Lasallians from across the USA/Toronto Region gathered at the United Nations April 25th – 27th
The Church of the Holy Family, under the shadow of the United Nations, a stone’s throw from the East River, would be the gathering place on Sunday April 25th, for travel weary Lasallians from all over the USA/Toronto Region. The only known commonality among these teenage strangersm, besides their Lasallian education, would be their thirst for knowledge and understanding of how they could possibly affect change for the rights of children. During the opening assembly and welcome, video presentations helped familiarize convocation members with each other. Prayers by students and faculty, and introductions of District and Regional Leadership, led to the welcome of Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations. The Archbishop’s remarks helped to clarify his role and that of the Holy See at the United Nations, but more importantly, stressed the need for students to advocate for the rights of children. Archbishop Migliore emphasized that it would be the crucial work of connecting with politicians and policy makers in the U.S. that could help push for this country’s ratification of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. Day two of the Convocation, however, would start to make that huge task seem more attainable and real.
On a chilly Monday morning, April 26th , Lasallians lined uppatiently at the gates of the United Nations, awaiting entrance to the home of where the Convention on the Rights of the Child was created in 1989. Students and Faculty were directed to the large United Nations conference room, where they were seated in the same chairs used by
Diplomats and Ambassadors from across the globe. USA/Toronto Region General Councilor Brother Robert Schieler’s opening address and a subsequent video presentation would bring the excited Lasallian Convocation participants to focus on the subject at hand, before introducing the first keynote speaker. Human Rights Activitst, Author, Teacher, Jounralist, and former UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Jimmie Briggs addressed the convocation, sharing his insights, experiences, and stories as an up-and-coming journalist. Mr. Briggs painted the gruesome picture of child exploitation in the different places he had visited in his time as a reporter. As Executive Director for the “Man Up Campaign,” Briggs works to empower youth to stop violence. While answering their questions, Mr. Briggs encouraged the Convocation to take action for the rights of children.
After lunch, Lucreda Cobbs, Senior Director of Advocacy andCivic Engagement for Catholic Charities USA, gave Lasallian students concrete tools and skills to take action. Energy and enthusiasm are simply not enough to affect change, unless Lasallians can effectively advocate for childrens’ rights. Power Point slides, question and answer sessions, along with a group collaboration project and presentations with Ms. Cobbs helped students learn and put new practical skills to work and practice.
Guided tours of the UN, followed by dinner and prayer closed out the second evening of the Convocation.’
Tuesday morning’s Assembly included a 15-minute address by UNICEF Executive Director, Ann Veneman, followed by a conversation with her and the audience. Before she left the conference room, she received a copy of the Bice World Appeal and its 6,000 signatures, along with a statue of St. John Baptist de La Salle. Archbishop Migliore and representatives from various UN Missions attended the assembly. The morning concluded with participants taking part in one of four TEACH-Ins—Fair Trade, Human Trafficking, War Affected Children, Child Poverty in the U.S.—each designed to illustrate a significant issue related to children’s rights.
An important part of the Convocation occurred Tuesday afternoon in a double-session. In part one, Meg Gardinier, Chair of the Campaign for US Ratification of the CRC, clearly explained why mobilization is crucial to U.S. ratification of the CRC. Meg was followed by Jann Jackson of the Annie E. Casey Foundation who highlighted how Lasallians can collaborate with organizations advocating for children and families in their local communities or states. In part two, each school delegation took a half hour for reflection and discussion about the journey ahead after the Convocation. Finally, all the delegations reconvened to share some thoughts before heading off to visit one of thirteen UN Missions (embassies).
With word and song, the Convocation came to an end with an Italian-themed dinner and a spirit-filled Eucharistic Liturgy at the Church of the Holy Family where Pope Paul VI convened world religious leaders in 1965 on the occasion of his visit to the United Nations.
For all the details click the links below, including the Region’s Press Release, and Convocation materials.
Opening Remarks from Bro. Robert Schieler, FSC
(General Councilor for the USA/Toronto Region)