2018 High School Essays Vocations Contest Winners

Originally Appeared in : 9810-5/10/18

Question posed to 11th grade students throughout the Diocese of Savannah: "What do you think your life would be likes as a priest or religious and how would you make difference in the lives of the people around you?"


Fernando Paler,
First Place $750
Savannah Early College High School

Jane Goodall once said, “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” When I was younger I shared many of the same dreams that most seven-year-olds had. I had dreamt of being a man that could not be dictated by any earthly circumstances. I promised to follow my faith and my heart as a principle of guidance throughout my early life, without any contemplation of how others around me felt. I was blessed to live in a fortunate household with my family and close friends. Not only was I blinded by my blessings, I was also unsympathetic of the world around me. It is true, what they say, that “the best things in life are the dreams that have never came true.” I say this in reference to the death of my father in 2008. That was the first time I had experienced such harsh realities in life. Being an irrational seven-year-old, I assumed that this was the beginning of a series of events that would gradually break my vision of a perfect life. Later on, I realized that the death of my father inadvertently led to my own process of character development.


A few months after my father’s death, I began to feel discouraged and alone. I noticed that I would prefer to isolate myself in certain situations because of the memories that I would bring back. I also asked myself internal questions such as, “Why me? What have I done to deserve this pain and suffering? If God was so great, how come he would hurt his people”?


These questions remained with me for a while, until I met with my local parish priest. Speaking with him gave me a sense of comfort. This was the first time I felt comfort from a person who knew little about me before our conversation, yet connected with me in such a way where I felt as if he loved me as his own relative. My parish priest began to answer my deep questions in a way that led me to understand the importance of my faith. He elaborated that in times of great pain, God will be with his people throughout the time being. He explained that there are more things that people fail to understand about the events of their lives. This is where faith plays an important role. By definition, faith is something that is believed especially with strong conviction for which there is no proof. In terms of religious beliefs, faith is the belief, trust, and loyalty to God that people maintain. In reference to guidance, faith helps to aid a person to attempt to understand the traumatic experiences that they have witnessed.


Throughout my conversation with the priest, I realized that faith is not only for those in good fortune, but it is also there for the people who have lost their direction.


Given my current life experiences, I believe a life as a priest would lead me to help others to cope with the tragedies of life as well as to seek God’s intervention in circumstances too complex to explicate. As a priest, I would like to be like the priest who gave me my sense of direction. I would want to devote my time to helping people understand that unexpected events in life happen for a reason, but that should not discredit the love that God has for people. Like the priest who helped me realize the importance of my relationship with God, I too would want to help people advocate for themselves through God’s intervention. As a priest, I would like to be the living embodiment of God’s love and compassion as well as to spread that ever-burning love to those who need it most. In my sermons, I would emphasize that regardless of the situation, no matter how lonely a person may feel, they are not left broken and alone. Just as there was a person for me to build my character and purpose with, there will be other people to aid others as they rebuild themselves as well. If I were to devote myself to a religious life, this is the difference that I would choose to make. Without the help of my local parish priest, I would not have learned to look towards God to intercede for me. Just as Goodall said, everyone can make a difference. My intentions are to continue to spread the unconditional love that was shown unto me in my time of need to others so that other people can make a difference in the world.


Through this, people would literally, as well as metaphorically, spread God’s love to people around them.


Meghan McBride,
Second Place $500
Aquinas High School, Augusta

Follow Your Calling

Ever since God created the world, the people He created and brought into the world served God and the people they interacted with.  Adam and Eve were brought into this world to “go forth and multiply.”  Their job was to serve God in this way.  The prophets too were asked by God to serve him in ways they thought were impossible, but God always pulled through and gave them what they needed to fulfill their roles.  Jesus was also brought into the world to change the lives of the people around him, and he ultimately suffered.  We know when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane He did not want to suffer death on a cross, but God gave jim the strength and courage to overcome this.  As a religious sister, I believe my life would be difficult, but something I could do with the help of God.  Not only being a religious sister would make a difference in my life, but I would change the lives of many people by bringing God to them.  


As most girls and women happily await their futures of marrying the perfect man and having children, women who fulfill their calls to the sisterhood may have a difficult time accepting they will never marry or have children of their own.  However, God gives these sisters the graces they need to deal with their struggles.  Many of the religious sisters are called to use their motherly instincts in the roles they play as sisters.  Sisters work in schools, hospitals, with the sick and elderly, and some even participate in education.  Often times sisters work as teachers serving young girls with a quality education and teaching the importance of God in their lives.  They serve those who are sick, suffering, and in need just as they would serve their own children.  Women called to the sisterhood will sometimes serve as missionaries in different parts of the world spreading God’s word and serving the less fortunate.  These are just some ways they fill their longing of motherhood.


Another thing I would struggle with as a religious sister is enduring the day they have day after day.  I believe that their day is difficult, and sometimes they might not want to do what they have to do that day.  No matter what type of sister you are there are three main elements to every day: prayer, community and ministry. 


Prayer is the most important thing for a religious sister.  This is because they have vowed their life to God and constantly call on jim to give them the strength they need to continue their day or to show them the importance of what they do.  Usually a sister has a daily prayer routine along with her other prayer obligations as a Catholic.


Community is also a very key part in the life of a religious sister.  Community is what joins each individual sister into a group.  Community calls the sisters to share.  They share  things like meals, houses, time, and some even share the same bank accounts.


The last of the three elements is ministry.  Ministry is considered a sisters “job.”  As a sister they are called to serve where ever they are needed.  Sometime this may be doing hard work that they are not entirely comfortable with, but this is where God helps them.  Overall, I believe that the hardest part of a sister’s life is what I would love the most.  That is the service.  Even though it may be difficult at times, I think helping someone live a better life would make all of my sacrifices as a religious sister worth it.  I would also love that my relationship with God would grow.  I would learn  the importance of a strong relationship with God, and it would encourage me to  call on him more during my struggles.  


As a religious sister I would make a difference in the lives of the people around me through the service and aid I offered people.  Service is a fundamental part of a sister’s calling.  Service would include helping the poor, sick, lost, lonely, uneducated, and just helping in the community.  These things could be accomplished through working in schools, orphanages, soup kitchens, hospitals, nursing homes, or churches in the area.  While serving in these areas I would also be spreading God’s word and example.  This would be completed in two ways.  The first is just through the service.  People seeing and recognizing the work you do reflects on God himself and allows other people to see the importance of service.  The second way is through direct prayer.  Bringing prayer into your life and the lives of others lets them experience the importance of allowing God in your daily routine.  This leads to more followers of God.  I believe that through these ways I would make a difference in the lives of the people around me.


I believe that the life of a religious sister is something that not all women are called to, but those who are have a very special place in God’s heart.  They live their life as an example of Christ, and spread his word all over the world.  Through writing this paper, I have realized the true meaning of a sister’s calling and how important it is to listen to your calling.


Madison Seguin,
Third Place $250
St. Anne-Pacelli High School, Columbus

The youth of the Church today seem to have a big misconception of what life is like being a priest or religious brother or sister. We view their lifestyle as “boring” or “lonely.” Every teenager can agree that around this time of our lives, as graduation draws closer and we begin deciding what we want to do with the rest of our lives, we have dreams and hopes for ourselves, whether it’s playing college sports, becoming a doctor, or even meeting the person whom we may marry one day and start a family with. However, as Catholics, every teenager can also agree that at one time the thought of being a priest or religious brother or sister has crossed their mind. And for some reason, that just doesn’t seem nearly as exciting as other hopes and dreams we have for ourselves. We ask the obvious questions such as why they would choose to live a life of celibacy and how on earth they do it. We wonder if they are able to have fun since they live such strict, religious lives. We wonder if they are ever lonely at times. But with such closed-minded views like these, we lose sight of how truly beautiful and respectable these religious brothers’ and sisters’ lives are. They are all selfless and charitable people who don’t idolize the meaningless things in life as we tend to do; rather they devote themselves to the common good of others and help spread the love of Christ to all. Because of this, I have the uttermost respect for them. If I were a religious sister, I would make a difference in the lives of those around me by simply loving all people, being an example for how one can live a virtuous life, and dedicating myself to helping others achieve their salvation.


Mother Teresa said that “not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” Throughout my lifetime, I have come to know many priests and religious brothers and sisters who are all remarkable people. They are the perfect model of someone who does small things with great love. Whether it’s offering up a prayer for you during a difficult time, serving as an advocate for someone in their spiritual life, or simply being a shoulder to lean on, these people affect many lives in the most positive way. If I were a religious sister, I believe I would also serve as an advocate in the daily lives of others by helping guide them in their endeavours, and lead them in the direction that Christ is calling them. By interacting with people and forming intimate relationships with them, I would not only learn a lot about myself, but about God and how he reveals himself through others. By doing small things with great love, I would hopefully help fulfill God’s desire for all people to live in harmony and love one another.


If I were a religious sister, I would be an example for how one can live a virtuous life. A virtuous life to me is one in which someone has purity in their intentions and strives for sainthood. As Catholics, it is our goal in this earthly life to strive for sainthood. Therefore as a religious sister, I would object myself to this desire for sainthood, and inspire others to do so also. While it is important to achieve our own salvation, our life would be a waste if we didn’t help others do so, also. I owe my strong foundation in my faith to the people that have served as role models for me such as my parents, teachers, and especially priests. By providing me with an understanding of God’s plan for me, I have been able to grow in my faith. As a religious sister, I would intend to also allow others to grow in their faith by revealing what God has planned for them.


The lifestyles that priests and religious brothers or sisters choose are certainly not ideal ones, especially today in our world. It takes strong-minded, compassionate people to take on the roles they take. If I were a religious priest, brother, or sister, I would possess all these qualities and use them to change the lives of others, therefore, changing the world.


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