High school seniors named National Merit Scholarship finalists

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Students from all three Catholic high schools in Nashville have been named as finalists in the prestigious National Merit Scholarship Program.

High school juniors from across the country enter the National Merit Scholarship program each year by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship qualifying test. In the fall of their senior year, students earning the top scores in each state are notified they have qualified as one of 16,000 finalists in the nation.

After meeting additional requirements, about 15,000 finalists are named, and they are eligible for college scholarships sponsored by the National Merit Scholarship Corp., corporations or colleges and universities.

Five seniors at Father Ryan High School have been named finalists.

Matt Calarco, who is taking six AP courses as a senior and completed four more as a junior. He is a member of the math honor society Mu Alpha Theta, the National Honor Society and the Cum Laude Society. He serves as a Student Ambassador, peer mentor and is a member of the rugby team. Calarco, the son of Kim and Matt Calarco, is a parishioner at Immaculate Conception Church in Clarksville.

Darrel Chen, who is taking six AP courses as a senior and completed six more as a junior and sophomore. He is a member of Mu Alpha Theta, the National Honor Society and the Cum Laude Society. He is a member of the lacrosse team. Chen, the son of Dr. Beverly Zak and Robert Chen, is a graduate of St. Bernard Academy and is a parishioner at Christ the King Church in Nashville.

Ian Galloway, who is taking two AP courses as a senior and completed six more as a junior and sophomore. He is a member of the Chinese Honor Society, the Purple Masque Players and the hockey team. Galloway, the son of Kathleen and Edward Gallaway, is a graduate of Overbrook School and is a parishioner at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville.

Emily Phan, who is taking five AP courses as a senior and completed four more as a junior and sophomore. She is a member of Mu Alpha Theta, the National Honor Society and the Cum Laude Society. She was inducted into the St. Vincent de Paul Service Society as a junior in recognition of her community service activities, and is a member of Purple Masque Players, the Creative Writing Club and the lacrosse team. Phan, the daughter of Dorothy Walawender and Dac Phan, is a graduate of Christ the King School and a parishioner at Christ the King Church.

Grey Wilder, who is taking four AP courses as a senior after completing five more as a junior and sophomore. He is a member of Mu Alpha Theta, the National Honor Society and the Cum Laude Society. He was inducted into the St. Vincent de Paul Service Society as a junior in recognition of her community service activities and is a member of the Relay for Life committee. Wilder, son of Amy and Jason Wilder, is a graduate of Christ the King School and a parishioner at Christ the King Church.

Two students from St. Cecilia Academy were named finalists.

Andrea Arguello, who has taken nine AP classes during high school. She is a member of the rowing team, cross country team, National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, the school math team, and the Spanish Club. She also serves as class treasurer, president of the Student Ambassador Board, and a member of the Student Council. Arguello also does volunteer work with Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Nashville and is a cheerleader for the Montgomery Bell Academy football team. She is the daughter of Fernando and Alicia Arguello, a graduate of Overbrook School, and a parishioner at the Cathedral of the Incarnation. 

Meghan Rafoth, who has taken five AP classes through her high school years. Rafoth is a member of the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta and has participated in theater productions at St. Cecilia. Outside of school, she has danced for TMProductions. Rafoth, the daughter of Ryan and Jennifer Rafoth, is a graduate of St. Matthew School and a parishioner at St. Matthew Church.

Matthew Shipley, a senior at Pope John Paul II High School, also qualified as a finalist. 

Shipley has taken 11 AP courses during his four years at JPII. He placed first in the region in Algebra II in a math competition. Shipley has been active in the Youth in Government program, serving as Floor Leader at last year’s conference; he will serve as Lieutenant Governor in the upcoming conference this spring. He regularly volunteers at Bridge Ministry in Nashville, is the president of the school’s House of Gregory, is a JPII Ambassador, and was named a captain of the basketball team this year. He is the son of Mary and Darren Shipley.

Faith amid the ruins: Pope calls Iraqis to affirm kinship under one God

Children are seen near an image of Pope Francis during the pope’s visit with the community at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh, Iraq, March 7, 2021. CNS photo/Paul Haring

VATICAN CITY. Pope Francis summarized his “pilgrimage of faith and penitence” to Iraq in a prayer: 

“If God is the God of life – for so he is – then it is wrong for us to kill our brothers and sisters in his name. 

“If God is the God of peace – for so he is – then it is wrong for us to wage war in his name. 

“If God is the God of love – for so he is – then it is wrong for us to hate our brothers and sisters.” 

Pope Francis’ visit began March 5 in Baghdad, where he met with government officials in the opulent presidential palace, once home to Saddam Hussein and then the headquarters of the U.S.-led coalition forces that invaded the country in 2003. 

With the dictates of protocol handled in less than three hours, the pope moved to the heart of his pilgrimage: visiting places of faith and suffering, bowing in tribute to the innocents who died and embracing survivors. 

He put the blame for the death and destruction squarely on the sinful human inclination to define some people as “us” and others as “them.” 

That inclination, which all believers must resist, explains why he told government officials and civic leaders March 5, “I come as a penitent, asking forgiveness of heaven and my brothers and sisters for so much destruction and cruelty. I come as a pilgrim of peace in the name of Christ, the prince of peace.” 

During the trip, Pope Francis did not mention the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and the toppling of the government. And, while he spoke of “terrorism” and war in reference to the 2014-2017 destruction wrought by Islamic State militants, he did not name the group until he was on the plane returning to Rome. 

Even then, his point was not to condemn IS, but to honor the Christians, Yazidis and Muslims who resisted their efforts to set up a twisted, narrow vision of an Islamic caliphate. 

“The life of Christians in Iraq is a difficult life, but not just the life of Christians. I just talked about the Yazidis and other religions that did not submit to the power of Daesh,” he told reporters, using the militants’ Arabic-language acronym. 

The resistance, he said, “gave them a very great strength.” 

The strength to move forward, to rebuild and to restore relationships of kinship and respect across religious and ethnic boundaries was a constant refrain during Pope Francis’ trip. 

The refrain was loudest amid ruins. 

With representatives of Muslim, Christian, Yazidi, Mandaean and other religious communities, Pope Francis made a pilgrimage March 6 to Ur, an archaeological dig on a dusty desert plain about 10 miles from modern-day Nasiriyah. 

There, at the birthplace of the patriarch Abraham, the first person to believe in the one God and father of all, the pope called all believers to demonstrate their faith by treating one another as the brothers and sisters they are. 

“From this place, where faith was born, from the land of our father Abraham, let us affirm that God is merciful and that the greatest blasphemy is to profane his name by hating our brothers and sisters,” the pope said. 

“Hostility, extremism and violence are not born of a religious heart: They are betrayals of religion,” he insisted. 

The journey of peace, he said, begins with “the decision not to have enemies.” 

Standing in Mosul March 7 amid the ruins of four churches that Islamic State fighters had turned to a massive pile of rubble, Pope Francis did not name an enemy but pointed to the “tragic consequences of war and hostility.” 

With Islamic State gone and work underway to restore Mosul’s damaged churches and mosques, Pope Francis proclaimed that today “we reaffirm our conviction that fraternity is more durable than fratricide, that hope is more powerful than hatred, that peace more powerful than war.” 

“This conviction speaks with greater eloquence than the passing voices of hatred and violence,” he said, “and it can never be silenced by the blood spilled by those who pervert the name of God to pursue paths of destruction.” 

Returning to Rome, he told reporters he had seen photos of the site beforehand but was not prepared for the reality of being there. 

“I stopped in front of the destroyed church and I just didn’t have any words. It is something you cannot believe, you can’t believe it,” he said. “It is just unbelievable our human cruelty.” 

The first evening of the trip, the pope had met the Iraqi bishops and representatives of the country’s priests and religious in the restored Syriac Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Deliverance, sometimes referred to as Our Lady of Salvation. 

It is a church, he said, “hallowed by the blood of our brothers and sisters” murdered in a terrorist attack that shook the world. Forty-eight members of the church, including two priests and a 3-year-old child, died Oct. 31, 2010, when militants belonging to a group linked to al-Qaida interrupted a service, detonating explosives and shooting people. 

The memory of Iraq’s Christian martyrs, he said, must “inspire us to renew our own trust in the power of the cross and its saving message of forgiveness, reconciliation and rebirth.” 

“Christians are called to bear witness to the love of Christ in every time and place,” the pope told the Catholic leaders. “This is the Gospel that must be proclaimed and embodied in this beloved country as well.” 

Bells pealed in Qaraqosh March 7 to welcome the pope to another Syriac Catholic parish, the Church of the Immaculate Conception, desecrated during its use as a base by Islamic State fighters, who turned the courtyard into a shooting range. 

While much of the town still needs to be rebuilt, Pope Francis said the presence of the jubilant crowds inside and outside the church “shows that terrorism and death never have the last word.” 

“The last word belongs to God and to his son, the conqueror of sin and death,” the pope said. “Even amid the ravages of terrorism and war, we can see, with the eyes of faith, the triumph of life over death.’ 

With Muslim and Yazidi guests joining Catholics in the church, Pope Francis told the people that “this is the time to restore not just buildings but also the bonds of community that unite communities and families, the young and the old together.” 

UCat sponsors women’s conference on March 13

University Catholic will sponsor a women’s conference, “The Strength of Purity,” on Saturday, March 13, at the Cathedral of the Incarnation’s Fleming Center. 

The conference will feature three keynote addresses, breakout sessions on the Year of St. Joseph, panel discussions, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, a short film on Joseph and Mary, ice cream in the courtyard, Eucharistic adoration and Mass. 

The speakers will be: 

  • Angela Curry, a Catholic convert, mother of three, and the chief legal officer of a faith-based organization. Curry offers a unique perspective on what it means to embrace the Church from the outside in. 
  • Sister John Catherine Kennedy, O.P. A native of Mount Vision, New York, Sister John Catherine graduated from Catholic University of America with a bachelor’s degree in history and secondary education in 1999. She entered the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in 2000 and made her final profession of vows in 2007. She earned a licensure in education from Aquinas College and studied in the Catholic Studies Program at the University of St. Thomas. She earned a master’s degree in history in 2010 and a doctorate in history in 2019, both from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She has taught at Knoxville Catholic High School, Aquinas College and St. Cecilia Academy. 
  • Joan Watson, Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Nashville. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Christendom College and a master’s degree in theology from Franciscan University. She has worked for Dr. Scott Hahn at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and for the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia at Aquinas College in Nashville. She is the associate editor of Integrated Catholic Life and the host of weekly series and cohost of the “The Catholic Traveler Podcast.” 

The conference will begin at 8 a.m. with registration and conclude at 5 p.m. with adoration. 

The cost is $15. For more information about the conference or to register, visit https://universitycatholic.org/learn/womens-conference/.