Camden Parish Names Winners of Vocation Office’s Essay Contest

Jocelyn Thomas Around the Province

CAMDEN, N.J.  — Two students at St. Anthony of Padua School here were recognized last month for their writing and for their reflections as part of  the Province’s essay contest for sixth graders.

According to Jud Weiksnar, pastor of St. Anthony, the winners were Maximo Taveras and Krystal Quiñones; runners-up were Ernie Ithier and Maria Lopez.

The students wrote about the Peace Prayer, one of three topic options provided by the sponsoring group,  HNP’s Vocation Office.  According to the Franciscan Awareness Essay-writing contest, established last year for 11-year-olds attending HNP grammar schools, contestants were asked to write a reflective essay; original  thoughts were encouraged so that the essays would be informative and reflective.

The goal of the writing contest, according to program guidelines distributed in November at the Province’s annual guardians meeting, was to (1) teach young people about St. Francis and St. Clare and (2) to provide information that the participants “might remember later on  if they are graced to experience a call to religious life.”

Jud said the essay contest was a valuable exercise for the students, because it gave a new, creative outlet for a wonderful spirit that keeps growing and growing in the parish.

“When we take visitors to the school and ask a class ‘What do you like about St. Anthony’s School?’ among their first answers is always ‘We learn about God,’  he said. “The essay contest allowed them to express not just what they are learning, but how they relate it to their lived reality.  As someone who has taught Catholic social teaching, it’s exciting — and sobering — to see how sixth graders related the Peace Prayer to what they experience in their city of Camden: poverty, violence, homelessness, drug abuse, pollution.

“They are grasping and expressing what the great social encyclicals have taught, that their vocation is to be ‘artisans of a new humanity’ and to ‘work to overcome sin, disease, famine, pollution…and to change the structures of affairs flawed by…sin,’ “ Jud said.

The Franciscan Vocation Ministry is pleased that the sixth graders at St. Anthony of Padua School in Camden participated in the Franciscan Essay Contest, said Greg Jakubowicz, vocation director. 

“The students were able to learn more about the Franciscan charism and reflect on how it can be a part of their lives today,” Greg added. “Our gratitude goes out to the friars in Camden for being proactive in their vocational efforts.  Hopefully, other friar communities within the Province will also consider utilizing this essay contest or perhaps the San Damiano Cross Vocational Prayer program as part of their friary’s promotion of vocations to our Gospel way of life.“

Contest guidelines can be obtained by contacting Greg at the Provincial Office at 212-924-1451 ext. 345