“Smiles Generate Smiles”: Sharing Mother Teresa in the Classroom

Mother Teresa of Calcutta - Manfredo Ferrari under CC BY-SA 4.0

Mother Teresa of Calcutta was one of the most beloved people in the world during her life. Her life, words, and works are admired by Christians and non-Christians alike. Since her canonization occurs during the school year, catechists have a special opportunity to teach about her life to their students. My third graders will be learning about Mother Teresa by listening to her story, hearing from a parent who has a personal connection to her, and sharing Mother Teresa’s story with their families.

Since there are so many books and websites devoted to Mother Teresa, the hardest thing for a catechist might be knowing where to begin. Fortunately, Loyola Press offers a short biography that you can use as a wonderful starting point. For older students, read this biography to the students. Spur further discussion by exploring Mother Teresa’s wisdom with the help of Meet Mother Teresa. For younger students, use the biography as background information for yourself as you show maps of where Mother Teresa was born and where she ministered. You can also show pictures of Mother Teresa as you share the story of her life and works with children. I have added a Mother Teresa statue to my saints corner, thus making her part of the class!

Our school is blessed to have a parent, Mrs. Filipi, who received a handwritten letter from Mother Teresa. When Mrs. Filipi was in high school, she wrote a letter to Mother Teresa, asking what she could do as a young girl to live her life as a faithful Catholic. Mother Teresa wrote back to her. Mrs. Filipi has this letter beautifully framed, and I have invited her in the past to show the letter to my students. Her face glows whenever she shares the story of how Mother Teresa touched her life. Inviting Mrs. Filipi to share the letter this year will surely help students make a personal connection with the Church’s newest saint.

To conclude the lesson on Mother Teresa, I will ask my students to share what we learned about her. Mother Teresa is a wonderful patron saint of the New Evangelization. Each student will complete and take home a worksheet to show what he or she has learned about Mother Teresa. I also found a simple coloring page of Mother Teresa; children can color the picture and insert it into the worksheet. Since there are so many wonderful and meaningful quotes attributed to Mother Teresa, I will show some of these to my students. They can pick their favorite and write it on the back of the worksheet. One of my personal favorites is “Smiles generate smiles, just as love generates love.” I take this quote to heart and try to live it every day. Finally, I will ask my students to share the worksheet with their families, and I will ask them to share any stories their parents may know about Mother Teresa at our next religion class.

Mother Teresa, pray for us! I know this school year will have a special memory of her canonization and our classroom lesson.

How will your class honor the Church’s newest saint? Share your ideas here!

Image by Manfredo Ferrari under CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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