Jessica Nguyen, a Grade 12 student at Bishop Marocco/Thomas Merton Catholic Secondary School in Toronto, captured top honours in the annual contest where students across the country were called to reflect on “Reconciliation — the love of Christ compels us,” the theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Jan. 18-25). (Read Nguyen's winning essay here).
For her entry, Nguyen reflected on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation as a reminder of the division that exists among Christians.
“I didn’t actually know that Christianity was split so much. It was very surprising,” said Nguyen. “Now that I know more about Christianity and I’m not as ignorant to all the other branches…. I’m more open to people from other branches.”
Among the numerous entries, The Franciscan Friars of the Atonement Graymoor, represented by Fr. Damian MacPherson, and The Catholic Register recognized four students who stood out among the rest.
“I think each year it’s accompanied by its own character and I thought the essays this year were particularly good,” said MacPherson, former director of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs Office in the Toronto archdiocese. “I look upon the contest as an important event because really it’s the only one of its kind in Canada that gives young people the opportunity to reflect on what it means to be a divided Christian world.”
Nguyen wins a 64 GB iPad Air2 for her entry. The second place prize of a Kobo Aura H20 eReader went to Ruthann Lemonius, Grade 9 student at Loyola Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga, Ont. (Read her essay here)
Nguyen said the essay contest has awoken a new curiosity about the history of the Church.
“It’s good to know where our faith originated and where it split up because we can learn from it and finally become the brothers and sisters that God wanted us to be,” she said.
Lemonius said that learning about the Catholic faith has only enriched her own Baptist Christian roots. Through her essay, she expressed the importance of mutual understanding among all Christians.
“We’ve been separated for a long time and we don’t have to be like that in the future,” she said. “We don’t always agree with each other, but I still think we can find some kind of understanding.”
After the experience of the essay contest, she said she feels encouraged to share her own faith with her friends.
Third place was awarded to Sabrina Quartarone, Grade 12 student at St. Joseph’s Morrow Park Catholic Secondary School in Toronto and honourable mention was awarded to Benjamin Johnson, a Grade 12 student at Ridley College in St. Catharines, Ont. (Read her essay here).
Read all of the winners' essays here:
1. First place: "Look not with pride but with the love of God" by Jessica Nguyen
2. Second place: "Reconciliation: the love of Christ compels us" by Ruthann J. Lemonius
3. Third place: "They will know we are Christians by our love" by Sabrina Quartarone