On Jan. 24, members of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement-Graymoor honoured the winners of the Friars’ Student Awards annual essay contest at a Mass at St. Joan of Arc parish in Toronto. Four of the six honoured were on hand, including, from left, second-place winner Raquel Seara, grand prize winner Sharanya Tiwari, third place winner Vincent Pham and honourable mention Brian Chen-See. Frs. Damian MacPherson, Brian Terry and Daniel Callahan, left to right, made the presentation. Photo by Evan Boudreau

Hindu girl gets Christian unity

By 
  • January 29, 2016

TORONTO - Sometimes, it takes an outsider to speak the truth about our faith.

Sharanya Tiwari is a Grade 11 Catholic high school student of Hindu faith. Out of all the entries, it was her essay on Christians united in “their rich faith in Christ” that set her apart from the others in the annual Friars’ Student Writing Award held in conjunction with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The annual contest is co sponsored by the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement-Graymoor and The Catholic Register.

Tiwari took top honours, winning an iPad Pro. Second place went to Raquel Seara of Loretto College in Toronto, while Vincent Pham of Toronto’s Chaminade College School took third place. Honourable mentions went to Brian Chen-See of St. Robert’s High School in Thornhill, Ont., Steven Travale of Sacred Heart High School in Walkerton, Ont., and Simon Hughes, who is home schooled.

Students were asked to write an essay on the question, “Despite divisions in Christian unity, should Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants all be considered a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people?”

“It is a privilege to read these essays… (and) to get a broader view of what young people think about the Church,” said Fr. Damian MacPherson, the Archdiocese of Toronto’s ecumenical director, at a Jan. 24 Mass at St. Joan of Arc parish that honoured Tiwari and the other contest winners.

“I have been surprised and I know you would be surprised to know the degree to which the youth are interested and have a real desire to want to be a part of the life of the Church. That is one of the privileges that comes to myself.”

Tiwari, 16, has been attending St. Augustine Catholic Secondary School in Brampton, Ont., for three years now. It was there that she learned all Christians, despite differences, have much in common.

“I’ve had awesome teachers and awesome friends,” she said. “And I don’t feel like just because they are from different denominations, they act separately. I really like that.”

Most of her friends at school are Catholics, but she also has classmates from other Christian denominations and classmates from other faiths as well.

Tiwari said she was apprehensive when her parents first chose to send her to a Catholic high school. As a family, they talked to relatives who have attended Catholic schools in previous years and heard only good things about the experience.

Quickly, she learned that her school is diverse. Tiwari made friends and she now loves being part of the school.

“I’ve been to churches on retreats and honestly, I think it’s important that they act in unity because it really explains why there is so much unity in their Church and they are so inclusive,” she said.

In researching for her essay, Tiwari said she read past essay winners and learned from their writings. She also read articles from The Catholic Register’s Facebook page.

She said the biggest thing she learned is that all Christians have been called to be a part of the spiritual house of God.

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You can read the winning essay here - The Spiritual House of God.

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