For The Dialog
Most Catholics don’t think of frogs when they think of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
That’s because most Catholics aren’t in Kelly MacPherson’s second-grade class at Most Blessed Sacrament School in Berlin, Md. The frog is her mascot with an acronym: Faithfully Rely On God.
When MacPherson learned about a diocese-wide emphasis this year on the fruits of the Holy Spirit, it seemed only natural to connect them with frogs. Aide Sherry Brannon thought of making frog hand puppets, each of which carries the name of one of the fruits – love (charity), joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – and, on one hand, a picture of an actual fruit, such as an orange or a plum.
“They love acting,” MacPherson said of her second-graders, so she plans to use the puppets to get across the fruits.
Each year the Catholic Schools Office develops a diocesan theme for the school year, said Louis De Angelo, superintendent. Last year’s theme was tied in with the Jubilee Year of Mercy and focused on parables that underscored God’s mercy.
This year’s theme is on the fruit of the Spirit, as written in Galatians 5:22 — “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.” Each month in schools, a New Testament reading will be studied that reflects one of the qualities of the fruit of the Spirit.
Most Blessed Sacrament will focus on the fruit both in classrooms and in schoolwide programs throughout the year. The approach will differ by grade levels.
Allison Wiest will have her fourth-grade students follow the journey of St. Paul through the Acts of the Apostles.
“In the fourth grade they are really able to start going into the Bible,” she said. Students will be asked to find specific passages that illustrate various spiritual fruits, such as when Paul “had to be full of love [or] full of courage.”
Jackie Selba’s eighth-grade class will study how Jesus called and developed his disciples. “Before they could be called disciples of the Holy Spirit, they had to follow Jesus,” who formed their faith. She wants her students to place themselves in the role of the early disciples, and to bring the story of Jesus and his disciples into modern times.
Students began learning about the fruit of the Spirit with an overview of all nine as they returned to class this week. Monthly prayer services will focus on each of the fruits, one a month.
Puppets at MBS
On Sept. 2, MBS Principal Mark Record showed the movie “The Letters,” a biopic on the life of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, who is to be canonized as a saint on Sunday. “I want them to find the fruits of the Holy Spirit in the movie, to tell what she is doing and how it ties in to the fruits.”
The use of puppets and a movie to instill religious concepts underscores what Record calls a “STREAM” education the school offers. It combines the science, technology, engineering and mathematics that comprise public schools’ STEM education acronym, with an R and A for religion and arts.
Record mentioned one way he plans to combine religion and science in discussing the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
“Fruit just doesn’t happen,” he said. “I want to go through the steps of growing a fruit tree,” including cultivating the soil, planting the tree, tending to it, and pruning it as necessary before it offers fruit. Similarly, the fruits of the Holy Spirit are cultivated in students’ minds.
He is undecided whether to plant a fruit tree on campus.
Much of the cross-curriculum integration is planned out, Selba said, “but sometimes things just fall into place.”
A possible example of things falling into place, and the involvement of students in their learning, came as teachers and Record recently discussed their plans on how to get the fruits of the Holy Spirit across to students at different grade levels.
MacPherson, talking about the frog puppets, knew of no connection between a real fruit and the fruit of the Holy Spirit with which it was paired, such as a strawberry with gentleness, an apple with love, and a banana with joy. The teachers wondered if, in the scientific realm, there might be come perception of fruit in terms relative to the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
“Maybe the kids will come up with that,” Selba said.
Lesson for life
Such efforts combined with schoolwide activities build good results, Wiest said. Last year, with the focus on mercy, she could see that students took the message of the various parables to heart; she hopes the same occurs this year.
“It’s not just a lesson centered in a classroom,” she said of Most Blessed Sacrament’s approach to teaching religion. “It’s a lesson of life.”