Cristo Rey Newark School Friars Present Francis Medal

Jocelyn Thomas Around the Province

Linda Davis is one of two Francis Medal recipients recently honored by Holy Name Province. She was nominated for the Francis Medal by Gregory Gebbia and Robert Sandoz. (Photo courtesy of Lisa Papciak)

BELLEVILLE, N.J. — Two people who have shown dedication to the ideals of St. Francis and the mission of Cristo Rey Newark School were given the HNP Francis Medal at the school’s annual gala this month. According to the school’s president, both display their Catholic faith in their activities and their accomplishments.

Gregory Gebbia, OFM, and Robert Sandoz, OFM, presented the medal to Linda Davis and Joan Whitley on Oct. 17 at the 2018 President’s Gala at a restaurant in Belleville, just several miles from the 11-year-old school. The two recipients are known for executing their roles as extensions of their baptismal commitments.

Davis has been a volunteer at Cristo Rey Newark for more than six years, serving in the development office as a resource on many projects. She also serves on the development committee of the school’s board of trustees.

“This service that is provided in our development efforts is a clear indication that Ms. Davis had a strong and abiding commitment to the mission of our school,” said Robert, the school’s president. “How well she knows that all of the work that she does contributes ultimately to the success formula to which all of us, not only in our school, but throughout the Cristo Rey Network, are so deeply committed.”

Whitley has been engaged with the students in her capacity at Sanofi Pharmaceuticals, one of the school’s corporate partners that contract with the Corporate Work Study Program to provide full-time, entry level jobs to students. Four students share one job, rotating their schedules to provide coverage Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., mid-August to mid-June.

She has served as the mentor to teams of students for more than four years. “This is an extra duty that Joan has performed without compensation to help our students cultivate the awareness of what it means to be a successful employee,” said Robert. She has also participated in our school’s Leadership Advisory Council, a group that provided “control points with our students to perfect their soft skills and to sharpen interviewing skills. She has also been a part of our Summer Business Training Institute.

“Joan is clear in her mentor role and knows well that Catholic values, well-integrated into one’s character, will provide lifelong guidance. She has provided leadership with exceptional grace and insight,” said Robert, who chairs the Province’s Ongoing Formation Committee.

Greg and Robert presented Joan Whitley with the Francis Medal earlier this month. (Photo courtesy of Lisa Papciak)

Robert said both medal recipients provide their service with disarming humility. “They bring no attention to her amazing accomplishments but simply serves with a holy detachment.”

“Linda and Joan are two of the most exemplary volunteers that I have had the privilege to work with during my years of ministry,” Robert said. “Their faith and witness are an inspiration to all of us at Cristo Rey Newark.”

Two others were honored at President’s Gala, which was attended by students, benefactors, faculty members, corporate partners and families and friends. They were Angelo Genova, chairman and managing partner at Genova Burns, LLC, who was recognized with the President’s Award, and Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, N.J., which was given the Cristo Rey Award. Emmy award-winning broadcaster Steve Adubato served as the guest emcee for the evening.

Cristo Rey Newark School, whose name was changed this year from Christ the King Prep, was founded in 2007. It is the only coeducational Catholic high school in Newark and is one of more than 30 schools comprising the nationwide Cristo Rey network of schools to provide quality education to urban children whose families struggle financially. Since opening, according to its website, Cristo Rey Newark High School has graduated more than 368 students and partners with more than 60 public, provide and nonprofit corporations to present the unique work study opportunities that are the hallmark of a Cristo Rey education.

“Our work here at Cristo Rey Newark can be challenging, but the mission is so easy to embrace,” said Lisa Papciak, the school’s director of marketing and communications. “How could one not be moved by these young women and men of promise? They have the same desires and aspirations as other students. We help to ensure that the zip codes in which they live do not get in the way of their ability to achieve.”

Information about activities being held by Cristo Rey High School can be found on the Cristo Rey Newark High School Facebook page.

The HNP Francis Medal was established 20 years ago by then-provincial John Felice, OFM. Recipients are people who have displayed an uncommon contribution to the advancement of the ideas and values of St. Francis. Recently, friars in Butler and Pompton Lakes, N.J., presented the medal to members of their communities.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.

Related Links