Since 2014 The Order has organised a Public Speaking Competition for second-level students. This year, due to schools’ closures, we were unable to continue with the Public Speaking Competition. To keep the students interested in the Church’s teachings, the decision was made, using ‘public speaking topics’, to organise an essay competition.   

By way of supporting Religious Education and Literary Endeavour, the Knights of St. Columbanus invite senior cycle students (TY, 5th and 6th year students in the Republic of Ireland and Years 12, 13 and 14 in Northern Ireland) in all Post-Primary Schools throughout the island of Ireland to participate in a unique essay competition.
(see this years winners)

The Prizes for the top 3 essays from each school are:

First Prize: €50

Second Prize: €30

Third Prize: €20

In addition, the following All-Ireland prizes will apply.

First Prize:  €250

Second Prize: €150

Third Prize: €50

Furthermore, several Roman Catholic dioceses, e.g. Elphin and Clonfert in the West of Ireland, kindly agreed to provide a prize for the best entry from a school in their diocese. 

Essay length
The length was at the discretion of each student’s Religious Education or other supporting teacher but generally has to be a minimum of 750 words and not exceed 2,000 words.

Essay Submission
Essays typically must include the following:

At the end of the essay, every entrant must include the following:

  • the following sentence
    “I confirm that this essay is my own work, that no part of it has been written by another person or taken from another source and that all quotations are attributed to their authors.”
  • their full name
  • their year
  • the name and address of their school
  • the name of their Religion Teacher or another teacher who has supported and encouraged their application and participation.
  • The essay title must appear at the top of the first page.

Closing Date
The closing date is generally mid-March and is fixed each year.

What do the adjudicators look for?
* Clarity of expression. 
* Some exploration of the topic from a religious, spiritual and/or faith
* Inclusion of insights from Church and / or other  sources, e.g. a relevant bible quotation,  Church teaching documents, quotes from Pope Francis or another religious leader, a journalist/broadcaster of international standing,   e.g. David Attenborough on the environmental question
* Use of literary techniques in support of arguments, opinions expressed etc.
* A willingness to communicate one’s own opinion having considered the issue.

Typical Essay Titles are as follows:
(16 options grouped under four headings)

Social Media and the Gospel

  • “The web and social networks have created a new way to communicate and bond”.  Christus Vivit March 2019 Discuss
  • “We can’t develop as moral agents on social media”. Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks March 2020 Discuss
  • “There is the dangerous phenomenon of young people becoming “social hermits” who risk alienating themselves completely from society” Pope Francis January 2019. Discuss

Justice and Peace

  • “Migrants remind us of a basic aspect of our faith, that we are strangers and exiles on the earth’ (Hebrews 11:13) Discuss
  • “We have to realise that a true ecological approach always becomes a so­cial approach; it must integrate questions of jus­tice in debates on the environment, to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”. Laudato Si 49 Discuss
  • “Abolishing the death penalty worldwide would reflect the brave and hope-filled belief that crime can be dealt with without capital punishment and that a criminal should be given a chance to reform”. Archbishop Paul Gallagher Sept 2018 Discuss
  • “On the one hand, it is essential to find a cure for this small but terrible virus, which has brought the whole world to its knees. We must also cure a larger virus………” Pope Francis August 2020 Discuss

Living the Christian Life

  • “We should have a profound respect for one another, and this should be reflected in the way we speak and behave,” Bishop Declan Lang 2016 Discuss
  • “Please, brothers and sisters, let us make an effort not to gossip. Chatter is a plague more awful than Covid!” Pope Francis Sept 2020 Discuss
  • “We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life” Pope Francis June 2020 Discuss
  • “It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others” Pope Francis March 2020 Discuss

Young Christians

  • “I also call on the younger members of our parishes to step forward in helping us manage the transition back to full parish life and celebration of the sacraments. Archbishop Eamon Martin June 2020 Discuss
  • “That is why I constantly urge young people not to let themselves be robbed of hope; to each of them I repeat: Let no one despise your youth” Christus Vivit 15 Discuss
  • “Work is an expression of human dignity, a path of development and of social inclusion” Christus Vivit 271 Discuss
  • “Give your passions and dreams free rein, and, through them, offer the world, the Church and other young people something beautiful … Make your voices heard.” Pope Francis March 2020 Discuss
  • “Every human being has the right to live with dignity and to develop integrally; this fundamental right cannot be denied by any country. “Pope Francis Fratelli Tutti
    Discuss the impact of this statement for society today.