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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Annual Student Essay Content Winners Describe “Catholic Heroes and Heroines of the Southwest”

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Suzanne Hammons
Suzanne Hammonshttp://dioceseofgallup.org
Suzanne Hammons is the editor of the Voice of the Southwest and the media coordinator for the Diocese of Gallup. A graduate of Benedictine College in Kansas, she joined the Diocesan staff in 2012.

Each year students from Catholic Schools throughout the Diocese are given a chance to compete in a themed essay contest. For the 2020-2021 school year, students were challenged to write about “Catholic Heroes and Heroines of the Southwest”. Fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh-grade students from St. Teresa School in Grants, NM won in their respective grade levels. The winner of the eighth-grade category is a student at St. Joseph School in San Fidel, NM.

A panel of judges consisting of teachers and principals from schools throughout the diocese chose the winning essays, which are presented below.

“Today’s Hero, Laura Watchapino”

By Carmella Chosa
St. Joseph Mission School
8th Grade

Laura Watchapino was born in Fresno California, in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley. She went to St. Theresa’s in Fresno, California, but when she moved to Livermore California, she went to St. Michael’s. She moved to New Mexico to go to school at the University of New Mexico. She was not in any clubs at her school in Elementary or Middle School, but she considered her study time with other students as a club. Until in college she joined a club called the Kiva Club. The Kiva Club did fundraisers, such as potlucks. She was also in a newspaper club called Four Directions. In college she thought about what career she was going to pursue, she was interested in Political Science and Education. She studied Political Science for a year, Laura thought “Where would I find a job in New Mexico for Political Science?” Laura studied Education for two years, when she was reading the newspaper she found tribes are having trouble with water resources and land issues. Since she did not really know what her career was going to be, she thought “I should do something for my community”. Laura went to The University New Mexico School Of Law, and got her JD Degree (Juris Doctor).

Laura was inspired by many people but one in particular was Carrie Dann. Carrie Dann defended her home land from being a nuclear waste plant. Laura was so amazed by what she was reading about Carrie Dann. She thought about Acoma land and water rights, so she became a Water Quality Specialist. She met Gilbert Ortiz, who works for the land office with the tribe of Acoma, who is now retired. Who told her about many problems that Acoma was facing. She never really thought about the many issues for American tribes dealing with nuclear waste, government land disputes and droughts. Some sacrifices Laura made was that she couldn’t do sports, Laura was into running and she wanted to run a marathon or join cross country. But, she couldn’t because she had to focus on school. After college in 1984 she joined a water commission department in Acoma. She was having second thoughts about her career when she first walked into work, she was so scared and she did not know what kind of situation or problems she would face during this job, there could be many challenges. In 1980 there was a company that wanted to do mining at Mt. Taylor, when Laura was reading about this she couldn’t believe the news, especially when this place is considered a sacred place to all pueblos. She saw that there was a gathering being held to stop this from happening, Laura told her Grandpa about the mining. First thing in the morning Laura and her Grandpa went to Mt. Taylor, there were a lot of people supporting Mt. Taylor and Mother Earth Laura’s Grandpa and others spoke to the people, about how bad it would affect the land and the community.

After a period of time she got used to her job, and told herself it’s not bad and I can do it. Some rewards she got was earning trust, from her peers and her community. Serving her community for eleven years for the tribe Acoma, she met so many people through her journey and family. Laura does baking in her free time, and visits her grandchildren. She still runs and bike rides, and has dinner with her Auntie, also goes to church on Saturdays before the Covid-19 crisis. If Laura said she had a superpower, it would be a fantastic memory since she is getting older and sometimes you forget you need to do stuff. Laura calls them her senior moments when she forgets something, she would like a memory superpower so she remembers important meetings papers and errands that need to be done. I wonder if Laura took a different pathway in her career, what if we didn’t know about droughts, dry lakes, rivers not flowing and sacred waters being trespassed. I would also like to thank everyone who fights for their community, and the environment. I would like to give thanks to Carrie Dann who recently died January 2nd, 2021 she was so brave and amazing for what she did to save the animal’s environment and sacred lands.

Laura is an inspiring person to talk to and is a great role model and Grandma to me. I would like to thank her for caring for the community, also the hard work she has done studying, reading, and planning for my future. She said “It’s a new learning experience in this new technology”. I can agree with her due to this pandemic, that it is a new experience every day using technology, but I’m getting used to it as well. Laura is funny, kind and humble person. She is an intelligent and inspiring woman, I’m grateful to call her grandma. I learned so much about her writing this essay, and the person reading this will be inspired by her. She put so much hard work and dedication to keep the water safe for the community.


“Catholic Heroes/Heroines of the Southwest”

By Melia Chavez
St. Teresa of Avila Catholic School
7th grade

There are many heroes and heroines of the Southwest, but there are only three in specific that I will write about today. A hero is a person who is highly admired or idealized for their courage or noble qualities. A hero just doesn’t save lives; they inspire others to be kind, help others, and inspire others to do good, to make sure they are making the right choices because, when you make wrong choices it could really affect the rest of your life.

Let’s talk about our first heroine, Katherine Drexel. Katherine Drexel did tons of helpful things in the Southwest and all around the United States. She was an American heiress, philanthropist, religious sister, educator and founder. She subsequently founded the order of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and used her fortune to create new schools for Native Americans and African Americans across the United States. She was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in 2000; her feast day is celebrated on March 3. She was the second American to be canonized a saint and the first one born a U.S. citizen.

Let’s move on to our second hero, Juan Diego Cuauhtlaboatzin. Juan Diego was a Chichmec peasant and Marian visionary. He is said to be granted visions of the Virgin Mary on four occasions in December 1531. He had three on the hill of Tepeyac and a fourth before don Juan de Zunarraga, the bishop of Mexico.

Let’s see our next heroine, Sister Blandina. Sister Blandina was an Italian-born American. She was a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati and a missionary. She became widely known through her service on the American frontier in the 19th century.

These are just some of the Catholic heroes and heroines of the Southwest out of many. All these people inspired others and helped others realize that making wrong choices can really affect your life. They are heroes to me personally because they show inspiration and power in how they live their lives.


“Catholic Heroes in the Southwest”

By Aaliyah Allen
St. Teresa of Avila Catholic School
6th grade

There are many Catholic heroes in the southwest. A hero is someone who has done something that people look up to.

One hero named Katherine Drexel is well known because she had restored a teenager’s hearing. She is a hero because she founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.

Another hero, Juan Diego, was the Virgin Mary’s messenger and an early evangelizer. He is a hero in the faith because he stayed true to his beliefs.

Anselm Weber, which is also a hero, was one of the first friars to arrive at St. Michael’s mission. He is a hero because he loved the church and wanted to spread the message of love to all people.

These are just a few of the Catholic heroes that helped people in the Southwest. There are many more heroes that devoted their lives to living out their faith and helping other people.


“Catholic Heroes”

By Sophia Zhong
St. Teresa of Avila Catholic School
5th grade

I looked for Catholic heroes that were important to the Catholic Church. A hero is someone who could save you from harm and that you can look up to.

One Hero is Juan Diego. Juan Diego’s original name was “The Talking Eagle.” He is well known because of his vision of the Virgin Mary. There is a story about when his uncle was sick, and when he returned home his uncle’s health was restored. A cloak with roses that he got from the Virgin Mary ended up healing his uncle. He is brave because he helped his uncle when he was sick.

Another Hero is Katherine Drexel. She was an American founder of the Blessed Sacrament Sisters. She is the Patron Saint of racial justice and Philanthropists. Katherine, was deeply impacted by her stepmother’s long painful battle of cancer. She spent her life helping others. She was kind and always helped others.

There are many Catholic heroes in the world but I picked these two Catholic heroes that were important to me. How Katherine was important to me was because she was the Patron Saint of racial justice. How Juan Diego was important to me was that he lived in Mexico and I live close to Mexico.


“Catholic Heroes”

By Josiah Rodriguez
St. Teresa of Avila Catholic School
4th Grade

There are many heroes in the world that help others. Juan Diego and Katherine Drexel are Catholic Heroes.

Juan Diego is a hero because he dedicated his life to prayer and his love of God. He visited his uncle when he was sick. He found Mary on top of the hill. Mary told him to go look for a rose.

Another hero is Katherine Drexel. She is a hero because she taught in 63 schools throughout the country and established 50 missions in 16 different states. She is the patron saint of racial justice and philanthropists. She founded and endowed schools and churches for African Americans. The Pope challenged her to devote her life to help others.

These people are heroes because they helped other people.


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