Over the last few years I have become more and more attentive to the saints. I am not sure if this heightened awareness came from being a catechist, but it surely has changed the way I catechize. As a second-grade catechist, I introduce the children to saints of the month, we have an All Saints Day celebration, and the children complete a saint’s report.
Each month I pick two saints whose feast days fall during that month. I make sure to pick both male and female saints, saints who were religious as well saints who were lay people, saints who lived long ago and modern-day saints. I also make sure to include American saints. I buy folders to create my own coloring books, using free coloring pages of the saints, which can be found online. Whenever I need an extra activity, I have the children work on coloring the saints.
We focus on each saint for at least one class. I place on our prayer table a framed picture of the saint that stays there until I introduce the next saint. While the children sit on a rug in our story area, I tell them a story about the saint, reading from a storybook about that saint if one is available. I emphasize a specific theme each time. For example, in sharing a story about St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, I emphasize her love of the Eucharist, which integrates perfectly with preparing for First Holy Communion. Amy Welborn’s Loyola Kids Book of Saints has been an indispensable resource in helping me tell saints’ stories. My weekly e-mails to parents also feature information about both saints of the month.
My All Saints Day celebration is a lesson disguised as a party. After teaching what a saint is, I read short stories about a single episode from the lives of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, St. Anthony of Padua, and St. Francis of Assisi. These stories introduce these saints to the children. Then the children rotate among game stations featuring these saints. Every game is a game they win, and some have prizes such as holy cards or saints medals.
Finally, each child writes a short report on an assigned saint. The report includes a coloring page of the saint and a form to fill out, which includes the saint’s birth date, the country of birth, the saint’s feast day, and the saint’s patronage. The children also have to share one good work the saint is remembered for and three interesting facts about the saint’s life. I’m always curious to see which facts the children choose to include. The final space on the form is for them to write a prayer to their saint. Through the rest of the year, the children take turns giving their reports to the class. Last year two students requested certain saints who had personal family connections: one boy was related to St. Padre Pio, and one girl’s grandmother met St. Teresa of Calcutta. (Mother Teresa held her grandmother’s hand all through a Mass.) Both children proudly brought family pictures of these saints to share with the class. Many of the kids take ownership of their saints: one day, as we entered our church, a girl who did her report on St. Katharine Drexel marched straight to her statue to proudly tell the rest of the class about “her” saint.
These are some ways I introduce saints to my students. How do you introduce the saints to your class?