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October 8, 2004
Greetings and welcome to Faith Formation Update, a free monthly e-newsletter for catechetical leaders with a focus on parish catechesis beyond textbooks and classrooms. I'm Judith Dunlap. In each issue I offer a brief starter and my "Every Family" column. My co-worker and fellow religious educator Joan McKamey offers video resources and ideas in her "Seen and Heard" column. Our co-worker Chuck Blankenship suggests other faith formation resources for adults from St. Anthony Messenger Press in his column, "Sowing Sampler." Finally, we encourage YOU to share views and program ideas about this month's topic on our online bulletin board, "Faith Formation Forum." Blessings on your work!
—Judith Dunlap

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All Saints Day
If you were to list the various things that distinguish Catholics from other Christian denominations, you would probably mention the Communion of Saints. We celebrate this tenet of our faith on November 1 as we honor the lives of the heroes and heroines of our Church, both named and unnamed.
On the last weekend of this month, our parish plans to celebrate All Saints Day by inviting parishioners young and old to a sit-down meal with the saints. A couple of weeks ago, we put out a casting call for would-be thespians willing to study the life and times of a particular saint and then “become” that saint for a day. They will tell their story (in no more than five to eight minutes) and then answer questions in the voice of the saint. They are being asked to stay in character as they enjoy part of the meal with their tablemates.
We plan on three courses for the meal with a different saint for each course: apples and caramel dip; hot dogs and pop; and cookies for dessert. This gives each table the opportunity to meet with three different saints.
After the meal, adults will leave for their own discussion while the children form a big circle to welcome St. John Bosco (a young adult) who will entertain them by juggling as he tells his story and some stories from Scripture. The “saints” in full costume will also be introduced at that Sunday’s liturgy as they sit in the pews and receive Holy Communion with the rest of the folks.
One of the resources we will use for finding out about the saints is Father Leonard Foley’s Saint of the Day, now in its fifth revision. It’s a great book that tells the story of the saints using both the factual biography and legendary material. What I particularly like about this book is that it clearly distinguishes between fact and legend. (Click here if you would like to read from the introduction of this book about faith and the gift of Godís holiness.)
All of this is part of the “Generations of Faith” program our parish has been using for the last couple of years. It’s a series put out by the Center for Ministry Development that promotes and provides resources for intergenerational parish faith formation. You can check them out at
The Electronic Media Department of St. Anthony Messenger Press (SAMP) has another gift it would like to offer you. You can receive an e-mail every day telling you about the saint of that day. You can either read or listen to the story of the saint and then share the reflection that follows. (Click here if you would like to sample Saint of the Day.)
You have almost a whole month to get ready for All Saints Day, so start shining those halos. You might even think about sending a few thank-you notes out to the saints in your own life.
The Saints at Home
Everybody needs heroes and heroines. Just look at the walls in any pre-teen’s bedroom, and you will probably be able to name a few of theirs. We can help parents emphasize some positive heroes/heroines by offering suggestions about how to celebrate All Saints Day at home.
On the last week of this month, send a flyer home with children in your religious education programs. Address the message to parents, and suggest they make this Halloween special by sharing the treats the next day while they celebrate All Saints Day. Ask them to talk about their favorite saints as well as the patron saints of family members. Suggest they have the whole family decide on a special patron saint for their family.
Make sure you let them know in the flyer where they will be able to find information on the saints: books, Web sites, etc. (SAMP's own Web site is one resource to suggest.) On the other side of the handout, offer them a short prayer service to complete their family celebration. (Click here for a copy of an All Saints Day prayer service from The Blessing Cup: Prayer-rituals for Families and Groups.) If your parish has a patron saint, you might also include a short biography of his or her life in the flyer.
Video Updates on Saints
Many of us have heard the story of the young child who had spent many a Sunday morning gazing at the stained glass windows in his parish church. When asked what a saint is, he had a ready answer: “Saints are people the light shines through!”
We celebrate the saints because they are flesh-and-blood examples of people who have allowed the light of Christ to shine through them. When we remember the saints, we celebrate not so much what they did, but what God did through them. Our focus should always be on the wonderful works of God.
The liturgical calendar celebrates saints from every nation of the world and every historical period to show us how God is at work in human lives in every time and place. I remember what a significant event it was for me as a 10-year old child when Elizabeth Ann Seton was canonized—the first American-born saint! Suddenly saints became less “long ago and far away” for me and my friends. I also remember thinking how great it was that she had been married and had children. That made her seem all the more real to me.
When we use the title “Saint” we are usually referring to men and women of exceptional holiness, but we too are called to be saints. Every faithful follower of Jesus—living and dead—is a saint. We are all united in the Communion, the community, of Saints.
Saints are people the light shines through. Whatever the circumstances of our lives, we are called to use them to share God’s love and to allow Christ’s light to shine through us.
St. Katharine Drexel (1858-1955) did just that. Her circumstances were extraordinary, making the choices she made even more so. A Philadelphia heiress who grew up with a concern for the poor, she started the religious order of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament whose mission is to serve the needs of Native Americans and Blacks in the U.S. She used her multi-million dollar inheritance to build schools for and to advance the causes of these populations.
Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans is one of her greatest achievements. I visited there with my husband just a year after St. Katharine was canonized in October of 2000. Dr. Norman Francis, President of XU since 1968, took the time to greet the group of college and university media center personnel with whom we were meeting. He shared a brief history of XU and talked with great affection and enthusiasm for St. Katharine. It didn’t matter to him that this was a secular group there to see how the classrooms were equipped for technology. He needed to share about the incredible ways that God had worked in Katharine Drexel’s life. He needed to let Christ’s light shine through the circumstances of his life as well.
Click here (RealMedia | Windows Media) to see a video clip from The Gift of Katharine Drexel. In the clip, she responds to a reporter who has questioned the use of such fine buildings (Xavier University) for the education of Blacks. This video, while somewhat dated in its visual representations of the work of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, offers a poignant reenactment of the life of Katharine Drexel.
Click here to read an article that appeared in St. Anthony Messenger magazine at the time of St. Katharine’s canonization. It offers a biography of her life and work.
We all need to be reminded of our own call to sainthood. All Saints Day is a great time to focus on one member of the Communion of Saints. Consider sharing the story of Katharine Drexel with your parish community this year. May she inspire us to continue her work for racial justice in a world still tainted by prejudice and inequality. May we all learn to let Christ’s light shine through us.
Meet New Catholic Saints
It’s often noted that Pope John Paul II, in his 25-year pontificate, has canonized more new saints than any other Pope in the history of the Church. I’m sure it’s not because there are more saintly people these days than ever before, but rather because we need now, probably more than ever, to take advantage of the inspiring example offered by these saintly believers.
An interesting series of Servant Books offers us a chance to “Meet New Catholic Saints.” Six different exemplary individuals, from newly canonized saints to those whose causes are beginning to be explored, are profiled in this fascinating series: Saint Katharine Drexel, missionary to the poor and oppressed in the late-19th-century United States; Saint Faustina, whose revelations from God led to the popular Divine Mercy devotion; Padre Pio (St. Pio of Pietrelcina), the 20th-century mystic and healer; Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross), convert, Carmelite nun and victim of the Auschwitz gas chambers; Solanus Casey, Capuchin friar with a remarkable ministry of spiritual counsel and divine healings; and Dorothy Day, tireless advocate of the Catholic Worker movement in 20th-century New York. Tremendously inspiring stories of how simple, ordinary people can make a difference by doing God’s work in quiet yet effective ways.
Another new book worth noting: Life With Mother Teresa: My Thirty-Year Friendship with the Mother of the Poor, by Fr. Sebastian Vazhakala, co-founder with Mother Teresa of the Missionaries of Charity Contemplative and founder of the Lay Missionaries of Charity. Not only does Fr. Sebastian tell the stories of his long friendship with Mother Teresa, but he shares nearly two dozen personal letters from Mother Teresa (reproducing the handwritten letters in the book), and many never-before-seen pictures of Mother Teresa in action. A very special portrait of a very special saint. (For more information about Father Sebastian, see John Bookser Feister’s interview in the September, 2004 issue of St. Anthony Messenger.)
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