by Moira Cullings
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — In 2019, Ellie Melero walked away from her summer internship with The Leaven feeling grateful for the experience and the lessons she learned.
But nearly one year later, Melero came to find out that not only did she survive her time with the eclectic Leaven staff, but she also helped produce an article that was honored by the Catholic Press Association (CPA) at its annual convention.
The article, which Melero worked on with former Leaven feature writer Olivia Martin, was titled “50 years later: ‘I still miss it.’”
It featured the missionary work of two Benedictine Sisters, one Benedictine monk and three Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, detailing the international adventures that changed their lives and the people they served.
The story earned the duo a third-place award in the CPA’s Best Feature Writing category — a feat for any seasoned writer, let alone a college intern.
“That was my first professional newsroom experience, and I grew so much as a writer and a reporter last summer,” said Melero, a rising senior at Oklahoma State University studying multimedia journalism and Spanish.
“I was able to take what I learned at The Leaven into school with me and now into my [current] internship,” she added. “I’m just really thankful for the experience.”
The award was one of several that was accidentally released late by the Catholic Press Association following its virtual awards ceremony July 2 — giving The Leaven 12 awards in total. So when Martin found out about it, she was initially surprised.
“But it felt right that the stories of some of the incredible missionaries we have in our archdiocese should be honored with an award,” she said. “What they’ve lived is worth more than any award.”
For Melero, sharing the award with Martin was even sweeter because of Martin’s guidance throughout Melero’s time at The Leaven.
And although sharing a writing assignment can be more complex than writing alone, splitting up the work went smoothly for the pair, who look back on the experience with fond memories.
Melero interviewed the Sisters of Charity in Leavenworth on her own, but she and Martin took a road trip to Atchison together, where they interviewed three members of the Benedictine order, including Father Duane Roy, OSB.
“I remember it was a very hot, sunny summer day,” said Martin. “As Father Duane recalled the warm conditions he lived in during his time in Brazil, I remember being grateful we were having our interview in an air-conditioned abbey!”
The way Father Duane spoke made Martin feel like she was on mission with him.
“He speaks eloquently and with vivid detail,” she said, “which made the writing process for me utterly simple.”
What stood out to Melero was talking with the Sisters, whose stories of traveling to Brazil and Peru reminded her of fantasy books she read growing up and left her inspired.
“I liked reading [these books] because of all the adventures they have,” she said. “But then talking with these Sisters — they had those adventures in real life.