Shown is the winning drawing of the Holy Family submitted Gina Selah, a religious education student in St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford. Courtesy photo
Shown is the winning drawing of the Holy Family submitted Gina Selah, a religious education student in St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford. Courtesy photo
" Art has always been a strong passion of mine and I wanted to express this while sending a message of unity and love. "

Gina Selah had a definite vision in mind for the drawing she submitted for the 2021 Missionary Childhood Association’s Christmas Artwork Contest. 

“I showed baby Jesus in his manger with his parents, Mary and Joseph, close by admiring him. I tried to show through the expressions of the subjects that he was a miracle that changed the world for the better,” she said, describing how the Star of Bethlehem could be seen in the distance, leading the three kings to the Son of God. 

“Art has always been a strong passion of mine and I wanted to express this while sending a message of unity and love,” said Selah. “I feel so grateful to have been recognized by the Missionary Childhood Association.” 

Selah, a religious education student in St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford, and a rising eighth grader in Medford Memorial Middle School, was one of 24 young people from throughout the country to have her artwork selected as a winner in the MCA’s annual contest. The MCA, one of four Pontifical Mission Societies, promotes mission and global awareness while encouraging children to share their faith through their prayers and generosity. Every year, the MCA invites children in Catholic schools and parishes nationwide to submit their Christmas-themed drawings for the contest. 

“We are very proud of Gina for participating in the contest,” said Linda Xerri, director of religious education in St. Mary of the Lakes Parish.  

“By using her God-given talents and gifts, she is demonstrating a true missionary spirit because she is following the lead of the Holy Spirit, giving glory and honor back to God and helping others.” 

Reflecting on the work of the MCA, Xerri said, “The Gospels provide us with a clear-cut vision of what Jesus asks of his disciples which is to go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This vision continues to be alive through the great works of the Holy Childhood Association which fosters an awareness of the needs of those living in dioceses across the world whose children are the most vulnerable and in need. 

“By participating in HCA programs, each of us can help to feed, clothe and educate a child while acting as missionary disciples,” Xerri said. “Most importantly, however, HCA allows us to demonstrate the mercy and love of Jesus by our actions and deeds.” 

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. 

Father Peter James Alindogan, diocesan mission director, proudly noted that Selah’s recognition makes 2021 the fourth consecutive year that the Diocese of Trenton has had winners named in the Christmas Artwork contest. 

“Kudos to our art teachers, and most especially, to the parish catechetical leaders and Catholic school teachers for their support and cooperation,” he said. “Through this yearly contest, our students have treasured admiringly the gift of God – Jesus – to us at Christmas and channeled his gift through their artwork.”  

Father Alindogan reflected on why Catholic schools and parish religious education programs should educate their students about the HCA, saying that “Every penny that they share to our needy children all over the world establishes a relationships that is very truly unique and universal.  

“Our children here in the United States become mindful of the blessings they have, sometimes, take for granted, and they get a sense of what it is to sacrifice and offer what they have at an early age,” he said.

“Through our school administrators, faculty and teachers, our students are very much aware of the needs of our children and have contributed much to those needs financially, prayerfully and spirit. The mission spirit is alive and well in our schools.”