By NANCY SCHWERIN
Traveling by plane, car and bus, four College of Charleston students met in Washington, D.C, over the holidays to learn the art of Catholic leadership at the National Catholic Student Coalition 15th Annual Leadership Conference.
From Dec. 30 to Jan. 3, the students along with Catholic campus minister, Ann Penick, took the “Journey to Our God,” hearing from well-shared their special story about their journey.
Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, spoke to attendees on the issue of capital punishment.
“Sister Prejean was a real highlight for the students,” said Penick.
Diana Hayes, associate professor of theology at Georgetown University and the first African-American woman to earn the pontifical doctor of sacred theology degree, spoke on unity of knowledge, mind and heart and secularism vs. spirituality from a Catholic perspective. She also discussed a world view of African-Americans and Hispanics and moral development and discernment.
Workshops on how to revive campus-based groups, vocations, developing leadership roles, controversial issues, ecumenical issues and spirituality helped students open their minds to new possibilities in campus ministry.
“Making a Splash,” a workshop on building campus ministry, gave the young leaders ideas for service projects, spiritual fulfillment and financial advice. “Show Me the Money” offered tips on fund-raising projects. “Amazing Retreats” was a popular workshop that got students on their feet practicing icebreakers and skits. The session gave the College of Charleston students some great ideas that they plan to implement at the statewide retreat Feb. 5-7 in Garden City.
“The students got ideas for future activities in a social and spiritual dimension,” said Penick.
David Wamback, College of Charleston student who attended the conference, expressed real interest to Penick in expanding the group’s service projects for the upcoming year.
Focus sessions, an open mike night and a service project offered time to share thoughts and feelings on the faith and issues that campuses face.
“The retreat was a great opportunity to network and meet people,” said Penick. “It was nice to see students come away with new friendships.”
At the conference the College of Charleston students met up with Chris Pais, a Citadel cadet, who just happened to be taking the spiritual journey as well.
Amid the learning and sharing, students came together several times to worship and meet with fellow students. Reconciliation was offered throughout the five-day voyage.
“We took part in some really good, creative liturgies,” said Penick, who gets students involved in liturgies at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist throughout the year.
The conference, Penick emphasized, focused on developing leaders.
College of Charleston student Erin Worley was elected to be representative of the Southern region for the NCSC. Elizabeth Lasker and Crystal Terry took office as well as state ambassadors. Terry in South Carolina; Lasker in neighboring Georgia.
“The New Year’s Eve Mass held a very powerful message,” said Penick. “It looked at what’s important to us, so we don’t take what we have for granted.”
A New Year’s Eve banquet and dance had the crowd ringing in 1999, while dancing the night away.
Penick plans to implement several new ideas in the coming year, and hopes to expand, with the help of these young leaders, on programs already in place. After her first year as campus minister for the College of Charleston, Penick has tripled the enrollment for the campus’ group. Her enthusiasm for youth and encouragement have helped the program to thrive.
When students from across the state gather next month, four students from the College of Charleston are prepared to take with them knowledge, ideas and leadership to help others in the ministry.