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By Brenda Cooper, University of St. Thomas

1/31/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (

Catholic Students Write on John Paul II in Essay Contest

With the most number of essays to date, Catholic school students, parents and teachers from around the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston gathered to celebrate the winners of the 10th annual University of St. Thomas/Archdiocesan Essay Contest with a Mass and Awards Ceremony on Jan. 22 at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.

High school essay winners with the Most Rev. Joseph A. Fiorenza, archbishop emeritus of Galveston-Houston.

High school essay winners with the Most Rev. Joseph A. Fiorenza, archbishop emeritus of Galveston-Houston.


By Brenda Cooper, University of St. Thomas

Catholic Online (

1/31/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: University of St. Thomas Houston, University of St. Thomas, Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Essay Contest, Blessed John Paul II, JPII, Houston, Catholic Education

HOUSTON, TX (Catholic Online) - With the most number of essays to date, Catholic school students, parents and teachers from around the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston gathered to celebrate the winners of the 10th annual University of St. Thomas/Archdiocesan Essay Contest with a Mass and Awards Ceremony on Jan. 22 at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.

The Most Rev. Joseph A. Fiorenza, archbishop emeritus of Galveston-Houston, celebrated Mass. Dr. George Laird, interim superintendent of Catholic schools also attended.

A record number of 6,388 Catholic school students from third through 12th grades in 50 schools wrote essays on topics related to Pope John Paul II and how his works and words are relevant to the students' lives. The winners were selected from 664 finalists.

Senior First Place Winner Placed 4 Years in a Row

The first place winners in ninth through 12th grades received a $2,500 scholarship to UST, if they enroll.

The scholarship winners are:

  •  9th grade: Kathleen Blute of St. Pius X High School
  •  10th grade: Sarah Trumble of Incarnate Word Academy
  •  11th grade: Cameron Kic of St. Thomas High School
  •  12th grade: Isabel Sutter of St. Agnes Academy

The senior first place winner, Isabel Sutter, has placed all four years she entered in high school, including two first place wins as a freshman and sophomore, and third place last year. She said she's had lots of practice writing essays.

"I like to write; I do it for fun," she said. "I also like to win, so I work hard."

Sutter's parents, Herman '86 and Lynne '85, met at the University of St. Thomas and were married here. Her sister Lucia is a sophomore at the University, and Isabel hopes to continue the family legacy, interested in studying in the five-year education program and the creative writing minor at St. Thomas. Through the Essay Contest, she has earned $3,500 in scholarships.

All Winners from Third-Eighth grades

Other first place winners included:

  • 3rd grade: Mia Zatarain of St. Anne Catholic School, Houston
    Brianna Ramirez of Sacred Heart Catholic School, Crosby

  • 4th grade: Kristen Mohan of John Paul II Catholic School
    Brooke Box of Northwoods Catholic School
  • 5th grade: Pearson Kurka of St. Anne Catholic School, Houston
    Caitlin Alderete of St. Laurence Catholic School
  •  6th grade: John Paul Hitchon of The Regis School of the Sacred Heart
     Cecilia Joseph of St. Francis de Sales Catholic School
     Fatima Nguyen of St. Ambrose Catholic School
  •  7th grade: Lauren Ponce de Leon of St. Laurence Catholic School

  •  8th grade: Jaycelyn Andrews of St. Rose of Lima Catholic School
     David Bat of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School

Wanting to personally congratulate each student for being able to write effectively about these topics, the archbishop gave each winner a wall crucifix blessed by Pope Francis, made in the style of the one on the staff that both Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis carried from the Vatican. Students earning honorable mention received a small crucifix in the same style. Both were given to remind the students of Christ, the best of all mentors.

Out of all the essays submitted, schools selected finalists for each grade level, and the essays were read and ranked by 36 UST faculty and staff members and alumni, who chose the winners. The essays of all first place winners were enlarged as posters and put on display at the reception that followed the awards ceremony.

The contest was held just prior to National Catholic Schools Week, a time to focus on the benefits of Catholic education.

See all the pictures from the Essay Contest at


The University of St. Thomas, dedicated to educating leaders of faith and character, is a private institution committed to the liberal arts and to the religious, ethical and intellectual tradition of Catholic higher education. St. Thomas is Houston's only Catholic University and was founded by the Basilian Fathers. 


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