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Contest winners express their faith through art

Christmas theme promoted by Missionary Childhood Association

Four of the 24 national winners in the Missionary Childhood Association Christmas Artwork Contest are from the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
By Sam Matusofsky

The contest is open to children in grades kindergarten through eight from across the country. The association invites children to help spread the Good News of Jesus while gathering prayers and financial support for children in mission countries.

The winning artwork, submitted last school year, was among a few thousand entries. The students will travel next month to Washington, D.C., to join 18 other honorees from across the country. Their artwork will be displayed at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

Sam Matusofsky, a fifth-grader at Christ Prince of Peace Parish in Manchester, created a contemporary-looking Madonna and Child. “I was just using light strokes with a pencil, making easy curves,” he said. “It just came to me.”

Art is a favorite class. “I just like how you can be creative. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. You can just be you,” Sam said.

His teacher, Cindy Cooney, knew right away that Sam “made something beautiful.” Each year, she asks her fourth-graders to draw a Madonna and Child, using their own concept. The topic is an important one for a Catholic school, she explained. “We’re so lucky at our school we can do an art project with our faith,” Cooney said. “We can focus on the real meaning of Christmas here in our artwork or in any of our studies.”

Art is an important subject because it’s an opportunity for students to express themselves, she said. It helps with creativity, problem-solving and much more, Cooney added.

Carly Tieber, a third-grader at Holy Infant School in Ballwin, said the inspiration for her Nativity scene came from a stained-glass window at her grandfather’s childhood church, St. Anthony of Padua in south St. Louis. “I worked really hard on it,” she said of the colorful, yet reverent creation.

Carly enjoys the creativity of art class and appreciates the easy-going approach. “If I mess up, I can redo it,” she said.

Her teacher in her second-grade class, Sue Wallace, said she enjoys connecting students with the contest so they can show their talent. The overlapping of subject matters with religion is “the true heart” of Holy Infant

By Carly Tieber
School, she said.

Holy Infant has a tradition of supporting the Missionary Childhood Association and educating students about different cultures and places around the globe, Wallace said.

“We love Santa and the Elf on a Shelf and all, but it’s really important to stress the true meaning of Christmas — the birth of Jesus,” the second-grade teacher said. “Carly captured that feeling.”

Anna Louise Stetzel created “Three Kings” last school year when she was an eighth-grader at Assumption Parish School of Religion in south St. Louis County. She said that’s her favorite part of the Christmas narrative.

Born with a congenital heart defect, Tetralogy of Fallot, and an absent pulmonary valve, she was treated at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. She raises funds for SSM Health Cardinal Glennon’s Dallas Heart Center by creating artwork that’s auctioned at the annual Heart and Soul event. Anna Louise creates angel art and sells her designs at craft fairs, then donates all

proceeds to the hospital foundation or Make-A-Wish Foundation. She also creates a Christmas card to raise money for the Give Kids the World charity.

Her PSR principal, Julie Connors, said “Anna has a gift with art. She’s a delightful young lady.”

Anna Louise, now a student at Lindbergh High School, is an aide in the kindergarten PSR class. After attending PSR classes, she was baptized and received First Communion about four years ago. She refers to parishioners as “like another family, so nice, loving and accepting.”

Keegan Dow, a seventh-grader at St. Margaret of Scotland School in south St. Louis, created an eye-catching image of the Madonna and Child. “I was trying to make it (Vincent) van Gogh style,” he said, referring to the Post-Impressionist painter famed for his dramatic brush strokes which expressed emotion and added a feeling of movement to his works.

Keegan picked Mary and Jesus to depict because “it’s a big part of my faith,” Keegan said.

He’s interested in art, but he’d not been doing as much lately as when he was younger, so the recognition gives him a boost, he noted.

By Anna Stetzel
By Keegan Dow

His art teacher, Angie Bodell, Keegan is “an amazing artist. He always tends to take the assignments a step further than he needs to, which is impressive.”

The Missionary Childhood Association is a papal missionary organization for children of grade-school age.

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