Sarasota student earns top Christmas art honor

Karys Kuchinsky wants to be an artist when she grows up. If the people at the Missionary Childhood Association (MCA) Christmas Artwork Contest are any judge, Karys is well on her way to achieving this dream.

Karys is a sixth-grader at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota and was one of 19 artists to be recognized for her work in the MCA Christmas Artwork Contest. Her artwork, and that of the other winners, is on display through the Advent and Christmas Seasons at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. All winners are featured as MCA eGreetings, which launched on the First Sunday of Advent (Dec. 3, 2023) at

Karys’ winning artwork of the Blessed Virgin Mary was of her own interpretation from her creative mind. “It was quite the honor to be selected and represent our community,” she said.

She is a passionate artist, following in the footsteps of an older sister who went to the Ringling School of Art and Design. Karys travelled to Washington for an awards ceremony for the MCA Christmas Artwork honorees on Dec. 1 at the Basilica.

The award ceremony, followed by a Mass and a luncheon at Catholic University of America, was a celebration of artistic talent and a testament to the missionary spirit fostered by MCA. The awards were presented by accomplished American artist Suzanne Ferrell Nicholson and Msgr. Kieran E. Harrington, national director of The Pontifical Mission Societies, which encompass the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, as well as the Missionary Childhood Association.

“The trip was filled with excitement and intrigue from the start,” Karys said. “Meeting the other winners, Msgr. Harrington and the MCA staff was rewarding. The art exhibit was fabulous to see with all the other contestants’ work on display. Each painting delivered a strong message and expression clearly symbolizing and supporting the missionary vision.”

Mirna Kuchinsky, Karys’ mother, said that her daughter has blossomed as a talented artist in the past year or so. “I know I am her mother, but she is really good. We went to Washington so that she could be inspired, knowing that she was chosen to be honored among so many entries.”

This is not the first time a St. Martha Catholic School student has been honored through the MCA Christmas Artwork Contest. In fact, this is the third year in a row a St. Martha student has been a finalist in the MCA contest.

Throughout the years, Mary Jo Salamone, Karys’ art teacher, takes time to ensure all of her students take part in the different art competitions both nationally and locally, never losing sight that each award is a gift from God which should be shared with others.

Hundreds of submissions were received, both through the mail and online, for the annual MCA competition which dates to 1933. Back then, MCA used children’s artwork on Christmas seals. Christmas cards were introduced in 2005, and in 2007 eGreetings were launched with these drawings. These artworks, depicting scenes of the Christmas story, are available in a digital e-greeting format, allowing anyone to spread the joy of the Christmas Season while supporting the missions. If you would like to send an e-greeting, please visit

The MCA was founded in France in 1843 to encourage all children to be aware of the needs of children living in mission Dioceses throughout the world and support them both spiritually and sacrificially. Under its banner “children helping children,” monies raised through schools are directed towards self-help programs involving the building of schools, the provision of health and nutrition programs and medications, school fees, as well as teaching and learning resources.

Father Joseph Gates is the Director of the Diocese Office of Propagation of the Faith (Mission Office), which coordinates activities regarding foreign, domestic, and Diocesan mission work. For more information, please call 941-776-9097 or email