Jimmy Blankenship (’05), Joan Watson (’06), and Deacon Sabatino Carnazzo (’04) were the featured speakers at Christendom’s popular networking series, “Life on Tap,” held in St. Kilian’s Café on April 5. Over fifty students, faculty, and staff attended to listen to these three alumni share their knowledge of the spheres of faith formation and religious education in which they work.
A 2005 graduate, Jimmy Blankenship is currently the Director of Religious Education at St. Francis de Sales Parish in Purcellville, VA. After pursuing legal services in business for a time, he wanted to fix the problems he had seen, right the wrongs done, and help the broken souls he had previously served legally.
“To work in a world that’s broken is difficult. For kids to get the sacraments, the Church has to educate both children and parents, like a good Mother,” he said. He emphasized that though working for an all good and all holy Church, there is a human element involved that can be difficult. He is constantly evangelizing, from his students to the people he meets on the street.
Blankenship encouraged those interested in working in religious education to focus on three particulars: people skills, administrative skills, and theological knowledge.
“The first people skill,” he advised, “is to recognize that the broken are children of God and we must realize where they are at. Know that truth in the world is not black and white, but apply black and white to a grey world.”
As for administrative skills, Blankenship learned organization and budgeting through the business world. He challenges himself daily with the question: “Am I being a good steward with the funds provided to me?”
Lastly, he addressed the students: “Theological knowledge is something you are all receiving at Christendom. Even if you’re not a theology major, you have an excellent foundation in theology.”
The next speaker was Joan Watson, a 2006 graduate who, during her time at Christendom, was senior class president and won the student achievement award. She works for the Church both professionally, as the Director of Adult Formation for the Catholic Diocese of Nashville, and on the side as a speaker and a blogger for “The Integrated Catholic Life.”
It was during her semester abroad in Rome that Watson felt her call to work in the Church, and after achieving her Master’s in theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, she went to work for Dr. Scott Hahn at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia at Aquinas College.
“When I applied at St. Paul’s, the office manager realized I had a liberal arts education and offered me a higher position. Someone I respected in the Church thought highly of my alma mater and this got me into parts of the Church that I otherwise wouldn’t have,” she explained.
After getting permission to create the position of Director of Adult Formation in her diocese, she now spends her time creating opportunities for adults to learn about the Faith online and through their parishes. She believes it is the future for catechetical studies, so that parents will be better able to educate their children.
Her last points were shared to help students see the reality of their situation: “People are starving for what we’ve been given at Christendom. I couldn’t wait to share my education and I thought that I might change everything overnight, but I learned that ministry happens with one soul at a time.”
Deacon Sabatino Carnazzo, soon to be priest (May 1, 2016), graduated from Christendom in 2004. As a well-traveled apologist, he has appeared on EWTN several times and is the Founding Director of the Institute of Catholic Culture, where he shares what he has learned with others.
During time away from the Church as a teen, he knew he wanted something different for his life, so he decided to enter Christendom. “My mind was blown at what I was learning,” he confessed, “I remember trying to explain to my cousin the basics of philosophy. I didn’t know how to communicate the gift I received, but it was worth communicating. Now, I’m devoting my life to communicating that gift to others.”
He founded the Institute of Catholic Culture, which consists of a taste of Christendom’s curriculum and gives people the tools to learn the truth by studying theology, philosophy, and scripture. “We will continue to fail to educate the next generation if we don’t do more than teach children once a week in CCD classes,” he said.
Deacon Carnazzo ended with inspiring words for the students: “The gift that you receive at Christendom College has the ability to change the world. Take seriously that gift you’ve received. While the world is in darkness, don’t point the finger, because you’ve been chosen to rekindle the Church.”
The “Life on Tap” series is a bi-monthly event organized by the college’s career and leadership development office, featuring noted alumni and friends speaking on topics such as journalism, web development, and non-profit business. To find out more, or see videos from past “Life on Tap” events, please click here.