May 22, 2020

Student’s art and heart are on display in award-winning painting

A sophomore at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, Emily Och earned second place in a national contest for her painting, “Our Greatest Shelter, God.” (Submitted photo)

A sophomore at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, Emily Och earned second place in a national contest for her painting, “Our Greatest Shelter, God.” (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

The national award verifies 16-year-old Emily Och’s talent as an artist.

The words she uses to capture the essence of her award-winning artwork show the depth of her heart.

Emily’s talent and heart are on full display in a painting she titled “Our Greatest Shelter, God”—a painting that earned her second place in a national contest sponsored by the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).

“I almost started crying when they told me,” she says about the call on May 12. “I don’t win stuff that often, so it was really cool.”

Reflecting the contest’s theme of “More than a Roof,” the sophomore at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis depicted God’s hands protecting people of different nationalities and religions from the rain while plants bloom in the background.

“Most people view a house as just a physical structure, something that protects you from turbulent weather and keeps you warm at night,” Emily notes. “However, a home can be much more than that.

“A home can serve as a gathering place. It can serve as a place of good times and memories. But most importantly, it can be a place of God.”

In creating her artwork, Emily chose God’s hands to be the roof under which people of all backgrounds can find shelter.

“This represents how God cares for us all equally, no matter the color of our skin or who we worship,” Emily notes. “Underneath these hands and behind the people—past the rain—there are plants growing, showing how God’s love is the only thing that lets us bloom and thrive as individuals.”

The “More than a Roof” theme reflects the focus of this year’s contest on the Church’s teaching that all people have a right to affordable housing.

“The Catholic Church and all of its members have a certain responsibility to take care of those who suffer from lack of housing,” says Emily, a member of

SS. Francis and Clare of Assisi Parish in Greenwood.

“Jesus taught through his entire ministry to take care of the poor and less fortunate. Trying to find housing for those without it is just one step in moving toward the direction of getting all of those who are less fortunate into a better place.”

Emily’s award-winning artwork earned her $375, which she will add to her savings for a car. Her award also let her designate a $375 grant for an organization funded by CCHD.

She chose Teen Mother Choices, a faith-based program with a chapter in Brookville “designed to encourage, equip and support teen moms who have already given birth and who have courageously chosen to parent their child,” according to the organization’s website.

“Whenever I hear people talking about teen moms, I feel it’s always in criticism,” Emily says. “But I never hear about anyone getting them the help they need. So I thought it was the best choice.

“Helping others is a big thing for me. I don’t like to see other people in bad situations. It’s really nice to take something I enjoy—art—and use it to bring goodness to somebody else. I didn’t realize until this contest how much my art affects people.” †

Local site Links: