After narrowing down 600 applicants down to 12 finalists, a panel of judges on Saturday…
OSV Challenge gives Catholic innovators the chance to build something special
As a father of three boys who have more Legos than they knew what to do with, I was interested in an article from Catholic News Service that we recently published on our website (OSVNews.com). The headline told the story: “Architect turns 67,000 tiny Lego pieces into Vatican City State replica.”
Anymore, my kids can’t seem to replicate anything with their Legos other than a mess on their bedroom floor, but that’s really neither here nor there. When they were younger, their creativity ran wild — just maybe not to the extent of 26-year-old Rocco Buttliere, the architect behind the Lego-made Vatican.
According to the story, which was originally published by the Clarion Herald, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, “Buttliere has created more than 60 different models and managed to make a full-time living based on traveling exhibitions and commissions.” His model of the Vatican, which he debuted at a Lego convention in New Orleans, was built to 1:650 scale.
On the same weekend we published Buttliere’s story, another organization was looking for creative ways to build the Church on an even larger scale.
On Sept. 18, the OSV Institute for Catholic Innovation concluded its second annual OSV Challenge — a competition that would award $100,000 top prizes to three Catholic innovators, apostolates or individuals whose ideas would help lead the Church forward in an area of need.
Out of nearly 600 applicants, 182 were chosen to move forward in the competition. In late June, the 24 contestants who were chosen as semifinalists were invited to participate in the six-week OSV Challenge Accelerator, coordinated by the University of St. Thomas in Houston. The program offered the chosen innovators guidance on their spiritual formation, and personal development needed for optimal impact on the Church and the world. In late August, 12 finalists were invited to participate virtually in the Challenge Finals, where each applicant would have the opportunity to pitch their idea to a panel of judges, which would award each of the top three finalists a $100,000 grant to be used to get their apostolates up and running.
In an interview with The Washington Post, which called the OSV Challenge a “Catholic ‘Shark Tank,” Jason Shanks, president of the OSV Institute for Catholic Innovation, said that leaders at OSV became frustrated by continuing to fund predictable ideas that didn’t really move the needle within the Church.
“This is where we said, ‘Let’s try to create a secular environment, “Shark-Tank”-type challenge,'” Shanks told the Post. “We need in the Catholic community this kind of competitive incubator, where new strategic methods can come to the forefront. [The Church has] been trying a lot of things for a long time, and it’s not working. If you look at the shrinkage [of the U.S. Catholic Church], the numbers would suggest we need to think in a new way that will resonate with a new culture, new people.”
Shanks hopes the three winners of this year’s challenge can do just that. They are:
- Catholic in Recovery, which serves individuals, families and communities impacted by addiction by blending the wisdom of 12-step recovery with the sacramental life of the Catholic Church.
- FemCatholic, which brings feminism and Catholicism together to launch a campaign to promote women through education, encouragement and empowerment.
- Red Bird Ministries, which systematically guides individuals and couples through the complexity and trauma that accompanies the loss of a child from pregnancy through adulthood.
The other finalists included a social app designed for Catholics to stay connected digitally to their churches, an apostolate that aims to accompany those suffering from infertility or pregnancy loss, and a group that looks to make Catholic health care accessible to everyone and build a virtual hospital that is pro-life and pro-eternal life.
Shanks told Our Sunday Visitor that he is thrilled to see the challenge spark such innovation within the Church.
“In my view, I think it’s a game-changing, world-transformation type thing,” Shanks said. “Since I was a kid, people talked about ‘make a difference in the world,’ and I think that for the first time, I am a part of something that is legitimately going to do that.”
For the winners of the three $100,000 prizes, there is still much work to be done, because the only way to build something truly special that will impact the Church is to do it brick by brick.
Scott Warden is managing editor for Our Sunday Visitor.