Brad Giacone takes heart in a passage from St. John’s Gospel in which Jesus, although clearly unsettled about his looming death, wholly embraces it.
“Jesus is stressed, even though he is God,” Giacone notes. “His earthly body doesn’t want to die, but he knows that in his death he will be glorifying God in the highest way.
“It relates to me because God also has a purpose for me and is calling me to do whatever,” Giacone adds. “It’s for (this calling) that I am here, in the same way that it was for the cross that Jesus was on earth.”
Teen leader represents state
This mature sense of purpose helped to propel Giacone, a Brother Martin junior, to be elected president of the 102-high school strong Louisiana Association of Student Councils (LASC) for a year-long term that ended last January.
Giacone, who was assisted in the campaign by his fellow students, currently serves as Brother Martin’s student council vice president. During his year as LASC president, he represented his home state at the National Association of Student Council’s 2012 meeting in Oklahoma City, and at the Southern Association of Student Council’s meeting in Orlando last fall.
“There is a lot of time dedicated to meeting other student leaders and having workshops with them – to take ideas back to your own school and also share things with them that they can bring back to their states,” said Giacone, noting that the idea-sharing ranged from designing homecoming week activities to enhancing student service. Although his statewide term has ended, Giacone continues to trade ideas with his peers as current president of the association’s Greater New Orleans District.
Sharing the faith
For the past year, Giacone, a veteran member of Teen CROSS in his home parish of St. Clement of Rome, has been spending his Tuesday nights as a teen catechist in EDGE, the school of religion program for sixth, seventh and eighth graders at Divine Mercy Parish in Kenner. The EDGE curriculum includes spending a whole semester on the theme of prayer, with students studying a different aspect of prayer or a specific prayer, such as the Our Father, each week.
“There is always an adult teacher in the room, but six or seven teens run the conversation, just because we relate to the kids a little bit more,” Giacone said. “We start in a big group and we’ll do an activity or two, and then we’ll have a lot of discussion about whatever the topic is, and then we might go into small groups,” he said. The key to reaching middle schoolers is keeping them active and entertained through skits, songs and games and hand-on activities, Giacone notes.
“One Tuesday we sang a song about throwing up our hands to the Lord and they loved it,” he said. “When we found out the pope was resigning, we made little Vatican flags and discussed a little bit of the history of the papacy.”
Giacone and his fellow teen catechists are part of Divine Mercy’s Life Teen group, an international Catholic youth program open to young people in grades nine through 12. Led by Mari Pablo, the group gathers for the 6 p.m. Mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church and afterward for faith-sharing activities and fellowship.
“Life Teen is focused on bringing yourself closer to Christ; it’s all focused around the Eucharist,” Giacone said. “It’s more of a personal experience for you to more humbly come toward Christ in your life.”
Giacone also lends his talents to the first-Thursday praise, worship and adoration hour by playing guitar, the shaker, the tambourine and the cajon, or box drum.
A mentor on campus
To unwind, Giacone plays on Brother Martin’s beach volleyball team and serves on his school’s Big Brothers program, which pairs juniors with seventh graders.
“We get breakfast with them some days, or we’ll play dodgeball or kickball with them in the morning just to kind of reach out to them and make them feel welcome,” he said.
The National Honor Society member will serve as vice president of the Key Club in the 2013-14 school year and also hopes to join Brother Martin’s campus ministry, a seniors-only group that facilitates retreats for underclassmen, provides extraordinary ministers of Holy communion and goes into eighth-grade classrooms to lead faith-based discussions.
Giacone said he is grateful that his Catholic education has given him these kinds of opportunities.
“Just having the ability to come to school and have daily Mass in the chapel, receive the sacrament of reconciliation every Advent and Lent, have prayer services and school-wide liturgies – this has really helped me to grow in my faith,” he said. “Of course not everyone fits into the same Catholic boat, but a majority of (students) want to grow in their faith.”
Beth Donze can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.