Saints in the making

Catholic schools celebrate All Saints’ Day in style

Aaron Lambert

At other schools, Nov. 1 was likely just another Friday for students. At Denver’s Catholic schools, however, it wasn’t just Friday – it was All Saints’ Day.

On this special feast day, Catholic schools invite their students and teachers to participate in the communion of saints by dressing up as their favorite saints. The occasion is usually marked by class parties, fun activities and even parades around the school.

During his Angelus address at the Vatican, Pope Francis said on All Saints’ Day that “the saints of all times, which we celebrate together today, are not simply symbols, distant human beings, unreachable. On the contrary, they are people who have lived with their feet on the ground. They have experienced the daily toil of existence with its successes and its failures, finding in the Lord the strength to always get up and continue the journey.”

More than just a fun day for students, All Saints’ Day is an opportunity to remind them that they, too, are capable of holiness, and is another way in which Catholic schools live up to their name.

Students at various Catholic schools dressed up as saints for All Saints’ Day. (Photo by Vladimir Mauricio-Perez)

At St. Rose of Lima in Denver, celebrating All Saints’ Day perfectly complements the goal of preparing its students not only academically, but also spiritually.

“We believe all students are called to sainthood, and as we prepare them academically for success in Catholic high schools and college, we also prepare them for heaven,” said Tomas Gallegos, principal at St. Rose of Lima. “It’s seeing themselves as saints, praying to the saints and using that for guidance on how they should live their lives.”

Teachers and staff are also encouraged to join in the fun. Gallegos was dressed as St. Francis of Assisi, a saint that’s had a particularly special impact on his life.

“I had the opportunity to visit Assisi and go see the chapel that [St. Francis] helped rebuild and see where he’s laid to rest,” Gallegos told the Denver Catholic. “He’s someone that I pray to in a very special way, but I also think it’s a good connection for our students who already innately have a love of animals to see somebody who really embodied that.”

At St. John the Baptist School in Longmont, the preschool classes had their own celebration complete with fun activities themed after particular saints. Students sprinkled roses over an image of St. Theresa at her station, searched for lost items at the St. Anthony station, and shot a toy bow and arrow at a target at the St. Kateri station — “target practice,” as some of the students said.

Criscelda Mortimore (left), a parent and volunteer at St. John the Baptist school in Longmont, assists a preschool student during the preschool class’ All Saints Day celebration. (Photo by Aaron Lambert)

Criscelda Mortimore, whose son Ambrose dressed up as St. Mark the Evangelist and is in his second year of preschool at St. John the Baptist, volunteered to help run one of the stations for the children. She likes the All Saints’ Day celebration not only because it’s fun for the kids, but also because it presents an important learning opportunity for students and parents alike.

“I really like how it opens up the opportunity for me to discuss things like [the saints],” Mortimore said. “Although I am one who considers myself to take Catholicism seriously, it can be hard to bring that stuff up in everyday activities.

“I probably would’ve never been able to discuss with him the idea of the symbol of St. Mark the Evangelist being a winged lion and that’s something that I actually learned myself too, were it not for our participation in All Saints’ Day.”

As part of their All Saints’ Day activities, students at Assumption Catholic School in Denver created a prayer chain with the names of deceased loved ones to tie with the celebration of All Souls’ Day the following day. (Photo by Rocio Madera)

More than just the practical application of learning about the saints, Catholic schools’ participation in All Saints’ Day activities also gives students the chance to find new role models in the saints in an interactive way.

“It’s a beautiful thing for kids to have these spiritual role models that they can look to for guidance, individuals who walked the earth and had professions and families, but also chose to devote their lives to Christ,” said Sarah Grey, principal at Assumption Catholic School in Denver. “Our kids are being exposed to so many people — celebrities, athletes, individuals that are maybe not the best role models for them, so it’s a beautiful thing for them to learn about individuals who have died for their faith that they can hopefully try to exemplify.”

Rocio Madera and Vladimir Mauricio-Perez contributed to this report.

COMING UP: A last chance for Australian justice

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My late parents loved Cardinal George Pell, whom they knew for decades. So I found it a happy coincidence that, on November 12 (which would have been my parents’ 70th wedding anniversary), a two-judge panel of Australia’s High Court referred to the entire Court the cardinal’s request for “special leave” to appeal his incomprehensible conviction on charges of “historic sexual abuse,” and the even-more-incomprehensible denial of his appeal against that manifestly unsafe verdict.

Thus in 2020 the highest judicial authority in Australia will review the Pell case, which gives the High Court the opportunity to reverse a gross injustice and acquit the cardinal of a hideous crime: a “crime” that Pell insists never happened; a “crime” for which not a shred of corroborating evidence has yet been produced; a “crime” that simply could not have happened in the circumstances and under the conditions it was alleged to have been committed.

Since Cardinal Pell’s original appeal was denied in August by two of three judges on an appellate panel in the State of Victoria, the majority decision to uphold Pell’s conviction has come under withering criticism for relying primarily on the credibility of the alleged victim. As the judge who voted to sustain the cardinal’s appeal pointed out (in a dissent that one distinguished Australian attorney described as the most important legal document in that country’s history), witness credibility – a thoroughly subjective judgment-call – is a very shaky standard by which to find someone guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” It has also been noted by fair-minded people that the dissenting judge, Mark Weinberg, is the most respected criminal jurist in Australia, while his two colleagues on the appellate panel had little or no criminal law experience. Weinberg’s lengthy and devastating critique of his two colleagues’ shallow arguments seemed intended to signal the High Court that something was seriously awry here and that the reputation of Australian justice – as well as the fate of an innocent man – was at stake.

Other recent straws in the wind Down Under have given hope to the cardinal’s supporters that justice may yet be done in his case.

Andrew Bolt, a television journalist with a nationwide audience, walked himself through the alleged series of events at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, within the timeframe in which they were supposed to have occurred, and concluded that the prosecution’s case, and the decisions by both the convicting jury and the majority of the appeal panel, simply made no sense. What was supposed to have happened could not have happened how it did and when it did.

Australians willing to ignore the vicious anti-Pell polemics that have fouled their country’s public life for years also heard from two former workers at the cathedral, who stated categorically that what was alleged to have happened could not have happened how it did and when it did, because they were a few yards away from Cardinal Pell at the precise time he was alleged to have abused two choirboys.

Then there was Anthony Charles Smith, a veteran criminal attorney (and not a Catholic), who wrote in Annals Australasia that the Pell verdict and the denial of his appeal “curdles my stomach.” How, he asked, could a guilty verdict be rendered on “evidence….so weak and bordering on the preposterous?” The only plausible answer, he suggested, was that Pell’s “guilt” was assumed by many, thanks to “an avalanche of adverse publicity” ginned up by “a mob baying for Pell’s blood” and influencing “a media [that] should always be skeptical.”

Even more strikingly, the left-leaning Saturday Paper, no friend of Cardinal Pell or the Catholic Church, published an article in which Russell Marks – a one-time research assistant on an anti-Pell book – argued that the two judges on the appellate panel who voted to uphold the cardinal’s conviction “effectively allowed no possible defense for Pell: there was nothing his lawyers could have said or done, because the judges appeared to argue it was enough to simply believe the complainant on the basis of his performance under cross examination.”

The Australian criminal justice system has stumbled or failed at every stage of this case. The High Court of Australia can break that losing streak, free an innocent man, and restore the reputation of Australian justice in the world. Whatever the subsequent fallout from the rabid Pell-haters, friends of justice must hope that that is what happens when the High Court hears the cardinal’s case – Australia’s Dreyfus Case – next year.

Photo: CON CHRONIS/AFP/Getty Images