Every year, Our Lady of Victory School in Washington has an international day during Catholic Schools Week to celebrate the diversity of their community, but this year they decided to add an extra element to promote and celebrate their Catholic identity, said Sheila Martinez, the school’s principal.
Each class chose a title of the Virgin Mary to learn about, and usually one of the students in the class had some connection to her or had traveled to the country where she appeared. The classes then planned related activities.
On Feb. 3, the students broke into groups of different grade levels and made a pilgrimage, traveling together from country to country, or classroom to classroom. In the Our Lady, Queen of Poland classroom, students strung together tissue paper flowers to present to Mary; in the Our Lady of Knock classroom, the students listened to Irish music; and in the Our Lady of Africa classroom, students made mosaics.
As he helped a younger student string together the tissue paper flowers, sixth grader Jack Sague said one of his favorite parts of the day was “getting to move around and be with kids from other grades who you don’t get to talk to every day.”
While he enjoyed the past international days, he said, “I think this is a good idea because it more closely ties to our Catholic school.”
In the Our Lady of Fatima room, students wrote messages to Mary on cutout paper suns, and walked on their knees across a plastic cobblestone road in order to bring them to her.
Our Lady appeared to three children in Fátima, Portugal on May 13, 1917 to tell them to pray the rosary every day in order to bring peace to the world. Several months later, on Oct. 13, a crowd gathered at Cova da Iria, where the children had said the Virgin Mary would appear, and they witnessed the “Miracle of the Sun,” where the sun changed colors and rotated like a wheel.
“We learned how important it was that Mary communicated with children, and now they are going to get to communicate with her,” said Lucy Butler, the fourth grade teacher.
Many students chose to thank Mary for blessings in their lives, such as family, friends, books, or their brother’s new glasses. Others wrote down prayers of petition.
One student asked Mary to help him be a better person, and another asked her to “strengthen my relationship with God, and to always help others.” One student wrote, “Dear Mary, I would really love you to give us world peace. I would also like for you to give refugees homes.”
Meanwhile, in a classroom down the hall, the students were taking a break from the Marian themed stops to offer words of welcome to real travelers from other countries. They made posters to welcome refugees that the school plans to hang on their windows.
On one of the signs, a first grader had written that they love to make new friends. When Martinez asked her what she meant, she explained that she wanted refugees to know that even though they had to leave their old friends behind, they could make new friends in this country.
Students also learned how to pray the rosary in the church, and walked through a labyrinth in the gym. The labyrinth is an ancient form of prayer, where people do a walking meditation through a long and winding path.
In the Our Lady of Guadalupe classroom, students made small tri-dimensional cutouts of the Virgin Mary that could stand up like a small statue. Older students also made ponchos out of paper bags to look like Juan Diego, the peasant whom Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to in present-day Mexico in 1531.
“We are teaching our kids that faith is everywhere,” said Marlene Nahas, who pointed to the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe as she told the Catholic Standard that she teaches Spanish at the school “with her.”