Eleventh grade vocation essay contest to be added

Originally Appeared in : 9806-3/15/18

Last year, the Augusta Vocations Ministry heard a Vocations Director from another diocese on the EWTN “Vocation Boom” radio program comment on when young people think about or decide on a vocation. The Vocations Director was of the opinion that people initially start thinking about it in the 5th Grade and then think more about it in the 11th Grade.


According to Frank Campbell this prompted the Augusta Ministry to raise the question, “Are we targeting the wrong audience with our Essay Contest focusing on 7th graders? Should we consider moving the contest to 5th Grade or the 11th grade?


“Why was the 7th grade selected when the Savannah Ministry started the contest? Our group wanted to understand better why that grade was selected? Young people (and society) have changed somewhat since the beginning of the contest back in 2004, so maybe there are reasons to change, but we wanted to know if anyone could recall why the 7th grade was selected. I was hoping that one of you might know the answer to that question,” Frank continued.


“We have full respect for those who started the contest and worked hard to maintain it for these past 13 years. We just wanted to put the idea of changing the grade level on the table and see what your group thinks,” he concluded.


After we were unable to recall the rationale for picking the 7th grade, we consulted Joe Hasbrouck and others who were involved in starting the contest many years ago. The best Joe could come up with was that we modeled our contest after another Serra Club that also sponsored an essay contest for the 7th grade level. A quick perusal of the Internet to see what other Serra Clubs do, found that it is all over the map, from the 6th grade, 7-8th grades, 7-12th grades and all high school sophomores.


Catherine Richie, a former teacher at Blessed Sacrament School, whose classes always submitted many essays, offered the opinion that, “I think 7th grade is a good year to do the essay. The children are still open and are preparing for Confirmation … and I found that they are willing to consider and write about it.”


As the discussion continued, the Augusta Ministry was very much in favor of adding another contest for 11th grade Catholic students in addition to the current 7th grade contest.


This idea received the full support of the Savannah Vocations Steering Committee members plus Michael J. Johnson, editor of the Southern Cross. It was agreed that we should hold another contest to include all Catholic students in the 11th grade in the diocese, hold it at a different time of the year and even have a different topic. Next we began to develop the schedule, agree on the prize money and make contacts to promote the activity with a view to holding the initial contest in the “first half of 2018.”


All three sponsors of the contest (the Savannah Ministry, the Augusta Ministry, and the Southern Cross) agreed to contribute $300 each, so the total prize fund would be $900.
Subsequently an anonymous donor contributed an additional $600, so we were able to increase the awards and structure the prize money as follows:         
    1st prize: $750
    2nd prize: $500
    3rd prize: $250


The St. John Vianney Ministry of Augusta recommended the following as the essay topic:
“What do you think your life would be like as a priest or a religious brother or sister and how would you make a difference in the lives of people around you?”


“Our thinking is that this will help the 11th graders possibly imagine or envision themselves as a priest or a religious brother or sister and might help plant the seed of considering a call to a religious vocation. If they can see themselves in religious life and the difference it could make, it might inspire them to discernment,” they said.


The contest was promoted in the March 1 issue of the Southern Cross and the diocesan Pastoral Bulletin. The essay deadline is April 20. The cash prizes will be presented at the schools in May.


Peter Paolucci is Vice President-Communications of the St. John Vianney Vocations Ministry of Savannah.


Go to top