Congratulations to Paul Nikolai, eighth grader at St. Paul Catholic School in Leesburg, who won first place in the Marian Essay Contest. He received a $750 scholarship to attend Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala. The Marion Essay Contest was held throughout the Diocese of Orlando for any student who was going to be entering a Diocesan Catholic High School for the 2016-2017 school year. Gunnar Harrison of St. Peter Catholic School in DeLand received First Honorable Mention and Sophia Montes of Our Saviour Catholic School in Cocoa Beach received Second Honorable Mention. An excerpt from Paul’s winning essay is below.
Mother Mary Essay
My mother was born in Mexico and knows Mary as Our Lady of Guadalupe. She often shared with our family the story of Juan Diego and the miraculous image. These stories formed my first impressions of Mary. Here, she was a missionary sent to bring Jesus’ good news to the people of Mexico. My mother herself felt Mary’s presence when she visited The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, where Juan Diego’s original cloak is displayed. Today, she tries to share that presence with us.
I have attended a Catholic school since I was in Pre-Kindergarten, and one of this school’s traditions was to allow one student to bring home a beautiful statue of Mary home each week. This privilege was reserved for the older students, but I was fortunate enough to experience this while in Pre-K, because I had two older brothers who could bring home the statue. She came with a journal full of prayers from everyone who had taken Mary home. Here, I saw Mary as a messenger, who would bring our prayers straight to Jesus.
Another tradition we have at my school is weekly Stations of the Cross during Lent. Once a week all the classes go to the church and share this experience. Students lead the Stations and serve as altar servers. As a Pre-K student, I wasn’t really able to understand the significance of what we were listening to. It wasn’t until 2nd or 3rd grade that I could make a connection to the experience. Here, I heard Mary crying and felt her suffering as Jesus was taken off the cross. At this point, to me, Mary was a mother just like my own.
From the Scriptures Mary, has many notable traits but the most important is her unconditional motherly love. This love isn’t reserved just for Jesus, but for all of God’s children. I am truly thankful for God’s gift of his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.