Papal Essay Contest
A biology major from Penn Yan, N.Y., Class of 2008
For many years, St. Michael's School has been the only Catholic school in my small rural town and - for as long as I can recall - my father has called it the best kept secret of our region. Though my parents enrolled me at St. Michael's for the entirety of my elementary education, I never fully understood my father's sentiment until much later.
I remember vividly how each school day began in prayer. It was here that we brought to mind those in need, gave thanks for our many gifts and asked for help in all of our challenges. This truly set the tone for our learning throughout the rest of the day. Our classrooms were focused on building quality persons who could push themselves - and one another - to achieve great things. Yet we were also shown how to be caring and supportive friends, in the true spirit of the Gospel. While my parents were endlessly pleased with the rigorous and thorough education I was receiving, I know they were more proud of the individual I was becoming.
I did not have the privilege of a Catholic education throughout my middle and high school years, yet the true value of my time at St. Michael's was just beginning to make itself known. I remember my parents reading the newspapers constantly to see how each member of my St. Michael's class was performing. They watched eagerly as all of my friends continued to excel in academics, sports, music, service, and leadership roles. As I began to reflect on their observations, I, too, gradually came to realize what kind of foundation we had each been provided and this was a source of great pride. We had been given the tools to succeed in so many ways and, perhaps more importantly, we had been given a solid grounding in faith that made each of our struggles and victories more meaningful and truly worth our best efforts.
When it came time to apply to colleges, I felt a longing to return to the Catholic education system, knowing that I wanted my faith to again be a central part of my learning. Though I applied to many schools, Catholic University seemed like the ideal fit, through which I might explore the world in a diverse environment, take on the rigors of a university-level program and further delve into my faith life with friends, ministers and educators alike. What I found was an undeniable passion for learning and a faith community that embodied a true spirit of ministry - one that was willing to meet people at whatever stage they were at and walk with them on their individual journeys. My Catholic education thus gave me chance to better develop myself as a student, leader, worker and disciple. Such education cannot therefore remain a "best kept secret," but will inevitably be shown in the words and deeds of each of its students.