A Diocesan-wide Model UN Conference was hosted by Ave Maria University on Feb. 11, 2023, in Ave Maria.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass is support of the conference and later observed some of the sessions. During these sessions, the students are placed into committees where, representing a member nation, they discuss, debate and seek to find a resolution to a variety of issues, all of which are currently being discussed at the United Nations in New York.
Present for the conference were students from Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, and Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria. In addition, there were seven Ave Maria University students who acted as committee chairs and six judges from the Naples Council on World Affairs.
The Model UN is an educational simulation where students can learn about diplomacy, international relations and the UN General Assembly and its other multilateral bodies. In Model UN, students step into the shoes of ambassadors from UN member states to debate current issues on the organization’s agenda. While playing their roles as ambassadors, student “delegates” make speeches, prepare draft resolutions, negotiate with allies and adversaries, resolve conflicts, and navigate the Model UN Conference rules of procedure – all in the interest of mobilizing international cooperation to resolve problems that affect countries all over the world.
The program is an extracurricular activity for high school students with conferences at the local, regional and national levels. Diocesan Catholic high school teams often participate and do well in these competitions.
Bishop Dewane was invited to celebrate the Mass and observe the work at Ave Maria University due to his past experience as a member of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations. The Bishop served for five years in the early 1990s, during which time he represented the Holy See at several international conferences.
“It was a tremendous experience in my life, a time during which I learned a great deal about the world on any number of issues, and most importantly about myself and how to follow the Lord’s example in all that was done,” Bishop Dewane explained. “This Model UN is a Good experience for you in both character building and faith building, as it makes you more the man or woman of God you are called to be.”
During his time at the UN, the Bishop said he was witness to the formation of International Criminal Court and was involved in a number of debates on the development of the world.
“I sat through some rough times, but you had to tell yourself why you were there, to do the Lord’s work,” Bishop Dewane said. “You had to convert that negotiating into a policy, but you do it with absolute honesty, never forgetting that you are the one who is the messenger of the Lord and living His message for others.”
Tyler Graham of the Donahue Academy helped organize the Ave Maria University event to encourage the framework of a future Catholic Model UN.
“The benefits of Model UN are numerous, as students learn how to debate and understand the nuances of international politics,” Graham said. “They participate in professional dress and the program also serves as an introduction to an adult form of formal conversation. They are ultimately judged on the totality of this effort.”
Graham explained that the Model UN experience is great for the students, but it can put them into a very difficult moral dilemma when issues, such as a life, are debated.
“The idea of this conference was to have the debates focused on issues that reflect Catholic Social Teaching, all of which are being discussed at the UN today,” Graham said. “This enables the members to learn and understand the position of the Church and then stand up for that position in an open debate.”
The Ave Maria University event helped the participants prepare for the next regional conference for high school students set to take place in March at Florida Gulf Coast University in Estero.