Father Michael J. McGivney Essay Contest 2011

The Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family is pleased to announce the first annual 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 2011-12 academic year.


Commenting in 1993 on problems in modern ethical thought, John Paul II spoke of a general tendency of “detaching human freedom from its essential and constitutive relationship to truth” (Veritatis Splendor, 4). He also made the following claim: “The attempt to set freedom in opposition to truth, and indeed to separate them radically, is the consequence, manifestation and consummation of another more serious and destructive dichotomy, that which separates faith from morality” (Ibid., 88). What does it mean to speak of an “essential and constitutive relationship” of freedom to truth? If freedom needs truth, does truth need freedom? How do both need faith? Write an essay discussing these questions.


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.


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

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 September 30, 2011:

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

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 15, 2011. 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 essay will be posted on the contest webpage at the time of the announcement.

Further Details

  • There is no entry fee.
  • One entry per student.
  • Winners will be solely responsible for any federal, state, or local taxes.
  • 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 reward 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.