UST/Archdiocesan Essay Contest reveals key to Christ

January 24, 2016

HOUSTON – There’s a door with no doorknob, and Christ is knocking. Yet, you already have the key to let Christ in. Explain.

The image of the waiting Christ is just one of the prompts students from Catholic schools selected to answer as part of the 12th annual University of St. Thomas/Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Essay Contest. There were 6,116 students—third-graders through high school seniors—who wrote essays for the contest, sponsored by the University of St. Thomas (UST) Office of Catholic Outreach. 

For senior Sophia Suico of St. Pius X High School, free will is the lock that keeps Christ out, and true love is the key. For the girl in her essay, guilt holds her back from loving God and being loved. 

“He stands there serenely waiting for her to open the door, but she stays frozen. His forgiveness and judgement [sic] drives her unending guilt. The sight of Him forces all of her sins to rise and accumulate in her throat.”

“But what she needs to realize is He will always be there, waiting on the other side for her,” Suico said. 

Suico’s essay won first place for 12th grade. She and the authors of all the winning essays were recognized at a Mass and awards ceremony on Jan. 11 at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, celebrated Mass and shook hands with all the winners, and gave each student an antique iron key. 

During his homily, Cardinal DiNardo quizzed students on metaphors and imperative statements in the Bible and expressed gratefulness for the Catholic schools. Students were also greeted by Dr. Julie Vogel, superintendent of Catholic schools, and Dr. Dominic Aquila, University provost, who provided UST star pins.

High School winners earn UST scholarships
The first and second place winners in 11th and 12th grades received a $2,000 scholarship to UST, if they enroll.

In the 11th Grade, Kathleen Blute of St. Pius X High School won first place. Emily Mueller of St. Agnes Academy and Grace Carroll of Frassati Catholic High School won second place.

In the 12th Grade, first place went to Sophia Suico of St. Pius X High School and second place went to Sam Cartwright of Strake Jesuit College Preparatory and Alexandra Parris of Incarnate Word Academy.

Out of all the essays submitted, schools selected finalists for each grade level, and 517 essays were read and ranked by 79 UST faculty members, staff members and alumni, who chose the winners. The essays of all first place winners were enlarged as posters and put on display at the reception that followed the awards ceremony.

The first place winners for grades three through ten are as follows:
• 3rd Grade: Lizbeth Michel, Sacred Heart Catholic School, Crosby
• 4th Grade: Alexis Voisin, Sacred Heart Catholic School, Crosby
• 5th Grade: Brianna Rodriguez, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic School 
• 6th Grade: Grace Bludau, St. Ambrose Catholic School 
• 7th Grade: Sofia Bravo, St. Helen Catholic School 
• 7th Grade: Ella Salazar, St. Ambrose Catholic School
• 8th Grade: Kailey Doiron, St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School 
• 9th Grade: Conor Neely, St. Pius X High School
• 10th Grade: Connor Garcia, Strake Jesuit College Preparatory School

Benefit of Catholic Education
Elsie Biron, UST director of Catholic Outreach, said the Essay Contest demonstrates how Catholic education in the Archdiocese is considered seamless.

“At every level of education, we have the goal to educate students in our faith as well as in academic knowledge,” Biron said. “The University’s slogan says it all: we educate leaders of faith and character.” 

Essay topics are designed to prompt writers to consider ethical aspects of life and through the process have a stronger understanding of the faith application to the scenario being considered. The key is to remind each student that, through their words and actions, they each possess the special key that opens hearts and minds to God. “We simply have to use it,” she said. 

And, because everyone holds the key to know Christ, each person who walked through the main doors of the Co-Cathedral could participate in the pilgrimage of the Jubilee Year of Mercy and receive a Jubilee Indulgence.