Winners of Columban Schools Competition on Peace

Mar 13, 2023

Winners have been announced in 2023 Schools Media Competition for young people on the subject ‘Building Peaceful Futures’ run by the Columbans in Ireland and Britain.

Young people aged 13-18 years were asked to produce an article or image that demonstrated an awareness and understanding of conflict in the world today. Also, to spotlight people, communities and organisations trying to make the world a better place for everyone by building peaceful futures.

The competition attracted 172 entries.

In Ireland, judges included Patsy McGarry of the Irish Times, Joe Murray of Afri, Columban Fr Pat Cunningham who works on mission in South Korea, and William Scholes, Assistant Editor of the Irish News.

Speaking about the theme of this year’s competition, William Scholes said, “In Ireland we are all too aware that peace is hard-won and that, even as we approach the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, it must be continually defended from those who still seek to cause hurt, fear and division. There are other vivid and tragic reminders in our world today – the war in Ukraine, the plight of desperate people seeking sanctuary across dangerous seas in small boats – of how fragile peace is.”

He added, “As the competition theme reminds us, the task of ‘building peaceful futures’ is constant and challenging. It calls us to go beyond ourselves, and it was heartening to see the students who entered the competition capture that vision in their thoughtful and imaginative articles and images.”

In Britain the competition was judged by media experts who praised the high quality of all the entries shortlisted: Ruth Gledhill (Multi-Media Editor at The Tablet), Josephine Siedlecka (Founder and Editor of Independent Catholic News – ICN), Fr Kurt Zion Pala who is on Columban mission in Myanmar, Columban Fr Pat Sayles and James Trewby (Columban Education Worker).

Aisling Griffin and Joan Sharples from Pax Christi provided expertise on the theme of Peace. “We were very happy with the quality of entries and I was amazed at their energy and thoughtfulness,” said James Trewby, Columban Education Worker in Britain.

In Ireland, the article winners were Katie Bonnes, St Louis Grammar School in Ballymena (1st); Kalina Matuszewska of Christ King Secondary School, Cork (2nd); and Aaron O’Neill of Scoil Mhuire Strokestown, County Roscommon (3rd).

Image winners were Gabriela García Velarde of Christ the King Secondary School, Douglas, County Cork (1st); Maria Rosa Black of St Louis Grammar School in Ballymena (2nd); and in joint third place Clíodhna McKeever of St Catherine’s College in Armagh and Jennifer Dineen of Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra in Rathmore, County Kerry.

Responding to the news Katie Bonnes said: “I feel that peace in Northern Ireland and throughout the wider world is a hugely attainable thing. My research for this piece has only furthered my belief that humanity will right the wrongs of its past.”

Katie Bonnes

Kalina Matuszewska felt “thrilled” and said, “I believe that building peaceful futures is something of great importance to everyone and I am happy to contribute to spreading this message.”

Kalina Matuszewska

Clíodhna McKeever of St Catherine’s College in Armagh responded to the news saying, “I am so delighted to be awarded joint third in the image competition. I put so much work into my piece and I really enjoyed taking part. It was a great experience for me.”

Clíodhna McKeever

Aaron O’Neill of Scoil Mhuire Strokestown, Co Roscommon said he was delighted to be involved in this competition as “it made me more aware of ways in which to build a peaceful future but also of obstacles that may prevent this and ways to alleviate them”.

Aaron O’Neill

Maria Rosa Black responded by the news saying she was “excited to see how this competition contributes towards building peaceful futures. My piece represents the destructive nature of our world and how we can build peace together.”

Gabriela García Velarde commented, “I am so delighted with the results of the competition, because I worked very hard on this and at the same I really enjoyed doing it. I am glad that I was given the opportunity to express my feelings about such an important theme. I think it is a very important topic since, as Unicef said, “The war has caused one of the fastest large-scale displacements of children since World War II”. This was a quote that inspired me and my drawing.”

Gabriela García Velarde

Jennifer Dineen reacted with delight to the news saying she was “thrilled” to be a winner. But also highlighted, “Spreading awareness about war and promoting peace and the end to war is so important.”

Jennifer Dineen

See the full list of winners and judges at:

We will be publishing the winning articles and images on our website later this week.

The Columbans have thanked all the young people who entered the 2023 competition and the judging panels. Former Columban competitions have focused on Climate Change, Migration, Throwaway Culture, Racism and 21st Century Changemakers.

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