GENEVA — St. Ignatius apparently was watching over Carlie Eagle on May 11.
That night, Carlie, an eighth-grader at St. Mary School in Canandaigua, won the annual DeSales High School Oratorical Contest and earned a scholarship to DeSales for the 2009-10 school year.
What does that have to do with St. Ignatius, you might ask?
The saint and founder of the Jesuit order of priests was the topic of Carlie’s award-winning talk.
"How My Favorite Saint Influenced My Life" was the theme of this year’s contest, which drew 20 students from four towns. Students in the fifth through eighth grades at St. Mary, St. Michael School in Newark, St. Francis-St. Stephen School in Geneva and St. Michael School in Penn Yan had competed in oratorical contests at their own schools, and the winners of those contests advanced to the May 11 contest at DeSales.
DeSales has been holding the oratorical contest for approximately 10 years, said Doreen DeSain, contest coordinator and an English and French teacher at the high school. The students benefit from the experience of researching a topic and speaking in front of an audience, she said, but that’s not the only reason DeSales continues to hold the contest.
"We like to interact with the students from other schools, from our feeder schools," DeSain said. "It’s fun. They seem to enjoy it, and it’s just nice to get together."
A panel of six judges evaluated the contestants’ speeches based on a variety of factors, including originality, poise and articulation, and first- through fifth-place winners in each grade were announced at the evening’s conclusion. Each of the 20 contestants won a monetary prize, and Carlie earned her scholarship as the winner of the eighth-grade competition, DeSain said.
Carlie told the Catholic Courier she’s not yet sure if she’ll use her scholarship and attend DeSales next year, but said she’s definitely excited about winning the contest. She had no inkling when she arrived at DeSales that evening that she’d be walking out that night with such an award.
"I was pretty nervous, but I’m in drama club, so I’m used to talking in front of people like this," Carlie said.
During her speech, Carlie shared basic biographical information about St. Ignatius and recounted the story of his crippling battle injury and his determined recovery.
"As a student and a soccer and basketball player, I know how important it is to strive to do the best you can. His great determination inspires me to be the best I can be in everything I do, despite any obstacles I may face," she said.
Kayli Harling, a sixth-grader at St. Francis-St. Stephen, said the example of her chosen saint, St. Raphael, also inspires her to do her best, and to obey her parents and teachers. Kayli, who placed fourth in the sixth-grade competition, said she felt relatively comfortable speaking in front of the crowd of students, parents and teachers gathered at DeSales, especially since three of her friends came with her for moral support.
"I was a little nervous, but after I got up there I got less nervous. After I looked around I knew nobody was going to bite my head off," she said.
Seventh-grader Robert Nicholas, also a St. Francis-St. Stephen student, said he dealt with his nervousness by trying to forget there were other people in the room while he spoke about St. Peter.
Kelly Bray, a fifth-grade student at St. Michael School in Penn Yan, said she and the other contestants from her school gave their speeches in front of the entire school earlier that day. After that, she said, speaking in front of the small crowd at DeSales was a breeze. Kelly, an animal lover who is already planning on attending veterinary school, spoke about St. Francis of Assisi and his passion for animals.
Fifth-grader Mary Armstrong, a student at St. Michael School in Newark, and several other students chose St. Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians, as their favorite saint. St. Cecilia remained faithful to God even though she was martyred for her beliefs, Mary said.
"She inspires me to be strong and to be loyal to Christ every day," she said.
"Music is like God and St. Cecilia’s gift to the world to make it a better place," eighth-grader Evan Vasquez, also from Newark, noted in his own speech. One of the best ways to relieve stress, he said, is by "rampaging the power chords on your guitar until your amp starts making that little fuzzy staticy sound. I guarantee crime rates would be doubled if there were no music."
St. Cecilia trusted God and had total faith in his plan for her life, said Allison Johnstone, an eighth-grader at St. Mary School.
"I hope that some day I can be as faithful and trusting in God and what he has planned for my life as Cecilia was," Allison said.
Oratorical contest winners
Here are the winners of the 2009 DeSales High School Oratorical Contest:
* First place: Eliza Maher, St. Francis-St. Stephen School, Geneva
* Second place: Mary Armstrong, St. Michael School, Newark
* Third place: Eric Gifford, St. Michael School, Penn Yan
* Fourth place: Kelly Bray, St. Michael School, Penn Yan
* Fifth place: John Reston, St. Mary School, Canandaigua
* First place: Victoria Sapp, St. Michael School, Newark
* Second place: Madison Maher, St. Francis-St. Stephen School, Geneva
* Third place: Gina Iacovangelo, St. Mary School, Canandaigua
* Fourth place: Kayli Harling, St. Francis-St. Stephen School, Geneva
* Fifth place: Jeanette Fafone, St. Mary School, Canandaigua
* First place: Rachel Ficcaglia, St. Francis-St. Stephen School, Geneva
* Second place: Robert Nicholas, St. Francis-St. Stephen School, Geneva
* Third place: Jackson Negley, St. Mary School, Canandaigua
* Fourth place: Miranda Yates, St. Mary School, Canandaigua
* Fifth place: Alexandria Powers, St. Michael School, Newark
* First place: Carlie Eagle, St. Mary School, Canandaigua
* Second place: Jenna Mastin, St. Francis-St. Stephen School, Geneva
* Third place: Allison Johnstone, St. Mary School, Canandaigua
* Fourth place: Tyler Scherzi, St. Francis-St. Stephen School, Geneva
* Fifth place: Evan Vasquez, St. Michael School, NewarkTags: Catholic Schools