By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — In May 2010, the Padraig Pearse Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians announced it had established four $500 scholarships benefiting eighth graders in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph who wished to attend Catholic high schools either in Kansas or Missouri. The first scholarships were awarded in August 2010. The scholarship award presentation has become an annual event.
Four students were awarded scholarships Aug. 14, at the Irish Cultural Center in the lower level of Union Station. Students applying for one of the scholarships complete an application, including contact information, a brief biography and why he or she believes they would be a good candidate for the award, including service to school, church and community, and transcripts from their school. The final part of the application process is a 500-word essay. Students are not required to be of Irish descent, but the essay must be on a topic related to the history of Ireland.
Joe Flanagin, president of the Padraig Pearse Division, welcomed the students and their families to the ceremonies before the closed-door monthly meeting of the members. He said that this year, more than 30 students applied for the four scholarships. The division’s teams of 10 judges were assigned different lots of essays, all of which were “de-identified” to ensure unbiased judging. “The entries were spectacular,” he said, “making the judging difficult.”
Garin Nolan, chairman of the scholarship committee, introduced the students, who then read their essays aloud to the Hibernian members present, fellow scholarship winners and Bishop Robert W. Finn, himself a member of the Padraig Pearse Division.
John Perlick, a senior at St. Pius X High School, was unable to attend due to football practice so his mother read his essay and received his scholarship check from the bishop. John wrote an essay on Ireland’s Scientific Roots, featuring Robert Boyle, the father of modern chemistry; Dame Kathleen Lonsdale, a British crystallographer born in Ireland of Irish parents, who finally proved that the benzene ring was flat by X-ray diffraction methods in 1929, and Ernest Walton, an Irish physicist and Nobel Laureate, known as “the atom smasher.”
Freshman Lexie Chirpich, who attends St. Pius X High School, wrote on The Giant’s Causeway. The site, in County Antrim, Northern Ireland is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of a volcanic eruption about 60 million years ago. The columns inspired many Irish fairy tales, legends and myths, especially the tale of Irish giant Finn McCool who was challenged to a fight by Scottish giant Benandonner. According to the tale, McCool built the causeway in order to meet Benandonner.
Lexi concluded her essay saying, “Like other grand formations, around the world, the Giant’s Causeway in fact begs us to consider the scientific questions and also helps us ponder all the possibilities, no matter how big or small.”
Diana de la Cruz, a freshman at Archbishop O’Hara High school, wrote on Irish Catholic missionaries serving all over the world, especially in impoverished countries. She focused on the more than 1,500 Irish-born Catholic missionaries serving in mission dioceses in India, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the Sudan.
She spoke of the Catholic Emancipation Act, passed in Parliament in 1829, which allowed Irish Catholics to be elected to political office except the highest offices.”
Diana also mentioned the Missionary Society of St. Columban, known as the “Columbans,” a missionary Catholic society of apostolic life, founded in Ireland in 1916 as the Maynooth Mission to China. It was approved by the Vatican in 1918. Members may be priests, seminarians or lay workers. The founders of the Society also founded the Missionary Sisters of St. Columban to share in their work.
“The contributions of Irish Catholic missionaries to healthcare, education, politics and Christian faith are many,” she said.
The Kansas City Irish Festival contributed $500 for one of the scholarships this year, the Irish Festival Award. Brenna Killen, a sophomore at St. James Academy in Shawnee, Kan., was the awardee. Her topic was Commodore John Barry, the Irish immigrant who became the father of the U. S. Navy (an epithet he shares with John Paul Jones). He was the first officer in the fledgling navy, commissioned by President George Washington in 1794.
She concluded, “When one enters the U.S. Naval Academy (at Annapolis, MD) through the ‘John Barry Gate,’ they should remember this Irish –American hero who represents an immigrant’s dedication to our nation, but also recognize that this County Wexford Irish immigrant merits the respect of all Americans as one who well served his adopted country.’”
The chairman of the KC Irish Fest presented Brenna with her scholarship check, made payable as were all the checks, to her school.
For more information on the scholarship program visit www.aohkc.org.