Now more than ever, articulate and passionate Catholics are needed in the education and evangelization of our youth. Simone Rizkallah came to the Christendom Graduate School because she saw that need, and is now teaching and evangelizing at St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Phoenix, Ariz. In recent interview, Rizkallah revealed how—armed with her Christendom education—she is bringing a message of hope to the youth in her school.
Q: How are you making a difference in the lives of your students?
A: I’ve been blessed this year to receive some wonderful feedback from my students, particularly when I teach very tough subject matters such as the relationship between faith and reason or science and gay marriage. One girl told me, “Before I came into this I was not a praying person at all, and now I pray every day. I want to thank you for helping me in this class.” One of my male students said, “I learned from you that school isn’t just for getting through to live life. School is about learning the material for our own good. I also learned that to learn something you need to hunger and desire it.”
One thing I learned early on in the year is that for many or even most of my students it is rare for them to see a happy Catholic. Their families are not necessarily devout and we certainly don’t live in a Catholic-friendly cultural climate, so I knew that I had to show them I wasn’t the only joyful Catholic out there. At Christendom, I had met many other joy-filled Catholics so I asked some of my former classmates, as well as some other friends, to create YouTube videos of themselves giving my students words of wisdom, vocational advice, etc. The videos were very effective in helping my students realize they are not alone, and that living the Faith is reasonable and possible today. I asked single and married friends, and a few friends from seminary as well, so that my students could see the true universality of the Church.
Q: How is your Christendom degree helping you?
A: I am so thankful for my Christendom degree. I highly recommend the program, which is an excellent preparation for the work of catechesis and evangelization. I met great people at Christendom whom I expect to be my friends for life and to help support me in my evangelizing ministry. Christendom professors were wonderful professors, but the human formation was the best part, since my teachers were not only teachers, but also witnesses. Paul VI was exactly right: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” We just recently added all of Warren Carroll’s History of Christendom series to our high school library, to help the seniors who take Church history as part of their graduation requirement. On that note, I have to thank Professor Steve Weidenkopf for preparing me to teach history so effectively through his “Epic: A Journey Through Church History.” Every day I use the things I learned at Christendom in my teaching and evangelizing.
The network at Christendom opened the doors for me to participate in a number of para-academic programs, most recently the Phoenix Institute last summer in Trumau, Austria. I was able to present a paper on St. Edith Stein’s thought on persons and communities. I definitely would not have been able to do this had I not received had such fine academic preparation from Christendom.
Simone Rizkallah, a 2010 MA graduate of Christendom, is the daughter of immigrants from the Armenian Diaspora of Cairo, Egypt. Her family initially left Armenia due to the Genocide of 1915 and then later left Cairo in the 1970’s to avoid the growing persecution of Christians there. She was the first one born in the U.S. and studied marketing communication and drama in college before discovering that her passion for the Faith and her desire to know it better and to share it was a calling to teach religion and to evangelize.