Columban Schools 2024 Competition Winners

Mar 21, 2024

Winners have been announced in the schools media competition for young people run by the Columbans in Britain and Ireland. This year’s theme was ‘Biodiversity Matters.’ The announcement day – 21 March – is the UN’s International Day of Forests.

Young people 13-18 years were asked to produce a piece of writing or image that demonstrates an awareness and understanding of the issue of biodiversity and highlight people, communities and/or organisations trying to build a sustainable future. Protecting biodiversity – which humanity relies on for health, food and well-being – is a mission priority of Columban missionaries.

The competition attracted 223 entries across Britain and Ireland.

Judges included William Scholes, Assistant Editor of the Irish News, Patsy McGarry of the Irish Times, Jane Mellett, Church Outreach Manager with Trócaire, and Fr Jason  Antiquera, a Columban missionary-artist from the Philippines and Fr Sean McDonagh, Columban priest, ecologist and author, who has long campaigned for the protection of biodiversity.

In Ireland, the text winners were Clíodhna McKeever of St Catherine’s College, Armagh who secured first place; Conn Fyfe of St Louis Grammar School, Ballymena came second; and Anna McQuillan of St Dominic’s, Belfast came third.

Clíodhna McKeever

Image winners were Alanah Mckenzie of St Paul’s Secondary School, Dublin who was awarded first prize; Keelin Bellemand of Le Cheile Secondary School, Tyrrelstown, Dublin came second; and Róise Curtin of Loreto Secondary School Clonmel came third.

Alanah McKenzie

Speaking about the winning images, Columban artist, Fr Jason Antiquera paid tribute to “the richness of images and the depth of colors in the striking artwork”.

“My message to all, both to the participants and the winners, is to persevere in their art because it is needed. Even when sometimes it is rejected or does not have audience – it has worth and it still has an impact – the future belongs to artists like them.”

Jane Mellet of Trócaire, an expert on Laudato Si and biodiversity, said she was “so impressed with all of the finalists” and described the competition as “a great initiative”.

The Columbans thanked all the young people who entered the 2024 competition and the judging panel. Former Columban competitions have focused on Climate Change, Migration, Throwaway Culture, Racism, 21st Century Changemakers and Peace.

Full list of winners and judges at:

Reaction from the winners:

1st Place WrittenClíodhna McKeever, St Catherine’s College, Armagh
“I am absolutely delighted! I really didn’t expect that at all! I entered because Biodiversity is something I am interested in and I feel very passionate about protecting our environment. It is such an honour to receive this award and I would like to thank the judges for choosing my entry as being worthy of 1st Place in the Writing Competition.

1st Place Images Alanah Mckenzie, St Paul’s Secondary School, Dublin
I entered the Colomban missionaries’ schools media competition because I thought the  competition theme ‘Biodiversity’ would be challenging for me as an artist. Exploring the theme of biodiversity through the medium of painting allowed me the opportunity to connect with the many types of life that is sustained on our planet. Through my artwork I wanted to explore and delve into the beauty both on land and in the sea around us. Incorporating Jesus into my artwork allowed me to add depth and meaning. Jesus is often associated with the themes of love, compassion and unity, by including the image of Jesus in the painting this allowed me to symbolise the connection of all living things on earth. It also sends us all a message to have respect for diversity and the importance of living in harmony and with nature.

I love drawing, painting and trying new things. I like to research and come up with new ideas. I had a lot of fun drawing  and painting my artwork. By exploring biodiversity in my painting I gained a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of all living things and the delicate balance that sustains life on earth. We can all celebrate the wonder of natures creations. Entering this competition has allowed me to raise awareness around the importance of biodiversity and inspire others to appreciate, respect and protect the diverse life that surrounds us all.

Conn Fyfe

2nd Place Written – Conn Fyfe, St Louis Grammar School, Ballymena
I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the theme of biodiversity and I am delighted to receive this recognition from the Columban missionaries, whose work in this area greatly inspired my contribution. I hope that competitions such as these will not only raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity but will inspire others to work towards its preservation in our world.

Keelin Bellmand

2ND  Place Images – Keelin Bellemand,  Le Cheile Secondary School, Tyrrelstown, Dublin
I’m very grateful to behave been placed 2nd in the competition!

3rd   Place Written – Anna McQuillan, St Dominic’s, Belfast
This is a great honour for me. I understand the importance and significance of biodiversity and I’m glad that my poem can assist spreading awareness to others and to encourage them to help look after our “common home”.

Anna McQuillan

3rd Place Images – Róise Curtin, Loreto Secondary School Clonmel
This piece was inspired by the theme of biodiversity matters. I wanted it to show that we are not the only species who roam the earth. And that there are many other creatures along side us. I wanted to show that we must take care of all the wonders of the world, to let them flourish and survive.

Róise Curtin

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