The Catholic University of America

Aug. 29, 2007

Student Leaders Bring Lessons on Catholic Social Teaching to CUA

CUA students Catie Picou and Brendan Koeth with Archbishop Celestino Migliore

As students returned to campus this week, classmates swapped stories of summer jobs and vacations. However, two student leaders, Brendan Koeth and Catie Picou, brought back important lessons to share from a symposium on Catholic social teaching.

Koeth, a senior international economics and finance major from Staten Island, N.Y., and Picou, a senior international business major from Natchitoches, La., attended the symposium "Catholic College Students and the Common Good: Building a Better World" in Riverdale, N.Y., for a week in May.

More than 50 college students from all over the United States, Canada and Germany attended the event, sponsored by the Path to Peace Foundation and the Office of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations. The aim of the annual symposium is to encourage students to spread the Catholic Church's message of peace.

CUA president Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., personally nominated both students to attend.

"Both of these students truly represent the best that our university has to offer," Father O'Connell said. "I am so happy that they could attend such an important and worthwhile event."

Koeth and Picou spent a week attending educational seminars on Catholic social teaching and visiting local social justice organizations. They heard talks by U.N. officials and saw the General Assembly in action during a tour of the United Nations building. Students attended daily Mass in churches throughout New York City, including a private Mass in the presbytery of St. Patrick's Cathedral, which was celebrated by Cardinal Edward Egan of New York.

Salt + Light TV, a Canadian Catholic station, documented the symposium and chose Picou as one of three students to interview and profile.

"While I was being interviewed, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon walked by and shook my hand," said Picou. "That was definitely one of the highlights of the week."

Koeth was student coordinator for this year's new student orientation. He felt the symposium taught him how to relate faith to the incoming class.

"What I found most valuable was a deeper respect for the different places that people are in their faith and how they use it," he said. "This is most important at the time of orientation because you must be conscious of the different levels of faith of almost a thousand new faces."

Picou, student body president of the Cardinal Student Association, said she brought many lessons back with her to campus. She said the symposium gave her a better idea of what Catholic social teaching entails and how it plays into daily life.

"The most valuable thing I learned for my position as student body president is the importance of thinking about the betterment of the whole when deciding on what plan of action to take," she said.