2022 Essay Competition – The Legacy of Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley: Reflection and Action in Catholic Education

The Department of Catholic Studies at Seton Hall University is pleased to invite students to participate in its annual Catholic Essay Competition. The contest is open to all enrolled students in grades 9 through 12 at Catholic high schools in New Jersey. This year’s essay contest focuses on the legacy of Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley in New Jersey Catholic schools today.

April 28, 2022 marks the 180th anniversary of James Roosevelt Bayley’s conversion to Catholicism. The former Episcopal minister, from a prominent New York family, had been called to conversion through his work with poor Irish immigrants and through his collaboration with Catholic priests in Harlem, and he was encouraged in his conversion by his cousins, the children of St Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton. After three years of prayer and discernment, he was received into the Church of the Chiesa del Gesù in Rome, a Jesuit church, in St. Ignatius Hall, after attending the Spiritual Exercises. Obviously, the spirituality of Saint Ignatius of Loyola supported his conversion.

Bayley’s life would have been remarkable for her conversion alone – from Episcopal minister to lay Catholic, at a time and place when such conversions were not the norm. However, Bayley continued to seek training for the Catholic priesthood. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of New York in 1844, consecrated the first Bishop of Newark in 1852, installed as Archbishop of Baltimore in 1872. What Bishop Bayley did while in New Jersey defined the trajectory of the Catholic life in New York. Jersey, and the effects of his work and ministry are still felt today.

For 20 years Bishop Bayley has dedicated himself to Catholic education in New Jersey. He encouraged religious orders to establish houses in New Jersey, and he himself founded Seton Hall College (now the university) and Immaculate Conception Seminary. The demand for a seminary education grew, and he was eventually instrumental in founding the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He is known to have said, “In our present situation, the school has become second in importance to the House of God itself…[our ambition is to have] every Catholic child in the state in a Catholic school. “Bishop Bayley’s work laid the foundation for outreach in Catholic education to children of all faiths, from kindergarten through college. Throughout, Bishop Bayley followed his own spiritual exercises each day , dedicating to the integrity and practice of his own Rule of Life, he continually practiced interior reflection, like Saint Ignatius of Loyola, whose legacy we celebrate in a special way in this Ignatian Year.

Reflecting on the life and legacy of Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley gives us the opportunity to examine what values ​​and practices can make Catholic education successful in New Jersey. Students are invited to write essays in response to the following prompt: How has your experience as a student at a Catholic school in New Jersey shown you that “the school has become the second largest after the House of God itself”? What specific values ​​must Catholic schools uphold to ensure the success of Catholic education in the 21st century? For Catholic schools, what is success? How has inner reflection and social action, both central to Bishop Bayley’s legacy, shaped your vision of Catholic education?

The author of the winning essay will receive a $300 gift card and certificate, and the two runners-up will each receive a $150 gift card and certificate. The three recipients will be honored at the Catholic Studies Honor Society’s annual induction and reception at Seton Hall University on April 26, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception. Students will be allowed to bring two guests to the reception, and the winning essay will be read aloud at the reception by its author. The three winning essays will also appear in the magazine Arcadia: A Student Journal for Faith and Culture, which is published by the Catholic Studies Program.

The conditions for submitting essays can be found here.

Online and paper submission requirements

  • Each high school must submit no more than five essays.
  • Each essay will be evaluated for originality, execution, and adherence to topic and format requirements:
  • Essays should be between 500 and 750 words.
  • Entries must be written in English.
  • Only one entry per student is permitted.
  • All information requested on the submission form must be included.

All essays must be submitted by March 9, 2022. Authors of winning works will be notified by March 31, 2022.

Dr. Ines Angeli Murzaku
Professor and Director of the Catholic Studies Program
Walsh 427 Bookcase
Seton Hall University
400 Orange Avenue South
South Orange, NJ 07079
[email protected]


Gloria Aroneo, MBA
[email protected]
(973) 275-2808

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