Earlier this summer, Anna Capizzi, graduate student in Seton Hall's Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology, was selected to attend GIVEN 2016: Catholic Young Women's Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C. The Forum was fully funded and immersed participants in faith formation, leadership training and networking.
Anna recently took some time to reflect on her experience at the Forum - what she learned, how she grew spiritually and how she was even able to showcase her own unique skill sets.
Variety of speakers
I appreciated the range of speakers. Each had a different expertise, from economists to mothers to doctors to professors to religious sisters and more.
Anna (far left)'s favorite speaker was Dr. Carolyn Woo (second from left), president of Catholic Relief Services.
My favorite keynote presentation was given by Dr. Carolyn Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services. She shared her story growing up in Hong Kong and then later as an international college student in the United States. Although her father was against her coming to the States, she worked to earn her acceptance into Purdue University and, with the help of family members and friends, managed to pay for one year of school.
She crammed as many credits as she could into one year, thinking it would be her only year there. The Catholic Center became her home there, and she said she would have never gotten through that year without many hours spent in prayer at the chapel. She applied to and received a scholarship that paid the remainder of her undergraduate years at Purdue.
In speaking about the years following her undergraduate study, Dr. Woo reminded us that leadership is about collaboration and meant to serve others. She said, "The American culture is obsessed with the word leadership. Jesus didn't say 'lead;' He said, 'Come to me' and 'Go to others,' We must stop asking, 'What can I do?' We must ask, 'What can WE do?'" I love this and think it's the epitome of servant leadership -- to be rooted in Christ and to bring others together in collaboration.
There were also power sessions. Each power session included three speakers who were given about 20-25 minutes to share their stories/expertise/advise. My favorites included Gloria Purvis, whose energy, humor, sass and confidence shined through as she shared bits of her career and life journey and what it meant to hold on to her values, and Sister Norma Pimentel, MJ, the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. Under her leadership, in 2014, Catholic Charities responded to a huge influx of immigrants who crossed the border in Texas. When asked by city officials what exactly was she doing in the parish center (when she was setting up aid for the refugees), she replied, "restoring human dignity" (a response I loved!). That led to the city extending a hand. Catholic Charities and the surrounding community have helped over 16,000 refugees.Networking and an Unexpected Leadership Opportunity
Anna leads an impromptu FEMM session during the Forum.
Following Anna Halpine's talk (the founder of the World Youth Alliance and founder and CEO of FEMM -- Fertility Education and Medical Management), I had an unexpected opportunity to showcase one of my skills by teaching an introductory FEMM class. FEMM is a comprehensive women's health program that teaches women to monitor their hormonal health. After Halpine's talk, I posted in the GIVEN Forum's closed Facebook group for attendees saying that I was a certified FEMM teacher and was available if anyone had any questions. Quite a few women responded saying that they were interested, so during one of the breaks, I brought out my computer and led an impromptu session. Actually, a couple of these women are now seeking out FEMM teacher certification themselves. Because of my session, I also have a new client who is currently working with me to learn FEMM's health program.
The GIVEN Forum was rejuvenating and uplifting. Going to Daily Mass with 300 other Catholic young women (and all the sisters and speakers) was quite the experience. Although a leadership forum, the week had many "retreat-like" elements, including time for prayer and confession. We needed to reflect on the gifts we had been "given" in order to better use them for others, and ultimately for God. Throughout the week I felt supported by all the sister volunteers, the fellow attendees and the presenters on multiple levels, spiritually, professionally, personally. There was a feeling of camaraderie.
Finishing up the steps for my master's degree while also working full time with Catholic News Service as the Special Projects Editor . I started this position a week after GIVEN and the Forum provided the perfect kick start to beginning a new career in a new city!
As far as my Action Plan, GIVEN allowed me to take some more time to ponder and reflect on the theme and its implementation. I won't change its focus: helping to build an integral ecology, like Pope Francis speaks about in his encyclical Laudato Si'. But I may tweak it to be more compatible with a balanced life as I juggle working and finishing my degree. Now that GIVEN is over, we actually have to check in at various times with a GIVEN mentor who will be supporting us as we implement our plans.
Concluding Thoughts Before the Forum, I spoke about how I was interested to see the different approaches to leadership and remarked that many of the women seemed to "have it all." No one gave the answer to how you can "have it all" -- that will differ for each woman according her own vocation and talents. But actually it's not really about "having it all." It's about being the person you were created to be. That's what a true leader is.
Categories: Faith and Service