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Fairfield County Students Take Top Honors

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It’s natural for children to think about what they’re going to do when they grow up, but they might not think about becoming a Catholic priest or a nun.

The Knights of Columbus is working to change that. For several years the Connecticut State Council of the Knights of Columbus has sponsored an annual vocation poster contest among Catholic elementary and middle school-age children throughout the state. Entrants were asked to make posters representing one or more life vocations in the Catholic Church, including marriage, the single life or being a priest, nun, deacon or a religious brother.

A special committee, made up of three professed religious sisters and a priest, met recently at the Daughters of the Holy Spirit U. S. A. Provincial House, in Putnam, and selected the state’s four winners for 2016-2017. They are first- and second-grade winner Mirabella Matthews, of Danbury, third- and fourth-grade winner Robert Pattison, of Bethel, fifth- and sixth-grade winner Danielle Erive, of Norwalk, and seventh- and eighth-grade winner Nichole Solano, also of Danbury.

Solano, a thirteen-year-old eighth grader, drew a striking black-and-white poster, featuring a crucifix and a man praying, with the slogan “Jesus proposed…I said yes!” “I prayed about it and I figured that a vocation is how you should follow God,” she said. “I wanted to show that.” Taking a cue from Pope Francis, the idea behind the contest is to get children to think about their possible vocation in life, beginning at a young age. “Becoming a priest or a man or woman religious is not primarily our own decision,” the Pope said in a speech in Rome to seminarians and novices in 2013. “Rather it is the response to a call and to a call of love.”

Starting last fall, local K of C councils held competitions in their local Catholic grade schools and parish Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) programs, selecting their own winning posters from among a total of 368 entries received statewide. Matthews, Pattison and Solano, all students at St. Mary’s School in Bethel, won their respective grade level’s school contest, sponsored by Pavia Council 48, of Bethel. Erive, a member of St. Matthew’s Parish in Norwalk, won her grade level’s parish CCD contest, sponsored by St. Matthew Council 14360, also in Norwalk. The local, winning posters were then forwarded to Putnam for judging in the statewide competition.

Members of the selection committee, all from Putnam, included Sr. Margaret Bareika, M.V.S., of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, Sr. Marie Pauline Guillemette, of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit, Sr. Jaisy, of the Sisters of St. Martha and Rev. Richard L. Archambault, a former superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Norwich. The committee was put together by Knights from Putnam, at the request of the state council. “We need vocations. The priests and the nuns are important,” Archambault said. “It’s good to get young people dealing with this.”

State Council Church Activities Director Kevin P. Donovan, of Monroe, is pleased with the results. “It’s wonderful to see how thoughtful the kids were, particularly about this issue,” Donovan said. “Thanks to this contest, hundreds of children here in Connecticut have really worked hard and thought about what they want to do with their lives. We hope for even more participation next year.”

Each of the winners will receive a $50 gift card from the Connecticut State Council, to be presented at Knights of Columbus state convention, to be held in Farmington in May.