PROVIDENCE—Their story was one that could have been taken from the headlines of any newspaper across the country.
Noah just doesn’t seem to fit in at his school.
A shy high school student, he spends his days being picked on and bullied as he makes his way alone from class to class.
His thoughts turn to ending his life as a way of freeing himself from the pain he feels.
One day, however, Amanda takes notice of her quiet schoolmate, stopping to pick up books that he has dropped in his hurry to get away from a group of bullies.
The two become best friends, and when he graduates college several years later; Noah thanks Amanda for helping to save his life.
“Never underestimate the power of your actions,” Noah says, while sporting a graduation cap and gown. You have the power to change a life for the better or worse.”
Noah Morrison and Amanda Laiter played the roles of what has become a familiar story of the isolation a young person can feel if their peers do not accept them during a performance at the cathedral during the Catholic Middle School Youth Conference.
“You can reach out and be the body of Christ. You can help,” said Laiter of the message that she and Morrison, both members of Acts 29, Cranston’s Rejoice in Hope Center youth ministry.
The three-day conference drew hundreds of students from across the diocese.
The programming included a spirited talk by Father Gregory Stowe, assistant vocations director for the diocese on how when he was a student at St. Kevin School, he wanted a life where he would have a lot of money and drive a nice car.
But as time went on, Father Stowe found that a life in the church would be much more fulfilling for him on many levels.
“I never could have imagined the passion and the joy I would have,” Father Stowe said. “God will lead you to find what will bring you the greatest happiness and joy.”
Hannah Stanzione, a sixth-grader at Saint Margaret School, said she found Father Stowe’s talk very inspirational.
“You don’t have to stick with your original plan,” Stanzione said. “You can just go with other dreams.”
Anne Marie Cribbin was the keynote speaker. Cribbin, who has served in parish youth ministry for 11 years in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., told a hilarious tale of her family upbringing about how she felt as a youngster that she was secretly living the life of Saint Bernadette.
“Know that you are loved by God without limitations,” Cribbin told the students. “We are all called to be saints.”
Julia Moore and Rachel Lupovitz, both seventh graders at Our Lady of Mercy Regional School, East Greenwich, thoroughly enjoyed the presentation.
“We loved it,” said Moore. “She was so enthusiastic, it really held our attention.
Lupovitz said the presentation on bullying really made an impact on her.
“I really related to it,” she said.
The two best friends, who are Jewish and both new to Our Lady of Mercy this year, said they have always intervened whenever they’ve witnessed a friend or classmate in a difficult situation.
“That’s why it’s important for people to try to influence students to stop it when they see it.”
For Brendan Donilon, who hasn’t seen some of his former classmates for two years since St. Brendan School closed, the conference was an opportunity to catch up with old friends.
“I’ve seen a couple of my friends from different schools. I’ve missed them,” said Donilon, who now attends St. Margaret School in East Providence.
Louise Dussault, the diocesan director for Comprehensive Youth Ministry, said the goal of the event was to give students the opportunity to gather with their peers from other schools and to celebrate.
“We want them to be able to experience the bigger community beyond the walls of their school,” Dussault said.