Northwest Catholic’s second annual student essay contest drew entries from hundreds of students attending 43 of Western Washington’s 74 Catholic schools, all reflecting on how they see Christ in their schools.
The essays were judged by a panel drawn from the staffs of Northwest Catholic, the archdiocesan Office for Catholic Schools and the Fulcrum Foundation. We are proud to present the winning high school, middle school and elementary school essays.
HIGH SCHOOL WINNER
Benjamin Wahlman. Photo: Stephen Brashear
The shocking, subtle presence of Christ
By Benjamin Wahlman
For the first 16 years of my life, I never really saw Christ or made any connection to him in my life. I had read and heard about all that he had done over and over again, but never made a genuine connection with the Lord.
Thanks to my curiosity, I looked up different miracles and stories of people who had met Christ in their lives. They said that he appeared to them in a dream or right in front of their very eyes at a random time. That was the sign I had always been looking for: a distinct, bearded man popping out in front of my eyes saying “Here I am, Ben.” However, in my junior year of religion class, I learned that Christ is made present in different ways, and my perspective on finding him changed entirely. Now, I am fully confident that Christ is all over the place at O’Dea High School.
The first time I recognized Christ at O’Dea, I was shocked. There was a little voice inside my head that just knew Christ was present. In the hallways one day, there were two sophomores fighting over something that had happened a week ago and it continued until then. They started yelling at one another across the halls and looked ready to fight. Suddenly, the smallest sophomore in the grade, who hardly said a word all year, came out of nowhere and stopped the fight. He stood in front of both of them and acted as Jesus would, like a mentor for the two.
That day, I saw Christ working in this boy as I had never seen before. For the first time in my life, Jesus was present to me. It was not the spectacular, bearded man coming out of nowhere like I first thought, but Christ was there in a more subtle way. It proved to me that Christ reveals himself in different ways, and that was a valuable lesson I learned that day. From then on I knew that Christ was working around O’Dea this whole time without me even knowing it.
Benjamin Wahlman is a senior at O’Dea High School in Seattle.
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MIDDLE SCHOOL WINNER
Morgan DeMeulemeester. Photo: Stephen Brashear
Christ through the eyes of a teenager
By Morgan DeMeulemeester
Take a deep breath, it’s going to be fine is what I think to myself after having a stressful morning at my house: handling my fighting brothers, rushing to get ready, forgetting a book … the list just goes on. After a near explosion in my head, we finally arrive, late of course, at school. I choose to take the front entrance so I can walk through the halls and look at all the things the students have worked on. Nearing my homeroom, I suddenly stop. I realize that I’m not even stressed — in fact, I feel completely relaxed, and filled with Christ. That is the feeling our school gives to you, and you can experience this through the faculty and students, but also through our community service.
It is difficult to choose who I see Jesus through the most, but if I had to choose, I would say my teachers and classmates. My teachers demonstrate Christ by being gentle and kind with each and every one of us, helping us increase our knowledge of God. They take our intentions, help us pray, and lead us in the Mass. As for my classmates, they shine with the Holy Spirit, accepting everyone and cooperating, even through tough times.
Another way I see Christ at my school is through our community services. At Assumption-St. Bridget, community service is important to us. Starting the summer before seventh grade, you are required to do service hours, and I think this helps demonstrate the Catholic social teaching on rights and responsibilities. Furthermore, throughout the school year, many things are held to raise money and help others (recent examples include our Vico Fundraiser, raising money for Oso, and our Whale of a Sale popsicle sale).
Having things going on in our lives can distract us from seeing God, but I have realized that, with the help of my cooperative classmates and teachers, along with the community service I do, I can keep this from happening. I believe that I, and my school, are filled with Christ, and even on the darkest of days, we shine through the darkness.
Morgan DeMeulemeester is an eighth-grader at Assumption-St. Bridget School in Seattle.
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL WINNER
John Tramountanas. Photo: Stephen Brashear
Christ is everywhere
By John Tramountanas
Christ is everywhere at St. John. If you don’t believe me, I will prove it to you. Christ is in the teachers. I see him in Mrs. Ocampo’s smile. Christ is also in my friends. I see him whenever I have a good time with them. Sometimes I see Christ in the funniest places. Our vice principal, Señor Pablo, has a very large beard. Our school’s fundraiser this year used his beard as the theme. It was called “Fear the Beard.” His beard helped raise lots of money for our school. I never thought I would see Christ in a beard, but there he was!
Christ is always there for you, especially at St. John School. Sometimes, when I am sad at school, I notice Christ and it makes me feel better. When I get hurt at recess, Christ is in the kindness of the people who help me. If I get angry, Christ helps me calm down. I also see him at Mass, and I always see Christ when I pray, which
I do every day.
These are some of the ways that you can see Christ at St. John School, but there are many more. If you come to St. John, you will see him where you least expect it. If you don’t believe me, just look in Señor Pablo’s beard!
John Tramountanas is a fifth-grader at St. John School in Seattle.