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Saints Peter & Paul High School students win awards for essays on faith, patriotism

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Hank Wolters, left, and Brennan Griffin of Saints Peter and Paul.

EASTON, Md. – The second annual essay contest sponsored by the Regina Coeli Council of the Knights of Columbus gave Saints Peter and Paul High School students an opportunity to demonstrate their writing and public speaking skills.

The essay topics also challenged students to reflect on either the Christian faith or American greatness.

At a June 6 evening awards ceremony in the Marie Mitchell Parish Center of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Easton, the six student winners were given cash awards, while the two champions received etched cut-crystal awards, as well. Maryland Sen. Johnny Mautz, who was also one of the two keynote speakers, presented citations from the Maryland Senate.

The Knights also donated perpetual plaques to the high school with the names of 2023 winners and this year’s winners engraved on brass plates.

Sophomore Todd Henry “Hank” Wolters read his first-place essay titled “D-Day Sacrifice Reflection” on the 80th anniversary of the D-Day Allied landings on the beaches of Normandy. The 10th grade essay topic was American Greatness/Patriotism.

“D-Day is the pure representation of sacrifice, courage and strength of will that the soldiers of our Armed Forces have,” Wolters said. “It also shows how many soldiers’ lives were lost on that day and that the freedom we have today does not come without a price.”

“For Memorial Day, it is important to think about what these soldiers went through to serve their country,” he said. “Americans need to make sure all soldiers – from the past, present, or future – are respected.”

The topic of ninth grade champion Brennen Griffin’s essay was Christianity/Word of God.

In “Blessed Are the Merciful,” Griffin alluded to the fifth Beatitude and honored his mother Katherine. “To me personally, it reminds me of my family, especially my Mom,” Griffin wrote. “Through the ups and downs … she consistently showed mercy. In Christianity, mercy is seen as a reflection of God’s nature. Christians believe that God is forever loving. By showing mercy themselves, they are following in God’s image.”

The second and third place sophomore winners were Braeden Wefelmeyer and Taylor Holden, respectively. Also winning second and third were freshmen Tara Foley and Angela Webb, respectively.

In his keynote address, Knight of Columbus and U.S. Army Col. Bernie Liswell reflected on D-Day and the “Bedford 19” – the 19 soldiers from tiny Bedford, Va., who went ashore in the first wave on Omaha Beach and were killed that same day.  Liswell is a Vietnam War combat veteran and former Commandant of the Guantanamo prison. He is the current District Warden for the Knights of Columbus on the Eastern Shore.

Father James Nash, pastor of Saints Peter and Paul Church, opened the ceremony with prayer and welcoming remarks. Regina Coeli Council Grand Knight Max Cerna led the Pledge of Allegiance and provided introductory comments and everyone concluded the ceremony by singing “God Bless America.”

The Council hopes to expand the essay contests to include juniors and seniors next year, and to inaugurate an oratorical contest, “in the hopes of reinforcing the faith and patriotism of our students, improving their communication skills, and enhancing the value of a Saints Peter and Paul High School education,” said Mark de Bernardo, one of the organizers.

If you are interested in supporting the essay contests on Christian values and American patriotism, and/or you would like to attend next year’s award ceremony and reception, please contact Mark de Bernardo at markanthony5359@gmail.com.