Pictured is the 2018 Respect Life Poster, Essay and Meme Contest first-place poster winner for grades 6-8. Gabriella Vizzoni of St. Paul School and Parish, Princeton, took the honor. Courtesy photo

Pictured is the 2018 Respect Life Poster, Essay and Meme Contest first-place poster winner for grades 6-8. Gabriella Vizzoni of St. Paul School and Parish, Princeton, took the honor. Courtesy photo

 By EmmaLee Italia | Contributing Editor

The Diocese of Trenton is now accepting submissions for its 2018-19 Respect Life Poster, Essay and Photo-Meme Contest, open to students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Echoing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2018 Respect Life theme, “Every Life: Cherished, Chosen, Sent,” the contest may be entered by students in the Diocese enrolled in Catholic grammar schools, parish religious education and youth programs, as well as home-schooled K-8 students.

Participants will create an original poster, essay or “photo meme” that pertains to respect life issues and reflects this year’s theme. Children can enter one of six categories by age and media: Grades K-2 – posters; grades 3-5 – posters; grades 3-5 – essay; grades 6-8 – posters; grades 6-8 – essay; grades 6-8 – photo meme. The photo meme category replaces prior years’ video option.

Participation in last year’s contest was positive, with all four counties of the Diocese represented in both submissions and winners, said Rachel Hendricks, diocesan respect life ministry coordinator. “This year, I am hoping to see even more of our Catholic K-8 students engage in this opportunity to reflect more deeply about the dignity of all human persons, while utilizing their creativity to express what this means to them,” she noted.

In explaining what students learn from participation in the contest, Hendricks referenced St. John Paul II’s 1999 Letter to Artists, in which he stated, “Through his artistic creativity, man appears more than ever in the image of God.”

“This contest invites students to explore their creativity through drawing, painting, writing and photography, while contemplating God’s most awesome creation – the human person,” Hendricks said. “It is my hope that students will experience a deepening in their understanding of who they are, ‘made in his image and likeness,’ and that those who view the students’ entries will be uplifted and strengthened in their faith.”

The topic of respect life also affords a teaching opportunity, bringing to light a perspective that is underrepresented in secular society.

“False messages about life and love surround our children in our society today,” Hendricks said.” They are bombarded by confusing messages about relationships, family, marriage and gender. The ‘identity crisis’ among our young people can only be remedied through intentional, proactive teaching about the dignity of all human life and about our identity as sons and daughters of our God. 

Posters must be at least 8.5 by 11 inches and no larger than 20 by 30 inches. Essays must be between 400 and 500 words, typed and submitted in PDF format. The photo meme should reflect the seriousness of the contest theme and be an original photo. Submissions should be printed out and mailed, not sent electronically. The photo meme entry should have a deeper meaning and acceptable entries will not incorporate humor.

Entries from schools, religious education or youth ministry programs must be received by the principal, DRE/CRE, youth minister or their designee by Dec. 7 for preliminary review. Home-schooling parents may submit their child or children’s entries without this preliminary review.  The school, religious education or youth program can select one entry from each of the six categories to submit to the Diocese for judging; all submissions must be received no later than Dec. 21.

Entries for each category will be judged on creativity, clarity of message and visual appeal. Prizes of $100 will be awarded to one winning entry in each of the six categories, diocesan-wide; $40 prizes will be awarded to the first runner-up from each category, in each county. Prizes will be awarded at the Respect Life Mass on March 3, 2019, in the winners’ home counties. Mass sites will be announced soon.

Send entries to: Diocese of Trenton, Department of Pastoral Care, c/o Respect Life Contest – Rachel Hendricks, 701 Lawrenceville Road, Trenton, NJ 08648.

 For more information, contact Hendricks at 609-403-7192, or rhendr@dioceseoftrenton.org. For more information about the theme, visit http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/respect-life-program/index.cfm.