While many throughout the state of Florida joined Catholic Days at the Capital, Feb. 2-3 virtually, students from John Carroll High School in Fort Pierce were preparing to meet with Representative Dana Trabulsy in person.
Trabulsy, a Catholic Republican representative of District 84 and Fort Pierce resident, was due to visit the school Feb. 22 for a special in-class meeting with the senior students of Jennie Capezza’s Leadership in Ministry class. In addition to participating in the virtual event earlier that month, Capezza reached out to various representatives of the state of Florida in efforts to connect with state legislators more personally about the issues lobbied at the recent Catholic Days at the Capital.
“I didn’t expect any representative to visit us personally,” said Capezza, director of Campus Ministry at the high school. “This was our first time having students participate in Catholic Days at the Capital and I expected to host a few virtual sessions between legislators and my students through Zoom. Representative Trabulsy immediately responded and we began to plan her visit for the end of February.”
Typically, Catholic Days at the Capital hosts hundreds of Catholics from throughout the state of Florida in Tallahassee but, due to COVID-19, the event was reimagined for a virtual platform and many faithful logged on to view the events online. A large part of the days usually include meeting with state legislators to discuss big ticket issues through the Catholic lens such as the strengthening of abortion limits, the repeal of the death penalty and school choice options for families.
“The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship is near and dear to John Carrol families because many students are afforded the opportunity for a Catholic education that otherwise might not receive it,” said Capezza. “Families should have the choice to send their children to a Catholic school no matter how much money they make,” she stated.
Regarding the issue of abortion, Capezza explained that Trabulsy kept an open dialogue that focused on real-life scenarios, which the students presented to the visiting representative. Capezza noted that she was surprised by how the students asked for practical advice or direction when faced with an opportunity to defend Catholic values in a personal setting and how that relates to state legislation.
According to Capezza, one student in particular—Diego Rojas—was quick to articulate his thirst for wisdom in defending innocent life.
“It was incredible to witness how articulate and passionate Diego was about taking these larger legislative topics and paring them down to in-the-moment scenarios. He was really getting down to the point of how to show compassion while still holding the state legislation to higher standards.”
And this, Capezza said, is what her Leadership in Ministry class is all about.
“This class strives to give senior students the tools they need to be strengthened in and defend the faith as they go away to college, which is a challenging time in a young person’s life. They’ve done a lot of questioning of the faith so that they can be stronger in it. I’ve seen these students transform into the moral advocates the world needs.”
Students noted that Trabulsy’s stance outside respect-life issues also caught their attention.
Rojas said, “One of Representative Trabulsy’s bills includes special funding that grants underprivileged students with books for reading and learning. It is a great piece of legislation because so many students don’t have access to books at a young age, and this bill combats that important issue. She was very passionate about this crisis within our community and state, and she is working diligently to combat it.”
In addition to the insight Trabulsy shared on lesser-known bills, she also gave the students a glimpse to the role prayer plays in a Catholic legislator’s mission.
“We learned that Representative Trabulsy meets with a group of other Catholic legislators to pray before each session. These are the things that aren’t reported but, make a difference to know. That little detail gave us hope for the future; she’s welcoming God to be a part of her mission, our mission, as Catholics,” said Capezza.
Rojas added, “The key to making a difference is taking that step outside of our comfort zone and taking action. Whether that is meeting with elected officials, like we did, or one day taking the bold step of running for office like Rep. Trabulsy did. These steps may not combat the issues at hand immediately, but as Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.’”
To learn more about John Carroll High School, visit johncarrollhigh.com or call 772-464-5200. Follow the school on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @johncarrollhigh. Stay connected with the Office of Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Palm Beach online at diocesepbschools.org. For updates on the 18 diocesan Catholic schools, follow the office on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @DoPBCatholicSchools.