Alumni

CFJ has served more than 5,000 youth and young adults through our intensive retreat-style WorX immersion experiences to impoverished areas, representing more than 300,000 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!

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.

Lamont Holder, Jr.

Lamont “ElJayy” Holder has been a staple of WorX summers for the last three years.  Originally from Louisville, KY, he grew up understanding the importance of family, faith, and embracing who you are through creative outlets.  Inspired by his faith and passion for various social justice issues, he first joined LeaderworX in summer 2014.  As a returning participant, ElJayy  attributes his enduring call to this work to the students and community he has come to know at CFJ: “Doing LeaderworX three years in a row wasn’t something I planned, but each year I grew more in my understanding of social advocacy. I believe that each and everyone of us are called to God’s will, and if I’m able to help along the way I will. Through the WorX programs, I’ve connected with many people and made great relationships. It is truly an experience you have to witness.”  With a heart for mentoring students, ElJayy is beloved by youth participants and staff alike and can be frequently be found laughing with students, leading lively discussions, and capturing much of the WorX experience on film.  A freelance photographer and videographer, we are delighted to feature many of his photos on our page!

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.

 

Marisa Lightenberg

Marisa Lightenberg, a nursing student at the University of Rhode Island, has been involved with the Center for FaithJustice (CFJ) since 2013. For three years, Marisa attended JusticeworX West Virginia, with other students from Paramus Catholic, where she realized her deep desire to do mission work was truly a calling from God. Marisa discovered her vocation to better the lives of her brothers and sisters in Christ through health care and advocacy on JusticeworX. After witnessing and learning about the effects of mountaintop removal mining on people’s health and the environment, Marisa started researching it and educating people about social justice, a concept that CFJ introduced to her.  She returned in 2016 to complete a summer of LeaderworX:  “It was a summer I will hold in my heart forever. It was so uplifting to be around a bunch of people my age who shared in my need to better the world.” 

Marisa’s specific interest in healthcare has driven her to become a nurse and she plans to continue her education after college to become an Advanced Practice Nurse.  After completing graduate school, Marisa plans to open a clinic in a health professional shortage area, such as Appalachia, by partnering with a university in New Jersey to travel with a group of students every two weeks to deliver the healthcare and health education needed.In her spare time, you can find Marisa in the Appalachian mountains, in a city helping those God calls her to and maybe, just maybe, at the CASA: “CFJ will always be a home for me. That’s probably why I can’t stay away, God always calls you home. No amount of gratitude will ever be enough for CFJ and all they have done for me. My worX experiences were the most transformative weeks of my life.”

 

Nicole Perone

Nicole Perone is the Archdiocesan Director of Adult Faith Formation for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut.  She is responsible for adult sacraments and RCIA, lay minister formation, and ongoing faith formation opportunities for adults.  Nicole graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Loyola University Maryland, and received her Master of Divinity from Yale University. She is an alumna of JusticeworX Trenton 2006-2008, as well as a Trenton volunteer in 2010 and a West Virginia volunteer in 2012.  She says: “JusticeworX is truly the seed of my vocation.  It was a week at JusticeworX (Trenton 2006) that expanded my worldview irreparably and set into motion the events in my life which led me to Catholic school, a deeper involvement in faith-based activities, and long-term, discernment of a vocation that is a career in the Church.  Post-grad participation in JusticeworX gave me the opportunity to give back as I had been blessed, and continue my ministerial formation.  It is not an exaggeration to say that I would not be the faithful, passionate Catholic young adult that I am without the Center for FaithJustice.”

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.  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, discussing the problems of the world. During those few hours we spent on the 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.

Pierre Lucien

Pierre, a proud Haitian-American, participated in LeaderworX during the summer of 2011. He recalls being challenged to grow with his fellow LeaderworX, who often had diverse viewpoints, despite their shared faith.  “I particularly appreciated the relationships I developed with my LeaderworX peers. We would have some thought provoking conversations in the evenings on a myriad of topics such as morality, marriage, and animal rights, among others.”

His experience with LeaderworX helped to inform his current employment. Prior to a summer 2011 service trip to Appalachia, Pierre had never encountered underprivileged people who were not racial minorities. Likewise, up until that point, he had never seen poverty in any part of the United States that rivaled that of Haiti, where he is from. While his LeaderworX experience is not the primary reason why he pursued his current job as the shared Director of Institutional Research at Southern State and Rio Grande Community Colleges, he notes that it would not have appealed to him nearly as much, had he not recalled the poverty he observed in Appalachia with LeaderworX.

“I have always  wanted to lead a life that contributes to the betterment of the lives of the underserved and underprivileged populations. CFJ’s programs introduced me to the underserved and underprivileged people of Appalachia, where I work now.”

Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith had her first experience with the Center for FaithJustice’s programs in 2011 when she attended JusticeworX Philadelphia. In 2014, Maggie returned to the Center for FaithJustice (CFJ) as a member of LeaderworX where she learned about social justice and its intersection with her faith. As a LeaderworX member, Maggie met and worked with many wonderful people and students who she now sees doing amazing things with their lives since JusticeworX and LeaderworX. She credits her LeaderworX experience as the inspiration for the initial call she felt toward ministry work. The following summer, Maggie returned to CFJ, this time joining the staff as a WorX Administrator for the summer programs, during which time she had the opportunity to volunteer on JusticeworX Dunlow, West Virginia. 

Maggie’s many roles at CFJ opened her eyes and heart to the call to work for justice and peace in her local communities and beyond:  “Jesus calls us to see our neighbors, to connect with them, and to show them love through our actions. My experiences with LeaderworX and JusticeworX in Philly, Trenton, and West Virginia gave me the opportunity to learn about and practice these things. I learned how to listen, to reach out, and to recognize the dignity of all of our sisters and brothers, especially the poor and marginalized.” CFJ’s programs taught her not only how to work for change on a large scale, but also the small things she can do each day to show love, fight for justice, and spread the gospel message. Maggie would love to work with college or high school students, either by providing educational service and justice immersion experiences, teaching theology, or working in campus ministry.  “There is no doubt in my mind that my experiences with CFJ have contributed to my career hopes for the future.”

Maggie finished her Master’s degree in Theology with a certificate in Pastoral Ministry at Villanova University, where she also worked as a Campus Ministry Intern.  She currently serves as Manager of WorX Programs and Special Projects at the Center for FaithJustice.

Henry Orlowski-Scherer

Henry Orlowski-Scherer is a junior at the University of Notre Dame and attended JusticeworX in Trenton, New Jersey during the summers of 2011 and 2012. During his JusticeworX weeks, Henry worked at a nursing home visiting residents and at an adult day care where he helped teach and clean. Henry found his two summers with JusticeworX to be some of the most personally and spiritually fulfilling weeks he has ever experienced. The work he did through the program brought him a deep connection to the people he worked with and, not coincidentally, with God. The faith and commitment to social justice instilled during these summers strongly informed Henry’s decision to attend a Catholic University.

Henry currently plans on becoming a lawyer after graduating, and was greatly influenced by JusticeworX in his decision to pursue this path. He states, “After my time with JusticeworX, I began to look more closely at the need for social justice in my own communities. I realized that many people need legal representation, but that, through no fault of their own, they do not have access to it. Many people can be taken advantage of because of this. I hope to one day provide legal representation for low-income individuals.”

Alex Varga

As a high school student, Alex participated in a variety of CFJ programs and ultimately went on to join us for a summer of LeaderworX.  She has since gone on to serve as a Team Leader of a number of our Appalachia programs and currently holds a position on our Board of Trustees.

Years after those experiences, she looked back on the effect that those experiences had on her: “These programs made it so easy to connect — to my peers, to the people we were trying to help, and to my faith.   Throughout the programs and the months after what I remember most is this incredible feeling — a mix of happiness, hope, purpose, empowerment, among many other emotions.  I remember that during those experiences, I really felt like myself, and it was the closest I ever felt to being the person that I want to be, and that my faith teaches me to be.”

In 2009, Alex earned a Masters of Science from Columbia University and is currently employed at the Center for Environmental Sustainability.

Ashley Wilson

One of our original JusticeworX participants, Ashley currently serves as the Communications Coordinator for NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, which educates, organizes, and lobbies for social and economic transformation in Washington, D.C. There, she leads media efforts and messaging, manages the email program, and coordinates “take action” tools for the NETWORK community to easily advocate to their elected officials. She has traveled on and organized four of NETWORK’s five Nuns on the Bus trips. Before NETWORK, 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.”

In 2013, 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.

 

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