Story and photos by Ed Casey

The Diocese of Rockville Centre’s Respect Life Office hosted an awards ceremony for the annual Respect Life Youth Contest on Wednesday, May 2, at Holy Trinity Diocesan High School, Hicksville. This year’s entries focused on the theme “Be Not Afraid.”

Master of Ceremonies Bishop Robert Brennan spoke to the students, parents, educators, clergy and religious assembled about the importance of witnessing to the sanctity of life. He emphasized that everyone should be bold and express their faith with courage. The bishop remarked that students today are truly the pro-life generation.

Bishop Brennan spoke about Pope Francis’ new apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad) and mentioned in particular paragraph 144 which speaks about noticing the details. “Let us not forget that Jesus asked his disciples to pay attention to details. The little detail that wine was running out at a party. The little detail that one sheep was missing. The little detail of noticing the widow who offered her two small coins. The little detail of having spare oil for the lamps, should the bridegroom delay. The little detail of asking the disciples how many loaves of bread they had. The little detail of having a fire burning and a fish cooking as he waited for the disciples at daybreak.”

The contest participants, Bishop Brennan noted, are so gifted at noticing the details in their everyday lives as well as most vividly in their expressive works of art. The contest included many categories of art including essays, poetry, murals, photography, bookmarks, videos and video interviews of seniors.

One highlight of the night was Kellenberg Memorial High School junior Christelle Pascal’s performance of her award-winning original song, ‘Be Not Afraid – He Will Be There.’  Watch the video on our Facebook page.

The 17-year-old singer, who was once a cantor at her home parish of St. Christopher’s in Baldwin, says her talent for music came at the prompting of her dad who pushed her to pursue her love of singing. At Kellenberg, she is involved in all the vocal venues possible, performing in the XLT Band, Gregorian Consortium and Phoenix Chorus as well as Drama Club productions.

She twice won Nassau County’s Got Talent and competed at the Apollo Theater in 8th grade. While she still has her senior year to look forward to, Christelle hopes to studying music, performance and drama in college with ambition to be a performer or professional on Broadway.

You can see, hear and watch all the winning entries at the Respect Life Office website,