SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER
Students in Franciscan University’s Center for Leadership took on Washington, D.C., during their annual trip over fall break, focusing on American founding principles and Catholic social teaching.
David Schmiesing, vice president for student life, and Ronald McNamara, coordinator of student leadership development, led a group of 47 students on the excursion, which included three days in the nation’s capital.
During the trip, the group met with the most Rev. Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA. The archbishop, leader of the world’s largest diocese at 1.8 million Catholics, spoke to the students on the importance of being unafraid to give witness to their faith.
“Challenge the challenges (of the secular world),” Broglio said.
Students were also able to ask the archbishop questions concerning his work, which ranged from priests suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to an update on the canonization process of the Rev. Vincent R. Capudano, who was killed in action while serving as a U.S. Navy Chaplain during the Vietnam War.
Another stop the group made was at the headquarters for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, where they listened to two speakers, one who focused on American founding principles and the other who focused more on social issues facing the country.
Sophomore Brian Patrick saw this as the tie-in to the Center for Leadership’s focus on Catholic social teaching, saying that the talks showed how conservative thought is being applied to the laws being passed each day.
The group also toured the Capitol Hill and the National Archives, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all the students. McNamara, who worked on Capitol Hill for 32 years, supplemented the Capitol tour with many additional pieces of information. Billy Chester, a sophomore Spanish major, said that walking around the Capitol, he was able to “feel the power of the American government.”
“Once I felt that, I realized why we go to such lengths to have good Catholic leaders in the presence of such big power,” said Chester.
Some of the students had been studying the Declaration of Independence in the days preceding the trip, making the visit to the Archives much more significant, as they were able to see the original document, as well as the original Constitution and Bill of Rights. Students described seeing the actual documents as surreal, given that it has been more than 200 years since the documents were signed and yet they are just alive in practice today.
Students also had time to do some of exploring of their own, with some going to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and others to the various Smithsonian Museums. Patrick and Chester decided to go to the Library of Congress, which was the highlight of the trip for them in many ways.
Patrick said visiting the Library was something he had always wanted to do, but had never been able to. “It was pretty cool being able to walk out of there with my own membership card to the Library of Congress,” said Patrick.
McNamara and Schmiesing made it clear that the trip was a pilgrimage where students could take a greater look at what a Christian leader looks like in this culture and how that is compatible with Catholic social teaching. To fulfill the spiritual needs of the group, they coordinated for daily Mass during each day of the trip, ending on Sunday with Mass at the St. John Paul II National Shrine.
As sophomore Anne Sweeney commented, this Mass was especially significant to her and many others as it was on the great pontiff’s feast day.
“I love John Paul II … and it was so surreal to be there on his feast day,” said Sweeney, who also visited the museum attached to the Shrine, which she called a beautiful tribute to the saint.
Patrick called the trip a success, saying that it hit both the spiritual and temporal aspects as McNamara and Schmiesing had hoped to.
The trip was the sixth of its kind since the Center’s beginning in 2011.