The Office of Marriage and Family Life at the Diocese of Duluth recently held its fourth annual respect life essay contest for middle and high school students. The theme of the contest was “Moved by Mercy.” Each year more essays are received, which makes judging that much more challenging.
Runners up are:
Second place: Teresa Goodwin, St. Joseph Parish, Crosby
Third place: Marija Phelps, Holy Spirit Parish and Marquette Catholic School, Virginia
Second place: John Welte, Immaculate Heart Parish, Crosslake
Third place: Anthony Hudrlik, St. Joseph Parish, Crosby
Below are the first place winners in each category:
By Emma Stokman
St. Joseph’s Parish, Crosby
Hearing the essay theme, “Moved by Mercy,” I blanked. Have I been moved? What is mercy anyway?
The following week, working at the soup-kitchen, our youth-leader made one strange claim, “The primary reason we do charitable work is not to help others.”
“What! Isn’t helping others the only reason we do charitable work?” I was confused. He continued, “We go to fulfill a need that we have.”
Is this true? I was cynical. Spooning scalloped-potatoes onto a plate, I looked around; people were dirty, some grumpy, and one guy was drunk. Scared, I looked down and dished up.
“Thanks for feeding us tonight,” rang a voice. My eyes met hers. “Thanks,” she repeated and I realized that she really meant it. It seems like such a small event but something happened in me. I encountered Someone. The woman with the worn shirt and near toothless smile was beautiful. For the first time that night I saw a person. Could it be I locked eyes with Christ?
In that moment at the soup kitchen I was moved. I recognized that my need and this woman’s need were the same. Maybe hers was more apparent on the outside because she is poor. She can’t hide her need; I can. My need is often masked. But the truth is, our hearts are the same. We both want to be loved. We both need Christ. After looking into that woman’s eyes I am starting to understand something; being moved by mercy has something to do with encountering Christ.
By Peter Nierenhausen
Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Crosslake
“Should we stop?” I blurted out. Jeff hesitated for an instant and then murmured, “Nah, then we will be late.”
“That man is breaking his back trying to move that thing.” My heart felt so full of something that made me suddenly shout, “Jack, let’s stop!”
Being moved by mercy is not something you can plan. This day we drove by an elderly man, I felt something, like a human instinct causing me to stop to help this man. The gentleman was exerting his energy to move a pot full of weeds and dirt. As my brother and I stopped the car, we clearly saw how spent he was. We visited with the man for a moment before moving the pot to the desired location. Feebly, he explained to us how he had stage three cancer. He also said that wherever the Lord puts him, he will remember what we did and how I helped him that day. After several minutes of talking, his wife approached with a broad smile. She gazed at him with love. Suddenly, I remembered we had to go visit our dear friends, so I elbowed Jack to let him know. We shook hands with the elderly man and wife and jumped into the car and took off.
The caring people we met and helped that day were full of love. They showed me how sudden and unexpected stops can lead to beautiful encounters. They also showed me how being moved by mercy is not something that can be planned on a daily basis. God gives you a choice to either drive by and pretend you did not see anything, or you can help and be moved by mercy.
These are actual events with the names changed for privacy.