Jackson kindergartener’s Christmas artwork receives national recognition

By Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor

CHRISTMAS ARTWORK • Penelope Michael, a kindergartener in St. Aloysius School, Jackson, was a winner in the Missionary Childhood Association’s Christmas Artwork Contest. Her depiction of the Angel Gabriel will be on display during Advent and Christmas in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington. Courtesy photo

An early Christmas present came by way of a national award for Penelope Michael.

The kindergarten student in St. Aloysius School, Jackson, recently learned that she was one of 24 students nationwide to have her artwork chosen as a winner in the annual Missionary Childhood Association’s Christmas Artwork Contest. She also found out that her winning entry, which depicts an angel glowing in a yellow dress with arms wide open against a brilliant blue sky, will be on display during the Advent and Christmas seasons in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington.

“Penelope was beaming with joy when she found out she was chosen,” said Penelope’s parents, Joseph and Marian Michael.

“We are very thankful and blessed her artwork was selected.”

Marian Michael added that the family is eagerly anticipating visiting the Shrine on Dec. 7 when they will attend a Mass and luncheon and all winners will receive a plaque honoring their achievements. In addition, all winning artwork will be available as shareable digital greetings beginning the first week of Advent.

The history of the MCA Christmas Artwork Contest traces its roots to 1916 when the MCA produced the first Catholic Christmas seals in America to raise awareness of and support for the evangelizing work of the Church in the missions. MCA used children’s artwork on these seals since 1933. In 2005, MCA then introduced Christmas cards featuring the winning artwork in its annual contest. In all, 24 national winners are chosen with one grand prize winner from grades four through eight featured as the National Directors Christmas Card.

Maryanne Roman, MCA co-coordinator in the Trenton Diocesan Mission Office, noted how, every year, the Missionary Childhood Association National Office, located in New York City, sponsors a Christmas Artwork Contest for students in grades kindergarten through eight in Catholic schools, parish religious education programs and home school programs in which they are invited to share their God-given artistic talents to proclaim the “Good News of Jesus’ Birth.”

“Thanks to all the students who submitted artwork and for sharing their talent with our Diocese and with the Church in the United States. May their artwork remind us all of our link with our mission family half a world away,” Roman said, noting that the Diocese submitted 146 entries from two parish religious education programs and five Catholic schools.

Penelope’s eye for art is recognized by her parents, who said, “Penelope sees beauty in reading, music, dance and especially art.”

“One of her favorite art projects is creating story books with detailed illustrations of its characters, usually in the shape of hearts, in a fun and often comical adventure,” Marian Michael said, noting her daughter’s favorite art medium is Sharpies and that she is “very much fascinated” with Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa painting.

“Penelope finds the painting both mysterious and intriguing. Her dream is to see the painting in person at the Louvre museum in Paris.”

For the St. Aloysius School community, Penelope’s winning entry is a source of pride on a number of levels, especially since the school regularly participates in the MCA Christmas Artwork contest and has had student winners in the past.

“Our students participate in this contest for two reasons: to celebrate the Birth of Christ through artist expression and to share their God-given talent by supporting the work of the Missionary Childhood Association,” said Toni McEwan, art teacher in St. Aloysius School. “MCA focuses on children helping children through mission education, sacrifice and service. It’s a creative way for our students to share the Good News and to put their faith into action.”

“It was a joy to watch Penelope create this work as she shared her enthusiasm celebrating the season. We are blessed to have had so many winners throughout the years. It’s a beautiful way to share our talents while supporting the great work of MCA,” said McEwan.

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