Juniors Win ACA Essay Awards

Three Jr. Bills won awards for stewardship essays they wrote for the Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA). They include:

  • Thomas Giunta ‘22 (1st Place)
  • Eric Piening ‘22 (2nd Place)
  • Coby Spratte ‘22 (3rd Place)

The students addressed the importance for all Catholics in the Archdiocese to come together to support the ACA. They wrote about how they practice stewardship in their lives and how people in our own community and throughout our Archdiocese are impacted by the ACA. As a reward, they won $750, $500 and $250 respectively in scholarship money to be applied to their senior-year tuition at SLUH.

The ACA continues to sustain vibrant ministries and services of the Archdiocese of St. Louis throughout the city and 10 surrounding counties.

Following are the student essays.

Thomas Giunta ‘22

St. Clement of Rome Parish

I believe stewardship is each person’s responsibility to support the community around them, through prayer as well as good works, along with looking after the creation God has given us. While community service is a strong way to show stewardship, the idea of why we are doing it is essential. Stewardship is not just showing up and giving some of our time, rather, it is the idea that we are doing good for others to glorify God, implementing the idea that we are all united as the Body of Christ on earth. We say this every day at SLUH as we say, “And we dedicate all of our thoughts, words, and actions… to the greater glory of God.” Every time we say this we are pledging to be stewards of God’s creation, helping to make our community a better place by using our gifts to support others. Each day we are met with new opportunities to better our community, promoting stewardship to those around us.

I found one of these opportunities to help people in my community through the Boy Scout troop in my parish. While I was in scouts, I participated in food drives run by the St. Vincent de Paul society, as well as various Eagle Scout projects to help the elderly at St. Agnes home. At St. Agnes home, we built walkways in order to create opportunities for the residents to get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors. I enjoyed meeting with residents, listening to stories, and connecting with them. I learned from these people and I felt like it was bigger than just creating a path for them. We spent time building the walkway, but we also took time to meet with people and visit with them. People in the nursing home may not receive many visitors, so when we came it meant more than just building a path. As part of another Eagle Scout project for the St. Louis Priory School, I helped to clean up a lake and also to build an observation dock. Again this idea of stewardship is bigger than just showing up and building a dock. Together as a unified group we picked up trash and cleaned up the lake, helping to preserve the beauty of the pond. Part of stewardship is recognizing the beauty in the natural world around us and finding ways to care for it. For my own Eagle Scout project, I chose to build a compost bin at St. Elizabeth Mother of John the Baptist Parish. My project consisted of leading a group of scouts to clean up the community garden at St. Elizabeth’s and installing a new compost bin. My project helped to preserve nature but also to provide food for the less fortunate. I tried my best to act as a role model to the younger scouts, teaching them and supporting them as we worked. We built a compost bin together, but we also came back to care for the garden and interact with the parishioners at St. Elisabeth’s. Stewardship is not only supporting the physical needs of people, but also their spiritual and emotional needs. We took a run down lot and helped to turn it into something beautiful, therefore supporting the natural beauty God gives us. 

Growing up, I was exposed to service constantly. My mother runs an after school service program called Wonder Workers, where I learned to see past my own needs and look to how I could help others. As part of Wonder Workers, other students and I made meals and collected coats for the homeless, as well as collecting products for mothers to help take care of their newborn babies. Wonder Workers meetings were one of the places where I was first introduced to community service and it is something I’ve kept with me going into high school. As I have entered high school, my involvement in community service was placed on my own shoulders and I had the choice to participate or not. At SLUH, I’ve been exposed to many more opportunities to better my community and I have taken it upon myself to make the most of these opportunities. I have worked to make meals for the homeless and spend time with disabled children in my time at SLUH. Stewardship is often preached at SLUH in the form of “Men for Others.” Many teachers use this idea to set an example of how we should live our lives, and I truly try to live this out in my everyday life. Putting others before myself can be difficult sometimes, but as I support those less fortunate than myself, I am acting as a steward of God’s creation. 

The Annual Catholic Appeal was something I was exposed to as a child because I attended a Catholic school. My classmates and I were always encouraged to make a donation with our own money to the ACA and I knew it was money towards a good cause, but I never really understood the purpose of the ACA. I learned that the ACA’s mission promotes stewardship, assisting the suffering and abandoned, teaching children to love and know Jesus, and unifying Catholics in our diocese. I never understood before that I was part of that mission and that it is my responsibility as a catholic to do everything I can to help the suffering and abandoned and to maintain solidarity with my community. Our community is in need of help and it is important for myself and other Catholics to come together to support the ACA, helping our community to flourish. Although I am a teenager and I don’t have a lot of money to support the ACA, I can help support the community in other ways. Community service is an excellent example of serving the suffering and abandoned and it also brings us closer with our community, creating unity. I believe through community service I have developed relationships with the people I have worked with and I’ve gotten to know them better. 

Recently, I have realized the difference the ACA makes in our local community, supporting the suffering and abandoned, while also creating unity and helping to build God’s church. This got me thinking about my involvement in the church and what I can do to really make a difference in the community. While I attend church on Sundays and occasionally help with community service, I began to realize that I do not do enough good in the church. I want to be more active in community service and I want to seek out opportunities to be a steward of God’s creation. This weekend I plan to help one of my grade school classmates with his Eagle Scout project and I hope to begin to look for more opportunities to build the church through community service. 

I practice stewardship in my prayer life, giving God praise for the blessings he has given me, but also as I ask for God’s grace in my everyday life. God’s grace gives me the ability to reach out to others in my community, especially those who are in need of help. 

St. Peter says in the Bible, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace”(Peter 4:10). St. Paul is promoting stewardship, explaining that stewardship is using the gifts given to us by God to serve others. Whether it means supporting people’s physical needs, caring for nature, or recognizing the value of each person, stewardship is the giving of our gifts to help others, in order to glorify God. Part of being good stewards is recognizing that just showing up and doing good deeds is not solely the key to stewardship. Being stewards of God’s creation means using our gifts to glorify God. I believe the ACA is the embodiment of the idea of stewardship because of their work as the hands and feet of Jesus on earth. The ACA cares for the needs of the members of our community while also creating unity in our parishes and throughout the Arch Diocese. 

Mr. Eric Piening ‘22

St. Monica Parish 

Google defines stewardship to be the job of supervising or taking care of something, such as an organization or property. However, if someone asked me what stewardship means, I would tell them that it is being trusted to take care of something, and leaving that something better than you found it. A simple example from my own life would be my car. I drive a 2009 Chevy Malibu which my parents, thankfully, allow me to use to drive to school and to see friends and so forth. Now this car has seen a few things, having been entrusted to my four older brothers to drive before it made its way down to me. For that reason, the car has some dents and some scratches in the paint, and the inside looks like it has just been through a tornado. At least, that is how I would have described the car six months ago when I first started driving it. After I saw all the little things that “gave the car character”, I got right to work trying to make the car as bland a personality as possible. I washed that car clean and buffed those scratches right off. I discarded all the junk lying around the interior and vacuumed the seats and floor clean. The eleven-year-old car was similar to a wrinkly person getting Botox, some of the years of wear and tear seemed to be erased. In this situation, I consider myself to be a good steward to the car. The car is certainly not mine (as my parents are so quick to remind me) and when I got it it did not look like much. However, I took the car and did what I could to care for it, to make it look better, and (at the risk of sounding self-important) I did a good job with it. Yet, stewardship is not limited to my car.

Stewardship is a very real responsibility in many senses of life. The most important act of stewardship I perform is that to my brothers at SLUH. God trusts me and my fellow classmates to look out for each other, and SLUH does a phenomenal job of reminding us of that and giving us situations in which to exhibit this value. If a fellow student is having a tough time with a problem I know how to answer in math class, I do my best to assist him and teach him how to understand the problem. In another situation, maybe a student on my basketball team is having a rough time with conditioning, and needs a word of encouragement. I do my absolute best to provide this encouragement. And this is not a one-way situation. There are countless memories I have of receiving help, guidance, and advice from my fellow Junior Billikens. The way I would explain this consistent presence of stewardship in the student body is the fact that every student can relate to one another in some way, and as a result have a shared experience. This shared experience creates a feeling of responsibility for the wellbeing of my classmates, and allows for a constant flow of guidance and assistance between me, my friends, and other students I have never even spoken to. Drawing on this experience of stewardship, I can identify the most important elements of the idea to be that of responsibility and ability. It is only when an individual feels responsible for another and has the ability to help that stewardship can be exercised. This ability can take many forms, but is mostly shown in the giving of time, skill, treasure, or all of the above. One of the most important times of the year we can use our God-given resources to help others is in the Annual Catholic Appeal. 

The Annual Catholic Appeal is a great opportunity for Catholics to give of their resources to help those in need, exemplifying the practice of stewardship. I have received the help of stewards in my class looking out for me, and this has taught me the grace of stewardship. It makes me want to go out of my way to help someone else. Jesus instructed us to treat others the way we would like to be treated. I know that when I am in a tight spot that I want others to go out of their way to help me, and that is why I try to help those who seem to be struggling. But what happens when it is not someone needing help on a physics problem, but instead someone not having enough food to eat, or someone not being able to access an education? That is where the stakes are much higher, and that is where the Annual Catholic Appeal comes into play.

Resources given to the Annual Catholic Appeal directly fund Catholic education, and many charities, as well as preserve the ability of the Church to provide such help. Most people know what it is like to undergo hardship, and that is where the sense of responsibility to others in need arises from. We are called by God to act as stewards to those in need, whether that be a child who cannot afford a Catholic school, a person living on the streets in need of assistance, or even those who work and support a struggling parish. It is through the ACA that those who need food can get food, those who need shelter can get shelter, and those who need a Catholic education can get a Catholic education. The reason we all need to support the Annual Catholic Appeal is clear. God calls us to be stewards of His Creation, and that includes being stewards to other human beings. In addition, we all know what it is like to experience tribulation, and if you were lucky, someone probably helped you out. Now, it is our turn to be the helper, our turn to help the impoverished, the sick, and the hungry. The Annual Catholic Appeal is not speakers at the end of mass asking for money. It is the continued operation of homeless shelters. It is funding to organizations that help the hungry and the sick. It is funding for the continued operation of our own parishes and schools. The call is simple, the answer is up to us.

Mr. Coby Spratte ‘22

St. Gerard Magella

An exhausted money plea, a useless donation, and a church scam. These are examples of exactly what the Annual Catholic Appeal is not. The way I see it, the ACA is a unification of Catholics across the St. Louis area, coming together to serve and assist the less fortunate in our community while also introducing our young children, the next generation’s parish and church leaders, to the love and peace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

It is important for myself and all Catholics in our respective Archdiocese of St Louis to unite as one and participate in the Annual Catholic Appeal due to the values and gifts my parish has given me and the need to give back to them, but also to the community as a large, more specifically the less fortunate. It’s important to me to give back through the ACA because of my beneficial upbringing through Catholic school and involvement in my parish community which instilled values in me that I still carry to this day. Outside of my family, this was the first community in which I was part of. Similar to Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, I was first introduced to Jesus Christ’s love and compassion as a toddler and young child in Sunday School. This was the basis in my Catholic faith journey which was then followed by daily religion class at St. Gerard Magella, which I sustained for all nine years I attended the school. In addition to the religion courses throughout the academic year, I was immersed into Vacation Bible School which made learning about God à fun experience, something that I looked forward to. While each year dug a little deeper into stories of the Bible or Jesus’ life and featured more difficult vocabulary, the central message stayed constant from Sunday School to eighth grade. That message is love, specifically the love of Jesus to all of us in his Kingdom. These basic principles and teachings from my youth have since instilled within me virtues such as faith, hope and charity. These stood as a structure to the person I have become today as I have matured and grown the past few years. Furthermore, I was involved in many CYC Sports, a program very closely tied to the ACA. Even more than in the classroom or at Mass, the CYC built a strong community for me as a child. Besides the unifying team effort, competing for the City County championship every year as one bonded team, this was one of the best outlets to expand our horizons in the community. The CYC allowed me to become good friends with kids at public school whom I never would have met without this program in partnership with the ACA. I’ve been able to hold a handful of those ties to the present day. I always reiterate to people that the CYC sports that I played, baseball, basketball, and volleyball, were the greatest organized sports league I’ve ever participated in due to the shrew fact of the oneness of our teams competing against other schools, forming healthy rivalries whilst instilling values of sportsmanship and how to play the game right. Finally, I was able to benefit from the communities formed through youth ministry events from middle school into high school. Thursday night, 6pm at the Youth House was the social event of the week in middle school as we would come together, brought in by snacks and games, and would always come away with a night centered around prayer through music and fellowship. Later, in my freshman year, I was part of a small group of male students and parishioners led by our seminarian. We shared food and stories and prayed about each other’s lives. This was incredibly beneficial to be able to see such different perspectives on life and come together with people in a way I never thought would be possible. As you can see from the plethora of experiences I have garnered, I’m extremely grateful for my Catholic upbringing. I also realize that I am incredibly fortunate to have been brought up this way and to have the immense opportunities I have in my life such as attending SLUH. I take many things for granted such as my next meal on the table or a warm bed to sleep in, a luxury a lot of people don’t have. My thankfulness for my parish upbringing and of the communities I formed through school, along with the understanding of the blessings I have in this life are prime examples of why the ACA and donating to it is important to myself and the rest of the community because of their immense support of Catholic education, something I experienced first hand, and of charities giving back to the community. 

In my opinion, stewardship is a deeper, more innate form of donation. The most conventional form of donating is the donation of goods such as money, clothes or canned food. While stewardship is more layered than just this baseline understanding, this type of donation is still incredibly important, and is what the ACA is based upon. Annual donations of money are what get organizations like the ACA off the ground and, in turn, one of their missions is to give back to the less fortunate and those hurting in our communities through food and clothing efforts. Everyday, on my drive to school, I drive on either Hampton or South Kingshighway, two hotspots in our city for homelessness. I’ve made it a habit to throw a couple extra granola bars and water bottles in my car to hand to those less fortunate begging on street corners and at stop lights. A simple act like this could be the difference to whether or not these people are starving which is much more important than whether or not I get to eat a snack in between my second and third periods at school. The deeper version of donation doesn’t constitute anything materialistic, but, rather, focuses completely on the giving of goodwill and kindness. One way of doing this would be to volunteer and give the service of presence whether it be sparking up a conversation with a few elderly people at an assisted living or playing with kids who have special needs, both are two great examples of donating your time. For my Sophomore service project, I volunteered at KEEN, an organization where kids with disabilities can come and learn to play different sports in a tight knit community. I played basketball with them, and kept attending even after I achieved my necessary service hours. Their joy was more than imminent simply from myself and the other volunteers just taking a couple hours out of our nights to be a friend, to be a companion to them. The most innate form of donation, of stewardship, in my opinion is not often thought of as a donation. It’s something that is largely overlooked in our society and that is kindness. Whether it may be holding the door for an extra five seconds at the gas station, smiling at someone as you pass them in the store, sitting with someone you never talk to or sparking up polite conversation with someone who seems to not be having the best of days, I believe that these minimal effort engagements have huge effects on people’s moods and days in general. These simple acts of selflessness and kindness embody stewardship and reiterate what Jesus meant when he said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

People from all walks of life in the Archdiocese are supported by the ACA. The organization impacts everyone in our community ranging from a first grader at a Catholic grade school to an elderly homeless man. Supporting Catholic education and spreading the message of Jesus Christ to the children of our community is one of the ACA’s primary goals. They support grade school and high school Catholic schools and then take that a step further by implementing tools such as the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd to instill a firm relationship between the children and God. They also impact the children and young teenagers of our community with their support and involvement in CYC sports, an outlet for kids to have fun with their peers outside of the classroom while spreading God’s message of goodwill. Outside of young people, the ACA also impacts the lives of those struggling in our community. Whether it be single mothers struggling to make ends meet, a family trying to maneuver through the adoption process, or women and children abused at home, the ACA is there in first hand guidance and support to help guide these people out of the dark and into the light. One of the many foundations supported by them is St. Martha’s, an organization and home for women and children abused at home. The ACA is a direct contributor in their funding and shares in their mission to help those in need. An aspect that is supported by this established organization that a lot of people may not know about is their support of racial and immigrant equality in our country and community. The ACA funds organizations such as the Office of Racial Harmony, so that they can further strive to achieve their goals. Lastly, the ACA also supports an incredible amount of people behind the scenes through funding support and donations such as parish food pantries, homeless drives, and other funds searching for equality in our community and world. 

The Annual Catholic Appeal, an organization and unification of Catholics in our Archdiocese who strives to help those less fortunate in our community and to spread the message of Christ to the young people of our parishes, spreads its message and carries out its mission through the virtue of stewardship, a more personal way of donating not only to those in need, but to all those around us in everyday life, as well, which results in an amazing outreach that ranges from the young elementary students to those failing to make ends meet for their families. This is an organization that diligently works for the betterment of our community and needs our donations.

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