Josh Hays named Hal Tehan Scholar Award recipient

by SOURCE Catholic Foundation

Dallas— Josh Hays, junior at Cistercian Preparatory School, has been named the 27th annual recipient of The Catholic Foundation’s Hal Tehan Scholar Award.

Each year, all local Catholic high schools may nominate one junior student who exemplifies Catholic values, actively participates in and contributes to the community, and is generally in the top five percent of his or her class.

As the top honoree, Josh will receive a $10,000 scholarship for his senior year, and each of the other nominees will receive a $2,500 scholarship.

Hal Tehan was dedicated to his faith, Catholic education and community. Following his death, The Catholic Foundation Scholar Award was renamed The Hal Tehan Scholar Award.

Josh, the second oldest child of Alicia and Rob Hays of Coppell, received the award and shared his essay on the importance of receiving a Catholic education during the 41st annual Catholic Foundation Award dinner. The Hays, while parishioners at St. Ann Catholic Parish in Coppell, regularly attend Mass and other liturgical events at Our Lady of Dallas Cistercian Abbey in Irving.

Josh leads by example at Cistercian, where he has served as a class sacristan and a retreat leader. Additionally, he helped start Project Ezekiel, a youth-led liturgical revival aimed at celebrating the rich musical and spiritual traditions of the Mass, and now organizes their Latin schola.

Academically, Josh has earned straight A’s as a high school student and received the Saint Bernard Award, the highest recognition awarded to a student at Cistercian for setting outstanding examples to peers. Recreationally, he plays varsity tennis, gives tennis lessons to youth, plays on the JV soccer team, is a member of the sailing club, and gives piano lessons to children who attend St. Ann Catholic Parish.

“My Catholic education has united me with beauty and bathed me in it by saturating my scholastic experience,” Josh said. “But beauty is, as Pope Benedict XVI said, 'an attribute of God himself and his revelation.' I have been taught about beauty, but because of my education, I have also experienced beauty as an attribute of God.”

Fr. John Bayer, O. Cist., who serves as the form master for the current Cistercian junior class, calls Josh “one of the most disciplined and enthusiastic students in our school.”

“Josh is so manifestly motivated by his Catholic faith and desire to integrate all things, not just academics, but every asset of his growth as a young man.

“His focus on growth does not lead him to a preoccupation with himself. It somehow always extends also to his community of friends and school as he confidently, but humbly, invites others to join in the fun,” he said.

Josh says his parents, along with Fr. Bayer and U.S. and World History teacher Peter Saliga, are his role models. Among the many notable things Josh has drawn from them is the effort to learn the names of students in the classes below his own.

At the busy Hays household, Josh likes being the oldest of five children at home (another baby sister is due in January), since his older brother attends Notre Dame University. He enjoys immensely the time he spends with his family, including playing games and reading around the fireplace, and especially values when he gets to babysit or drive around his younger siblings.

Upon moving to Coppell, he was introduced to the St. Ann High School Ministry program and was blown away to see hundreds of students attending Mass and praying together.

“There is something very special about knowing you are not alone,” Josh said. “You look around and see others who are searching not just like you but with you.

“I have friends at other schools who can’t believe the things we get to do at school like praying the Liturgy of the Hours, experiencing Eucharistic Adoration, receiving Reconciliation and participating in evening prayers.”

He is proud that some of his friends in the Cistercian senior class are considering seminary after graduation. As such, he has already begun discerning the priesthood.

“One way I see joy in life is through music,” said Josh, who has played piano for a decade, along with the trumpet and other instruments. “As Tolkien might say, the language of the angels is music, and I find it so much easier to reverence the liturgy and be more intentional in prayer when music and incense are involved.”