“In order to fulfill the teachings of Christ, we must strive to not only bridge the divide and unify diverse denominations of Christianity, but also extend that same hospitality towards all religions and cultures in order to become shepherds of God.” 

Though they align with the mission of the Franciscan Friars, these words, surprisingly, were not written by one of the Friars. These are the words of seventeen-year-old Evelia Raphael, the 2020 winner of the annual writing contest co-sponsored by the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement Graymoor and The Catholic Register that takes place each year during the Week of Prayer For Christian Unity. Evelia wrote a 500-word essay on the theme from this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that came from Acts 28:2 – “They showed us unusual kindness.”

Evelia received an Asus VivoBook laptop as the prize for her first-place finish. Hadassah Koens was awarded a Samsung A50 cellphone for finishing in second place and Michael Balvers took home a Marley No Bound speaker. Though these prizes are exciting, the real rewards from taking part in this contest are the lessons learned by the many students who enter.

“I feel like I want to spread that message (of welcoming the stranger) for other people. It’s really relevant today because the world is so divided when it comes to immigration and welcoming refugees,” Evelia said in an interview with The Catholic Register. The Friar’s work to promote reconciliation and healing through “at-one-ment” — the unity of men and women with God and with one another – is being heard loud and clear by the younger generation.

Read all the winning entries in their entirety here.