ST. MARYS – Elk County Catholic High School seniors Sara Kucenski and Jonathan Leuschel traveled to Washington, D.C. from April 13-15 to serve as co-ambassadors on behalf of ECC to accept an award during the 2012 Charity and Social Services Honors Program at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Elk Catholic, representing the Diocese of Erie, was one of five honorees during this year's biennial awards program. Other honorees were Miss Alexandrea Lee Smith of the Archdiocese of Atlanta; Saint Catherine Academy of the Diocese of Bridgeport; Aquin Catholic Senior High School of the Diocese of Rockford, and Red Bank Catholic High School of the Diocese of Trenton.
Kucenski and Leuschel noted that ECC was the only school to send more than one representative to the event. Both played an equal role in putting together ECC's entry video, which highlighted all of the community service activities students are involved in through Elk Catholic Helping Others (ECHO).
"I just want to make it clear that Sara and I did not receive the award for ourselves, but rather the award was for Elk County Catholic High School of the Diocese of Erie," Leuschel said. "I personally know that I don't do enough when it comes to social service. We were simply representatives from the school."
"I know that of all the things we put in the video, I wasn't involved with every single one of them," Kucenski added.
The duo, their families, and ECCHS campus minister Fr. Ross Miceli all took part in a welcome dinner for honorees and their families on Friday and had the opportunity to meet the representatives for the other four schools. On Saturday morning they toured the U.S. Capitol, took part in a lunch there, and then continued their tour of D.C., ultimately ending up at the Basilica.
"In the evening, we got a tour from Dr. Rohling, the head curator at the Basilica. She gave a private tour of the group and went through all the different chapels and explained all the theological significance, starting with one of the newer chapels dedicated to the African slaves that were brought to America, demonstrating their journey of faith from when they were brought here all the way up to the present-day situations and connecting it with social justice," Miceli said.
That evening, the group attended a special dinner hosted at the Basilica by Fr. Andrew Apostoli, author of "What To Do When Jesus Is Hungry."
"He (Apostoli) gave a brief presentation about it (his book), integrating the different honorees and their projects, and thanking them for their inspiring works and encouraging them to continue in the future," Miceli said.
Each of the honorees also received a signed copy of Fr. Apostoli's book.
"I'm really excited to look through it," Kucenski said. "It seems like a really good book."
The next day was Divine Mercy Sunday, and the honorees and their families all attended a special Mass at the Basilica celebrated by Cardinal Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, D.C. After Communion, the five honorees were presented with their Charity and Social Service Honors medals and certificates before "a very full Basilica."
Pick up a copy of the Tuesday, May 1, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.