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A Lesson of Connectedness from the CRS Conference

Posted on 8/16/2018 8:49:30 AM by Mignon Toppino

This past July, I had the opportunity to attend the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) SALT Summit 2018 with three fellow Cabrini CRS Student Ambassadors and our Advisor of the program, Jerry Zurek, PhD (SALT stands for Student Ambassador Leaders Together). The summit was a four-day conference in Baltimore, with a trip to Capitol Hill, where CRS Student Ambassadors and Advisors from 60 colleges and universities gathered together and shared their experiences.

During this compelling conference, we worked to build leadership and connect with one another to better understand the work of CRS. We attended advocacy meetings on Capitol Hill in offices of our senators and representatives. The experience and knowledge I gained from attending the conference surpassed all my expectations.

The most impactful and eye-opening experience that I learned from the conference was learning how we are all connected. The idea that we are all connected strives from the words of Scripture that says we are all created in the image and likeness of God. By all of us having God within us, we are all connected and are called to live as one. I learned that we must understand that when helping others we need to fall away from creating dependencies because it is a true violation of people’s dignity. We must comprehend that everyone is their own protagonist in their own life stories. We need to keep in mind that the key to being good at this work is to understand everything is connected and to have solutions that reflect everything's connectedness. I truly believe that the only way to make a real impact and difference in this world is by working together in partnership for we are truly all connected and are all one.

We should always bear in mind that the change we are fighting for is going to take great time and effort, but it is very important to understand that this is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s day after day, choosing to fight to change the injustices in the world. We need to move with boldness and bravery; we can do this through God’s great protection, and by being attentive to him and the daily things He reveals to us.

The most powerful and awakening thing I learned about during the conference was the importance of advocacy. We must all take a stand and deny what the world says and believe that our voices matter, that our actions matter. I learned that being an advocate for change is not just believing and dreaming but standing up and acting. By our Heavenly Father, we are all called to stand up and act for justice, peace, and love, and he does not just call us to do so but he demands us to act on this in a radical way. This love and action that God demands of us is definitely costly, for God asks everything of us, however, he also offers everything to us. If you look back into history at all the great influencers, they all lived radical lifestyles.

We are all called and created to speak up and help ourselves and others by educating the whole person the heart, mind, and spirit. I believe that the strongest way to help others and change the injustice is by speaking from your heart and telling your story. I lived most of my life believing the lie that I did not have a story to tell. That changed when I began to believe and understand the value and dignity of my life. I now understand that we all have our own unique life experiences and those experiences are what make up our story. Once we comprehend that, then all we must do is take those steps to becoming more vulnerable and open to one other. I urge you all to reflect, remember we are one, and ask yourself: If our faith is asking us to walk with our neighbors, how are we doing so?

Much love and Prayers,
Mignon Toppino