WASHINGTON (October 20, 2005) – Ten students from the Confirmation preparation program at St. Michael the Archangel parish in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, in the Diocese of Honolulu, have won the grand prize in the 2004-2005 Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) Multi-Media Youth Arts contest. CCHD is the national anti-poverty program of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Ninth-graders Bridget Clarke, Miyeko Inafuku and their eight classmates in the first year of the two-year Confirmation preparation program submitted a 10-minute DVD entitled, "Let Their Voices Be Heard! Public Housing and Homelessness in Hawaii." Ms. Clarke described the entry as "showing that we need to organize ourselves and the poor to work for justice."
Ms. Inafuku said that the outcome of the project was greater than the actual DVD. "I really never gave much thought to homelessness before, but after we began, I realized that even just thinking about it isn't enough – you've got to try to do something. I also learned that you can help people, but it's a long process to get anything accomplished."
Their teacher, Tom Peters, said that the students researched social justice challenges in their state and voted to use their considerable talents as budding journalists, directors, editors, photographers and musicians to call attention to homelessness and housing. Two aspects of the project particularly impressed Mr. Peters. "The students broke the 'us and them' boundary between themselves and the homeless people they met.
They came to understand the difference between the compassion that mobilizes a person to action and the pity that allows a person to feel sorry for someone less fortunate from a distance." Mr. Peters also said, "The magnitude of the effort was daunting and it was their project from start to finish. Few teens of this age have had the practice of working on a project with so many steps over such a long period. They developed questions, arranged interviews and shot six hours of footage and then spent some 35 hours editing it down to ten minutes."
Honolulu Bishop Clarence Silva plans to use the "Let Their Voices Be Heard!" DVD to launch a Social Ministry Religious Education and Confirmation Education effort throughout the diocese. The teens from St. Michael's will go to rallies on different islands to show the DVD and describe their petition drive in support of a State legislative effort to improve housing conditions and end homelessness. The petitions will be presented to the Governor at the start of the legislative session next January.
The St. Michael's group will be honored as the grand prize winner on October 29 in Atlanta, Georgia, at the National Catholic Youth Conference. The $1,000 cash grand prize for the contest will be divided between the group members and a local advocacy group that is being formed by the Parish Social Ministry Team at St. Michael's.
Students from Nancy Shroff's religious education class at St. Mary Magdalen School in Brentwood, Missouri, in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, won second prize for their video on the work of Karen House, a program for homeless women and children. They will receive $375, with an equal amount to be donated to a CCHD-funded organization.
Third place was awarded to Misha Digman a seventh-grader at Mary Queen of Peace School in St. Louis, Missouri, for her visual arts composition that illustrated how faith, family and CCHD are the keys to heal the community. She will receive $250 in cash, with an equal donation to the CCHD-funded organization of her choice.
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, "Unlock Opportunities. End Poverty" 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, Timothy F. Collins, CCHD interim director, said, "One of the most gratifying aspects of the entries this year is that they show the students' willingness to go beyond imagining and documenting the pervasiveness of poverty in our country, to working toward a solution. I think it's clear that the student artists are making a connection between what they are learning from their texts and their responsibility to do what they can to eradicate poverty in our local communities."
Mr. Collins said, "Right now, one in eight people live in poverty in our country. That's wrong. We're trying to help the poor empower themselves and at the same time help the non-poor to work to unlock and share opportunities for those who have so few."
Honorable mentions will be presented to Billy Gerdts, Archbishop McCarthy High School, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in the Archdiocese of Miami (visual arts), Lisa Kolf, St. Anastasia School, Waukegan, Illinois, in the Archdiocese of Chicago (visual arts) and Lindsay Nagel, St. Joan of Arc School, South Park, Pennsylvania, in the Diocese of Pittsburgh (literature).
Established in 1970, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development is the domestic anti-poverty and social justice program of the U.S. Catholic Bishops. With the support of Catholic parishioners, it has provided grants to more than 7,000 community and economic development projects nationwide 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 http://www.usccb.org/cchd/youth.shtml or by calling Mike Poulin at (202) 541-3297.