WELLINGTON — North Island entrants have topped the categoriesin the Knights of the Southern Cross 2011 Religious Writing Competition.

Entrants were asked if they agreed that social justice is at the heart of the Gospel, giving reasons for their position. They also had to give examples of social justice actions they have supported recently and to explain why they did so.

Joint prize winners were: (under 14) Katie Pigou, Sacred Heart Girl’s College, Hamilton, and John Richards, St Peter’s College, Palmerston North; (under 16) Josiah Kilkelly and Michael Kilkelly, both home schooled in Rotorua; (under 18) James Finlay, Rosmini College, Auckland, and Ashleigh Fromont, Sacred Heart Girls’ College, New Plymouth; (over 18) Isabella McCafferty, Wellington, and Kathryn Weir, Whangarei.
Prize money totalling $1200 was offered.

According to a draft report by the Knights, 63 entries were received, which was considered a good result, given the difficulty of the topic.

“The standard this year was very high; while we had fewer entries than last year, those that did enter certainly had a sound knowledge of social justice and the Gospels,” the report stated.

Entries were submitted by 13 of the 49 Catholic secondary schools in New Zealand.
All except one entrant agreed that social justice is at the heart of the Gospel. Many of the essays highlighted the actions of Jesus and cited Church teaching and tradition.

Knights spokesman Patrick Horan said the writing shows Catholic colleges are “strong on showing the link between the Gospels and social justice,” adding that “social justice is an issue that resonates strongly with our youth”.

Many of the younger entrants had been involved with the Society of St Vincent de Paul or with projects like Caritas’s “Survive a Slum”.

In the latter, participants had to build a dwelling out of cardboard and live in it for a day with only a bowl of rice to eat, thereby gaining an appreciation of how the poor live in some nations.

Many over-18 entrants were also involved with St Vincent de Paul, but had a focus that was closer to home, for example, working with community groups on issues like pensioner
housing and protecting the environment.

The competition, which is run by the Wellington branch of the Knights, is in its seventh year. Prizes and expenses were donated by other branches.

Year 12 Rosmini College student James Finlay, a joint winner of the under-18 category, plays openside flanker for the school’s first XV rugby team and plans to enter medical school when he has completed his secondary education.

Long serving Rosmini principal Tom Gerrard, who teaches religious education to James and four other entrants in the Knight’s competition, was pleased at the result.
Mr Gerrard said this year he has introduced his students to the thought of philosophers like Plato, Socrates and St Thomas Aquinas, who, along with Blessed Antonio Rosmini, “inspired the boys as . . . founding fathers of modern social justice ideologies”.

An essay by Patrick Lalor, also in year 12 at Rosmini, was shortlisted in the under-18 category.