The Catholic University of America

Second Place
Papal Essay Contest
Christopher R. Seibt
A philosophy graduate student from Syracuse, N.Y., who earned a CUA bachelor's degree in philosophy in 2007.

"Let the children come to me."1 This passage from St. Matthew's Gospel hangs above the statue of Christ, depicted with a gathering of children, in the lobby of St. Daniel School in Syracuse, N.Y., where my Catholic education began. This command of Jesus to his disciples captures the very heart of how Catholic education has changed my life: by providing me with a pathway to Jesus Christ and inspiring me to lead others to him.

My journey to Christ has been threefold, corresponding to the three levels of Catholic education that I have been blessed to receive. It began when my parents, who were not practicing any faith, decided to send me to St. Daniel School because of its reputation for excellence in academic, spiritual and human formation. As a student there, I learned for the first time that there is a loving God who cares about me in a personal way. Some years after I entered St. Daniel School, my mother, my sister and I converted to Catholicism, and I was baptized into the faith. In that same year, I also made my first confession and received first holy Communion. Thus, it was Catholic education that ultimately led to my conversion to Catholicism and formed the foundations of my faith.

The second pathway on my journey to Christ began at The Bishop's School, John Grimes Preparatory. At this secondary school, I not only received a good Catholic education but was also privileged to have the priests and sisters who taught at the school as my role models. Their holy example inspired me to strive for sanctity. Furthermore, the education at The Bishop's School was extremely service oriented, and thus challenged me to see Christ in others, especially in the poor. It was because of these elements of Catholic education that I seriously began to consider the call to priesthood, a call that I had first experienced as an altar server at St. Daniel School. Consequently, I entered the seminary to study for the diocesan priesthood as a junior at The Catholic University of America, which is where the third pathway on my journey to Christ began.

Both at Catholic University and the university's major seminary, Theological College, I have been provided with the atmosphere and ability to bring together and deepen the important elements - faith and service - that I had received from Catholic education. However, these places also provided a very important third element, reason, which deepened my understanding of the faith.

And so, the Catholic education that I received along these three pathways profoundly changed my life, first by bringing me to Christ, then by calling me to lead others to him. As I continue on the path to priesthood, the words of Jesus, "Let the children come to me," continue to remind me that I am on this journey by the grace of God and becasue of the life-changing effect that Catholic education has had on my life.

1Matthew 19:14