On his 11th birthday Dec. 1, Mitchell Paca received a phone call that made his day especially memorable. He’d been selected winner of this year’s Catholic Messenger Christmas card contest.
“Really?! That’s awesome,” responded the fifth-grader at Saints Mary and Mathias Catholic School in Muscatine.
His entry, done in colored pencil, features the three Magi carrying gifts for the baby Jesus. The artwork was one of 957 entries The Catholic Messenger received for this year’s contest. Besides being featured on the front page of the newspaper, Mitchell’s artwork appears on Christmas cards sent to priests and religious communities and others in the Davenport Diocese.
“I’ve never done the three kings. This is just a new experience for me,” explained Mitchell, who “wanted to do something no one else was doing.”
As he sketched and colored, Mitchell said he thought about the gifts the Magi were carrying — gold, frankincense and myrrh — and the clothes they would have been wearing, the “holy colors back then,” he said. “I wanted to draw each of them different because they weren’t from one place, they were from all over.”
Mitchell loves to draw and completed his artwork during free time at school. When he grows up, he’d like to be an author or an illustrator. Last year, he placed third in another art contest at school.
Contests aside, his thoughts are focused on Christmas and what it means to believers like him. “I’ve never thought of anything else but Jesus being born,” said Mitchell, who also is an altar server.
“The thing about Mitchell is that he has an amazing sense of faith,” said his mom, Chris Paca, a third-grade teacher at Saints Mary and Mathias. “He is very faith-filled and talks about his religion and what he believes in. That makes a bigger impression on me than his art.”
She and her husband, Dan, and their other three children are thrilled that Mitchell won the Christmas card contest. His artwork, coupled with the Scripture passage printed inside the card (Isaiah 52:7) “put it together nicely,” Chris Paca said.
The family will celebrate the birth of Jesus with Mass on Christmas Day and with a tradition at home of placing a figure of baby Jesus in the manger and singing “Happy Birthday” to him.
Other winners in The Catholic Messenger Christmas card contest were:
First place: Abigail White, 8, second grade, Central Ward Elementary School, St. Mary Parish, Centerville.
Runners up: Tony Schmitz, 7, second grade, Madison Elementary School, St. Mary Parish, Pella; Regan Lamb, 7, first grade, Regina Elementary School, St. Patrick Parish, Iowa City; Kate McAleer, 7, first grade, St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School and parish, Davenport.
First place: Chace Steinbach, 10, fourth grade, Aurora Heights School, Sacred Heart Parish, Newton.
Runners up: Stephanie Nuno, 9, third grade, Seton Catholic School, St. Mary of the Visitation Parish, Ottumwa; Elizabeth Delaney, 8, third grade, Seton Catholic School, St. Patrick Parish, Ottumwa; Kassidy Rashid, 9, fourth grade, Notre Dame Elementary School, Ss. John & Paul Parish, Burlington.
First place: Aden Alfred, 10, fifth grade, Holy Trinity Catholic Elementary School, St. Mary Parish, West Point.
Runners up: Maggie Monroe, 12, sixth grade, St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School and parish, Davenport; Leo Galoso, 10, fifth grade, Saints Mary and Mathias Catholic School and Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish, Muscatine; Julia Lee, 12, fifth grade, Regina Elementary School, Iowa City.