On May 3, 2017, 121 finalists in the Annual Respect Life Creative Writing Contest gathered at the Cardinal Rigali Center to be recognized for their outstanding entries.
These finalists, representing over 70 different Catholic elementary schools, parish schools of religion, and home schools, were selected from over 1000 entries. Finalists received a certificate of commendation, T-shirt, and book and were recognized by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson. Open to 8th graders in the Archdiocese, the contest asked students to respond to the prompt: Explain why living the virtue of chastity protects us from abortion and blesses us with true holiness, health, and happiness.
From these finalists, four students were recognized as honorable mention winners and six students were selected as scholarship winners. Honorable mention winners received a $500 award; the scholarship winners received a $2000 scholarship to be applied to their Catholic high school of choice. All honorable mention and scholarship winners also each received three tickets to the Annual Respect Life Convention in October, hosted by the Respect Life Apostolate.
Honorable mention winners this year are:
- Indira Kar from St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Grade School and Parish (Cor Jesu Academy)
- Sarah Keys from St. John Paul II Preparatory School and Mary, Queen of Peace Parish (St. John Paul II Preparatory School)
- Dallen Nelsen, a homeschooler from St. Gianna Parish (Homeschool)
- John Niebrugge, a homeschooler from St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Parish (Homeschool)
Scholarship winners this year are:
- Bishop Edward J. O'Donnell Scholarship: Nicole Bergen from Holy Spirit Grade School and Parish (St. Joseph Academy)
- Mary Forrestal Hennessey Scholarship: Natalie McDonough from Holy Spirit Academy Homeschool and St. Joseph-Cottleville Parish (St. John Paul II Prepatory School)
- Mr. & Mrs. George Kletzker Scholarships:
- Gabriel Serri from Immaculate Conception-Dardenne Grade School and Parish (St. Dominic High School)
- Sarah Hughes from St. Joseph-Cottleville Grade School and Parish (St. Joseph Academy)
- Knights of Columbus Missouri State Council Scholarship: Noah Apprill-Sokol from St. Gabriel the Archangel Grade School and Parish (St. Louis University High School)
- St. Joseph Evangelization Network Scholarship: James Brunts from the Academy of the Sacred Heart and St. Charles Borromeo Parish (St. Louis University High School)
To read the winning essays, click on each student's name.
Congratulations to all of our finalists, honorable mention winners,
and scholarship winners!!
Nicole Bergen from Holy Spirit Grade School and Parish (St. Joseph Academy) - Bishop Edward J. O'Donnell Scholarship Winner
Seeing Through the Eyes of God
God created us all in His divine image, and in turn calls us to treat others with respect and dignity. Sadly, in our world today, we let our differences divide us. Perhaps the most overlooked form of disrespect to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ is abortion. So many innocent people have been robbed of the chance to live their lives because we indulge in the luxury of choice. But if choice is so important, than why don’t we extend this same freedom to the unborn? A baby is formed at conception, a person who deserves to live just as much as anyone else. Age is just another way to divide us, but it does not affect our worth or who we are. God loves everyone unconditionally, so we need to stop making exceptions. All people have a right to live.
Chastity is one way to fight the injustice of abortion because it shows respect for others. Our misleading society puts value on things that will give us pleasure but not true happiness. True happiness can only come from a lasting relationship with God. Chastity also shows devotion to your future spouse by waiting until marriage to have sex. Marriage is a sacrament in which a couple is joined together in unbreakable unity, so sex is a way to express selfless love to a spouse. Our sexuality is a gift from God that we should use to glorify Him.
Our culture underestimates our ability to live according to God’s will, acting as if chastity is an impossibility, but this isn’t true. Every person has the strength to stand up to the temptation of sin through Jesus Christ. We are all equal and united as one Body of Christ, and every person should be treated as a valued child of our Father. When we place our trust in God and allow ourselves to be open to His plan of chastity, we will see the beauty in all of creation. In order to respect life, we need to see through the eyes of God.
Natalie McDonough from Holy Spirit Academy Homeschool and St. Joseph-Cottleville Parish (St. John Paul II Preparatory School) - Mary Forrestal Hennessey Scholarship Winner
During the thirteen years of my life, I have spent roughly 400 hours protesting abortion and praying for pregnant women and their babies in our nation’s capital, Washington D.C., in Jefferson City, our state capital, or in St. Louis at Planned Parenthood. Though I don’t mind praying for these intentions (I know my prayers will always be heard), I wish that I no longer needed to pray for an end to abortion. Imagine if abortion was not legal; I could have spent those 400 hours in other ways, such as learning to canoe, reading the complete works of Shakespeare, or concocting a food to end world hunger! If everyone practiced chastity, there would be no more unplanned pregnancies or “need” for abortion.
Chastity is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is self-control in areas concerning the ways we think, speak, and act regarding our gift of sexuality. This valuable virtue is spiritual armor that helps protect us from sin, diseases, and depression. When we practice chastity, we not only show respect for God and others, but also respect for ourselves. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. It is our job to recognize God within these temples. Living an unchaste life can “vandalize” our temples and can often result in an unplanned pregnancy, which sometimes leads women to choose abortion. Abortion always leads to a higher risk of breast cancer, possible infertility, regret, and unhappiness. Our sexuality within marriage is a blessed thing that, if God wishes, can blossom into a child. God gives us children as a gift, not a “problem.”
Although I will never regain the hours I have spent protesting abortion and praying for women and their babies, I do hope that I won’t have to add to them. It is my prayer that everyone, young, old, male, and female, will practice the virtue of chastity in their everyday lives so abortion will no longer be a choice. Chastity helps everyone to live a healthy, holy, and happy life.
Gabriel Serri from Immaculate Conception-Dardenne Grade School and Parish (St. Dominic High School) - Mr. & Mrs. George Kletzker Scholarship Winner
Chastity provides a means to bring about the creation of a child born in the image and likeness of God. It is an expression of mutual love and giving of one’s self between a man and a woman in the sacrament of marriage. Abortion, however, is the complete opposite. It takes away the life of the baby inside a mother’s womb. Chastity and abortion are not compatible. Whereas chastity is a selfless act, abortion is simply a selfish act. Every January the March for Life is held where people can go to Washington, D.C. and protest against the right to kill an unborn baby in a mother’s womb. After many years, these protests are beginning to make a difference.
However, even banning abortion in all states will not do the job to end abortions. It is up to the women AND men of our generation to use their bodies for the right reasons and remain chaste. By practicing the virtue of chastity, we can end the horrid idea of any type of abortion. From dressing modestly to waiting until marriage to have sex, loving others in chaste ways can protect our babies from death and save their lives.
Chastity isn’t something that is just suggested by God for us to live out. He wants us to live in the footsteps of His Son, Jesus, so we can make it to heaven and have eternal life with Him in His divine kingdom. We are required as a people to live out the virtues, commandments, and works of mercy given to us. But if we want to end the painful effects of abortion all together, it is our duty to educate our generation about the joy and beauty that comes from living a chaste life. By changing the hearts and minds of those who are lost, we will be able to have a future celebrating the culture of life, rather than the culture of death.
Sarah Hughes from St. Joseph-Cottleville Grade School and Parish (St. Joseph Academy) - Mr. & Mrs. George Kletzker Scholarship Winner
A Poem for the Hurting Heart of a Mother
I close my eyes and ponder what could have been
Perplexity in my partner’s eyes
Ready to start a virtuous family
Just as the will of God implies.
I cuddle my beautiful baby girl
As her blue eyes gaze into mine
I thank the Lord for this precious gift
A mystery and a blessing combined.
I envision the road ahead
Full of obstacles and success
Witnessing my baby grow up
Will be divine and nothing less.
With my new mission came a new name
Like Peter once took
I vow my love in the sacrament of marriage
As I write my unwritten book.
I open my eyes and examine the room
No family to be found
Ten years ago, I aborted my child
And stomped my heart to the ground.
At seventeen, we all made mistakes
An erratum in the book of life
I could have chosen to be chaste
And as consequence I’m not even a wife.
I take a look at my life today
Depressed, abandoned, and a fool
In high school I was sinful and immodest
Just to be considered “cool.”
Abortion, an atrocity, a cruel offense
Has no place on our beloved earth
For God has a plan for each of us
Commenced far before birth.
Killing an innocent child
Isn’t just wrong and unjust
It’s a crime against humanity
And to Satan it’s a must.
It is necessary to combat this uncivil act
For abortion is hitting its peak
To earn justice and the right to life
For the heartbeat heard at just six weeks.
Life is brimming with open doors
In which some we evade
It’s our decision to open the closed
And to take on what God’s displayed.
Virtue and sin are two distinct paths
In which Satan’s is more tempting to embrace
Popularity is misconceived happiness
Nothing compared to God’s grace.
Love yourself, love God, and His plan for you
You will be rewarded for doing right
Hold your head high and away from Satan
And you will conquer this fight.
Noah Apprill-Sokol from St. Gabriel the Archangel Grade School and Parish (St. Louis University High School) - Knights of Columbus Missouri State Council Scholarship Winner
We are made in God’s image; our bodies are sacred gifts. Human bodies are beautiful, amazing, and holy creations. This includes human sexuality and the union of man and woman in a loving relationship. We must honor God’s creation by honoring and caring for our bodies. This is a privilege that God has granted us through our free will. By choosing to adopt a chaste life, we grow in holiness by taking responsibility for our bodies and God’s creation.
Chastity does not necessarily mean we must shun all sexual desires. These desires are meant to be expressed in the life-long promise of marriage and the openness of having a family. A chaste life helps us to realize that sexual fulfillment is only a part of a committed married relationship that draws us closer to God. Leading a chaste life effectively prevents pregnancy before marriage, and therefore removes the possibility of abortion. More importantly, it means viewing sex as a sacred physical sign of a commitment between spouses and a gift from God. As a gift from God, the fruits of this gift are cause for joy – never an unwanted, unloved, or uncherished burden. Finally, honoring our God-made bodies helps us stay physically healthy by avoiding diseases that are transferred in promiscuous sexual relationships. Having sex with multiple partners is an easy way for sexually transmitted diseases to spread; over 30 million U.S. men and women currently suffer from one. Living a chaste life significantly reduces the likelihood of contracting these diseases.
Our society focuses too much on the sensual pleasure of sex, which is, at best, a fleeting happiness. It neglects the lasting fulfillment of God’s love and the honoring of God’s creation. Chastity is really a way of saying that sexuality is just one part of who we are as God’s creation. The lasting joy we seek is through a union with God; we are only fulfilled through His love.
James Brunts from Academy of the Sacred Heart and St. Charles Borromeo Parish (St. Louis University High School) - St. Joseph Evangelization Network Scholarship
Our world is constantly adapting. Every day new discoveries are made, new theories proved, and new trends formed. As a global community, we’re losing sight on what it means to live the way God intended. If we truly want to find happiness in our lives and live as God calls us, we must live a life of chastity. Chastity is not only the virtue of abstaining from sex before marriage, but also the virtue of loving others as we love ourselves and as we love God.
Living with chastity allows us to connect on a more personal level with God and helps us in our journey to fulfill his plan for us. Additionally, if we live chastity, we ourselves will experience a more fruitful and beneficial marriage, should we be called to matrimony by God. As stated before, I believe our society’s grip on what is holy is fading, and it appears no one wants to live a chaste life anymore. Very quickly, our society is becoming more obsessed with sex, specifically, sex outside of marriage. Instead of two people bonding and eventually deciding to spend their lives with each other forever, many are “hooking up” for a few days, maybe even one night, and having sex outside of marriage. Unfortunately, many couples who seek sexual pleasure outside of marriage end up aborting their children, which we know to be a complete violation of God’s plan.
To me, living chastely is like giving a gift. It’s a gift we give our children, our spouse, and all of the people around us. When you are given a gift, you feel loved because you know someone was thinking about what you specifically would want to receive being the unique person you are. By giving the gift of chastity, we know how those surrounding us want to be loved and respected as individuals. I know that I will be living chastely throughout my life so that I remain holy and so my children, born or unborn, will have my gift of respect and the gift of life that God has granted us all.