A teenager whose family is active in the justice and peace movement has won the writing section of the young journalists competition in the Columban region of Britain with her article ‘Facing up to Climate Change’. Fifteen-year-old Anna Joy Marshall of St Mary’s Catholic High School in Chesterfield said: “This competition has made me think about different ways of voicing my concerns about the environment”. She added that, “what we are doing is unsustainable and the only chance we have to change is now”.
Jo Siedlecka of Independent Catholic News described Anna’s article as “an excellent piece – packed with information, good references to Catholic Social Teaching on climate change and good references to personal experience”. Judge Nick Benson, news editor of The Catholic Universe was impressed that Anna and her sister “feel so strongly about social justice that they actually held a social action day for young people with two workshops focusing on climate change and care for creation”, saying in her article “there is a hunger in young people for doing good things”. John Vidal, former environment editor at The Guardian, described it as “well argued and researched, with a strong religious perspective”.
The winners of the video competition for Britain are pupils of Bishop Challoner Catholic College in Birmingham, Dillon Thompson, 16, and Oliver Wilkins, 17. “These are two naturals, and give rise to hope for this and future generations as well as the future of our planet,” said Ruth Gledhill of The Tablet. The two presented their own script, using Dillon’s music as background, to form “an impressive piece of work”. The call for concerted action is accompanied by suggestions for practical steps we can each take. Columban Fr Tom O’Reilly liked their appreciation of the powerful leadership of Pope Francis on climate change and the imperative of the faith dimension in valuing God’s gift of creation. The video runner up was Erin Rodger, 15, of Bishop Ullathorne Catholic School in Coventry, who opened her dramatic video with voices referring to climate change in different languages, a reminder that this is a universal phenomenon. “Dillon, Oliver and Erin should be very proud of their efforts,” said Mr Benson.
The second place print winner was Jessy Oreoluwa Sodimu, 15, of Cardinal Newman Catholic High School, Warrington, for his article on ‘Climate Monsters’. He talked about his experience of living in Nigeria and Italy, raising his awareness about the monsters of climate change. The article – described by Ms Gledhill as “a powerful polemic with compelling use of first-hand experience” – reminds that greater awareness of what is happening can lead to the “ecological conversion” we all need. “Congratulations to Jessy for such an insightful, personal and thought-provoking article,” said Mr Benson. Third place articles saw joint winners, both from St Paul’s Catholic School in Milton Keynes: Anushka Fernandes, 17, who wrote ‘It takes cool people to help a warm planet’ and Mary-Cindy Okafor, 17, ‘We need to talk about our future, because I want there to be one’.
The competition ‘The Challenge of Climate Change’ was run by the Columban Missionary Society and open to young people 15-18 years old. Two separate strands were held – one for students in Britain and the other for those in Ireland. The objective was to encourage students to use their journalistic writing and mobile skills to look at a topical issue which is relevant to Catholic Social Teaching and resonates with Columban mission. Each had two categories, writing and video, and leading journalists in Ireland and Britain judged the entries. The subject matter recognised the Columbans’ long established advocacy on climate change in all 16 countries where Columbans work. Last year’s competition was on another focus issue of the Columbans, ‘Migrants are our Neighbours’.
A formal presentation will be made to the winners from Britain during the lobby of parliament on climate change in London on 26th June.
For the full list of British and Irish winners see: www.columbancompetition.com
Britain’s winning entries will appear on the website www.columbans.co.uk over the coming week.
Picture: Anna Joy Marshall, Oliver Watkins and Dillon Thompson.