CFJ has served more than 6,000 youth and young adults through our intensive retreat-style WorX immersion experiences to impoverished areas, representing more than 350,000 combined hours of direct service and social justice education. Our alumni have gone on to become impressive servant leaders in many diverse fields ranging from international aid to corporate America to ordained ministry. Below is just a taste of their many accomplishments and diverse interests!
Cat D’Angelo first joined the CFJ community in 2013 as a JusticeworX participant. She loved her experience so much that she proceeded to do two more summers of JusticeworX, e a member of our LeaderworX community and do the FaithJustice Fellowship! When reflecting on her time at JusticeworX, she said: “CFJ is the place where I found my passion for serving others, and learned how to put my faith into action!”
Cat went on to St. John’s University for undergrad, where she earned her degree in childhood education. In the summer of 2018 Cat made her way back to the center once again, this time for LeaderworX. “As a rising senior who was unsure of what would come next, it only made sense that I go back to the place that helped me form my faith at such a young age. However, what I didn’t know is how much more I would grow in my understanding of my faith, and what it meant to me.”
After graduating from St. John’s in 2019, Cat came back to the center, this time for the FaithJustice Fellowship! She is currently working with CFJ as a NeXt Level (we can hyperlink the NeXt Level page here!) Coordinator. She has been enjoying working with youth in this capacity and continuing to discern where God is calling her to be!
She will be attending Rutgers University in the fall of 2020 to pursue a Master of Social Work Degree.
Michael Jordan Laskey
One of the original members of the FaithJustice community and developers of the WorX program model and curriculum, Mike Laskey served from 2010 -2012 as youth minister at the Church of Saint Ann (Lawrenceville, NJ) and program coordinator at the Center for FaithJustice.
Of CFJ’s influence, Mike reflects: “It’s safe to say I owe my vocation, career, and even my marriage to the Center for FaithJustice! It was through CFJ’s programming that I heard a call to work in social justice ministry, going back to my first summer of LeaderworX in 2006. CFJ is committed to providing holistic, Catholic programming that shapes young disciples to practice a faith that does justice – and that commitment changes lives. I’m just one example of so many.”
Today, he is the director of Life & Justice Ministries and vice chancellor for the city of Camden for the Diocese of Camden. A writer, his book The Ministry of Peace and Justice was published in 2015 by Liturgical Press and he is a Young Voices columnist for the National Catholic Reporter and the Millenial Journal.
As a born and raised Mexican, César still doesn’t know how heended up in America doing LeaderworX in 2015 AND 2016! Well we know now that it was God’s plan. “It made me understand faith and justice from a different perspective. During LeaderworX I learned how to connect with people from different backgrounds in a different language. It was absolutely challenging.”
In his professional career, LeaderworX helped him to better connect with laborers in Mexico. Living in community also taught him hat we’re all brothers and sisters and differences aside, we all work as a team to complete big construction projects. César is now a civil engineer and Spanish tutor working in Guadalajara for Corporacion Vale Mexicana.
Widian Nicola is a relationship expert and Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 15 years of clinical social work experience. She has worked along the continuum of care – from inpatient treatment to outpatient counseling with adolescents and adults. In addition to directing Nicola Counseling Services, LLC, Dr. Nicola is an Assistant Professor of Graduate Social Work at Seton Hall University and is Host/Producer of the podcast show, Lived Experience Project.
For the past fifteen years, she has also been a retreat facilitator and conference presenter. Her published and media contributions have appeared on national platforms. She was also awarded the Larry DePaul Justice Education Award by the Romero Center in Camden, NJ in 2014 and Teacher of the Year Award at Seton Hall University in 2019. Dr. Nicola is a clinical supervisor for those working towards clinical licensure, and in her own practice, specializes in working with emerging adults and couples. “Nearly fourteen years ago, I joined the Center for FaithJustice community. What I didn’t know at the time was how influential CFJ would be in guiding my life’s work. Having served as a FaithJustice Fellow, CFJ employee, and now volunteer, I have become accosted to a lifestyle that includes an unwavering committment to community, particulary in faith and service. The mission of CFJ, along with all the incredible programming it offers, continues to inspire me, well into my adulthood. I could not be more grateful to call CFJ my family.”
Cait O’Donnell is a social worker and currently works as a program manager in service of African and Caribbean immigrants in West Philadelphia. Since her JusticeworX experience as a high schooler in 2005 and LeaderworX participation in 2010 and 2011, Cait has pursued studies and a career specializing in refugee and migrant services which has taken her all over the globe.
She served two years with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Tanzania and has worked with faith-based humanitarian organizations in Rwanda and, most recently, South Sudan. Cait reflects that her JusticeworX experience is where her life’s commitment to social justice and service began: “That week opened my eyes for the first time to society’s inequities and disparities. It was really important exposure to the world beyond what I knew as a young person from the Jersey suburbs. Obviously it had a profound impact on my life!” Cait graduated from Villanova University with degrees in Geography and Arabic in 2011. She earned her Master’s in Social Work from Boston College in 2016, concentrating in global practice social work.
Nicole M. Perone is the National Coordinator of ESTEEM, the faith-based leadership formation program for Catholic students at colleges and universities across the United States. ESTEEM is a partnership between Leadership Roundtable and Saint Thomas More Catholic Chapel and Center at Yale University.
Nicole previously served as the Archdiocesan Director of Adult Faith Formation for the Archdiocese of Hartford, where, amongst other responsibilities, she directed the first-ever Archdiocesan Women’s Conference and revived the Archdiocesan lay ministry formation program.
Nicole holds a Master of Divinity from Yale University. Her Bachelor of Arts in Theology with double minors in Italian and Catholic Studies was bestowed by Loyola University Maryland, where she graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa.
In 2018, Nicole was a delegate to the Pre-Synod at the Vatican in advance of the Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment, and served on the writing committee for the Pre-Synodal document. She speaks and writes nationally on the roles of young people and women in the Church. Her work has been published by Catholic News Service, America Media, The Jesuit Post, and US Catholic.
Nicole is the chair of the board of governors for the National Institute for Ministry with Young Adults, and a member of the board of directors of the All Africa Conference: Sister to Sister. She also sits on the National Advisory Council for the NeXt Level initiative of the Center for FaithJustice.
Nicole lives in Milford, Connecticut with her husband, John Grosso, a communications consultant and the Director of Digital Media for the Diocese of Bridgeport.
Dr. Annie Soler
As a high school junior, Annie participated in a WorX program in the Appalachian area of eastern Kentucky and went on to serve as part of the Center’s earliest LeaderworX cohorts. She currently works in the Campus Ministry Center at Stuart Country Day School in Princeton, where she is an alum, and is now a CFJ partner!
Of her service experiences with CFJ, Annie says: “During our week, we worked building houses for the poor. After working through the day on the housing site, we would walk to the little neighborhood store and chat with the owner. By the end of one night, our entire team was sitting on his porch, I discovered that I am not alone in the world. Even though I can do many things on my own, I am going to need some help along the way. The people that I was helping were helping me as well. Our program facilitators led me to understand that even though I can do many things on my own, I need others, as they need me.”
Annie currently serves as Campus Minister of CFJ partner Stuart Country Day School in Princeton, of which she is also an alumna. She received a Doctorate in International and Multicultural Education with a Human Rights Emphasis at the University of San Francisco. She holds a B.S. in Psychology and M.S. in Experimental Psychology from Saint Joseph’s University. In 2007- -2008, she served as a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, where she worked as the Outreach Coordinator, Volunteer Coordinator and Summer Program Coordinator at the Mustard Seed School in Sacramento, California.
An alumnus of JusticeworX (’12), LeaderworX (’18), and the FaithJustice Fellowship (’19), Luke credits the WorX programs for igniting his passion for ability advocacy. Luke currently lives in Philadelphia and works as Intellectual Disabilities Supports Coordinator and is enrolled in graduate school to become a BCBA and/or MSW.
During JusticeworX, he volunteered with Visitation Home for the week. “The WorX programs have had such a transformative impact on the trajectory of my life path. As a student, participating in JusticeworX opened my mind to new ways of thinking and problem solving. JusticeworX also ignited a lifelong passion in ability advocacy. This is a passion that I continued to be involved in and educate myself on throughout high school and college.”
After graduating from Villanova University Luke did LeaderworX and the FaithJustice Fellowship where he worked full time with Visitation Home.
“I knew I wanted to continue working for social justice and ability advocacy after undergraduate but I was unsure how. I found LeaderworX by some miracle and knew that this was how I would continue to learn, grow, and advocate. After this incredible summer, I decided to commit to CFJ’s year of service fellowship. This was another transformative experience that cemented my love of supporting persons with intellectual disabilities.”
Tiffany first came to CFJ in 2017 as a LeaderworX. After her summer, she decided to return during 2018-2019 for our FaithJustice Fellowship. She worked at Catholic Charities where she learned that she wanted to attend law school. She is currently attending Thurgood Mashall Law School.
“I am called to serve. As a child, I had dreams of helping people and making the world a better place— I was (and still am) a walking cliché. I came to Center for FaithJustice a few semesters from graduating with my Bachelor’s longing to do something more enriching with my life. Taking a leap of faith and leaving the comfort of Texas to follow God’s call to serve His people was probably the scariest and the most amazing thing I have ever had the pleasure to do with my life! LeaderworX and FaithJustice Fellowship allowed me to not only grow into and become more confident in my leadership abilities, but also deepened my love of God and His Church. In my time with Center for FaithJustice, I realized that serving God by promoting social justice is something that I wanted to dedicate my life’s work to. I am currently pursuing my Juris Doctor with hopes of obtaining the tools I need to catalyze the metamorphosis of society into one that unapologetically upholds the rights and dignity of the vulnerable and oppressed. Center for FaithJustice radically changed the trajectory of my life and I am incredibly grateful. “
Martin Verendia was a senior LeaderworX in the summer of 2019. He is currently finishing his last semester of school at Iona College in New Rochelle where he is studying Advertising. Throughout college, Martin was involved in fundraising and social justice intiatives as well as being an active member of campus ministry. He looks forward to continuing his passion in his job.
Martin reflects on his CFJ experiences: “Before LeaderworX, I thought I had a pretty good understand of social justice, advocacy and faith, but little did I know I only understood the tip of the iceberg. LeaderworX taught me the core values of service and why I am called to do God’s work. Not to say that I am getting old, but I also learned that the younger generations after me, know much more than I realized. They already have the spark in them, but the programs CFJ runs, really starts the fire to use their gifts for good. I can confidently say, that world will be in good, if not better, shape for years to come.”
Jeff Wallace participated in the Worx programs beginning in Summer 2004, when the program was called the, “New Jersey Service Project”. He continued participating through high school and then helped facilitate Justiceworx in college at Saint Joseph’s University through the Leaderworx program. He has spent time in Ecuador before finding his way back to Philadelphia. He currently serves as the Campus Ministry Director at Gwynedd Mercy University.
He received his Bachelors in Arts in Theology from St. Joseph’s in 2010, and then spent a year in Guayaquil, Ecuador, living and working in a neighborhood struggling with the effects of poverty through an organization called Fundación Rostro de Cristo. He returned from Ecuador and entered graduate school, where he received his Master’s in Divinity from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry in 2014. He then spent 3 years as a campus minister empowering students, faculty, and staff to participate in service immersion experiences at Merrimack College in North Andover, MA. Jeff and his wife, Chelsea, moved back to the Philadelphia area in 2017, where he took a job as a relationship manager with Catholic Relief Services. After a brief stint with CRS, he returned to higher education as director of campus ministry at Gwynedd Mercy University, located in Gwynedd Valley, PA.
Jeff’s career path and life have been deeply impacted by his experiences with the WorX programs. Learning about a “faith that does justice” as a high school student opened his mind and heart to believe in a God who invites all to create God’s reign on earth, especially for people whom society considers poor and marginalized. Moreover, experiencing God in this way through WorX inspired him to pursue his vocation as a minister in the Catholic tradition that works with youth and young adults to pursue social justice. Finally, Jeff’s experience in the WorX programs has left an indelible mark in his everyday life, where he continues to pursue a personal “faith that does justice” through his family life, personal prayer, and overall lifestyle.
One of our original JusticeworX participants, Ashley currently serves as the Grasstops Advocacy Manager for Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) She supports and encourages lobbying efforts. She was a participant and volunteer in ’05, ’06, – twice!, ’07, and ’08. Before FCNL, Ashley played a critical role in helping CFJ to bring the “Nuns on the Bus” to our home in Central New Jersey, which endures as a significant highlight in our organizational history.
Before FCNL, Ashley was a student at St. Joseph’s University (SJU,) a Jesuit school in Philadelphia where she worked with the Faith Justice Institute to coordinate service-learning opportunities for students and served as President of SJU Students for Workers’ Rights. During this time, she also interned at LIFT-Philadelphia and volunteered with the Philadelphia Committee to End Homelessness. Ashley graduated from SJU with a degree in Political Science and minors in Sociology and Faith Justice Studies.
Reflecting on her many WorX experiences (’05, ’06 – twice!, ’07, and ’08), both as participant and volunteer, Ashley reflects: “Participating in JusticeworX was a crucial point in my vocational formation to live out a faith that does justice. JusticeworX was where I learned to question my privilege, practice a lobby visit for the first time, learn the true meaning of solidarity, and understand the difference between charity and justice. Now in my professional life, I treasure the connections that I made many years ago and know that when I encounter another WorX alum (which is often!), we share a common understanding that ‘faith without works is dead;” it is because of this program that I see faith and justice as inextricably linked.”
Are you or do you know of a WorX alumnus to profile on our page? We would love to hear from you! Contact us today or reach out via social media.