Diocesan News

‘Keep Christ in Christmas’ Contest Winners Evangelize Through Their Art

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Wednesday, Jan. 17, was a big night for students from St. Patrick Catholic Academy in Bay Ridge, St. Saviour Catholic Academy in Park Slope, and Holy Child Jesus Catholic Academy in Richmond Hill. 

Each school had multiple winners in The Tablet’s “Keep Christ in Christmas” art contest. St. Patrick’s had four winners, Holy Child Jesus had three, and St. Saviour’s had two. 

This year more than 100 entries poured into the The Tablet newspaper offices. The creative and colorful pieces of artwork were submitted by students from Catholic academies, high schools, and churches from across  the diocese. Once again, handcrafted as labors of love, the young artists’ work showcased how they kept Christ in the Christmas season.

For nearly 20 years, The Tablet has collaborated with the Archbishop John Hughes Knights of Columbus Council No. 481. It started when The Tablet’s Editor Emeritus Ed Wilkinson formed a camaraderie with then-Grand Marshal of the Knights Camillo Casano, wherein the Knights would generously donate awards and cash prizes to students creating faith-based artwork inspired from Scriptures.

“Camillo Casano actually approached us and said that the Knights have this motto, ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’ and he said that if The Tablet would sponsor a contest the Knights would support it and put up the funds for all the winners and would host the awards ceremony every year,” recalled Wilkinson.

Father Guy Sbordone, the chaplain for the John Hughes Council, was on hand to celebrate the winners, including seventh grade winner Olivia Nelson from his parish, Our Lady of Grace. “The meaning behind this contest, keeping Christ in Christmas, is so important,” explained Father Sbordone. “It’s a beautiful image, message, and theme, and the children respond beautifully to it.” 

While current Knights of Columbus Grand Marshal Vincent DiBenedetto was unable to attend, past Grand Marshal Joe Sbarra helped welcome guests and said that the Knights were glad to be involved and participating in the contest year after year.

“I’ve personally been involved since I became a Knight with John Hughes. I’ve been an active participant and I’m so greatly impressed with the professional products these students produce. Some can actually be in a magazine. You would think they were created by artists much older than they are.”

This year’s contest awarded students from the second to 11th grades. Sacred Heart Catholic Academy eighth grade winner Zayna Jones won for a beautiful painting of Jesus holding a baby lamb, and she especially wanted to thank The Tablet for holding the contest. “It’s such a wonderful opportunity to showcase my art and my faith,” she said. 

St. Francis Prep 11th grader Eleni Kougiemitros won her second award this year for a stunning chalk canvas painting of baby Jesus lying in the manger protected by the two lambs that surround Him. “I was a participant last year and won for my grade and now I’m thrilled to win again this year for the 11th grade,” she said. 

Eleni’s mother Mary added that her daughter was so dedicated to her art that her fingers would bleed while drawing, but she refused to let it stop her from completing her painting. She helped Eleni unfurl her canvas at the ceremony, adding, “It’s a God-given talent and she’s putting it to such good use, creating faith-based paintings like this one.”

Congratulations to all the participants, honorable mentions, and winners


Second Grade

Winner: Theandros Sloninski

St. Saviour’s Catholic Academy


Honorable Mention: Noah Etheridge

St. Saviour’s Catholic Academy


Third Grade

Winner: Cornelius McCarthy

St. Patrick’s Catholic Academy


Honorable Mention: Audrey Signorile

St. Patrick’s Catholic Academy


Fourth Grade

Winner: Leo Varsos

Holy Child Jesus Catholic Academy


Fifth Grade

Winner: Annabelle Daljeet

Holy Child Jesus Catholic Academy


Sixth Grade

Winner: Soleil Shapiro

St. Patrick’s Catholic Academy


Honorable Mention: Ava Spinelli

St. Patrick’s Catholic Academy


Seventh Grade

Winner: Olivia Nelson

Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy


Honorable Mention: Prem Persaud

Holy Child Jesus Catholic Academy


Eighth Grade

Winner: Zayna Jones

Sacred Heart Catholic Academy


Eleventh Grade

Winner: Eleni Kougiemitros

St. Francis Prep