Black Catholic Ministry essay contest winners announced

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How do you recognize and embrace an attitude of service to others in today’s world? That was the question for this year’s J. Sherwood Brown Essay Contest, open to all seventh and eighth grade students in South Jersey Catholic Schools and sponsored by the Diocese of Camden Black Catholic Ministries and Cultural Diversity.

Each of the 18 participating schools selected two seventh and two eighth grade essays for consideration. Nine winners received gift cards between $200 and $75.

Diocesan first-place winner Samuel Griffith, a seventh grader from Christ the King Regional School, Haddonfield, wrote about how he was inspired to organize a school-wide fundraiser to help build wells in African communities. (See essay below.)

Samuel credited “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park and “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer for giving him an open mind about what it was like to live in a developing country “in crude housing without food, water, and electricity, and what kids my age were doing to better their community.” In his essay, Samuel also showed gratitude to his second-grade teacher, his parents, and Saint Teresa of Calcutta for spiritual and practical direction, inspiring the project where students donated money for the opportunity “to carry a gallon of water while walking a mile … and my idea become a reality.”

The Diocese of Camden Black Catholic Ministries Commission has named this contest after its originator, J. Sherwood Brown (1929-2013). Brown was educated in the Salem City School System and earned degrees from Lincoln University and Glassboro State College). He served his hometown as a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent. Brown also served in the U.S. Army.

“His professional, community and church service was extensive. He was a humble man and a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. We are proud to be able to honor Mr. Brown and spread his name throughout the Diocese of Camden,” Black Catholic Ministries Commission said in a statement.

Other winners are:

Diocesan Second Place: Luciano Trani, seventh grade, Guardian Angeles Regional School, Paulsboro;

Diocesan Third Place: Olise Udanni, seventh grade, Saint John Paul II Regional School, Stratford;

Region I First Place: Jaidaly Rodriguez, eighth grade, Holy Name School, Camden;  

Region I Second Place: Ryan O’Callaghan, eighth grade, Saint Peter School, Merchantville;

Region II First Place: Hope Geiss, eighth grade, Saint Mary School, Williamstown;  

Region II Second Place: Lauren DiPilla, seventh grade, Saint John Paul II, Stratford;

Region III First Place: Connor Perri, seventh grade, Saint Joseph’s Regional School, Hammonton; 

Region III Second Place: Angelina Tadro, eighth grade, Saint Vincent de Pall Regional School, Mays Landing.

An attitude of service to others in today’s world

Following is Samuel Griffith’s first place essay from this year’s J. Sherwood Brown Essay Contest sponsored by the Diocese of Camden Black Catholic Ministries and Cultural Diversity

By Samuel Griffith

How do you recognize and embrace an attitude of service to others in today’s world?

I recognized and embraced an attitude of service when I started a non-profit project in my school community. My project helped African communities have the ability to drink clean, fresh water. My idea had first started to form when I read two books, “A Long Walk To Water,” written by Linda Sue Park, and “The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind,” written by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. These novels gave me an open mind about what it was like to live in a third world country in crude housing without food, water and electricity, and what kids my age were doing to better their community. “A Long Walk To Water” taught me about the Lost Boys of Sudan.

After my parents had read the books, too, we discussed what we could do to help the people of Africa, especially in Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan. We came up with a plan that I could introduce to my school, as a non-profit fundraiser which donates money to support the funds for building wells. After my parents and I had came up with my plan, I then introduced it to my principal, and she said “yes” to supporting the project. My idea was that you would have to pay money to carry a gallon of water while walking a mile. The contribution was about a dollar, and mostly everyone from each grade participated. A date and a time was set and my idea became a reality. In the end, we had earned a couple of hundred dollars, which we gave to the company helping to fund the wells.

I felt that if my parents had never given me the books, or encouraged me to try to make a difference, I wouldn’t be here writing and sharing my experience about the importance of service for others.

My second grade teacher had an impact on this project, too, because he helped me to learn to enjoy reading. He also encouraged me to never give up, and to always follow through with my goals.

This service was important to me because I felt that I was shining a light on a problem that most people choose not to deal with everyday. At times, people are more concerned with what they hate in their country and don’t give a thought to the people that have less than them.

I feel that I have embraced the fact that there are challenging problems in our world, and that we need to work together toward fixing them, and that it doesn’t matter if you’re old, or young, or even middle aged. You can always help to fix the problems in the world. As Saint Teresa of Calcutta often reminded us, “We can’t all do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.”