St. Joseph County Right to Life, one of Northern Indiana’s foremost promotors of human dignity and defenders of the vulnerable, strives to educate individuals across the lifespan about the importance of caring for those in greatest need. This outreach takes place through various forms of media, with the intention to unite both young and old in the cause of building up a culture of life.
The organization holds an annual student essay contest to encourage the importance of grounding conversations about life on the principles of truth, goodness and beauty, expressed through clarity and love. Further developing this mission, a new scholarship was introduced this past April to benefit high school students who utilize visual art to display the inherent beauty and individuality of each unborn child. The award was named in honor of the late Dolores L. Peck, a volunteer with St. Joseph County Right to Life for over 30 years who had an abiding interest and love for art, as well as a desire to promote the Christian obligation to protect the sacred gift of life in all its moments.
Peck, a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, was a longtime active member of St. Therese, Little Flower Parish in South Bend. She and her surviving husband of 65 years, John, served on various ministries and commissions.
Right to Life program manager Melanie Garcia shared: “Dolores Peck always encouraged her children to explore the arts, which even led one of her daughters to become an art teacher. Her desire to convey the fundamental beauty of each life from conception to death was a perfect marriage of our interests and theirs.”
Garcia indicated that students from throughout the county submitted entries for the scholarship contest, which could be created through any form of visual art. Winners were determined by a panel of independent judges, one of which was John and Dolores Peck’s son, Daniel. All entries were displayed at the Respect Life Prayer Dinner in April.
The winning students were Marian High School senior Apisara Sunantra and homeschooled sophomore Regina Murphy. Each received a $750 scholarship to be put toward the expense of their continuing education.
Sunantra titled her piece “Microscopic Miracle.” It depicts a baby in the womb, “uniquely created by the hand of God and the love of its parents.” Focusing on the message that being pro-life is to also be pro-science, she indicated that her image shows “each child has their own unique genetic code, which represents God’s gift and perfect design. The baby is surrounded by two strands of DNA, which represent the relationship of both mother and father coming together and creating another life in love.”
She added: “Without God, we cannot understand science, and without science, we cannot fully understand the beauty of God’s creations.”
Sunantra, originally from Thailand, has experienced this awareness of God’s love from her own parents, as well as from those who have hosted her in the United States. She currently lives with the family of Micah Niespodziany, who teaches English and coaches diving at Marian. Sunantra also has benefited from the instruction of her art teacher Kitty Gunty, who has been an influential figure — even leading her to consider the possibility of attending the Kansas City Art Institute next year.
Murphy, who also received art instruction from Gunty in addition to being the daughter of an artist, similarly focused on the fundamental elements of life in her painting. Depicting a baby with a heartbeat symbol, her image calls to mind the numerous bills being passed throughout the United States to provide legal protection for those who already have a heartbeat. She shared that her inspiration was “the beauty of life, and how the baby in the womb of its mother demonstrates this beauty so profoundly.” She continued, “Life is such a gift from God, which you can see even from its smallest elements. The miracle of a baby; in all of its cells and little details, from the earliest point through its ongoing development, clearly show a plan – God’s plan – for everybody.” Murphy, a parishioner at St. Pius X, Granger, hopes to continue her art studies beyond high school and explore further ways to use art as a tool for evangelization.
The Peck family and St. Joseph County Right to Life are grateful for the efforts put forth by the students and are excited to witness how Dolores’ legacy will continue to inspire the next generation of pro-lifers through the scholarship endowment in her name.
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