Arts and Sciences Logo
Pope Francis Speaking at the United Nations

High School Essay Contest

2021 Essay Contest: Answering Fratelli Tutti’s Call to Friendship

The Catholic Studies Program at Seton Hall University is pleased to invite students to participate in its annual Catholic High School Essay Contest. The competition is open to all students enrolled in grades 9-12 in New Jersey Catholic high schools. This year’s essay contest is focused on the theme of friendship.

On the eve of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi in 2020, Pope Francis put out his encyclical Fratelli Tutti, echoing the way the pope’s namesake addressed his brothers and sisters—all humankind—as “brothers and sisters all.” Of all years in our lifetime, 2020 has most powerfully proven both the challenges and the great value of friendship. In his encyclical, Pope Francis calls all of us to true friendship with others. We can do God’s work of driving away loneliness, isolation, and despair by having an open heart, engaging with others, and remembering the deep connections among all humanity. Our focus on true friendship should not be limited by our immediate environment; in fact, over the past year, through virtual communication, we have found new ways to forge connections with others around the world. True concern for others extends beyond our immediate social circle, leading us to dialogue and political action that show not merely tolerance but generous hospitality. “Us vs. them” is replaced by “all of us together.”

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic gives us all an opportunity to reflect on how we will accept the challenge to become better friends to those in our immediate community and to those around the world. Students are invited to write essays in response to the following prompt: What is fraternity, according to Pope Francis? How can fraternity call for social friendship? How can friendship/fraternity can be applied during the pandemic? What are the dangers and opportunities of friendship while living during the pandemic?

The author of the winning essay will receive a $300 gift card and certificate, and the two runners-up will each receive a $150 gift card and certificate. All three winners will be honored at the annual Catholic Studies Honor Society induction and reception at Seton Hall University on April 29, at 5 p.m. in the Chapel of Immaculate Conception. Students will be allowed to bring two guests to the reception, the three winning essays will also appear in the magazine Arcadia: A Student Journal for Faith and Culture, which is published by the Catholic Studies Program.

The essay submission requirements can be found here

Submit Your Essay Here

Online and Hard Copy Submission Requirements

Each high school must submit no more than five essays. Each essay will be evaluated for originality, execution, and adherence to the topic and format requirements:

  • Essays must be between 500 and 750 words.
  • Entries must be written in English.
  • Only one entry per student is permitted.
  • All information requested on the submission form must be included.

All essays must be submitted by March 9th, 2021. The authors of winning entries will be notified by March 31st, 2021.


Dr. Ines Angeli Murzaku
Professor and Director of Catholic Studies Program
Walsh Library 427
Seton Hall University
400 South Orange Avenue
South Orange, NJ 07079


Gloria Aroneo, M.B.A.
(973) 275-2808