Global Hearts: Connections Created Through Service

By Caroline Lacitignola (C’26)

Caroline Lacitignola (C’26) (pictured third from the left) with delegates from the conference including fellow Hoya Molly Pflaum (SFS’26) (first on the left).

The Audacity of Peace Conference in Berlin was an unforgettable and transformational experience that left an indelible mark on my heart and mind.

My journey began through Alpha Phi Omega, the on-campus service organization, and led me to volunteer with the Sant’Egidio community in D.C. for a year, connecting with and serving the unhoused in Dupont Circle every Friday. Forming bonds with fellow volunteers and those we served, I eagerly anticipated each opportunity to return. When I received an email from Campus Ministry inviting me to the annual International Sant’Egidio community conference, I was overjoyed. The prospect of meeting countless service-driven individuals excited me, and the chance to visit Germany was nothing short of thrilling. Further, the opportunity to be a part of the first delegation of American college students to attend this conference was an honor.

The opening ceremony that night was truly surreal. In one grand music hall, representatives from every faith tradition gathered, while influential world leaders shared their profound insights on the conference’s theme: “The Audacity of Peace.” Being in the presence of the German President and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, listening to their reflections on the paramount importance of peace in our world, was simply awe-inspiring.

The next day was filled with forums, and the task of choosing one was tough. I opted for “Children’s Rights: the Responsibility of Adults.” As a pre-med Anthropology student at Georgetown with aspirations of becoming a pediatrician, I’m deeply passionate about children’s healthcare rights. This panel reaffirmed everything that I want to do in my life. The forum was moderated by the President of the Community of Sant’Egidio in Mozambique, who introduced Noorjeahn Magid, the clinical head of the DREAM project in Mozambique. DREAM is a Sant’Egidio health initiative fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa. Magid’s heartfelt account of her work with women and children, and her commitment to providing healthcare with cultural sensitivity, moved me to tears in that conference room. I knew then that I wanted to be part of this mission. The conference’s unique structure allowed us to casually converse with panel members and speakers because Sant’Egidio is an organization about fraternity and shared dialogue. 

After one of the forums, I introduced myself to a woman who had asked an extremely insightful question to the German Chancellor (Olaf Scholz) about the role of Germany in providing aid to African countries during the Ukrainian-Russian War. We had an incredible conversation and as it turned out, she was the former Minister of Foreign Affairs in Tanzania and her companion was the moderator of the Children’s rights panel from the day before.

I couldn’t help but express my admiration for the panel and desire to participate in the DREAM Project. After a long, fascinating conversation, we exchanged phone numbers and I was encouraged to keep in touch and eventually come to Mozambique to volunteer. The week continued with countless meaningful introductions with worldwide Sant’Egidio members, including leaders of the organization in the United States. Being from New York City myself, I was invited to serve with Sant’Egidio in the city during my time off from school, as well as invited to come to Rome and be introduced to the larger community there. I am genuinely excited about the prospect of expanding my volunteer work with Sant’Egidio. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to Georgetown and Campus Ministry for granting me this extraordinary opportunity that promises to leave a lasting impact on me in the years ahead.

*Student reflections are edited for space and clarity.