In Catholic Textbook Project’s 2015 History Essay Contest, students were challenged to choose a Catholic historical character and describe how he or she influenced the times in which he or she lived. The contest ran April-May and was open to students in Catholic schools—parochial, private or home-schooled, grades 5-8. Nearly 2,000 entries were submitted and prizes were awarded to both student and school winners.
“We received an overwhelming response to this history essay contest; far more than we expected,” says Glen Mueller, chairman of Catholic Textbook Project. “It was wonderful to see, especially since many of the submissions were of such exceptional quality that our judges did not find it an easy task to pick the best essays.”
Contest organizer Katherine Zehnder noted: “Students, teachers and schools should all be commended on the broad range of entries, the quality of writing, and the insight into how faith burned in the hearts of so many men in women of history, to the point that it compelled them to act heroically in the face of poverty, ridicule and persecution. From Vince Lombardi to Saint Paul, we enjoyed the vast presentation of noble souls whose Catholic faith determined their actions. Thank you to all participants!”
Winners are as follows:
- Grade 7/8 Catholic School Division: Kendal Rowan, from Saint Augustine School, New Orleans, LA
Kendal wrote on St. Katherine Drexel who used the entirety of her vast inheritance to found schools and universities for Native and African Americans across the United States, most of which still operate today.
- Grade 5/6 Catholic School Division: Thomas Lyon, from St. John Vianney Parish School, Janesville, WI
Thomas wrote on Frédéric Ozanam who, upon being attacked for his Faith by his college professors, began to understand that he had to really live the beatitudes. He founded the St. Vincent de Paul Society, which now is the largest helper of the poor in the world, serving more than 14,000,000 people annually in more than 140 countries.
- Grade 7/8 Catholic Home-school Division: Delaney McCartney, from Gilbert, AZ
Delaney wrote about Queen Isabel of Spain, who was not only a strong and wise ruler of Spain, but also changed history by helping Christopher Columbus pursue his dream of exploration.
- Grade 5/6 Catholic Homeschool Division: Zoe Wenholz, from Green Bay, WI
Zoe wrote about St. Isaac Jogues, who through his courage and great love for the Indians, planted the seeds of faith in North America.
The award prizes are as follows: Catholic student winners Kendal, Thomas, Delaney and Zoe will each receive $100. The Catholic schools at which Kendal and Thomas attend—St. Augustine Catholic school in New Orleans, and St. John Vianney Catholic school in Janesville, WI, will each receive a $400 gift certificate for the purchase of Catholic Textbook Project textbooks. The families of Catholic home-school student winners Delaney and Zoe will each receive their choice of a Catholic Textbook Project textbook.
In addition, the judges chose Honorable Mentions in the Catholic School Divisions as follows:
- Honorable Mentions: Grade 7/8 Catholic School Division:
- Sam Van Straten, from Notre Dame Regional School, WI
Sam wrote on Louis Pasteur, whose faith drove him to want to uplift the dignity of man through unprecedented scientific discoveries, including the process of pasteurization, vaccines and disinfectant protocols, all of which have saved millions of lives.
- Gabriella Iacano, from St. Teresa Regional School, Runnemede, NJ
Gabriella wrote on Mother Teresa, a great soul who poured her life out to love and help the poorest of the poor and who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and its reward of one million dollars, all of which she gave to the poor.
- Honorable Mentions: Grade 5/6 Catholic School Division:
- Isaiah Thompson, from St. John Fisher School, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Isaiah wrote on St. Peter Claver, a Spaniard who learned of the Jesuits while studying in college and realized he must serve God until death like a slave. He did so, spending the remainder of his life as an apostle of faith to the slaves in Cartagena, feeding and ministering to them as the ships rolled into port, baptizing over 300,000 of them, and showing the joy of God’s promise of eternal life in his unwavering love.
- Anna Schmidt from Regina Academy at St. John the Baptist, Ottsville, PA
Anna wrote on St. Katherine Drexel. Her essay illustrated Katherine’s being asked by Pope Leo XIII to found an order of Sisters, how she spent more than $20,000,000 of her own money to found more than 50 missions, and how she spent her 96 years in service to others.
“The enthusiastic response of teachers and students to our first-ever history essay contest is especially rewarding because it echoes our mission and our growth,” adds Mr. Mueller.
Catholic Textbook Project’s History/Social Studies textbook series is now used in Catholic schools in more than 50 dioceses. According to Michael Van Hecke, a seasoned headmaster and the publishing company’s founder, rigorous historical accuracy, a superior writing style that engages student interest, and inclusion of significant Catholic historical contributions are key reasons given for the publisher’s accelerated growth.
The Catholic Textbook Project textbooks currently publish a five-volume series (Learn more on the “Products” page of our website.) Highly praised teacher manuals and student workbooks are available for each of the elementary and middle-school svolume. Development of four additional volumes, suitable for grades 1-4, is set to begin as soon as funding is complete.