WASHINGTON (April 29, 2003) -- A high school senior from St. Benedict the Abbot parish in McMurray, Pennsylvania, in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, has won the grand prize in the 2002-2003 Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) Multi-Media Youth Arts contest. CCHD is the national anti-poverty program of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Contest winner John Cushma wrote a poem, titled "Breaking the Cycle of Poverty," that consists of 26 rhyming couplets. In five stanzas, he addresses the causes and effects of poverty and steps Catholics can take to alleviate it. John is a Eucharistic minister, altar server and Boy Scout leader at St. Benedict's and has seen the effects of poverty first-hand through his participation with his parish in the community-wide Interfaith Hospitality Network and in the Scouting for Food program. An Eagle Scout and senior at Seton-LaSalle High School in Mount Lebanon, Pa., John recently won all three first-place awards in the national March for Life student competition.
John connects his pro-life and social justice work, saying, "We have to have a respect for all life, which includes helping the poor and others who don't have it as good as we do."
John will be honored as the grand prizewinner on May 5 in St. Paul, Minnesota, at the annual meeting of the National Conference of Catechetical Leadership (NCCL). The $1,000 cash grand prize for the contest will be divided between John and a CCHD-funded project he designates.
A group of 12 eighth-grade students at Ascension School in Oak Park, Illinois, in the Archdiocese of Chicago, won second prize for their audio-visual entry titled, "What You Do for the Least of My Brothers." The same group won third prize last year. They will receive $375, with an equal amount to be donated to a CCHD-funded organization they choose.
Third place was awarded to Erika Lankenau, a seventh-grader at St. James Cathedral School in Orlando, Florida, in the Diocese of Orlando, who produced and edited a video about poverty and organizations that help the poor. She will receive $250 in cash, with an equal donation to the CCHD-funded organization she chooses.
The Multi-Media Youth Arts Contest was developed by CCHD to reach out to youth and encourage them to work in a creative way on projects that explore the issues of poverty and injustice in the United States. It is open to students in grades seven through twelve in Catholic schools and parishes. This year, students were asked to develop the theme, "Breaking the Cycle of Poverty in America" through visual arts, audio-visual means or literature. Original works were submitted to diocesan-level competitions. Local winners were forwarded to Washington for final judging by a panel of professionals in the fields of art and religion.
Announcing the winners, Rev. Robert J. Vitillo, CCHD executive director, said, "There is a lot of enthusiasm for this contest. I am heartened by the response and most impressed by the ability of these young people to imagine new solutions to poverty, then illustrate them so eloquently. Their commitment to put Catholic Social Teaching into action through solidarity with poor and low-income people is quite evident."
Fr. Vitillo continued, "The student artists seem to have a good understanding that many of the 33 million people living in poverty in our country have the skills and empowerment they need to change their situation. CCHD provides the hope and the wherewithal which are the catalyst for lasting change."
Honorable mentions will be presented to:
Peter Brosnan, Venerini Academy, Worcester, Massachusetts, in the Diocese of Worcester (audio-visual), Alfonso Lopez, St. Rose of Lima Parish, Glen Rose, Texas, in the Diocese of Fort Worth (literature), Barbara Janiszewski, Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School, Detroit, Michigan, in the Diocese of Detroit (visual arts)
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is the domestic anti-poverty and social justice program of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. With the support of Catholic parishioners, it has provided grants to more than 4,000 community and economic development projects over the past 34 years. The annual CCHD collection is taken up in most Catholic parishes in the United States on the weekend before Thanksgiving.
Additional information about the contest and other CCHD initiatives for Catholic youth and young adults is available at the CCHD website www.usccb.org/cchd/youth.htm or by calling Alicia Bondanella at (202) 541-3151.