Local author talks to youngsters in Bordentown about bullying, faith
By Rose O’Connor | Correspondent
When local author and Hamilton resident Janine Verduci was verbally bullied in high school, she turned to her Catholic faith and her love of writing as a way to get through those tough times.
“I was inspired by God to put pen to paper,” she explained as she spoke Feb. 5 to the students in grades five through eight in the religious education program in St. Mary Parish, Bordentown.
Putting pen to paper led Verduci to the publication of two books for pre-teens and teens. One titled “Jillian Foster’s: Forgiven,” published by Lighthouse Publishing, tackles the issue of bullying through the eyes of a female character. Verduci’s self-published book, “Michael Conway’s: Acceptance,” is written from the perspective of a young male and discusses discrimination and self-worth.
Verduci visited the parish to talk about bullying, forgiveness and the Catholic faith during the youngsters’ Sunday morning classes. Following the discussions, she held a book signing for the students.
She was invited to speak at St. Mary Parish by the coordinator of religious education, Margaret Zola, who wanted to better prepare her students for situations in which they may feel bullied.
“Many children are seeing bullying, and they are not ready to respond to it. I wanted to give them what they need to know, to empower them and to get help,” Zola shared.
During the sessions, the youth were asked to list positive qualities about themselves and use handheld mirrors to see themselves in the positive light in which God sees them.
Students also had the opportunity to break into small groups and reflect on discussion questions with their catechists.
Verduci reminded the children that “someone’s opinion of me doesn’t have to become my reality.”
“That’s not your truth or who God created you to be,” she said.
She also encouraged those who have been bullied to practice forgiveness – even when it is not easy.
“Forgiveness is an ongoing thing, and we have to learn to forgive. When you forgive someone, even someone who bullies you, you are no longer a prisoner of what they believe you are.”
Verduci, a parishioner of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square, attended The College of New Jersey for her undergraduate and graduate degrees in elementary education, English and English as a Second Language. In addition to being a published author, she is also a motivational speaker and a wife and mother to two school-age sons.
Seventh-grade catechist Albert Paulsson said bullying is an important topic for the students to hear about. “It’s important that we can give them the tools to help one another and to support one another.”
The forgiveness factor was one that resonated with his daughter Michela, 13. “If someone has bullied you, one thing you can do to make yourself feel better is to forgive.”
Sixth-grade catechist Nancy Nitti said she saw a lot of interest in the youth during Verduci’s talk.
“This really hit home to some of the kids who have experienced bullying in school,” Nitti said. “The kids were engaged and want to be empowered and help empower their peers.”
It was her “easy to understand” and direct approach that appealed to fifth-grade student, Matthew Hutman. “I liked her talk. She understands kids because she is a teacher and a mom and was bullied, too.”
While the topic of bullying is certainly not new, Verduci’s ability to incorporate her faith into her message was one the children in St. Mary Parish appreciated, eighth-grade student Giovanny Avdzivian acknowledged.
“She had really good points that were different than what we have heard – how God’s love influences how we see ourselves and how we respond to what happens to us,” Avdzivian said.
Both of Janine Verduci’s books are available for purchase on Amazon.