METUCHEN, N.J. (CNS) — Though 13-year-old Christopher Serrao studied long, complicated and obscure words for hours on end to win a prestigious spelling bee, the most important word in his arsenal had just five letters: F-A-I-T-H.
Christopher, a resident of Whitehouse Station, N.J., and member of the town’s Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, joined seven other contestants in taking home a trophy and $50,000 grand prize May 30 in the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Maryland.
A seventh-grade student at Readington Middle School, he had been inspired by his older sister, Danielle, to compete in the annual test of knowledge and endurance.
Studying word roots and language patterns two to three hours daily, and longer on weekends, helped enlarge his vocabulary and sharpen his spelling acumen, but Christopher relied upon his faith to get him into the winner’s circle.
“When I was nervous, I said a prayer to God and would hold the cross in my hand. I also wore a rosary around my neck,” Christopher told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Diocese of Metuchen.
Christopher said his pastor, Father Leonard F. A. Rusay, “told the congregation that I was in the contest and had everyone pray for me.”
This is the third time Christopher qualified for the national competition. He finished in 34th place last year. He and the other seven “octo-champions” survived 20 rounds of competition, 12 of them in the evening. He spelled “cernuous,” (which means pendulous or nodding), before being declared one of the eight winners.
“My win is a reaffirmation of the power of prayers,” he said. “When the odds were against me, I knew faith in Jesus and prayers would help me overcome any obstacle.”