WASHINGTON (April 23, 2004) -– Three students from St. Mary's School in Frankenstein, Missouri, in the Diocese of Jefferson City, have won the grand prize in the 2003-2004 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.
Eighth-grader Megan DeOrnellis and seventh-graders Cali Stegeman and Alicia Troesser submitted a poster entitled, "Help Unlock Opportunities for All." They described their entry as "examining the many aspects of our culture which are out of reach of the poor and disadvantaged." Ms. DeOrnellis said, "we tried to show what poor people needed to make their lives a success and break the chains of poverty." She added that the group discussed their ideas with art teacher Vivian Carwile and got information from Barbara Ross, CCHD director for the Diocese of Jefferson City.
Mrs. Carwile said the group was excited to win the prize. "It's an honor for the girls, for the diocese and for the small school, which has 37 students in grades one through eight. The students here are very caring and serve the county's poor through a food pantry and various service projects."
The St. Mary's School group will be honored as the grand prize winner on April 28 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 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 the group and Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), a local CCHD-funded project they designated. CASA's volunteers serve as advocates for foster children in the court system.
Mairead Coleman, a ninth-grader at St. Peter-Marian Junior-Senior High School in Worcester, Massachusetts, in the Diocese of Worcester, won second prize for her visual arts entry, which depicts a homeless woman receiving a college scholarship. She will receive $375, with an equal amount to be donated to a CCHD-funded organization.
Third place was awarded to St. Michael's Parish Confirmation Class at Fort Gordon, Georgia, in the Diocese of Savannah, who created an oil, gesso and paper collage to illustrate how economic injustice can be alleviated by the power of the Cross. The students will receive $250 in cash, with an equal donation to the CCHD-funded organization they choose.
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 12 in Catholic parishes and schools. 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, "At the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, we are impressed and inspired by the concern expressed by young students, through various artistic media, about the extent and tragic impact of poverty in the United States. The entries that were submitted this year demonstrate that students in both Catholic schools and religious education programs take very seriously the Gospel mandate to "love your neighbor as yourself". It is very clear that these students are committed to put their faith into action through efforts to eradicate poverty in their local communities." Fr. Vitillo noted that CCHD's dual mission is to Break the Cycle of Poverty through support of community-controlled, self-help organizations and to build solidarity between the poor and non-poor through education for justice.
"We're trying to help people empower themselves to move beyond poverty," said Fr. Vitillo. "It is unconscionable that 35 million people live in poverty in this prosperous country. These students have used their talents to illustrate that reality, and challenge us to work together for just solutions."
Honorable mentions will be presented to Ascension School Eighth Grade, Oak Park, Illinois, in the Archdiocese of Chicago (literature/visual arts) and Israel Ramirez, Taller San Jose High School, Santa Ana, California, in the Diocese of Orange (literature). This is the third year that a group from Ascension has won an award.
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is the domestic anti-poverty and social justice program of the Catholic Bishops of the United States. With the support of Catholic parishioners, it has provided grants to more than 4,000 community and economic development projects over the past 35 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.shtml or bycontacting Mike Poulin at (202) 541-3297, or Barbara Stephenson, firstname.lastname@example.org. An electronic jpeg file of the winning entry can be mailed upon request.