2015 Father Michael J. McGivney Essay Contest

The Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family is pleased to announce the 2015 Father Michael J. McGivney Essay Contest. Through the contest the Institute seeks to encourage deeper reflection on the themes of culture, person, God, love, marriage, and family, especially as developed in the theological work of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The contest is open to college students who are in their junior or senior years in the 2015-16 academic year.


John Paul II concludes his Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio (1998) with a reflection on Mary, “whose life itself is a true parable illuminating the reflection contained in these passages.”

He continues: “For between the vocation of the Blessed Virgin and the vocation of true philosophy there is a deep harmony. Just as the Virgin was called to offer herself entirely as human being and as woman that God’s Word might take flesh and come among us, so too philosophy is called to offer its rational and critical resources that theology, as the understanding of faith, may be fruitful and creative. And just as in giving her assent to Gabriel’s word, Mary lost nothing of her true humanity and freedom, so too when philosophy heeds the summons of the Gospel’s truth its autonomy is in no way impaired. Indeed, it is then that philosophy sees all its enquiries rise to their highest expression. This was a truth which the holy monks of Christian antiquity understood well when they called Mary ‘the table at which faith sits in thought.’  In her they saw a lucid image of true philosophy and they were convinced of the need to philosophari in Maria.” (n. 108)

Write an essay commenting in the significance of Mary for philosophy. Your essay should include a consideration of how Mary sheds light on the relationship between philosophy and theology.


Essays will be judged on both style and content. Judges will look for articulate and well-organized essays that demonstrate an insightful and substantial engagement with the topic. Essays will be judged by faculty and associates of the John Paul II Institute in a multi-round review process.


Essays must be 1200-1500 words, prepared according to the Chicago Manual of Style. Entries must be received in hard copy format at the following address, no later than October 1, 2015:

McGivney Essay Contest
John Paul II Institute
620 Michigan Ave, NE
Washington, DC 20064

A cover page for the essay should include the following information:

The essay title
The author’s full name, mailing address, email address, and phone number
The name and mailing address of the college or university at which the author is enrolled

Each entry must be submitted with a copy of the student’s official transcript from his or her university’s office of the registrar. The transcript is intended for documentation of enrollment only; grades and course of study will not be considered in the judging process.

Results will be announced on or about December 18, 2015. Winners will be notified by email. The award for first place is $2000, and the runner-up will receive a $750 award. The text of the winning essays may be posted on the contest webpage at the time of the announcement.

If you have questions regarding the contest, please email us.

Further Details

Decisions of the judges are final.
There is no entry fee.
One entry per student.
Winners will be solely responsible for any federal, state, or local taxes on award stipends.
Employees of the John Paul II Institute and their immediate family members are not eligible for the contest.
Plagiarism will result in disqualification.
The John Paul II Institute reserves the right to reward only one or none of the submitted essays, in an effort to recognize only outstanding work.
All entries and transcripts become the property of the John Paul II Institute and will not be returned.
Contest winners agree to allow the John Paul II Institute to use their names in connection with the contest in future materials and agree to allow their essays to be posted, with full credit given to the author, on the contest webpage as part of the official announcement of the contest results.
Copyright of each essay remains with the author, and the essay will not be posted or published, other than on the contest webpage, without written permission from the author.