Reading the winning essays in this year’s Maryknoll Student Essay Contest fills me with optimism. Students were asked to write on Pope Francis’ call “to take a clear stand for creative and active nonviolence.”
Emma Lavallee, who won third place in the middle school division, writes, “The God I believe in cares for all people equally.” Asher Newman, who won third in the high school division, vows, “Gun violence and terror attacks need to end in my generation.”
The depth of their feelings and the diversity of the award winners bodes well for the future. Of the six prizes that we awarded, half went to students who are not Catholic. One is Jewish, another Muslim and a third is a member of the Bruderhof Christian community.
We didn’t plan this diversity in winners, but it seems fitting. So much violence has its origins in exclusivity. Wars, terrorism and mass killings are often motivated by self-righteous hatred of the other, of anyone who is different from the aggressors. These students clearly understand this and express it eloquently. I invite you to read their words of wisdom. We publish the first-place essays in the print edition of this issue of Maryknoll magazine, and all six essays are online at maryknollsociety.org/winners.
As eighth-grader and a first-place winner Riva Maendel wrote, “Even though our efforts might seem small … every little block of peace will help build the foundation for future generations.”
Lynn F. Monahan