Friars' Essay Contest 2023 winners

  • February 24, 2023

Once again this year, along with our partner-sponsors at the Archdiocese of Toronto’s Office for Christian Unity and Religious Relations with Judaism and the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, The Catholic Register is pleased to announce the winners of the Friars Student Essay Writing Contest. 

First prize went to Peter Leong, a Grade 11 student at St. Michael’s Choir School for an essay that had judges marveling at the maturity of his writing. Second prize went to Alexander Wareing, who is in Grade 10 at St. Anne Catholic Academy, and third prize was awarded to Anastasia Shirali, a 17-year-old poised to graduate from Loretto Abbey Catholic Secondary School. Both Wareing and Shirali impressed the judges with the clarity of their prose and their vigorous explorations of the theme “Do good; seek justice” from Isaiah 1:17. 

The prize-winners will receive their awards at a post-Mass ceremony on Sunday, March 25 in Holy Name Church in Toronto. 

The Register and our partners congratulate all who worked hard to submit essays, and urge them and their fellow students to contribute next year.

Peter Stockland
The Catholic Register


In a world filled with conflict and division, the rifts and chasms which arise on the path toward unity often seem impassable. Nevertheless, in the pursuit of unification, it is our Christian duty to build resilient bridges across these voids. 

Among the most prominent of today’s issues, racism and ignorance continue to persist in our communities and create great discord and oppression between many of our brothers and sisters. To help solve these challenges, the Holy Father currently leads the Catholic Church towards a path of unity — a world in which we are at peace and reconciled with one another.

As society continues to atone for its faults of the past, so, too, does the Church as she seeks reconciliation with the First Nations of Canada for her role in the residential school system. 

Although we, as Christians, can atone for our sins, it is imperative that the Catholic Church repent for its own errors to maintain its legitimacy and validity as an institution. As head of the Church, the Holy Father has persistently worked towards attaining forgiveness for her sins, formally apologizing to the First Nations for the Church’s role in assimilating indigenous children during his recent papal tour to Canada. 

Additionally, during these past years, the collective Christian community has demonstrated its unitive potential through the numerous social-justice initiatives created to help those in need during the pandemic. 

Though through these acts the Church and its followers repeatedly demonstrate their desire for goodness, opportunities for improvement never cease to exist.

Amid the global struggle for equality, it is critical that Christians continue to lead by example and strive to treat all people equitably. Created in the image and likeness of Christ, we are obligated to act lovingly and kindly towards others regardless of their beliefs, gender or skin colour. Unfortunately, many Christians have been blinded by misbeliefs regarding “race”; too many have turned a blind eye to systems and practices which favour one group over another. 

As Isaiah proclaimed to the Israelites, it is our duty to pursue justice and rescue, defend and protect the dignity of those most vulnerable among us. Like our sins which deepen like an unattended wound when we neglect them, we cannot and must not allow these tainted structures to become poisonous shackles, preventing us from fully living out our mission in Christ.

Loving Father, show us the ways of truth and inspire us each day to strive for justice within our communities. Strengthen us so that we may speak with wisdom and act with courage. 

Aid us, so that we may create one faithful, unified Christian community; we pray through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. 



To do good and seek justice is central to being a Christian but is even more important as communities face increasing racial violence and hate crimes.  

The challenge Christians face is how to take prayer and good ideas and turn them into actions.  Through Christian unity, we come together each year for one week (the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity) and pray, in an ecumenical movement reflecting on what we all agree that we believe in and asking God to help us. 

As racism and hate crimes rise in our communities, it is important that Christian Churches find ways to unite and do good and seek justice.  

One way we can learn to do the right thing is by being allies to people in our community who are experiencing racism and hate which leads them to be marginalized and oppressed.  

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Mark 5:9).   

Jesus teaches us that we should be allies to the oppressed and Christians can honour our faith by looking for people who are marginalized and oppressed in our community and advocating for them.

Churches in a community can unite against oppression because we are more powerful doing good together.   Christians can take the good thoughts from churches and in one voice do good in the community. 

God always helps the oppressed so it is time for Christians to take action and follow God’s example.  

In order to help the oppressed in the community, all the churches should work together with a common purpose to do good and seek justice.  

Christians can and should speak up against racism and hate because what is happening now does not have to be.  

“And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for he is a God of justice”(Psalm 50:6).  

God is good and is on the side of right so Christians should follow God’s example and seek justice. It is the moral responsibility of Christians to not sit on the sidelines but instead be active with hope and faith and seek justice stop hate.   

After all, being Christian is not doing what is easy but trying to always do what is right.  

Lord Jesus Christ, 

We pray for those in need and in need of Justice. 
We forgive the ones who made wrong decisions,
We pray for those to have a good life. 
We pray for those to do well,
We hope everyone learns from what they did wrong. 
We hope those who made the wrong choices start making the right choices. 
We should honour each other,
We hope it is safe for anyone in a good way. 


Isaiah 1:12-18 calls for the people of Israel to turn from their sins and seek justice and righteousness. The passage emphasizes the importance of living in a way that is pleasing to God and seeking to do good in the world. This message is just as relevant today as it was in ancient Israel.

In many ways, the vision of unity among Christians is being lived out today through the efforts of believers to work together and support one another in their faith. There are numerous examples of Christians coming together to serve their communities and share the love of Christ with others. However, there is always more that can be done to promote unity and understanding among believers. There are still divisions and conflicts within the Church, and it is important for Christians to strive for reconciliation and unity in order to be a more effective witness for Christ.

One way Christians in Canada are striving for unity is through interdenominational and ecumenical efforts. ... This cooperation helps to build relationships and understanding among believers and allows us to have a greater impact in the world. Another way is through efforts to build relationships with people of other faiths. By showing respect and understanding towards people of other religions, Christians demonstrate the love of Christ and work towards a more peaceful and harmonious society. ...

There is always more that can be done to promote unity. We can do this is by actively seeking opportunities to work with other believers and serve our communities together. We can also seek to learn more about other denominations and traditions and strive to understand and respect one another’s beliefs and practices. ...

Finally, we can pray for unity and work to cultivate a spirit of love and understanding in our own hearts and minds. By seeking the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit and striving to live in accordance with God’s will, we can be powerful witnesses for Christ and help to build bridges of understanding and unity among believers.

The message of Isaiah 1:12-18 calls for unity among Christians, and this vision is being lived out in many ways in Canada. However, there is always more that can be done to promote understanding and reconciliation among believers. By working together to serve our communities and seeking to understand one another’s beliefs and practices, we can be powerful witnesses for Christ and bring about greater unity in the church. ...

Dear God,

We thank you for the unity that we have among believers in Canada. We pray that you would continue to work in our hearts and minds, helping us to grow in our understanding of your love and grace. We pray that you would help us to overcome any divisions or conflicts within the Church, and that we would strive for reconciliation and unity in your name. May we be a powerful witness for you in Canada and beyond, sharing your love and hope with all those we encounter. Amen.

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