By PAUL A. BARRA
LAKE CITY She may be only 16 years old, but Shimica Gaskins already knows the weight of evangelization on her shoulders. She has learned to carry it well, to demonstrate the impact one soul can make.
Shimica is one of four Catholics in all of Lake City High School. She’s bright and articulate, so it’s not surprising that as a rising senior at LCHS, she has risen to the top of her class. She’s an honors student, a member of the Beta Club, a varsity cheerleader and was recently elected to the position of student council president. All those successes have been gained in spite of, or maybe because of, her minority faith status.
“When times are tough, I have my religion and my parents to fall back on,” she said. “I have a strong love of the faith and the Catholic traditions because of the influence of my parents.”
Shimica is the third of six children of Michelle and Sherman Gaskins of Lake City. Her mother works at a local elementary school and her father is a contractor; he is also a force in the Diocese of Charleston. He is a member of the diocesan Black Catholic Caucus and co-author of the pastoral plan for the new Office of Black Catholic Ministry. He is the director of religious education at St. Philip the Apostle Church.
“She’s always been a good kid,” Gaskins said of his daughter Shimica. “She’s active at St. Philip’s and has good study habits. She seems open to communication with all her peers. We’re real proud of her.”
Faced with the ignorance of some of those peers, Shimica feels an obligation to educate them about Catholicism. She tells the story of a Spanish class discussion of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the misconceptions about the apparition that arose. As the only Catholic in the class, she took it upon herself to explain things. She was up on the Guadalupe miracle because her parish has an active migrant ministry and she volunteers for it. Most of the migrant workers are Hispanic.
That was not the only occasion when she has had to explain or defend her faith.
“People are very misinformed. I feel that I need to inform them. It has made me a stronger person and given me more self-confidence,” she said.
Shimica Gaskins may need that confidence to carry out her long-range plan. She hopes to attend The Catholic University of America in Washington after graduating in 1998 to study pre-law and English. Then she wants to earn a law degree and enter politics. She wants to be a U.S. senator one day.
She seems well-prepared for the Senate already. At least she knows how to defend a minority position.
Shimica Gaskins is an altar server at St. Philip, a lector and a member of the parish youth group. She also teaches Sunday school.