Niagara Catholic hosted more than 350 Catholic school students and their staff guardians in October, for the 2018 Ontario Catholic Student Leadership Conference (#OCSLC2018).
The event took place October 17-19 at the Americana Conference Resort and Spa, and focused on the Pastoral Letter released earlier this year, Renewing the Promise.
The event began with a liturgy and dinner, followed by a presentation by Catholic rapper, teacher and motivational speaker Joe Melendrez called Welcome to the Party, which urged students to celebrate their faith, find God in music and get their praise on! After his presentation, Joe kicked off very high-energy concert, accompanied by his former student DJ 5AM.
During the performance, which included tracks from Joe’s recently released fourth album, Chosen, the entire audience of students, chaperones, organizers and Niagara Catholic Senior Staff and trustees were wildly enthusiastic about responding to his chorus of being chosen, and were up out of their seats throughout the performance. Joe describes the inspiration behind the music as “diverse and dynamic, as is our call to following Christ. Chosen is an acceptance letter to the invitation to participate in the life of God.”
Joe followed the Wednesday night performance with a keynote address on Thursday that continued that theme, using Chosen as a way to bring a message of hope to students and to emphasize their worth as valuable children of God.
After the keynote address, students participated in a number of ice breaking exercises and workshops centered around Renewing the Promise. This year’s workshops included Open a Sacred Window (creating icons for prayer and devotion), Awakening Indigenous Culture, Mental Health 101: School/Life Balance through Mind, Body & Spirit, Social justice, media and technology tools for Catholic leadership, effective communications, conscious giving, how to lead humbly and praying the songs of Taize.
There was also a moderator session for teachers, which dealt with guiding them on how to answer difficult questions when they arise so they can answer them in a way that is both honest and reflects the heart of Christ to others.
Following dinner, which included a special message from Renewing the Promise’s lead author, our own Bishop Bergie Thursday evening, students enjoyed a night exploring Niagara Falls, before heading back to the hotel to prepare for the closing day.
The final day of #OCSLC2018 included another keynote address by Joe, who this time spoke about being a fearless, bold and faith-filled disciple. Elementary students senators from across Niagara Catholic were in attendance for this presentation, as they began their Lead Out Loud Elementary Student Senator Conference. The elementary and secondary students participated in a Mass together at St. Thomas More Church in Niagara Falls led by Bishop Bergie, before our guests boarded buses to return home and our elementary student senators continued with their conference.
This is the second time Niagara Catholic has hosted the event since its creation in 2011. During Mass, Niagara Catholic passed the lighted candle to the Toronto Catholic District School Board, which will host it in 2019.
We offer our special thanks to the organizational team for this event: Board Chaplaincy Leader Krista Wood, Student Leadership Consultant Teri Cristelli, Religion and Family Life Consultant Lidia DiLorenzo, Mental Health Lead Andrea Bozza and Linda Marconi, Executive Assistant to the Director of Education, as well as to teacher Chris Beatty and his team of students who ensured we had plenty of photos and videos from the event.