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Respect Life Essay Contest focuses on end-of-life issues
September 26th, 2016
By Vicki Evans

On June 9, California’s physician-assisted suicide law went into effect. Generally law is a teacher of what is right and what is wrong. But a bad law like this one, giving vulnerable individuals the power to end their lives prematurely with help from a doctor, can best be counteracted with education.

This is why our 28th Annual Respect Life Essay Contest is focusing on the value of human life at its end, not overtly addressing the complexities of this issue, but asking students to consider topics concerning respect for the elderly and the dying.

Our younger students are being asked to think about what their older relatives, friends and neighbors have taught them in times they may have spent together. They are asked to consider how they can help older people by showing them kindnesses that Jesus might show them.

One question focuses on the sacrament of anointing of the sick and how sacramental graces are available in every state of life to help us on our journey. Our junior high school students will address redemptive suffering in the context of Jesus’ suffering as he died on the cross for us.

High school students will tackle this issue a little more directly by writing about how something can be legal and still be wrong, and the reasons assisted suicide is not the way we should be accompanying our elderly and dying at the end of their lives.

The California bishops have called this law a “travesty of compassion.” Hopefully, our students will become equipped to understand what real compassion is and point society in that direction as they become adults.

The contest starts Oct. 3, when schools will receive essay contest materials, and runs through Dec. 5. For more information, contact our Respect Life program at (415) 614-5533 or

Evans is Respect Life coordinator for the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Contest questions
Here are excerpts from the questions for this year’s archdiocesan Respect Life Essay Contest.

Grades 1-2: Think of an older person you know and write a letter to them. You can thank them for the love they’ve shown you or for taking care of you or for the fun times you’ve had together. You could also draw a picture they might enjoy.

Grades 3-4: Think about how kind Jesus was to everyone he met. Name some things you can do to bring the blessings of Jesus to people who are old or sick or lonely or injured.

Grades 5-6: Write about this sacrament that the church offers people who are very ill or near life’s end. Why would it be important for someone to receive this final sacrament?

From September 29, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.

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