By TARA CONNOLLY Staff writer
“One of the things gumming up our conscience is that children, at best, are sometimes seen as an inconvenience, and at worst, a punishment,” said Father Bernard Ezaki, assistant pastor of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Easton, Jan. 14 to the finalists in the annual “Stand Up for Life” essay contest award ceremony at St. Francis of Assisi, Allentown.
“High Schools and Planned Parenthood” was this year’s Senior Division theme; “Personal Choice, My Body, My Right” was the Junior Division theme.
The contest, a joint effort of the Knights of Columbus and the Diocesan Office of Pro-Life and Social Concerns, drew more than 500 submissions.
Father Ezaki was born legally blind as the result of being given too much oxygen following his premature birth. That led to “retinopathy of prematurity,” a blinding eye disorder that can affect premature infants and lead to lifelong vision impairment and blindness.
Years later, when he was 26 and about to enter the seminary, a doctor told him that his blindness was a punishment from God for his mother deciding to leave her life as a religious order novice and marry his father.
“Today I am not just talking about Roe v. Wade that made abortion legal in every state or the legalization of birth control. I am talking about the insidious prejudice that has invaded the hearts and minds of good people,” said Father Ezaki.
To his shock, he said, the doctor was a good man who cared for inmates from concentration camps. To his dismay, he was disheartened that the doctor shared the same “crass and unfeeling opinion” with his mother.
“This doctor was imbued with the idea that children could be a punishment from God. I don’t get it. How can children be anything but a blessing? Sometimes blessings come wrapped in unexpected packages,” said Father Ezaki.
He also shared the tale of the people of Sparrow Courthouse, who were always putting on airs and purchased a fancy clock from Europe for the courthouse steeple. Over time, the sun was rising and setting earlier every day and the townspeople attributed it to the sun behaving in a peculiar way.
“Instead of regulating our lives to natural law, we have been running our lives to a conscience like the people of Sparrow Courthouse,” said Father Ezaki.
In his talk, he also pointed to a part in “The Muppet Movie” (2011) when Walter asked Kermit what is the greatest gift.
“Kermit first said ice cream, then laughed before saying children,” said Father Ezaki.
“Let’s remember that always and teach it to our children. Let’s teach our children how easy it is to gum up our conscience. And let’s teach them that children are better than laughter and even better than ice cream,” he said.
For the essay contest, four winners were chosen in each deanery, a first- and second-place winner in each division. Eight students received honorable mention in the Junior Division and four students received honorable mention in the Senior Division.
Senior Division (grades 9-12) essay winners were: first place Katie Hawkins, Bethlehem Catholic High School (Becahi); (click here to read her essay) and second place Emily Carpenter, Nativity BVM High School, Pottsville.
Junior Division (grades 7-8) essay winners were: first place Chloe Palm-Rittle, St. Ignatius Loyola School, Sinking Spring; (click here to read her essay) and second place Andrew Hines, St. Thomas More School, Allentown.
Honorable mention in the Senior Division were: Jonathan Bonomo, Marian High School, Tamaqua; Patrick Buerke, Berks Catholic High School, Reading; Kayla Corrado, Becahi; and Bridget Ehrig, Becahi.
Honorable mention in the Junior Division were: Isabella Bautista, Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH) School, Bethlehem; Katherine Buerke, St. Ignatius; Marissa Calantoni, OLPH; Shannon Dougherty, St. John Neumann Regional School, Palmerton; Lauren Ferhat, Assumption BVM School, Pottsville; Caitlyn Kratzer, St. John Neumann; Joshua Tray, Assumption BVM; and Leah Wishard, St. Thomas More.