Lucas Georgey, Gr. 9, first place winner of the Friars' Writing Contest 2019. Photo courtesy of Lucas Georgey

Friars' Writing Contest: Students speak out on healing broken world

  • March 25, 2019

The entrants in the annual Friars’ Student Writing Contest did not make it easy on judges from The Catholic Register

The contest drew many quality essays on the question referring to Deuteronomy 16:18-30: How can Catholics and Christians of all denominations unite to create a more just society and be examples of Christ’s healing grace in a broken world?

Last week we published the winning entry from Lucas Georgey of St. Michael’s Choir School. This week, we feature the second and third place winners — Vincent Pham from Chaminade College School and Nathan Nambiar from St. Francis Xavier Secondary School. Pham has earned the second-place prize of an iPad while Nambiar is awarded a Google Home smart speaker.

Christian leaders are called to a higher standard, according to Grade 9 student Lucas Georgey.

In winning the annual Friars’ Student Writing Contest, 14-year-old Georgey wrote that leaders can look to the examples of Abraham, Moses and David to act as messengers of the word of God. 

“We all see poverty and homelessness and we say, ‘We wish they weren’t in that situation,’ but like take initiative. Do something about that if you really felt that,” he told The Catholic Register. 

The Catholic Register and the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement Graymoor received a record 150 entries for this year’s contest, which asked high school students to reflect on Deuteronomy 16:18-20 and submit a 500-word essay on how Christians can unite to make a more just society.

“Justice, for me, is treating other people how God would treat you,” said Georgey, a student at St. Michael’s Choir School in Toronto. “God has so much love for His people... and being God’s people, we should take on that role for others.”

Georgey said his essay was inspired in part by the his parents’ story of immigrating to Canada from Lebanon as young children. His father came at 11 years old and his mother arrived at age four. 

Georgey said his parents had a hard time adjusting to school life in Canada. They were often singled out as different from their classmates. 

Georgey is in his first year at St. Michael’s Choir School.

“The kids at my new school, they’ve known each other since they were in Grade 3,” he said about entering Grade 9. “When a couple of kids saw me sitting in the corner because I didn’t know anyone at lunch, they told me to come over and they talked to me and I felt united.”

Grade 12 student Vincent Pham from Chaminade College School in Toronto placed second. Pham, 17, wrote that true justice lies not in reciting prayers in the pews but being pro-active in serving the disadvantaged. 

“Acts of piety are important, yet in order for these acts to be fruitful, Christians need to accompany these acts with actions that promote justice. In order to achieve this, one can look up to Jesus’ actions and ministry because He Himself is a just man, a just God,” wrote Pham, a contributor to The Register’s Youth Speak News page. 

Nathan Nambiar, a Grade 10 student at St. Francis Xavier Secondary School in Mississauga, placed third. He wrote that true justice is a full justice. 

“One thing that really stuck out to me is that you can’t pick and choose which parts of justice you want,” he said. “In the same way, with the problem we are having nowadays with a lot of Christians, we decide to follow certain aspects of our faith rather than the whole of Christianity.” 

Nambiar, 15, added that Christians cannot limit their faith to Sundays, but must live out their Christianity every day of the week “if we are to heal our unjust societies.”

For placing first, Georgey won a laptop computer. Pham will take home a new iPad and Nambiar wins a Google Home speaker.

Georgey’s winning essay is published below. The second- and third-place entries will appear in future issues.

Healing a broken world 


The passage “justice, only justice, you shall pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20) portrays a deep understanding of God’s vision of our world. 

Catholics and Christians of different denominations can create a more just society and be examples of Christ’s healing grace in a broken world through their actions and decisions, as well as by their day-to-day interactions with others. 

All people deserve to live in a just world. To start, Catholics and Christians need to create a sense of unity instead of division amongst themselves. To create unity, people must accept and respect others for who they are, free of all judgment. 

It is important to remember that every person is created in the image of God and hence all should be treated with fairness and compassion. With this point of view, there is no room for division. This understanding can manifest in the day-to-day interactions between students and adults in how they embrace each other — ask others to join a group, embrace all cultures and traditions through gatherings, and ensure no one is lonely. 

Catholics and Christians must elect leaders who promote the best interest of the people they represent and who make decisions to benefit them. In the various covenants that God established with Abraham, Moses and David, He chose them to lead His people so they could have a better life, one that is just. 

Abraham, Moses and David acted as messengers spreading the word of God through their teachings. Similarly, all people and leaders can be the messengers of Christ’s healing grace in a broken world by spreading God’s love, teachings and way of life. People can lend a hand to someone in need, be good listeners and be loving and caring for one another. 

Also, programs and services must be available for all people to meet their needs. “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” said Mahtama Gandhi in a powerful statement that helps support how Catholics and Christians can be Christ’s healing grace in this world. All people wish that world hunger, poverty and homelessness could be abolished. It would be greatly just to end these crises. 

People must take action in continuing to fundraise, build shelters, create food drives and donate to families in need always. Moreover, acts of kindness are powerful ways to help make the world a better place. If each person did one act of kindness a day, people would feel happier and experience a sense of belonging. This naturally and slowly can begin to improve the world, making it more just and compassionate, one act at a time. 

When people create unity, no one is discriminated against. When leaders and citizens act fairly with the best interest of all people, justice is served. Acts of kindness will always help create a more just society and are an example of Christ’s healing grace in a broken world. 

What would Jesus do? 


Every year on Ash Wednesday, as Christians start the season of Lent, excerpts from Chapter 6 of the Gospel of Matthew echo within churches, recalling the story of Jesus reminding His followers to not be like the hypocrites who pray, give alms and fast so that outsiders would look at them, see them as pious people. 

Yet, as this Gospel passage is read every year, do Christians let Jesus’ reminder to His followers sink into the work that Christians do everyday or are Christians becoming like the hypocrites that Jesus was referring to? 

Jesus calls every Christian to pray, give alms and fast not as a public announcement of piety, but rather as a call to be a just people. In order for the acts of piety to bear fruit, Christians are called to “administer true justice for the people” (Dt 17:18). This is the vocation of all Christians who, through the Sacrament of Baptism, are called to be kings who administer true justice. 

What is true justice? Jesus clarifies that this is not done “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” (Mt. 5), but rather with the law of love, building a culture of non-relativistic love. 

In a society where the definition of love is being reshaped in a relativistic way with abortion, with euthanasia, with materialism, Christians have the responsibility to bring justice to this definition, bringing about the objective definition of love which requires one to look and act upon the example of Jesus because He Himself is love (1 John 4:8). 

What would Jesus do? For some, that may be an overlooked question, seeing it as too outdated. However, Christians have to honestly ask themselves, “What would Jesus do in the world today?” Reading the Gospels, it is evident that Jesus was not just a man of prayer, but a man of action. 

While Christians can sit around in their pews reciting prayers, praying that issues would be solved, nothing will be solved without concrete action. Fortunately, many Christians are taking action, taking part in pro-life initiatives such as March For Life. The Knights of Columbus have been helping in the funding of equipment for pro-life centres, an effort that promotes the dignity of the value of human life. 

Many Christian denominations have united to run charities and services to help the disadvantaged in society. Within Toronto, there are many services for the homeless run by different Christian denominations such as the Good Shepherd Centre, St. Olave’s Anglican Church community, St. Francis Table. 

In the midst of all the good works that are happening, there are some areas Christians should look at. Pope Francis has called for all to promote care of the environment and at the same time, reach out to “people of the peripheries.” 

These have been key themes of his pontificate through the publication of the encyclical Laudato Si’, establishing the World Day of Prayer for Creation, visiting the disadvantaged people during his apostolic visits, especially during his last pastoral visit to Panama where he visited prisoners and the Good Samaritan Home where patients with AIDS were residing. 

Christians can do the same within their communities, raising awareness of care of the environment, promoting eco-friendly campaigns within homes and parishes. 

Along with that, Christians should strive to live out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy — those are the basic guidelines of promoting justice. 

Acts of piety are important, yet in order for these acts to be fruitful, Christians need to accompany these acts with actions that promote justice. In order to achieve this, one can look up to Jesus’ actions and ministry because He Himself is a just man, a just God.

(Pham, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Chaminade College School in Toronto.)

Beatitudes offer path to change in unjust world


To be Christian is to be a living example of Christ’s love, abiding by the teachings of God and respecting him through every action and word. 

These teachings pave a path for us in which we live our lives, improving the world by being stellar examples of God’s saving grace.

In an increasing trend, however, we continually see our society becoming more unjust, creating a world that is both broken and astray. Many of our fellow brothers and sisters are living as Christians in name only, instead of striving to be unequivocally Christ-like. 

This, undoubtedly, stems from a false idea of following the philosophies of our faith once a week in Church, as opposed to practising it in their day-to-day life. For select Christians, faith becomes merely an aspect of their life, causing them to slowly turn away from God and stray further from His light.

In Deuteronomy 16:18-20, we see that the Lord God wants us to carry out judgments with complete impartiality, ensuring that what we pursue is true justice. 

This effectively conveys the message that God wants us to understand: If we are to deliver justice, then we must deliver full justice. We cannot decide for ourselves what is just or not, but must instead remain unbiased. 

Similarly, we cannot pick and choose which parts of our faith we will follow, whether it be attending Mass on Sundays or saying our prayers at night. 

If we are to truly be Christian, then we must be willing to practice our faith in our everyday interactions, by being kind to those around us and acting as Jesus would have wanted. 

If we are to heal our unjust societies, then we must look back to Jesus’ time and the ways in which He convinced those around Him to change. 

During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus proclaimed to His disciples a new set of values that they would cherish and follow, abolishing the standards of false righteousness. 

Prior to Jesus’ proclamation, countless Israelites centred their lives around false values of success, power and materialistic ideals, but through the help of Jesus’ teachings, many were able to see past these lies and live righteously by God. 

Due to the pressures of the modern age and false influences, our society has once again fallen into the grasp of these false values. Instead of trying to live in accordance with God’s virtues, many people revolve their life around obtaining these falsities, making them stray further away from God Himself. 

I believe that we must strive to once again rediscover the Beatitudes for ourselves, and encourage those around us to do the same. The Beatitudes give us a path to righteousness, helping us to discern our way through a world filled with sin. 

As Catholics and Christians of all denominations, we can help to heal our broken world by encouraging those around us to rediscover the Beatitudes, and in turn, the Lord God Himself.

(Nambiar is a Grade 10 student at St. Francis Xavier Secondary School in Mississauga, Ont.)

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Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible, which has become acutely important amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.