Benjamin Steingass and seven other St. Francis de Sales High School seniors knelt and bowed their heads.
In unison, Catholic priests, all in a row, tapped each young man’s shoulders with long, steel swords during a Knight of Honor ceremony Friday in the school gymnasium.
For a brief, but noticeable moment young Steingass, 17, gazed at the ceiling as the sword touched his shoulders and the priests recited aloud the school’s motto, “Suaviter et Fortiter" — gentle but strong.
“My mother passed away five years ago when I was in the seventh grade,” said young Steingass, who wears a purple wristband on his left arm engraved with the phrase “Jenny Steingass ++ Hope.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here for more photos from the Mass
The ceremony, he said, “means all the hard work I put in at St. Francis de Sales paid off.”
The Knight of Honor is bestowed upon those seniors who have achieved balance in four areas: academic, spiritual, social, and physical development, said the Rev. Ronald Olszewski, the school president. The chosen students have also exhibited the virtues of loyalty, leadership, kindness, humility, self-discipline, integrity, and perseverance, he said.
The other St. Francis seniors honored are: Michael Irvine, Toledo; Neil Kujawa, Temperance; Daniel Siebenaller, Toledo; Matthew DeDad, Holland; John Kulka, Ottawa Lake; David Nees, Sylvania, and Daniel Cavese, Holland.
“Being nominated for such an award is amazing in itself,” said Mr. DeDad, 18. “But actually being recognized as a Knight of Honor is incredibly humbling. There are countless Knights in the Class of 2014 that are deserving of this award, and I am blessed to be able to represent them and the entire school in this way.”
Twenty-five students were nominated for the award this year, school officials said. Final selections are made by student vote.
Hundreds of students, teachers, school staff, and proud relatives of the eight honored students attended Friday’s Mass and knighthood ceremony.
Richard MacDonald, 67, of Toledo turned out to cheer for his nephew David Cavese.
“I’m very proud of him,” said Mr. MacDonald. “It’s quite an honor. He’s very thoughtful, helpful and considerate and works very hard. Those are qualities that his parents instilled in him.”
The Knights of Honor ceremony is held in conjunction with the feast day of the school’s patron, St. Francis de Sales, which is celebrated at a school Mass. The school’s nickname is the Knights.
Before the ceremony, about 30 previously knighted St. Francis graduates hosted a special breakfast for the eight new honorees. Since the honor’s 2001 creation there have been 112 students “knighted,” said Sue Kenney, the school’s public relations coordinator.
Tyler Clark, a 2011 graduate, showed up for breakfast with his steel sword in tow. Each sword is inscribed with the student’s name and the school’s name and the year it was issued.
“It was the biggest honor of my life,” said Mr. Clark, 21, now a marketing and management student at the University of Toledo. “When I started out as a freshman I never imagined; this school really shaped me. Coming in I wasn’t sure what I was going to get out of it. But the faculty and alumni helped give me direction and focus. They taught me the meaning of brotherhood.”
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