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Answering 'the call' to do mission-based work

March 5, 2024 - Beth Brauer

Alumna Spotlight: Julianne Calzonetti (IR '16)

Julianne Calzonetti earned her degree in international relations from James Madison College, with minors in Italian and western European politics in 2016. She was a student athlete all four years for the rowing team. During her time as a coxswain, she was team captain and received First Team All-Big Ten honors. Since graduating from Michigan State, she received a Master’s degree in media management, and is currently pursuing a Certificate in Theology from the University of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute. She continues her athletic training with the Vatican Athletic Team, where she was able to present Pope Francis with a Varsity S hat.

Julianne in boat

Hometown: Cherry Hill, New Jersey

Where do you live now?

Rome, Italy 

How did you choose JMC and MSU?

I was recruited to Michigan State for rowing and, in an instant, from Case Hall to meeting my future teammates, I was home.

Do you have a favorite memory as a JMC student?

Looking back at my memories as a JMC student, the greatest of these are in the ordinary contact of daily life, and in the habitual details of each day. Our time as JMC Spartans is a period in which we are given a responsibility, where we search for the meaning not only of our studies, but also for a concrete way to go about their fulfillment.

The intrinsic connection between academics, personal growth and professional development transmitted by our advisors and professors gave way to a transformative environment and fostered a coherent global vision. Simply being in such a community day in and day out was invaluable, and one which I would choose ad infinitum!

What is the name of the organization you started and tell us about it?

We Are A Mission is a global missionary network for the promotion of integral human development, that collaborates with Vatican initiatives across different apostolic fields. It works with missionaries in both developed and developing nations to assure that all can attain the fullness of life, beyond solely economic measures. We Are A Mission is grounded in church social teaching, and sees poverty and prosperity through the lens of the Human Development Index; an approach which JMC students are familiar with, that encompasses health, knowledge and standard of living!

Julianne with people

How long have you been collaborating with the Vatican? And did you ever imagine this would be where you’d land? What does a typical day of work look like?

Vocationally, I felt an impulse to serve the Church in Rome during my freshman year at Michigan State, and moved there three months after graduation to pursue a Master’s degree. During this time, I had what Mother Teresa explains as a “call within a call,” in which I understood that the impetus of my work was the radical, missionary approach and appeal of Pope Francis. A typical day varies, as it depends on what country I’m working with.

Julianne gives hat to Pope FreancisJulianne presented Pope Francis MSU's Varsity S hat on Jan. 13, 2024 at the Apostolic Palace during a private event attended by members of the Vatican Athletic Team.

Most surprising thing about collaborating with/for the Vatican?

The immense goodness. I would encourage everyone to look at the diverse Vatican websites, such as the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development; the Migrants and Refugees Section; or the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. There, one is able to see the extraordinary measures by which the Holy See assists and promotes authentic charity and solidarity, justice and peace.

If you could take Pope Francis on a tour of MSU’s campus, what’s on the shortlist of stops?

The Izzone!!!

Julianne and Coach Izzo

Any advice you have for current students interested in mission-based work?

In the words of St. John Paul II, “I plead with you, never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire and never become discouraged.” Time is greater than space, and results that are worthwhile will not happen overnight; a conviction that I have to convince myself of daily! The comfort that the world offers will be the greatest temptation, but we weren’t made for comfort, we were made for greatness.