Literary Winners 2013

Thank you to all of the students for their time and huge effort that went into all of the fabulous entries.

Our objective is that each student will learn about the Monsignor and his selfless deeds and to take these valuable lessons on board for their own lives. We hope in time that our students will in turn tell their children about the Monsignor.

It's important that we learn and that we never forget..

Winner - Poetry

The Shepherd: by Ron Carey

‘Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, this is not your fight!
Is it because you’re Irish you think Justice is a right?
Should your priestly vestments not hinder and detain
The real man inside them – what does your God ordain?’

‘The answer to your question will not take very long.
If a man be a singer, he must sing his own sweet song.
And this is the song I sing, “All men shall be free.”
And for that cause, I’d gladly die, as Jesus died for me.’

The Dark it has descended and its grip is very tight
Upon the Holy City, where somewhere in the night
The Wolves of Desolation seek the sheep that are lost.
Can the Shepherd save them – and what will be the cost?

The White Line of the Vatican is safety for the crew
Of failed bombing missions, of Gentile and of Jew.
The hand of the Shepherd leads them silently away –
A place to hide, a place to rest, a quiet place to pray.

The Wolves seek the Shepherd who hides in beggars rags
Or in a suit he walks beneath their presumptuous flags.
Is that him kneeling in the Church or is he on the run?
Or does the bold Monsignor wear their uniform and gun?

In the bloody skies of War not many stars shine bright
But in a few there seems to burn a special, sacred light.
Forever now his star will shine on the streets of Rome,
Bright – as over Vinegar Hill or his peaceful Kerry home.

Yes, he left us with an answer to those who would do wrong.
‘If a man be a singer, he must sing his own sweet song.
And this is the song I sing, “All men shall be free.”
And for that cause, I’d gladly die, as Jesus died for me.’

Winner - Second Level Essay Competition

Hugh O'Flaherty - An Inspiration: by Klaudia Chamera

Hugh O’Flaherty was born in Co. Cork.  He later moved to Killarney.

I believe Hugh O’Flaherty was a selfless, charitable man. He risked his own life for the safety of more than 65000 innocent escapees.

He protected the Jews, British and American soldiers back in 1940’s during World War II when the Nazis had taken over Rome.  Of course he did not do it alone.  He worked with a small team of other people, his circle of friends who had given him great support. The Nazis eventually found out what Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty has been doing and they wanted him dead.

O’Flaherty was brave enough and did not give up.  He travelled the city dressed up in different disguises so the Nazis wouldn’t identify him.  Later, the Allies took back Rome and the Nazis were defeated.

Hugh O’Flaherty was responsible for saving over 6000 people from execution.  Kappler was sent to prison.  Monsignor was his only visitor. Kappler became a Catholic and was later baptised by O’Flaherty.  Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty received many rewards for his actions and was the first Irishman named Notary of the Holy Office.

He gave us all a lesson.  That no matter what race we are, what we look like or what we believe in, we are human and we have feelings. We all have the right to be treated equally. We all make mistakes. His actions made me think about life.

From all the Humanitarian actions, I chose to write about Bullying as it is a form of abuse which involves repeated acts to enforce one person’s power over another.  Newest research has shown that a quarter of young Irish, age nine to sixteen, experience some form of bullying.

The alarming fact is that the level of harassment in Irish schools is above the EU average, and that Irish teenagers find it more difficult to cope with the problem than their peers in other EU countries.   The problem of bullying can occur at any age, in every environment and can be directed at anyone. However young people are especially prone to any form of harassment and aggression.

Experiencing bullying can cause some really serious damage to their lives, and it is vital to show them support and let them know they can ask for help.  It was very important to stand up to bullying whether in the real world or online.

Many teenagers who are being bullied are afraid to speak out.  Reports show that as young people grow older, they are less likely to tell someone.  They become more and more isolated, experience depression and in extreme cases, can harm themselves or attempt suicide. The question is why do people bully? 

Very often, bullies are themselves suffering from low self-esteem and lack of confidence.  They may suffer violence at home.  In other cases they might be reacting to painful changes in their lives for example bereavement or divorce. They may want to seek attention or to appear in control.

I once read about a girl called Millie. She was an honours student. She also belonged to a well to do family.  Millie was excited to go to college; she got accepted to her dream university.  She quickly got to the top of the class as she was an intelligent girl.  Her mates told Millie she did not deserve to be at the top.

She was called an “outcast” and was bullied for the whole year. Everybody in the class hated her.  She tried very hard to befriend and prove herself but no one listened, not a single one.  The only classmate she thought she could rely on left her and joined the class in bullying her.

She told her parents about it. They tried to ask for help at the university but they did not listen. Millie was devastated.  The bullying was so much that it became a trauma to attend her classes and eventually her parents asked her to stop attending classes.  She loved school so much. She was happy having many friends. 

She had many dreams. Stopping school was beyond comprehension. In her mind she was asking “What have I done wrong?  I just want to study and fulfil my dreams”.  Those thoughts never left her and it became a nightmare.  She became a recluse and was afraid to see other people until it all lead to depression.  Millie became a different person. It all caused her a lot of pain so that her poor heart could not take it anymore.  One day she decided to end everything, she was barely 18.

Sometimes we do not realise that our actions that we think are amusing and funny might hurt someone else’s feeling.

In my opinion we should all stop hating, start respecting each other’s feelings and become more responsible for our own actions just as Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty did.

Winner - Open Essay Competition

To Cross a Simple White Line: by Clive John O'Sullivan

It’s such a simple physical action to take. The line of which I speak it the plain white line which was painted on the instructions of Nazi Colonel Hebert Kappler on the ground around the limits of the Vatican. This line marked where the Vatican ended and Nazi occupied territory began. Once outside that line you were subject to Nazi rule.

If you were faced with the stark reality of making such a simple choice, could you make it? Or would you baulk at the moment of decision, would your legs refuse to obey? Would you be prepared to sacrifice your freedom, face terrible torture and a savage and premature death for people that you did not know? Perfect strangers to whom one could argue we owe no duty or obligation.

Hugh O’Flaherty crossed this line not once but countless times with little regard for his own safety despite a large bounty being placed on his head. The story of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty wartime exploits’ are well known and depicted in a fine but dated movie starring Gregory Peck and Christopher Plummer.

It is worth remembering that Hugh O’Flaherty’s adversary was an intelligent and ruthless top Nazi name Colonel Herbert Kappler who had a well deserved and fearsome reputation within Italy. He was the man responsible for the cold blooded execution of 335 innocent Italian civilians in the dreadful Ardeatine Caves massacre. He was tasked with the pacification of all resistance in Italy. When such a man vowed to capture or kill his quarry it was by no means an idle threat.

At his disposal lay the might of the Third Reich machine with legions of obedient Germans working for him. Many of whom, at least a third were Roman Catholic also. Kappler was determined to silence this troublesome cleric from Kerry.

The Nazi method of silencing resistance was swift and brutal. A redesigned German Guillotine ended the lives of anyone deemed guilty of sedition or resistance. If you think that being a man of the cloth would have earned some protection from the Nazis you would be mistaken.

Maria Restituta was a Nun beheaded for passive resistance to the Third Reich. Three Catholic priests were executed at Lubeck. Had Hugh been captured by the Nazis there is no doubt a similar fate would have awaited him. The Nazis did not respect the robes of a priest. If you think that being a young frightened girl would merit mercy, think again.

Sophie Schol was sixteen when she was arrested and executed by guillotine a few months later. The Nazis wanted an atmosphere of naked terror quelling any prospect of insurrection.

Monsignor Flaherty was just a man, a solitary man. He was a Roman Catholic priest who tried to embody the values of Jesus Christ. He possessed no weapons save his quiet determination to resist the Nazi regime. In the face of overwhelming odds stacked against him he persevered.

He helped fellow human beings without caring what religion they followed; be they Jewish, Protestant or non-believer.
I believe Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty’s experiences in Limerick as a young student during the savage war of Independence impacted on him greatly.

He saw the horror and cruelty which the Black and Tans inflicted on innocent civilians. He found it impossible to stand aloof and turn his back on vulnerable people who would have been thrown to the wolves.

His legacy to us is great. He was a man who believed in the ideas of love and peace. He never used or condoned the use of violence. Yet he succeeded in freeing over 6,500 people from the grasp of the Nazi terror state.

He represented all that is fine about the human spirit and humanity’s yearning to be free from tyranny and dictatorship.  A man who possessed similar bravery was a young Chinese man who stood in front of a tank column in Tiananmen Square and stopped a line of tanks. The man’s name is unknown and so is his fate.

What lessons can we draw from the actions of Hugh O’Flaherty today?

We are faced with a tyrannical Stalinist regime in North Korea which starves and terrorises its people.  There are unconfirmed reports of chemical weapons used within war torn Syria. I think it is time to awaken from our slumber of apathy and to voice our opposition in a loud voice that we refuse to accept such barbarous actions.

Today in a post boom recession wracked Ireland where for so long the dominant value was mercenary self-interest and self-aggrandisement, we need an urgent reassessment.

Avarice – the insatiable desire for wealth needs to be supplanted by the value of Altruism. The selfless desire to help other people for no set reward is a cornerstone of Christian teaching. It was the guiding principle that Hugh O’Flaherty lived by. I am not naive that this is a steep cliff to climb. It goes against the strong sense of individualism which ran rampant and has decimated our society and economy. Economically the strong survive; the weak must fend for themselves. It was such a social Darwinism approach that Hugh refused to accept.

The Talmud [The Jewish Legal text] states that “Whoever saves one life saves the World entire”. One man can make a difference. If one person shows humanity and kindness to another person he proves the existence of humanity.

It requires a refusal to embrace apathy and the power to inspire others. It is the stubborn perseverance to persist against overwhelming odds. That is the gauntlet which Hugh O’Flaherty has thrown down to us and future generations.

There is a children’s story of a young girl on the beach who sees hundreds of stranded starfish.  These starfish will die if not aided. She stars throwing them back into the ocean one at a time. A man walks by and queries “what’s the point, you can’t save them all”. The young girl replies “well I can save that one”.

Other passing people inspired by her example started throwing starfish into the sea and soon all the starfish were saved. This story demonstrates the power of one.

No less a man than the world famous Albert Einstein said “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil but because of the people who don’t do anything about it”

I find these words sobering and disturbing. How many times do we shrug our shoulders and say it’s not my concern? Hugh O’Flaherty could have walked on by. Instead he offered the hand of compassion and kindness to desperate and harried people.

Hugh O’Flaherty even extended the hand of forgiveness to his once implacable adversary, Herbert Kappler. Kappler was arrested by the Allies and sentenced to over thirty years in prison for his role in war crimes. Hugh O’Flaherty was his only visitor in all that time imprisoned. Hugh bore no malice or resentment to the man who had hunted him for many years.

The Christian tenet of forgiveness was so deeply ingrained in the Monsignor that this seemed natural to him. A lesser man may not have acted so nobly.

Monsignor O’Flaherty has set the bar very high. He has inspired us to emulate his example. He is remembered as one of the “Righteous among the Nations” at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. His name is inscribed in stone as a monument to a man who needs none. His monument is the gift of life which he gave to over 6,000 people and the rich full lives they and their descendants enjoy.

Winner - Primary School Essay

My Hero, Hugh O'Flaherty: by Aine O'Connor

Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty was an Irishman from County Kerry.  He was born in Lisrobin in County Cork. 

After he was born, he and his parents moved to Killarney.  Hugh O’Flaherty was a very kind and genuine man who would listen to everybody that needed him.  He would listen to anybody no matter what they said or did.

Hugh O’Flaherty is my hero because of all the Jews he saved from Hitler in World War 2.  He helped free about 6500 Allied soldiers and Jews.  He helped a lot of POW’s to escape Hitler in World War 2 (1939-1945).  He inspires me and I some day hope to be able to do lots of brilliant things like Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty did.

I personally would never want to be part of any war.  It would be very hard for me to cope in the desperate conditions of that time.  He was given the nickname, the Scarlet Pimpernel of The Vatican.  Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty was a very brave man in my opinion by helping free all those scared people in World War 2.