Each year St. Martin of Tours parish in Franklin, Wis., has an essay contest for its eighth graders. The theme of the essay? The founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, Fr. Leo John Dehon. The winner receives $100 toward his or her high school education.
This year’s winner was Kelli Kontney. Fr. Yvon Sheehy, SCJ, pastor of St. Martin of Tours, shared her essay:
Father Leo Dehon has been an important part of St. Martin of Tours’ history. He has influenced our priests here at St. Martin’s to be in a communion with God, and Dehon has set an example for our teachers. Because of him, I am in an environment where I can learn all I need for high school, and I can learn about my faith.
The priests we have here really seem to care about us. Father Dehon’s love for children really seems to be important for them. The priests ask us questions about our lives; like our extracurricular activities, our families, and our friends. I remember Father Tony giving me a hug every time I came out of Church, and Father Francis would pat me on the back while he asked me how I was. Times like these really seem to make our Church seem like a family. I think Father Dehon would be proud of all our priests.
The teachers at St. Martin’s also seem to have a strong connection with their students. They represent Father Dehon’s love, empathy, faith, and dedication. The teachers are always there to catch us when we fall, cheer us up if we are feeling down, spread the Word of God, and help us in any way they can. They always try their best to be great examples, and for the most part, I think they succeed. I love it here at school because of the family atmosphere. My class and I are close because we were brought up with the same, great minds who have taught us. All of this leads back to Father Dehon.
I think Father Dehon’s effect on my life has become clear to me in the last couple of months. He has given me a place where I can feel safe and loved. If it was not for the Priests of the Sacred Heart, I do not know how my personality would have tuned out. I like the person I have become and I would not change the past if I had the chance. I learned my Catholic values and social teachings here at St. Martin of Tours. If I was at a public school, that would not have happened. My teachers put what I learned from my parents, about my faith, in place. This has helped me become a better person inside and out.
Thank you Father Dehon. I am grateful for the treasure you have given me in my school, my faith, and my friends. Your devotion to children and their faith-filled education has paid off for me. You have given influence to so many people who are actively involved in my everyday life. I am so thankful to be part of your plan. I hope I can carry what my priests and teachers have taught me in MY plan for the future, and I hope your influence on me can rub off to others as I live my life of faith.