Editor’s Note: Franciscan Mission Service is very pleased to name St. John’s University senior Brandon Turner the winner of this year’s San Damiano Servant Leadership Award.

After looking at St. John’s University senior Brandon Turner’s resume, one might wonder, “When does he have time to sleep?” Brandon is a member of the Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society, the community service chair for the Kappa Sigma Fraternity, the president and secretary for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and the active scholarship recipient for the Catholic Scholar Leadership Program.

For the past three years, Brandon has helped lead a Freshman service plunge experience which seeks to introduce freshmen to service through visits to nursing homes, soup kitchens, and food pantries. In addition to service, Brandon is also a musician and has coordinated and played music for five different churches throughout his time at St. John’s.

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Brandon (second to last on the right)

Franciscan Mission Service is pleased to award Brandon with the second annual San Damiano Servant Leadership Award. This award seeks to encourage compassionate servant leaders dedicated to building the kingdom of heaven on earth today. In addition to recognizing an outstanding young person for his or her work, the scholarship and meetings in Washington, DC help to encourage the winner to continue in and deepen his or her commitment to service.

For Brandon, service has become an integral part of who he is. At a young age, he witnessed his grandmother continually spend her time in service to the church. This example stayed with him and laid a foundation for the importance of offering time and friendship in service to others.

One of the greatest rewards of service for Brandon is the relationships that he has cultivated through the various projects, organizations, and trips that he has been part of. “Service allows me to see deeper into someone’s humanity,” Brandon shared. “It shows me the larger picture and shows me how each person lives out his or her individual and unique story.”

This focus on relationship emphasize the importance of taking the time to really listen to others to ensure that they feel respected and heard. “Service begins with an ear,” Brandon said. “It involves listening and being present to others.”

The award selection committee was struck by Brandon’s humble and straightforward approach to service. Though he is so involved in the community, he retains a genuine and unassuming attitude towards each endeavor that he is a part of. 

In addition to his many positions of leadership on and off campus, Brandon has participated in service plunges in Panama, Philadelphia, and Lourdes, France.

He is an extremely active presence in the St. John’s campus community and always encourages others to engage in service as well. “Brandon is a student whose leadership qualities are synonymous with his character. Each of these values of St. Francis are present and evident in his actions by virtue of the young man he strives to be,” shared Melissa Gibilaro, a Resident Minister for Vincentian Service and Catholic Leadership at St. John’s.

Brandon will receive the San Damiano Servant Leadership Award at the Franciscan Mission Service annual World Care Benefit and Celebration on May 13 in Washington, DC. While in DC, Brandon will meet with social-justice organizations and individuals in the areas of youth ministry, refugee services, and legal aid. Brandon plans to give the $500 scholarship money to the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Syrian Refugee Services. “This [the refugee crisis] is the humanitarian crisis of our generation,” he stated.

“I am both honored and humbled to be given this award,” Brandon said. “It means that young people can make a noticeable difference. It’s important to build that attitude and foundation for service at a young age and I hope this will empower other young people.”

Those wishing to commend Brandon on his award can purchase a congratulatory message by April 26. Tickets to the event are also available at: franciscanmissionservice.org/worldcare2016.

Read about the other four outstanding finalists here.

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Brandon Turner