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Local Catholic grade-schoolers honored in DC for winning artwork

The winning artwork (left) by Dominic Udoakang, grade 4, from Cathedral Elementary School. The winning entry (right) by Jacinta Jaranja, grade 4, from St. Patrick School in Lowell. Courtesy photo

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WASHINGTON -- Two Archdiocese of Boston Catholic school students received honors at a Dec. 7 Mass in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. celebrating the 2012 winners of the Christmas Artwork Contest of the Missionary Childhood Association (MCA).

Msgr. Robert Fuhrman, Assistant National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, celebrated the Mass for 11 of this year's 24 winners and their families.

"Your art has something which inspires, encourages and explains our faith. That is something special in this Year of Faith. Your art lifts us up, sacred art created with a touch of God's hand, and yours," Msgr. Fuhrman said.

Among those honored were Dominic Udoakang, grade 4, from Cathedral Elementary School in Boston and Jacinta Jaranja, grade 4, from St. Patrick School in Lowell.

"We get over 10,000 entries every year and they only pick 24 winners, so for Boston to have two winners is really a big deal," director of programs and development for the Pontifical Mission Societies in Boston Maureen Crowley Heil said afterward.

Peter Udoakang, Dominic's father, told The Pilot his son surprised him with the news that he had won a national contest for his artwork.

"In fact, I did not know that he entered the contest until when he won," he said.

After receiving a letter to inform him of his son's achievement, he asked his son where he entered the contest and found out that it was through his school and MCA. Though the news surprised the father, he knew his son had a talent from a very young age.

"It was a very great surprise to me, but not so much surprise because I know that he can draw right from when he was two years old he has been drawing," he said.

Udoakang said his son once visited Gov. Deval Patrick with his day care center, and had a picture taken with the governor after drawing a picture for him.

Udoakong, a Baptist from Nigeria, said he learned respect for the ministries of the Catholic Church in education and throughout the world when he attended Catholic high school.

"Whatever they do, Catholics are very dedicated people. They are very, very dedicated. In Nigeria their schools are the top schools," he said.

He said when he came to the United States he immediately wanted to send his children to Catholic schools for an education beyond just learning in the classroom.

"It is not just the academic. It is the discipline. It is the whole fullness of education, not just teaching a child how to read and write but how to be a person," he said.

He said serving others with whatever talents one has manifests as an important aspect of living the Christian faith, and said he hopes that bears out through his son's talent for drawing.

"We pray that God will continue to develop his talent so he can use it to serve others," Udoakang said.

Judges of the contest chose 24 winners from some 10,000 entries submitted nationally by children in Catholic elementary schools, religious education programs and home schools. Each winner received a plaque honoring their achievement, had their artwork featured on the MCA website for kids at www.MCAKids.org, and circulated during Advent as e-greetings. The artwork will remain on display at the National Shrine from now through Epiphany.

The children's winning artwork will also be used for the office Christmas cards of the Pontifical Mission Societies of the archdiocese.

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