Daniella Les - Courtesy photo
Daniella Les - Courtesy photo

Bringing together her great attention to detail, a longtime passion for her favorite hobby and an unwavering spirit to persevere, even after making many mistakes, earned Daniella Les something very special in the way of national recognition.

Les, a seventh-grade student in St. Mary of the Lakes School, Medford, was named one of two grand prize winners from throughout the country in the Missionary Childhood Association’s annual Christmas Artwork Contest. As a grand prize winner, Les’ entry will be turned into the Christmas card to be used by Msgr. Kieran E. Harrington, the national director of the New York-based Pontifical Mission Societies. Les will be honored for her vibrant, yet prayerful depiction scene of the Holy Family during the diocesan World Mission Sunday Mass to be celebrated by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., Oct. 22 at 4 p.m. in St. Veronica Church, Howell.

“I love art,” Les said, noting that she’s been drawing since she was about four years old.

“Drawing is my favorite hobby and subject in school because it warms me up for bigger challenges in art,” she said, noting that she has made many pictures of the Holy Family using paint, crayons, pencils and even pastels. She noted that the star is in the sky rising in many different colors “to show the special moment when Jesus was born.”

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 throughout the nation to submit their Christmas-themed drawings for the contest.

Reflecting on the school’s tagline, “We Make Disciples,” St. Mary of the Lakes School principal, Maria Sobel, said, “We teach our students to remember that Jesus said, ‘Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.’ 

“This is the message that I want to convey to all of our students here at St. Mary of the Lakes, and by supporting the Missionary Childhood Association, we are helping to take care of those in need,” Sobel said, noting that every year the school holds two collections for the Missionary Childhood Association.

“We want our students at St. Mary of the Lakes to be disciples of Jesus, and Jesus wants us to take care of the poor and people in need.”

The history of the MCA Christmas Artwork Contest dates 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, regarded Les’ win as “quite a humbling feat” being that she is the fifth student in a row from the Diocese to be named a winner in the MCA Christmas Artwork Contest and the first-ever student from the Diocese to be designated a grand prize winner.

“The honor goes also to our art teachers from various schools who were instrumental in shaping the minds and hearts of our student-winners,” he said, adding that it’s his hope that students who participated in the program “not only learn from the significance of Christmas as the turning point in our human history,” but also that the experience fosters support of the mission entrusted to us by Jesus Christ – to spread the Good News of love and peace.

“To talk about missions is to talk about the love of Christ,” Father Alindogan said. “Jesus Christ was and is the first missionary in the history of our existence. He was sent by his father on a mission. I hope that through Catholic education and religious education programs, our students will continually and constantly instill that spirit.”