Little saints go marching in - Catholic Courier

Little saints go marching in

All teachers dream of saintly behavior from their students. If ever they were in need of models, it would have been tough to top the saintliness displayed at Elmira’s Holy Family Primary School on Oct. 31.

Holy Family’s two third-grade classes brought saints to life during a 90-minute assembly that served as a prelude to All Saints Day the next day. All 33 students posed as statues in a “Living Saints Museum” set up in the school gymnasium. Each statue, when prompted by visitors, sprang to life and began explaining historical facts about the particular saint he or she represented.

The project required two weeks of preparation through studying up on saints and creating costumes. Third-graders were given the option of selecting the saints they would portray — which, for people such as Tommy O’Brian, were often namesakes.

“I was wearing a halo and a brown robe with white. My mom made it,” said Tommy, 8, describing his depiction of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Alexandra Cook, 8, said she originally opted for St. Alexandra, but couldn’t find enough information about the saint who was martyred in the early fourth century. So, Alexandra’s next choice was to portray Mother Teresa. Third-grade teacher Mary Baker explained that although Alexandra’s selection is not a saint at this time, the project was inclusive of saintly people from recent history such as Mother Teresa.

“We like to have some current ones, more contemporary,” Baker said, citing such people as St. Maximilian Kolbe, who was canonized in 1982, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who was made a saint in 1975 — the first American female saint. Also included was the late Pope John Paul II “because we know he’s on his way (to sainthood),” Baker remarked.

Connor Dense, 9, went further back in time, choosing St. Patrick.

“I like shamrocks, so I wanted to be St. Patrick,” he said, adding, “I didn’t know that many other saints, and St. Patrick is one of the saints I know.”

Connor said the project enabled him to acquire many facts about St. Patrick, the renowned Irish saint from the fifth century.

“He was arrested several times and escaped every time,” Connor said. “He was captured by pirates, became a slave and worked as a shepherd.”

Meanwhile, Alexandra learned that Mother Teresa “was the mother to the poor, she was a Missionary of Charity (Mother Teresa actually founded that order) and she taught at St. Mary’s School in Calcutta.” And Tommy discovered that St. Thomas Aquinas, a 13th century saint, “was the patron saint of Catholic schools.”

Through their presentations, the third-graders passed their knowledge of saints on to Holy Family’s kindergartners, first-graders and second-graders, as well as parents who also visited the gymnasium.

“It was very fun. I liked telling stories,” Alexandra said.

Among the other featured saints were St. Nicholas, St. Francis of Assisi, the Blessed Mother, St. Peter and St. Benedict. Eye-catching displays included St. James in fishing garb (the apostle was a fisherman) and St. Maximilian Kolbe in a long beard and rags (the Polish priest was executed in 1941 at Auschwitz, a Nazi concentration camp, where he had continued ministering to other prisoners despite enduring beatings and starvation).

Other highlights from the Oct. 31 event included treats — giving out “gummi fish” as part of the St. James theme, as well as Life Savers candy in honor of St. Christopher (he is renowned for having carried people across a raging stream to safety in the third century).

Baker said the project helped improve the third-graders’ writing and public-speaking skills as well as their knowledge of saints. By having to act out their saintly roles several times that day, she said, “they really find out what public speaking is about.”

“It was adorable. Their costumes, their little saintly air about them, and the way they presented their information — it’s just overwhelming,” said Debra Galardi, the school’s other third-grade teacher. “We had adults in tears because they were overtaken by the students’ saintly natures.”

Galardi and Baker noted that for many years Holy Family Primary School sponsored a Halloween costume party, but two years ago it evolved into a saints’ presentation to honor All Saints Day.

“It’s back by popular demand. It’s more popular every year,” Baker said.

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