Catholic Schools Week Essay Contest

We received submissions from more than 440 students from eight schools around the Archdiocese of Seattle, from kindergarten through 12th grade. The essays were judged by a panel drawn from the staffs of Northwest Catholic, the archdiocesan Office for Catholic Schools and the Fulcrum Foundation. We are proud to present the winning high school, middle school 
and elementary school essays.

From left: Denning Gillespie, Julianna Vidales and Katie Miller, the 2013 NORTHWEST CATHOLIC Student Essay Contest winners. Photo: Rachel Bauer


The heavenly harmony of faith, knowledge and service

By Julianna Vidales

I was hot, I was tired, but I was happy. Sitting under a tree on lunch break, I looked at the shed walls and roofs that my youth group had been in the process of building. Those miscellaneous parts would soon be complete wood sheds of great value to families who wouldn’t run out of places to store firewood this winter. I looked to my other side and saw my friends conversing with a girl from the Indian reservation’s youth group, Mending Wings. It was beautiful how young people from different cultures could grow in faith and understanding together. Yes, I was happy.

It all came together on that weeklong mission trip. Faith, knowledge and service combined and made it an experience I will not forget. But, thanks to the environment that I immerse myself in every day at school, blending faith, knowledge and service comes easy to me now. I have experienced in many big and small ways how they are interconnected. Knowledge helps me grow in my faith, which leads me to desire service. Likewise, service gives me knowledge that solidifies my faith. And so on. It works every which way.

Going to a Catholic school has especially been a part in helping me realize the relationship between these aspects of life. It happens in the classroom. Our teachers, even as they teach us calculus or Spanish, are able to point us to the ultimate truth of God. It happens in the school community. We constantly present each other with opportunities to do service together, and our school assigns a minimum amount of hours for each student to complete each year. We come together every morning to pray before classes start. We take time in the middle of the week to celebrate Mass. Faith, knowledge and service are at the very root of our school experience.

Thanks to my experiences at school, I am able to relate my religious beliefs with my learning and work in all areas of my life. I know that having all three together is a lot more beneficial than working on only knowledge, only faith, or only service alone. They complement each other. This continued to be true on my mission trip to the Indian reservation over the summer. My youth group prayed together and asked others for prayer, just as we studied Native American culture and history in preparation for the service we were to do. With this multifaceted preparation, our week was heaven-blessed. But it didn’t surprise me how harmonious faith, knowledge and service were together. I already knew.

Julianna Vidales is a senior at Seton Catholic High School in Vancouver.

From top: Vidales, Gillespie and Miller. Photo: Rachel Bauer

Finishing the race 
and keeping the faith

By Denning Gillespie

As I ran forward, I saw the finish line ahead of me. There was only one girl ahead of me, but I was gaining on her quickly. I was going to win the big race! As I caught up with her, a look of surprise crossed her face, and suddenly, she tripped and fell! I could have kept going, but my faith teaches me to serve others. So I stopped, helped her up, and we crossed the finish line together. Faith, knowledge and service were the basis of that decision, and many others throughout my life. In my life at school and at home, faith, knowledge and service have been tied together to inspire success.

One of the times that faith, knowledge and service are incorporated at St. Louise is during Mass. Students can attend Mass about once a month. Each eighth-grade student is assigned a ministry position and serves during Mass. We also learn about God, and his teachings. Another time that these three aspects are combined is during religion class. As with other classes at my school, we learn something new every day, about God, our faith and its history. We are also required to complete service hours and record them throughout the year.

I also demonstrate faith, knowledge and service in my life outside of school. I participate in Girl Scouts, where we learn the Girl Scout Law, and part of that is to support our faith. You can also go for the bronze, silver and gold awards, which require you to complete over 50 service hours. Lastly, I learn about faith, knowledge and service at home with my family. We pray as a family, learn as a family, and serve each other by helping out around the house.

I wonder how my life would be different if faith, knowledge and service weren’t a huge part of it. I certainly wouldn’t be the student, Catholic or family member I am today. Life isn’t just about sprinting to the finish line. It’s about doing worthwhile things along the way.

Denning Gillespie is an eighth-grader at St. Louise 
School in Bellevue.

Listen to Denning Gillespie being interviewed about her essay on Sacred Heart Radio's "Northwest Catholic" show.

God all around me

By Katie Miller

I walked into the classroom, and automatically I could tell this year would be filled with faith, knowledge and service.

God was all around me. There were crosses and prayers on the wall, a prayer table in the front, and a statue of Jesus on a bookshelf. On our first day, we prayed together and went to an all-school Mass. We have one Mass each month and we pray at least three times a day. It really helps me with my faith. At home, my family goes to Mass each week. We pray at the dinner table and when something is wrong.

The school helps me with my knowledge of God as well. We have religion class every week, and study the Bible. We learn different prayers together. My family taught me who Mary, Jesus and God are. They read to me my first Bible stories. They were a big influence on my knowledge of God.

My school does a lot of service. My class supports an orphan named Kerry. We each earn a dollar from our parents each month and donate the $30 we make. In the older grades, they travel to places that need help with food, shelter, clothes, etc. Near Christmas we have a project called Toys for Tijuana. My family helps to serve; for instance, my sister went on a mission trip to Lynden. I hope we can do more.

My family and school are the reasons that I have a strong relationship with God.

Katie Miller is a fifth-grader at 
St. Louise School in Bellevue.

NORTHWEST CATHOLIC – January/February 2014

WIN CASH PRIZES … AND TEACH HISTORY TOO — Catholic school students in grades 5 – 12 are invited to enter our annual essay contest.  The contest is open to all students in Catholic schools – parochial, private and homeschool…. Here are the rules and details… We hope teachers and parents will incorporate this essay contest into their lesson plans and encourage We hope teachers and parents will incorporate this essay contest into their lesson plans and encourage their students to participate.  

There are eight divisions:

  • For Catholic schools:
    • 5th grade Catholic school students
    • 6th grade Catholic school students
    • 7th/8th grade Catholic school students
    • High school Catholic school students
  • For Catholic homeschools:
    • 5th grade Catholic homeschoolers
    • 6th grade Catholic homeschoolers
    • 7th/8th grade Catholic homeschoolers
    • High school Catholic homeschoolers


5th Grade Students:

Choose a Catholic historical character (born before 1950) from North America (Canada, U.S., Mexico). Write about his or her life and work and why he or she was important to the Church and country. Students may choose a person who was born outside of North America, but who did their important work in North America.

6th Grade Students:

Choose a country other than your home country, that you would like to visit. Research that country’s history and write about two places of historical interest that you would like to visit if you traveled there and why.

7th and 8th Grade Students: (Choose one of these topics)

1. Choose a non-North American historical character (from Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia or South America) who lived between 300 A. D. and 1600 A.D. and relate how that person influenced the time and place in which they lived.

2. Choose an historical event that occurred between 300 A.D. and 1600 A.D. (This could be a war, a single battle in a war, a plague, the coronation of a king, the passage of a law or decree, an ecumenical council, a revolution, an invention, a birth or death, a marriage, etc. – but the event must be an historically important event). Describe the event, the key players, its outcome and how it changed history.

High School Students: (choose one of these topics)

1. The year 1618 was the beginning of the 30 Years War in Europe. Research this conflict, identify its causes, why it lasted so long and what were its results. Explain why it was such an important war in the history of Europe.

2. The year 1918 was the end of the World War I. Discuss how this war changed Europe. You may concentrate on one aspect of change – such as economics, politics, religion or culture.

3. Show how World War I lead to changes in the culture of the United States in the 1920s.

4. C. S. Lewis wrote: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” Explain this quotation, using examples from history.

5. C. S. Lewis wrote: “History isn’t just the story of bad people doing bad things. It’s quite as much a story of people trying to do good things. But somehow, something goes wrong.” Explain this quotation, using examples from history.

NEW GUIDELINE: Teachers may only submit 5 essays, per division, per school. While we want to have every student continue to participate and enjoy the opportunity to write and learn more about history, we are asking the teachers to select the best 5 essays for submission. We will continue to send a letter thanking every member of the class for participating. For further questions please email:


  • For Catholic schools and students:
    • 5th grade Catholic school – $100 to student and $400 gift certificate for the school student attends
    • 6th grade Catholic school – $100 to student and $400 gift certificate for the school student attends
    • 7th/8th grade Catholic school – $150 to student and $400 gift certificate for the school student attends
    • High school, Catholic school – $200 to student and $400 gift certificate for the school student attends
  • For Catholic homeschools and students:
    • 5th grade Catholic homeschoolers – $100 to student and choice of CTP book for student’s family
    • 6th grade Catholic homeschoolers – $100 to student and choice of CTP book for student’s family
    • 7th/8th grade Catholic homeschoolers – $150 to student and choice of CTP book for student’s family
    • High school, Catholic homeschoolers – $200 to student and choice of CTP book for student’s family
  • For all winners:Winning essays will be published on the CTP website and social media.


  • For the 5/6 divisions, essays should be at least 450 words, but no more than 1,000 words.
  • For the 7/8 divisions, essays should be at least 600 words, but no more than 1,500 words.
  • For the high school divisions, essays should be at least 800 words, but no more than 2,000 words.
  • Essays should be typed, double spaced, 11 pt in Times New Roman font.
  • If essays are e-mailed, they must be in PDF format.


  • Your writing should be in your own words. If you quote another author (either from a book or the internet), you must cite that author in a footnote or an endnote. Essays that are suspected of plagiarism will be disqualified.
  • Essays must include a bibliography or simple list of sources used.
  • Wikipediamay not be used as the primary reference material. Wikipedia is useful for an initial familiarization with a topic, but it is not considered a reliable source in academic circles. A Wikipedia article can be useful in providing reference to books and articles which can be used for further research.

An Entry Form must be filled out and attached to each essay.

Catholic School Entry Form (right-click and Save As to download)

Homeschool Entry Form (right-click and Save As to download)

Please choose from the links above to download your entry form. Download the form to your computer and then fill it out. Save the completed form and then send it by email to


All mailed essays must be postmarked by midnight, November 17, 2017.

All e-mailed essays must be received by midnight, November 17, 2017, EST.


Essays can be mailed via USPO to:

Catholic Textbook Project
Essay Contest
P.O. Box 266
Galena, OH 43021 

Or they may be sent via email, attached in PDF format to:

Each student’s essay must be e-mailed individually and not gathered into one file.

Please contact Katherine at with any of your questions.

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