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Local student travels to National Shrine for award ceremony

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is currently showcasing the winning drawings of the 2022-2023 Missionary Childhood Association (MCA) Christmas Artwork Contest. This annual contest, a tradition since 1933, encourages children from elementary schools and religious education programs to express the joy of Christ's birth through art.

This year's contest saw Sydney Driggers from Birmingham emerge as one of the winners. Driggers, along with the other grand prize winner, will have their artwork featured on the official Christmas cards of The Pontifical Mission Societies (TPMS). These cards, bearing the essence of Christmas as seen through the eyes of children, will be sent to thousands, including a special handwritten seasonal greeting to Pope Francis.

An awards ceremony was held on Dec. 1 at the National Shrine, graced by the presence of 16 of the children who received special mentions, along with their families, hailing from all over the country. The awards were presented by accomplished American artist Suzanne Ferrell Nicholson, a dear friend of TPMS.

During the event, Msgr. Kieran E. Harrington, national director of TPMS, highlighted the significance of art in the Catholic faith: “For centuries now, the Catholic Church has been using art to make the mysteries of the faith more approachable to all,” he said. “Jesus told us: ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.’ How beautiful it is to see the true meaning of Christmas as envisioned by those to whom Heaven belongs!”

The award ceremony, followed by a Mass and a luncheon at Catholic University of America, was not just a celebration of artistic talent but also a testament to the missionary spirit fostered by MCA. “MCA is blessed to be able to introduce children here at home to their brothers and sisters in the Missions, and to encourage that relationship of ‘children helping children,’” Msgr. Harrington remarked. “This contest is just one opportunity for young people to be missionaries today.”

Alixandra Holdren, National Director of the Missionary Childhood Association, stated: "The Missionary Childhood Association has always believed in the power of children's creativity to bridge worlds and open hearts. This year's Christmas Artwork Contest has once again illuminated this belief. Seeing the world through the eyes of our young artists not only brings a fresh perspective to the story of Christmas but also connects us more deeply to our faith and to each other. These young missionary artists, through their drawings, have not only depicted scenes from the Nativity but have also woven a tapestry of hope, joy, and universal brotherhood. Their art is a reminder that even the smallest hands can create a profound impact, echoing the MCA's core mission of fostering a spirit of global solidarity among children. We are immensely proud of all the participants and grateful for the opportunity to share their inspiring work with the world."

In addition to the two main winners, 17 other extraordinary drawings were acknowledged by the jury, bringing the total to 19 remarkable pieces on display at the National Shrine throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons. The 19 awardees are from the (arch)dioceses of Arlington, Boston, Fort Worth, Birmingham, Green Bay, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Los Angeles, Metuchen, Ogdensburg, Paterson, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Rockville Centre, San Diego, San Francisco, Springfield, St. Louis, Trenton, Venice, and Washington, D.C.