Witnesses to Freedom 

USCCB Religious Liberty Essay Contest 2024

Congratulations to the winners of this year's essay contest!

First place: Daring to Defy the Crown and Give Faith to the Poor, by Alan Michels

Second place: Freed to Serve: The Witness of Bl. Nicholas Charnetsky, by Mary Maleski

Third place: Bishop Alvarez: A Modern-Day Champion for Religious Freedom, by Larkin Stojka

thomas-more-270x200.jpg Who are the people that inspire us?  Religious freedom is a fundamental right.  But the truth of religious freedom has needed, and continues to need, witnesses.  Philosophers and statesmen have articulated key principles and ideas.  Advocates have stood up for the freedom of others.  Saints have suffered persecution and even martyrdom.  These witnesses to freedom show us what it means to promote religious freedom and what it means to be truly free. 

Share the story of a witness to freedom.  Choose one person (or group, such as an organization or community) who is important in the story of freedom.  Was there a key moment in the person’s life that bears witness to freedom?  Or was it the life as a whole?  Did the person articulate important concepts for religious freedom, and if so, what arguments did she or he make?  Why is this person a witness to religious freedom? What lessons can we learn from this person’s witness? 

Please include a bibliography.  Any reference style is acceptable as long as it is consistent throughout the document.  Essays should be no longer than 1,100 words


The first-place essay will be published Our Sunday Visitor, and the author will be awarded a $2,000 scholarship.

Second place will receive a $1,000 scholarship, and third place will receive a $500 scholarship.


Essays are due March 29, 2024.  Winners will be announced in May.

Please complete the consent form and include with submission.

Email submissions ReligiousLibertyEssay@usccb.org.

See contest rules for details.

Past Winners


First place: Little Strokes Fell Great Oaks: The Story of the Littlest Witness, by Sofia Cornicelli

Second place: Joy at the Guillotine, by Cara Magliochetti

Third place: Saint Justin: Philosopher, Apologist, and Martyr, by Margaret Nornberg

Highest participation: Bethlehem Catholic High School in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania


First place: Father Anthony Kohlmann: An Early witness to Religious Liberty, by Elizabeth Bernadette Rudolph

Second place: St. Thomas Becket: The Witness in the Cathedral, by John Douglas Hill

Third place: Nijole Sadunaite: A Radiance of Freedom, by Paul Liulevicius