PENFIELD — As Zack Ayers made his way down the hall to the library at St. Joseph’s School, he flapped his arms and said, “If I’m in heaven, why can’t I fly?”
That’s because Zack was actually still on earth at the time, having just completed a performance as St. Peter at the pearly gates during All Saints Day Mass at St. Joseph Church Nov. 1. The school’s student body, staff and the children’s families were present at the Mass, which featured students singing hymns, offering prayers and putting on a brief play about the saints.
As St. Peter, Zack, a fifth-grader, welcomed the saints into heaven. Each of the heavenly residents was also played by a fifth-grader. At the play’s conclusion, Zack held up a sign that said “Closed,” but another group of students came up the nave and asked to be admitted. The students said they had played together nicely on the playground and obeyed their parents, so St. Peter let them into paradise.
After the performance, the children who played the saints sat in the school library and talked about their characters. Demi Monachino played St. Elizabeth of Hungary and said her character was a princess and had in the 13th century opened hospitals in her homeland. Demi added that a saint was “a person who helped God.”
Carolyn Huff played St. Anne, mother of Mary.
“She showed Mary how to love God and others,” Carolyn said.
Meanwhile, Celeste Caccavale and Samantha Falzone played angels guarding the pearly gates with St. Peter. Celeste reckoned that saints were messengers and that her guardian angel existed “to help you get through bad times.”
Reagan Morrow played St. Joseph, Mary’s husband and foster father of Jesus. Reagan said he doubted Jesus would have ever gone to the principal’s office to be disciplined, adding that raising Jesus was probably a pleasant undertaking.
“I think it would be nice because he wouldn’t do as many bad things as regular people would,” Reagan said.
Clare Malone portrayed Blessed Kateri Tekawitha, a Mohawk woman who converted to Catholicism in the 17th century.
“She was sometimes, like, really nice to people,” Clare said.
She added that she would have liked to live like her character, closer to nature and without the benefit of labor-saving devices.
“It just seems that you wouldn’t have as much time to lay around the house,” Clare said.
Maria Sabik said she had directly benefited from the labor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American to be canonized and a lifetime proponent of Catholic schools.
“She taught people about being Catholic, and then we have a Catholic school, and I have lots of friends here,” Maria said.
St. Jude was played by Andrew Caito, who noted his character was the patron of desperate causes. Andrew added that he planned to pray to St. Jude to get his older sister to stop kicking him.
Zack was unaware that St. Peter was the first pope, but he noted that “he must be important to God because he let (St. Peter) guard the gates.” If he was in charge of admission to heaven, Zack said he’d probably use the same criteria as St. Peter, looking to people’s goodness, but added that he might allow murder victims in no matter what since they didn’t have enough time to complete their lives naturally. It seemed, then, that Zack got the message promoted by Father James Schwartz, pastor, during his homily at the All Saints Mass.
“Whenever you’re kind to another person that is kind of a way of saying God is first in your life,” Father Schwartz told the children.
Other Catholic schools in the Monroe/Livingston region celebrated All Saints Day as well.
* Sixth-graders at Christ the King School in Irondequoit wrote paragraphs about saints.
* Bishop Matthew H. Clark celebrated All Saints Day Mass at St. Thomas More Church in Brighton for the junior-high students at Siena Catholic Academy. The students presented the bishop with a Siena blanket and golf cap.
* Students at All Saints Catholic Academy, located on the grounds of St. Theodore’s Parish in Gates, held a prayer service on Halloween. They also carved crosses into pumpkins, which they carried into Mass on All Saints Day so that they could see the connection between Halloween and All Saints. “Hallow” is derived from an Old English word meaning “saint,” and Halloween is derived from the words “All Hallows Eve,” the evening before the day celebrating the hallows, or saints.
* At St. Louis School in Pittsford, fifth-graders dressed up as saints and gave presentations about them after the Halloween parade on Oct. 31 and during the school Mass Nov. 1. Such students as Grace Maxwell and Tommy Davis also wrote about the saints. Tommy wrote an essay on St. Francis of Assisi.
“Francis taught about the relationship between people, plants and animals,” Tommy wrote. “He died in 1226. He is the patron saint of animals, plants and the ecosystem.”
* Children at St. Lawrence School in Greece learned about St. Peter Claver, patron of missionary work among the poor. The students also learned about St. Peter Claver School and Church in New Orleans, the largest African-American Catholic church in Louisiana. Sister Concepta Vay, a teacher at St. Lawrence, has worked with the Edmundite Missions, which sponsors the school. The St. Lawrence students will be raising money to help St. Peter’s, which is located in an area devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
* Jacki Schuman’s kindergarten class at Seton Catholic, located at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Brighton, prepared for Halloween and All Saints Day by carving pumpkins and using a “Pumpkin Prayer.” The students prayed such statements as “Dear God, as I carve my pumpkin help me say this prayer … Open my eyes so your love I will see,” and then cut hearts for eyes.
* Patrick Fien, a fifth-grader at Cathedral School at Holy Rosary in Rochester, wrote about St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland. Fien noted the saint was once a slave in Ireland, but eventually became a bishop there.
“He worked many miracles in his life one of his miracles was he drove the snakes from Ireland,” Patrick wrote.”Finally on March 17th 487 he died.”
His classmate, Victor Vulaj, wrote that “Saul was a very mean person,” but after being blinded by God’s light was healed by God and “wrote letters to the new Christians for all the good things Jesus did.”