By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — The Padraig Pearse Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians recently awarded scholarships to four metro Kansas City area high school students who will be attending Catholic high schools this fall. The scholarship program, established in 2010 by the 141-year-old Irish, Catholic fraternal organization chapter, benefits the students and their families, as well as educating them about Irish culture and supporting the Church.
The $500 scholarships are not need-based awards, the program’s chair, Kurt Killen, explained. A 500 word essay is part of the scholarship application process, he said, along with biographical and contact information and reasons why the applicant feels he or she would be a good candidate, including service to church, school and community as well as grade and/or high school transcripts.
Applicants don’t have to be of Irish descent, but their essay must be on a topic related to the history of Ireland.
This year, the Hibernian division received 17 entries and the selection committee chose four applicants. Following a reading of each of the essays, Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn presented the students with their scholarships during a division meeting at the Irish Cultural Museum in Union Station Aug. 9.
Erin O’Connell will be attending St. James Academy this fall. Her essay was on “The Beauty of the Sport” of Irish dancing. Writing the essay gave her the opportunity to discover the history behind the steps she practices every day, she said. She described the Derry Reel, in which the dancers join hands and dance in a circle. “The Druids were commonly cited as some of the first people to practice Irish dance,” she wrote, “and they used to dance religious rituals honoring the oak tree and the sun. Mirroring the circular shapes, they danced around and around; just like we do today! I love how the dancers in the heart of Kansas City perform dances that are so true to its history that is rooted back in Ireland.”
Mallory Fellows will be attending Bishop Miege High School this fall. Her essay was on “Bloomsday,” a day celebrating the life of Irish writer James Joyce. In it she explained the facts behind Bloomsday, celebrated on June 16 in 60 countries around the world, but which has become a tradition in Dublin, Ireland, she wrote. “The first celebration took place in Dublin on June 16, 1954, fifty years after he took his first walk with Nora Barnacle, who became his wife. The story in Ulysses takes place in one day, June 16, 1904, and is based on Homer’s Odyssey. The word ‘Bloomsday’ came from the name of the main character in Ulysses, Leopold Bloom.”
She concluded by saying she was inspired by the recognition of James Joyce’s works and hopes one day to be recognized for her writing also.
Gabriela Chirpich will be attending St. Pius X High School this fall. Her essay gave an overview of “The 1916 Easter Rising,” which eventually led to the 1919-1921 Irish War for Independence and the resulting secession of 26 of Ireland’s 32 counties from the United Kingdom.
She wrote, “As World War I began to unfold, troubles in Ireland had turned for the worse, especially with the Home Rule issues. With Britain’s’ involvement in the war declared and the Home Rule for Ireland postponed until after the war, many people accepted this and joined the British Army to fight the Germans … But one group viewed the war as something different, an opportunity to end British rule in Ireland.” She explained the defeat of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and the executions of many of the uprising’s leaders, including Padraig Pearse, and then discussed the changing of Irish minds and the battle for independence. “This was all because of a group who so desperately wanted their freedom.”
John Perlik will also attend St. Pius X High School this fall. His essay examined the “Changing Economy of Ireland.” He wrote, “For most of Ireland’s history, agriculture dominated the economy and influenced the lifestyle for most of the Irish.” After the 1948 birth of the Irish Republic, that changed. “With the shift from a primarily agriculture based economy,” he concluded, “to one which is service, industry and information-based, Ireland, a country with a historically poor economy evolved into a prosperous nation with a globally influential economy. The continuously expanding economy led to a better way of life for the Irish and a better Ireland for the rest of the world.”
The Padraig Pearse division of The Ancient Order of Hibernians plans to again offer the scholarships to students attending Catholic high schools on both sides of the state line, in 2013.
For more information, visit KCAOH.org, click on Padraig Pearse Division.