next year brings you to high school, to university, college, or other post-secondary: be the person God made you to be, be your best self, be so for others, and set the world on fire with the Spirit, alive in our midst. This is the gift of Catholic Education, this is the gift of God, and it is the gift that we celebrate as we come together tonight.
Let us all go forward as grateful, joyful stewards of the gift of Catholic Education. Let us go forward serving in the love of Christ. Let us be alive in the Spirit for the good of all.
Thank you, congratulations, and God bless you.