Father Michael J. McGivney Essay Contest 2013

The Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family is pleased to announce the 2013 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 2013-14 academic year.


“In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear . . . Christ . . . in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself.” (Gaudium et spes, 22) Write an essay commenting on the meaning of this passage from Gaudium et spes for the relationship of “continuity and fulfillment” between faith and reason, referring also to following quotation from Fides et Ratio 43, concerning the synthesis of Thomas Aquinas: “Faith therefore has no fear of reason, but seeks it out and has trust in it. Just as grace builds on nature and brings it to fulfillment, so faith builds upon and perfects reason. Illumined by faith, reason is set free from the fragility and limitations deriving from the disobedience of sin and finds the strength required to rise to the knowledge of the Triune God. Although he made much of the supernatural character of faith, the Angelic Doctor did not overlook the importance of its reasonableness; indeed he was able to plumb the depths and explain the meaning of this reasonableness. Faith is in a sense an ‘exercise of thought’; and human reason is neither annulled nor debased in assenting to the contents of faith, which are in any case attained by way of free and informed choice.”

Make sure that your essay also addresses the following questions:  What does the revelation brought about in Christ say about reason’s thirst for Truth? In what sense is the exercise of reason required in order to grasp the answer that Christ’s revelation sheds on the mystery of man? Why is philosophy still needed after Christ’s revelation? 


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, 2013:

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 13, 2013. 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 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.