Christina Kruszewski talks with students during one of her school visits. Photo courtesy Christina Kruszewski

D&P's THINKfast program inspires life-changing path

  • July 29, 2017

In Grade 8, Christina Kruszewski’s social studies teacher challenged the class with a question: “How are you going to change the world?”

It was a call to action for the students, to look beyond their daily lives and become thoughtful citizens of the world. That question sparked something in Kruszewski almost 10 years ago, and inspired her to make the answer her life pursuit.

As the Church looks to the future, Kruszewski’s story offers one examle of how future generations can help change the world.

For her, it started with a youth program from Development and Peace called THINKfast, which combines fundraising, education and a 25-hour fast to raise awareness of social justice issues.

“We started (the THINKfast program) at school and I became involved as a student leader,” said Kruszewski. “I have led other THINKfasts since I’ve graduated and now have fallen into this capacity to help facilitate THINKfast for those people who are looking for them.”

Kruszewski, 23, ran school programs for Development and Peace for almost nine years before entering her new role as the Catholic schools program officer for the organization’s Western region six months ago.

For her, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, or D&P, is an organization that answers her passion for social justice inspired by Gospel values. It is a membership-led development arm of the Catholic Church in Canada, supporting the world’s poor and disadvantaged through community initiatives and advocacy in 70 countries.

“I’m a huge advocate for any sort of Catholic social justice education, but especially the work that Development and Peace does because of the journey I’ve been on,” said Kruszewski.

After graduating from École J. H. Pickard in Edmonton in 2012, Kruszewski was looking for a sense of purpose. She was working part-time at a dental office to save up for her university studies.

“I was actually feeling quite disillusioned with the Catholic Church and my faith and I wasn’t quite sure where I was going but over the course of that year, I noticed that there was something missing,” she said.

On a whim, Kruszewski decided to contact the Western regional D&P animator Sara Farid, who had visited her school many times to facilitate educational activities about global poverty and injustice.

“I asked her, ‘Give me something to do. I want to engage in this organization because I believe in it,’ ” said Kruszewski.

She began to write D&P’s weekly newsletters and volunteered as a youth representative, eventually discovering a deeper understanding of her faith.

“As a young person, I guess I started getting a little bored at church,” she said. “But then getting involved with Development and Peace, I saw this whole other way that we are called to be disciples ... and suddenly the Church was not this passive faith that I only thought about on Sundays, but it was this way to live my life and work to make the world a better place.”

As Kruszewski began to take on more responsibilities at the organization, she decided to go back to school to study communications in university. In 2014, she left school to take on contract work as an office administrator at D&P’s Edmonton office.

One year later, Farid had been asked to take on a national project and contacted Kruszewski to see if she would be interested in applying for her position as West coast regional animator.

Kruszewski went back to school in September 2015, but she took time off once again to take on her current role.

“Development and Peace keeps coming in and nipping me out of school and giving me these very cool opportunities to engage with things that I’m very passionate about,” she said.

Kruszewski is about a year and a half away from her political science degree, but until then, she is enjoying her work inspiring young Catholics to tackle social justice issues while training educators.

“You have these young people that are kind of deciding the courses of their lives and if we don’t have the teaching there … I think we’re doing our youth a disservice,” said Kruszewski.

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