St. Margaret Mary School eighth-grader Rebekah Klawitter and her schoolmate, fourth-grader Nell Rydzewski, won first-place awards in the Serra Club’s new vocation awareness essay contest.
The club, whose mission is to promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life, sponsored the contest to encourage young people to think about religious vocations. The winners will receive their awards at a Serra Club meeting Jan. 23.
The contest — which the club plans to conduct annually — asked students to answer one of three questions. Rebekah answered a question about what values a candidate for a religious vocation should possess.
“The most important value that a religious candidate should have is deep-rooted faith,” she wrote. “This profound faith enables individuals to be a role model for parishioners and to display the teachings of the Bible.”
In an interview at her school last week, Rebekah said the contest helped her to learn a little more about religious vocations, but added that she’s already fairly sure of her vocation, noting, “I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.”
Nell tackled another question: “How do priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters help us to hear God’s call in our lives?”
She wrote, “Our priest, Father Steve (Pohl), visits each classroom every week to talk to us and answer any questions we might have about God and Scripture. Another way priests and other religious people help us hear God’s message is by setting a good example in their life for children to follow and understand.”
Nell’s twin sister, Sophie, placed second in her division. Third place went to Benjamin Thompson of St. Aloysius School in Pewee Valley, Ky.
In the seventh- and eighth-grade division, Mary Wentzel of St. Margaret Mary placed second, and Patrick Nichols of St. James School in Elizabethtown, Ky., placed third.
The third question students answered asked them to describe how they’d support a friend who was interested in a religious vocation.
Bob Hublar, a physics teacher and a member of Serra’s board, said the Serra Club had a similar contest many years ago — before his time in the club. The club decided to revive it “to get our young people to start thinking about vocations and what religious life means to them. And hopefully, in the process, to get them to grow in their faith, too.”
“I was really pleased by the responses. For this being our first year, the response was very good for us,” he said noting that more than 100 students submitted essays.“They were well-thought-out and very well-written.”
“I look forward to tweaking it and improving it and having more schools (involved) next year.”
The panel of judges, which included a representative of The Record, noted that they were delighted by the quality of writing and knowledge demonstrated by the participants.
“All three of the winning essays for the younger grades referred to people with religious vocations leading by ‘example,’ ” said Chuck Lynch, a member of the Serra Club’s board and one of the judges of the contest. “It’s obvious that our youth are discussing this topic at school.”
Lynch said several of the essay writers mentioned their pastors, including Father Steve Pohl of St. Margaret Mary. “He made a big impression on the children.”
Father Steve Pohl spoke to students at St. Margaret Mary last week, during National Vocations Awareness Week, about how he came to be a priest. He also visits classrooms at the school weekly — as Nell described in her essay.
“I love my priesthood and I love being a pastor,” he said during an interview at the school. “I want to tell these young people it is a viable option.”
Father Pohl said the school makes a point to emphasize vocations and has adopted the travelling chalice program, in which a chalice is passed to a different classroom each week and the class that has it prays for religious vocations during that week.
His young students, Nell and Rebekah, will attend the Serra Club’s meeting next week at the University Club to receive their awards. The seventh- and eighth-grade winner will receive a cash prize of $100 and a certificate. The fourth- through sixth-grade division winner will receive $50 and a certificate.
In addition to the Serra Club, the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Vocation Office helped to conduct the contest.
By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor