October 16, 2013

Portrait of a Delegate: Stefan Giuliani

He’s a 22-year-old university student from Graz, Austria, the country’s second largest city and a 120-mile drive south and west of Vienna. And, he’s a delegate to the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s 2013 Annual Council, his third time at the world headquarters.

But Stefan Giuliani is not a worker for the Church, nor is he even a member of the Austrian Union’s executive committee. Instead, he’s a “lay delegate,” and, specifically, one of the younger delegates participating in the Church’s annual business sessions.YOUNG DELEGATE: Stefan Giuliani, a 22-year-old university student from Graz, Austria, listens to proceedings of the 2013 Annual Council at the Seventh-day Adventist Church's world headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, on October 15, 2013. [Mark A. Kellner/Adventist Review]

For Giuliani, however, the impact of these meetings is more personal: The sessions, he said, are “very interesting. After all, coming here always is really motivating. It gives you the feeling that Adventists all over the world are accomplishing a lot. At home, I tend to see difficulties rather than opportunities, problems rather than successes.”

And not without reason: Austria, like the rest of Western Europe, is struggling to find faith after decades of secularism. While the Roman Catholic Church is the “traditional” religion in Austria, Giuliani -- who said he’s unaware of any family relationship to the former New York City mayor of the same last name -- says his peers view religious activity as something alien to their daily lives.

“They don’t know what to do with religion,” he explained. “It’s meaningless to them; they have no point of reference” from which they can discuss it.

At an age when most young adults contemplate their future and the hope of rising through executive ranks in a commercial enterprise, Giuliani said that the corner office isn’t his goal. Though he hopes to complete his dual degrees in business administration and political economics and have a career as an accountant or company comptroller, he doesn’t dream of corporate success.

Professionally, “it would be great to be able to serve the [Adventist] Church, but there are few opportunities to do that,” he said. He is active in the 160-member Graz Seventh-day Adventist Church and leads its youth group, where 20 to 25 young adults attend weekly. He also helps the union’s youth department.

“I wouldn’t care for working in top management,” he added, since that would require “sixty to seventy hours a week, with no time left for family, let alone church. I want time to be active to serve people.”