The Catholic University of America

April 10, 2008

Essay Contest Winner Will Meet Pope Benedict XVI

Father O'Connell with Peter Osgood, winner of the papal essay contest.
Peter Osgood, a senior majoring in biology, was named this morning as the winner of an essay-writing contest on the theme of "How Catholic Education Has Changed My Life." His essay earns him the honor of being personally introduced to Pope Benedict XVI when the pontiff visits The Catholic University of America on Thursday, April 17.

More than 125 CUA students entered the contest. Osgood was named the winner by the university's president, Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., at a gathering of the 18 contest finalists and the six faculty and staff members who served as contest judges.

In his essay, Osgood wrote about having attended a small Catholic elementary school in his hometown of Penn Yan, N.Y., a school he says his father often called "the best kept secret of our region":

"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."

Christopher Seibt, Father O'Connell and Peter Osgood
Though Osgood went to public schools for junior high and high school, he longed for faith to again be a central part of his learning as a college student, and enrolled as an undergraduate at Catholic University.

"What I found," he wrote, "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."

An excellent Catholic education, he says, "cannot remain a 'best kept secret,' but will inevitably be shown in the words and deeds of each of its students."

Father O'Connell will personally introduce Osgood to Pope Benedict XVI when the pontiff visits campus to give an address on Catholic education to more than 400 university presidents and diocesan education leaders from around the country.

"On April 17, when Pope Benedict XVI arrives on campus, it will be a special joy for me to tell him about this essay contest," said Father O'Connell. "And even more special to introduce him to our first-prize winner."

Joanna Berry, Seibt, Craig Mariconti, Father O'Connell, Osgood and Marcel Antonio Brown
The essay contest runner-up is Christopher Seibt of Syracuse, N.Y., who earned a CUA bachelor's degree in philosophy in 2007, is working toward a master's degree in philosophy and is studying to become a priest in the university's seminary, Theological College.

In his essay, he writes about how a Catholic elementary school education led to his (and his mother's and sister's) conversion to Catholicism, how the priests and nuns who taught at his secondary school became his role models, how his education helped him develop a passion for service and reasoning, and how, as a junior at Catholic University, he joyfully entered CUA's seminary in order to study to become a priest.

Both the contest winner and runner-up will attend Pope Benedict XVI's CUA address on Catholic education. Both students will also attend the private post-address reception for those invited to the pope's address.

The following three students won honorable mention for their essays, and will receive tickets to sit in a special VIP suite at the Mass that the pope will celebrate the morning of April 17 at Washington, D.C.'s Nationals Park:
  • Joanna Berry, a senior theology major from Joliet, Ill.
  • Marcel Antonio Brown, a doctoral student in English, from Arlington, Va., who earned an M.A. in English from Catholic University in 2006
  • Craig Mariconti, a junior psychology major from Warwick, N.Y

Coincidentally, the date of the announcement of the contest winner - April 10 - was the 121st anniversary of the founding of Catholic University.

MEDIA: For more information, contact Katie Lee or Mary McCarthy in CUA's Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600.