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Inaugural Goodness, Discipline, and Knowledge Conference at St. John Fisher College

July 15, 2021

Participants of inaugural goodness, discipline, and knowledge conference at St. John Fisher College

The inaugural Goodness, Discipline, and Knowledge Conference was held June 25-27 at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York, sponsored by the College’s Office of Campus Ministry and the Basilian Fathers of Rochester. This year’s theme was Igniting the Spark for Social Justice.

The GDK Conference is held to empower emerging leaders among rising high school juniors and seniors, and introduce them to peers with similar interests and goals. Rooted in the College and Basilian motto of “Teach me Goodness, Discipline, and Knowledge”, it develops skills and provides experiences to form them in ways that turn faith into action so that they can participate in building a more just society.

Twenty nine students participated from several high schools in western New York, including a significant contingent from the Aquinas Institute. Five students from the SJFC Peer Ministry team led the conference, assisted by the campus ministry staff.

The conference began Friday with an introduction to Catholic social teaching by Father Kevin Mannara, CSB; small group talks by SJFC students and administrators involved in service; as well as presentations by Alice Miller-Nation, Director of the Franciscan Center for Social Concern at St. Bonaventure University and Nora Bradbury-Haehl, author of The Freshman Survival Guide (St. Mary’s Press). A highlight of the conference was a poverty simulation, led by Sean Ajluni, CSB, a Basilian scholastic who is interning with campus ministry at St. John Fisher. A participant said that through this simulation, “I learned about financial struggles of people different from me and how we can help.”

Saturday was filled with visits to service sites including Bethany Catholic Worker House, Cameron Ministries, and the House of Mercy. Participant groups then strategized ways there could be structural changes to address the injustices they saw and better provide service to those in need. The results were very impressive.

There were youth led prayer services throughout, and the conference concluded on Sunday with Mass in the Hermance Family Chapel of St. Basil the Great. Parents and school principals were invited to join them.

One participant said, “I learned many things about poverty and social justice, and the differences between charity and justice.” Another said, “I enjoyed making new friends, and appreciated putting myself in someone else’s shoes.” Many commented that it was fun, they wished it was longer, the Fisher food was amazing, and they loved the campus.

We hope future GDK Conferences will continue to bring together like-minded students to pray, make new friends, experience a college environment, and be ignited with the spark to live lives of Christian service.

To view a photo slideshow of the conference, click here.

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