WILMINGTON — The seventh grade at St. Ann School learned through a class project that saints come in all ages, and from all eras, including the most modern.
Under the guidance of teacher Lynne Dickinson, the class delved into the lives of several current and future saints, including Blessed Carlo Acutis, an Italian boy who died from leukemia at the age of 15 in 2006. He was a devout Catholic, and he was interested in computers and video games. Dickinson said she became familiar with Blessed Carlo after coming across his life from two sources.
“First was a Catholic website where I receive updated emails every single day,” she said. “The very next day after I started reading about Carlo, our pastor, Father (Jack) Mink, sent me an email and he said, ‘Lynne, have you heard about Carlo Acutis?’, and we began a dialogue about this very famous young saint.”
She used that interaction as a springboard “to use it as an opportunity to infuse an analysis of informational text for kids, plus a religion project.”
The 24 seventh-graders presented all of their projects in a gallery in the school gymnasium for a walk-through for the sixth and eighth grades. The students participated in a spiritual communion each day as well.
Teresina DeAscanis, one of the seventh-graders, said she learned that Blessed Carlo, who was beatified in October, “was a young boy who was really devoted to God. He would spread the Gospel on different websites. He made a website to talk about God. He died when he was really young.”
Her classmate, Enzo Colonna, said they chose saints who have eucharistic miracles attributed to them from Blessed Carlo’s website, and they wrote about them. They also created other media. Teresina’s project, for example, included a poster and essay.
Dickinson said the students were able to select their own eucharistic miracle from Blessed Carlo’s website and do a project on the saint associated with that miracle.
“Each one of the 24 students picked a different saint so we could learn from each other. That was kind of cool because we love teaching each other. They had a lot of ownership based on that,” she said.
Student Danielle LaFond was impressed by what Blessed Carlo accomplished in such a short life.
“It’s pretty cool because it’s nice to know that even at such a young age you can do so much and help people. Knowing that God’s going to be with you all the time, and even when you make mistakes you can get back up, and you can help people whenever you can,” she said.
Teresina agreed. “It shows that even at such a young age you can accomplish a lot.”
The project tied together English and research skills with religion, Dickinson said. It has helped the students “find a way to get closer to God” since many of them are not able to attend Mass during the pandemic. The class watches Mass on CatholicTV, and each one ends with acts of spiritual communion, which the students have studied as well.
The sixth and eighth grades do that as well, she said. The acts take about three minutes and are beneficial for their spiritual health. Classes at St. Ann’s used to go to Mass once a week, she said, but now, groups of students are able to attend instead of entire classes.
“These kids are used to going to Mass every single week. Part of our Middle States strategic plan was to get kids back in the flow of going to Mass and knowing the responses. Not just saying the responses, but feeling those responses for God in their heart. The kids have come a long way in doing that,” Dickinson said.
As the school year progresses, St. Ann’s is exploring more ways to address its students’ faith. They have started practice for the Passion play, which takes about three months of preparation. Students are able to sign up for any character or job they want. It’s another sign of their maturity, Dickinson said.
“It takes a lot of adult-mindedness. It takes a lot of maturity that they’re heading into,” she said.
As far as presenting the play, it may have to be outside, but nothing will stop its production, she added.
Photos courtesy of St. Ann School.