Monday, June 29, 2020

America the Beautiful: Activities about 14 American Saints {At-Home VBS}

All you holy men and women of America, pray for us!

Leading up to the 4th of July, I wanted to create a shareable resource for your homes and parishes to celebrate and learn about the many, many faithful men and women who have impacted our country. This collection of activities could just be a resource for your home, can function as an at-home VBS, or can be easily shared out to your school or parish as an optional resource. There's even an editable version at the bottom to tailor it to your needs. Included are a few theme printables and then a pdf collection of (free!) links highlighting fourteen American Saints (or soon-to-be Saints) including prayers, biographical videos, coloring pages. etc. There's also a column with resources for parents and older kids to help you research and learn alongside your kids.

Fourteen Saints are included. Honestly, my original plan was for ten and I just couldn't eliminate anyone on my brainstorming list. ;) Included are Americans spanning several centuries, men and women, lay people, religious, and priests, and Saints who are Black, White, and Native American. Each has a powerful and unique story of how they followed God's will and made our country a better place. I think that learning from their example and asking for their prayers is one of the best things we can be doing with our families right now.

There are many, many more Catholic Americans that could have been included, but I hope this starts you down the path of studying them and doing your own research. Theoretically, your family could study a new Saint every day for two weeks. Or you could spread the activities out over the month of July. There are lots of ways to jump in and no wrong method.

Before jumping into the activities about the individual Saints, there are a few overall projects to set the vision for studying these holy men and women both as inspiration and as a challenge to pursue holiness ourselves. First, there is a map of the USA and an info sheet with a list of the fourteen Saints, the main states they lived in, and a symbol to add to the map. This page also lists the other Saints, Blesseds, Venerables, and Servants of God connected to America. Older kids could research them and add them to the map as well!

There is also a Litany of American Saints where your child can write in their favorite American patrons. The America the Beautiful Saints flag would be great to print out and display during the month as a reminder to ask for their intercession.

This resource is set up with a lot of the elements of a VBS (prayer, music, snacks, crafts) but with tons of options so it can work for a wide range of ages. I also pulled A LOT of resources- more than anyone would really use -but I wanted there to be variety and choice. All of the activities  are FREE so hopefully this project is easily accessible and shareable, even on a school or parish level.

For each Saint, there are links for:
-Prayer/Song/Bible Verse
-Short Videos
-Links for Parents or Older Siblings (to help parents feel equipped to teach their kids along the way, and to help older kids participate)

This whole plan is completely free and available for you to email out to your friends, parish, class, school, etc. I always appreciate when people include a link back to the blog so people can find more resources, but the schedule is especially designed to be easy to share as a pdf in a bulk email, school communication system, or parish bulletin. Please share! I'm always honored to be able to help, but especially now when we can't minister to our communities in the same ways we are used to. Click below to open all the resources!

First, here are the overall theme printables. (These are also linked in the shareable activity page as well.)

Click here for the American Saints Map. This helps identify the varied locations of the fourteen featured Saints across the United States, and also gives a list for further research:

Click here for the Litany of American Saints printable. You can fill in ten of your favorite holy men and women from America:

Click here for the American Flag Saints printable to display as you learn:
Click here for the two page America the Beautiful pdf with links for the 14 Saints. This version cannot be edited, but is meant to be easy to share:

Click here for the editable version of the resources. It is a Google Slides file, so you can edit/add/remove to fit your audience. In order to make changes, you'll need to open and make a copy to edit in Google Slides or download and then edit in PowerPoint:

A special thank you to Shari from Catholic Paper Goods for offering a set of her stellar coloring pages for free to help round out the resources! Here are a few of her pages that are included in the links above:

And Kristina Markford (you might remember her super cute Emmaus Road Pegs shop) generously is sharing these awesome mini posters featuring 18 American Saints. You can find her on Instagram here.

All of those activities are free, but I also have been on the lookout for books about these (and other American) Saints both to read myself and for my classroom. I'm still collecting titles and have some reading to do first, but hopefully I'll be able to do a Katie Reads post soon with some book suggestions! Feel free to drop any good titles about American Saints in the comments!

***UPDATE: Here's a book list with a collection of titles about American holy men & women:

***UPDATE: And here are more activities about American Saints, Blessed, Venerables, and Servants of God!
American Eucharistic Witnesses Created for the National Eucharistic Revival, this series contains thirteen biographies of holy men and women from America. There are matching activities in two levels of difficulty, as well as matching versions in Spanish.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Gifts of the Holy Spirit- At Home Retreat

I know many students this Spring had their Confirmation delayed, but some dioceses are already working on rescheduling Sacraments for this fall! If you are like me, we lost some of our preparation time in the classroom and will likely be unable to spend any time together before the actual Confirmation. I wanted to send something easy but meaningful to the families to help them pray and prepare as the date approaches, especially helping the Confirmands open up their hearts to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit that will be received in the Sacrament.

This family retreat is organized around the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit and shares a set of links to prayers, music, a Bible verse, Lectio Divina journal, videos, and suggested activities for each Gift. I created it with students just before their Confirmation in mind, but it also would be great for students who have been recently Confirmed to get them thinking about allowing the Gifts to be put to use in their lives. Really the activities would work well for any junior high or high school student- which is nice because a lot of resources for Catholic kids I've seen (and created myself!) for the summer are aimed at younger kids. This could almost function like an at home VBS for older kids! ;) All of these ideas are also perfect for a study of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in the classroom when we are back together.

My wording in the retreat schedule is specific to kids who are preparing for their upcoming Confirmation, but I'm also including an editable version so you can add your own dates, specific links or ideas, or change some of the content to be more generalized.


An important part of the retreat is spending time each week in Scripture reflecting on the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. I made this simple Lectio Divina journal to act as an aide to that prayer. If your students or child isn't familiar with Lectio Divina, I'd recommend also these Lectio Divina printables to help.

The journal is intended to be printed (two sided if possible, but not necessary) and then folded in half with this as the cover. Click here or on the image to open the pdf journal:

There is a page and a Scripture passage for each of the seven Gifts with room to journal using the four steps of Lectio Divina. Hopefully this is something that could be discussed and prayed over with a parent or Confirmation sponsor, or even as a whole family Bible Study.

The retreat is designed to give a few easy to implement ideas surrounding the Gifts of the Holy Spirit each week, helping open the heart of the Confirmand to be ready to receive His Gifts. All the links are free and easily accessible. The include a prayer (usually offered as both the text and a song or video), the Scripture to pray with that is also listed in the Lectio Divina journal, two videos about that Gift of the Holy Spirit (as well as a whole playlist of Confirmation videos), and a couple of activity suggestions that range from conversations with Sponsors, to researching their Confirmation Saints, to readings that deepen their understanding of the effects of the Sacrament of Confirmation.

 Click here for a pdf version of the retreat:
Click here to open up an editable version of the retreat so you can change wording, add links, list specific dates, etc. When you open this version in Google Slides, you will either need to make a copy and then edit your own version in Google Slides or download and edit in PowerPoint. Either way, I then recommend saving as a pdf before sending out to students and families- it usually helps with access and formatting issues.
May the Gifts of the Holy Spirit manifest themselves in our work and in the lives of our students and families. Come, Holy Spirit, Come!

Friday, June 12, 2020

A Heart for God's People- Resources for Kids on Combating Racism

Hi friends- Over the past few weeks we have certainly seen an explosion of discussion and action surrounding the topic of racism. I have been doing a lot of listening, reading, praying, and reflecting. I'm not here today to write at length, but I did want to share the fruit of some of my prayer and planning as I consider the conversations about social justice that need to be expanded on in my classroom when we return in the fall. In this post I have a few resources for you that maybe will help with the conversations and prayer you are sharing with your kids at home. I also am going to link to a few of the tools that have been meaningful for me and that I am tucking away to use later in my classroom. If you have found any great resources for Catholic kids about the topics of racism, I'd love for you to add them in the comments or send me an email!

***A couple of updates based on some feedback/questions:
-Some of the Saints on the Litany have not always been portrayed as Black in art. The truth is that unless we have a modern photograph of the Saint, we don't know their skin color. But, all of these Saints are either from Africa or have African ancestry, so I believe that they are good patrons to call on for an eradication of racism in the world, even if some of them did not experience racism themselves based on their time/location in history.
-I certainly did not intend for this to be a "one and done" activity or something only relegated to a unit on social justice (I realize it might sound like that in the paragraph above- I meant more all the ways we incorporate Catholic Social Teaching throughout our classroom and school year). I hope that these Saints find their way into your home/classroom's bookshelves, art, and conversations year round.
-I also hope that this list is seen as an opportunity to share the stories of these Saints.They have not been Canonized (or on their way) because of the color of their skin, but because they allowed Jesus to transform their hearts. I am not lifting them up as an example exclusively because they are Black, but because they lived heroic virtue and give us an example to follow.
-I hope that helps! I'm always open for dialogue and offering the best tools I can share. 

First, I think that there is no better prayer right now than to be asking for the mercy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to fall upon our world. I have been praying the Litany of the Sacred Heart daily and began the Novena this week. It's never too late to join in.
Litany to the Sacred Heart printable
Novena to the Sacred Heart printable
Other Sacred Heart Resources, including a printable Sacred Heart statue

I've also been asking the Black Saints who've gone before us to intercede for our country from Heaven. I created a litany of some of my favorite Black Saints as well as a blank version for you to list your own. This summer would be a great time to choose a few Black Saints to learn more about. I've started working on finding resources especially for our American Black Saints/Blesseds/Venerables/Servants of God and hope to be able to share those with you soon.
Just a note- I think Saints from all eras, locations, and races should be shared with kids all the time- in our books, art, stories, and examples. But just like we call on certain Saints for certain circumstances- like a patron of a particular job or specific illness- I think it only makes sense to ask these holy men and women to be praying for us in light of current events.

Click here for my Litany of Black Saints:
And click here for the blank Litany to fill in yourself:
Meg Hunter-Kilmer is a literal Saint Ninja and has tons of resources on her social media about these brothers and sisters who went before us. Most recently, she has created a beautiful Black Saints Novena on Instagram. I encourage you to go read their stories and then share the stories of how they loved Jesus and lived with heroic virtue.

I also believe that great solace and direction can be found in listening to the truth of Scripture especially when the world around us is so divisive. I chose five passages from throughout the Bible that helped me reflect and pray on the true universality of the Body of Christ. Each page in this printable has one passage to read and a few reflection questions for each step of Lectio Divina, as well as a little room for your child to journal. I think that these Lectio Divina pages would be most powerful for 4th graders and up, but you could certainly read the passages (or a shortened version) with any age and use them as a springboard of conversation about God's love for all His people and the inherent dignity and worth of each person.

Click here to get the five Lectio Divina pages:

The USCCB has resources about racism for every grade level here. I encourage to browse through and pull out any talking points or resources that would help you guide your kids.

Jenna from Lazy Liturgical has this  free God's Colors printable to help start conversations with your young child about diversity.

The book Everyone Belongs from Loyola Press is recommended by the USCCB.

Colors of Creation from TAN books starts with the Creation of the world using the colors green, blue, etc. and concludes with the pinnacle of Creation- humankind, shown with all of the colors of people around the world.

 Lacy from Catholic Icing pulled together a great list of picture books about diversity for kids.

There's also this list: Books about Racism and Social Justice from Common Sense Media.

In the Image and Likeness of God Newsletter for Parents from the National Catholic Education Association

Personally, I have benefited greatly from listening to these videos/podcasts, and know that some of this content would also be helpful to my middle schoolers or high school youth group. They would be worth the listen as a parent or teacher, and them maybe you can listen with your older child.
Servant of God Sr. Thea Bowman addresses the USCCB in 1989
Fr. Josh Johnson Rosary for Racial Reconciliation
Fr. John Johnson Podcast Episode Healing the Racial Divide
Catholic Stuff You Should Know Podcast Episode: One Congregation
Beyond the Pew: Talking to Your Kids About Race

We are united together as a Church living out the call written in the Catechism that says:
"The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it: Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God's design." ~CCC 1935

I will continue to pray, and hope you join me, for a rooting out of the sin of racism in my own heart and in the world around us. Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!