St. Theresa

Contest winners with their art pieces: Adeleine Bandura, Estella Bajoras and Colgan Dettmer.


For almost a decade, students from St. Theresa’s Catholic School in Phoenix have been winning the yearly Rosary Sunday Art Contest sponsored by the Phoenix Diocese – and this year the streak continues. 

The three winners, sixth-grader Adeleine Bandura, fourth-grader Colgan Dettmer and fifth-grader Estella Bajoras, had steep competition: 2,200 entries from all the schools in the Diocese. The trio was three out of only 24 winners. 

St. Theresa Office Manager Peggy Sandahl attributes a good portion of the contest wins to art teacher Bertica Garcia-Dubus. 

“She is phenomenal,” Sandahl said. “An artist herself, Dubus knows how to pull out the talent and enthusiasm of these kids year after year. Every time the school enters an art contest, our school has quite a few students chosen.”

According to Dubus, students can feel disappointed when they don’t win a contest: “I explain to them that it’s not guaranteed the best of the best will win since it depends on the judge’s criteria. I emphasize that celebrating the winners provides the opportunity to learn humility, to share in others’ joy and recognize others’ triumphs,” she said.

Each year the Diocese picks an apparition of Mary that represents her in some fashion. This year, contest drawings focused on one of Mary’s titles, “Our Lady of Sorrows.” According to Catholic liturgy, Mary had seven sorrows during her life, sometimes represented with swords. The student’s challenge was to capture this concept creatively. 

“They all used watercolors, except for Colgan, who chose to use colored pencils,” said Dubus. “I believe the contest is important because it highlights the importance of Mary. It also allows me to teach the children about the event and explain why we honor Mary while creating a piece of art.”

The drawings had to adhere to the Diocesan fine art standards, including elements and principles of line, color, shape, and texture. 

“Art is my passion and I’m fortunate to have such a wonderful art teacher at St. Theresa’s. She has helped me accomplish my many artistic goals,” Estella said. 

“I am very interested in having my students draw first before going to other mediums such as watercolors, colored pencils, pastels, chalk and copper relief,” said Dubus. “At Christmastime, our project for second grade is a 3D nativity scene using wood and cardboard.”

In past years, the winners were acknowledged at a luncheon at the Diocesan Pastoral Center that included a mass with the center’s Bishop. 

In 2021, the luncheon took place at St. Theresa’s with the principal and Father Parks. There were lots of smiles as he talked to the children about their drawings. 

“Studies show that when we create art, as we use our hands, eyes and intellect, the brain captures the information more fully,” said Dubus. “Art is an incredible tool for learning which is not always recognized.”

The reward for their hard work, talent and creativity included a personalized certificate and rosary – and an experience that the trio will hold close to their hearts for years to come.