Catholic Seminarian Essay Contest: Catholic Teachings & Ecologically Sustainable Behavior

2019 Essay Topic: How can Catholic teachings help promote ecologically sustainable behavior?

The submitted essays all combined personal experience and reflections with citation of sources in Catholic teaching in relation to sustainable development.

Congratulations to our winners!

In first place, Bernardo Castañeda Fernández from Assumption Seminary, Mexico! His essay is a strong combination of personal ecological conversion and Catholic scripture. We are proud to share his winning essay here.

In second place, Okwuelum Barnabas Chukwunweike from St. Albert the Great Major Seminary, Nigeria! We are proud to share his winning essay here.

In third place, Henry Chukwuebuka Ezeala from Seat of Wisdom Seminary, Owerri, Nigeria! We are proud to share his winning essay here.

We offer our congratulations and thanks to all of the contestants for their hard work and inspiring essays.

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION: June 15, 2019. We are now closed to submissions, having received 66 essays from seminarians around the world.

PARTICIPATING SEMINARIES: The following schools were represented in the contest:

  1. Assumption Seminary, Mexico – 1 student
  2. Bigard Memorial Seminary, Nigeria – 12 students
  3. Blessed Iwene Tansi Major Seminary, Nigeria – 1 student
  4. Christ the King Seminary, United States of America – 1 student
  5. Claretian Institute of Philosophy, Nigeria – 6 students
  6. Morning Star College Claret Nivas, India – 1 student
  7. Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary of the West, Nigeria – 1 student
  8. Mundelein Seminary, United States of America – 1 student
  9. Pontifical College Josephinum, United States of America – 1 student
  10. Saint Albert the Great Major Seminary, Nigeria – 7 students
  11. Saint Joseph’s Seminary Washington, D.C., United States of America – 1 student
  12. Saint Pio Capuchin Franciscan Friary, Nigeria – 1 student
  13. Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Major Seminary, Cameroon – 6 students
  14. Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Major Seminary, Nigeria – 8 students
  15. Seat of Wisdom Seminary Owerri, Nigeria – 3 students
  16. Seminary of All Saints, Edo State, Nigeria – 4 students
  17. Seton Hall University’s Immaculate Conception School of Theology, U.S.A – 1 student
  18. St. Paul’s National Major Seminary, Kinyamasika, Uganda – 2 students
  19. St. Mary’s College, Oscott, United Kingdom – 3 students
  20. St. Mary’s Seminary and University, U.S.A. – 1 student
  21. St. Mbaaga’s Major Seminary, Ggaba, Uganda – 2 students
  22. St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church and School, U.S.A – 1 student
  23. The National Missionary Seminary of Saint Paul, Nigeria – 1 student

JUDGES: The essay contest was judged by an international panel of Catholic professors and religion-ecology experts, including:

  • Fr. Matthew Coutinho, SDB, Professor of Moral Theology, Studium Theologicum Salesianum– the Salesian Pontifical University Jerusalem Campus
  • Fr. Russ Mcdougall, CSC, Rector of Tantur Ecumenical Institute, Jerusalem
  • Fr. Prem Xalxo, SJ, Associate Professor, Faculty of Theology, Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome

The Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development (ICSD) invited global seminarians to participate in our second annual essay contest aimed at revealing the depth of Catholic teachings on ecologically-sustainable behavior.

We asked seminarians to write a short, two-page essay that related to the question: How can Catholic teachings help promote ecologically sustainable behavior? Essays were intended to combine personal experience or reflections and citation of sources in Catholic teaching.

Pope Francis wrote, “All Christian communities have an important role to play in ecological education. It is my hope that our seminaries and houses of formation will provide an education in responsible simplicity of life, in grateful contemplation of God’s world, and in concern for the needs of the poor and the protection of the environment.” -Laudato Si’, paragraph 214

By ‘sustainable behavior,’ our intention was that the essay would focus on types of behavior that promote environmentally sustainable living. Examples of such behaviors are growing one’s own food, being mindful with how one uses energy or water, seeking to minimize food waste, or bicycling as one’s main form of transportation. To read the winning essays from 2018’s essay contest, click here.

ELIGIBILITY: Participants must be Catholic seminarians.
LANGUAGE: All essays must be submitted in English.
LENGTH: The essay can up be to two (2) pages long, excluding references.
AWARDS: The winner received US $1,000, the 2nd place received US
$300 and 3rd place received US $200.
CONTACT: For questions, please contact Ms. Faygle Train at

Why Catholic Teaching & Sustainable Behavior?

Religious support is key to promoting sustainable behavior. When clergy speak publicly about ecological issues, including pollution, effects of environmental degradation on human health, and animal welfare, it signifies to their entire community that sustainability is an ethical and religious issue.

How To Submit An Essay

The deadline for the 2019 contest has passed. Please stay tuned for information on the 2020 contest topic and instructions.

Why Did We Hold This Essay Contest?

Genesis 2:15 calls on us to be stewards of God’s creation, and for this reason, Catholics can take an active role in protecting the planet. When trusted religious sources – including Biblical passages and Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ – endorse positive stewardship teachings consistent with spiritual values, it promotes sustainability as an inherently moral issue. Recent research by two universities confirms that these Christian stewardship sources can increase concern about the environment and climate change. At this pivotal moment in human history, we hope that Catholic seminarians will explore how Catholic social teaching can promote an ecological conversion and sustainable lifestyle transformations.

About The Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development (ICSD):

Based in Jerusalem, ICSD works to catalyze a transition to a sustainable society through the leadership of faith communities. ICSD co-organizes Symposia on Ecologically Informed Theological Education, including one hosted by Catholic University of America’s School of Theology and Religious Studies. ICSD’s Faith-Inspired Renewable Energy Project in Africa works to create a renewable energy platform based on strategic partnerships between faith institutions and communities in Africa. ICSD’s Report on Catholic Ecology Courses For Priestly Formation highlights courses on ecological themes offered at a number of Catholic seminaries in North America, Rome, and the Holy Land.