Special to The CS&T

The Year of St. Paul the Apostle – the celebration of his life and teachings – comes to an end on June 29, his feast day.

The special jubilee announced by Pope Benedict XVI has been celebrated with liturgies, symposiums and publications.

In the Archdiocese of Philadelphia one of the more significant events took place in the archdiocesan school system where students from kindergarten through eighth grade were invited to enter an art contest on the Pauline Year.

The winners were to be announced on Saturday, June 27, following a Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph P. McFadden at St. Paul Parish in Norristown at 5:30 p.m. A reception will follow the Mass at which the awards will be presented.

Cardinal Justin Rigali celebrated Mass at St. Paul Parish in Philadelphia last Sunday.

St. Paul, the persecutor of Christians early in the first century, was converted on the road to Damascus. Saul became Paul, and his many New Testament letters became inspiration for Christians and the missionary spirit of the Church.

Father John Ames, deputy secretary of the archdiocesan Office for Catechetical Formation, was the architect of the art contest.

Sister Edward Quinn, I.H.M., director of elementary curriculum, was in charge of bringing the project to fruition. Information was sent to the schools in December, and by March more than 400 students had turned in projects.

Sister Edward wanted the students’ efforts to reflect the curriculum of the school year. “It was an interdisciplinary project,” she said. “Each class was given a quote from St. Paul. They had to integrate the writing of St. Paul in their writing piece and art work. Some of the projects were so well done that we wound up with a lot more honorable mentions than we had planned.”

The projects varied in form used to interpret the life of St. Paul. The first-grade students entered collages. In fourth grade, oil pastels and colored pencil were submitted. In sixth grade a collage of words and photos brought together the concept.

What was important was that the students used the curriculum in place as their foundation. Through this exercise they would learn that the writings of St. Paul in the first century are just as relevant in the 21st century.

“In second grade the students had to compare and contrast,” Sister Edward explained. “They used a quote from St. Paul, ‘Love is patient, love is kind’ and compared someone being kind and someone not being kind. They showed both themes. For children 7 years old it showed quite a bit of skill.”

Along with becoming familiar with the writings of St. Paul, the students were challenged to use the many tools available to them in Catholic education.

“Learning is not isolated,” Sister Edward said. “It can bring in many different areas. They’re not reinventing the wheel, they’re using all the disciplines and focusing on something to learn from it.”

Sister Edward, with the help of her staff, separated the entries by grade level. Each person selected the top three entries. They were reviewed and the final list – first, second and third with honorable mention – was established. There were 27 first, second and third place winners and 45 honorable mentions. First through third will receive a statue of St. Paul, a certificate and a ribbon. Honorable mention winners will receive a certificate and a pin with the Catholic school motto, “Keeping Faith in Mind.”

“To me this is a beautiful experience in the strength of our love of faith among teachers and students,” Sister Edward said. “To focus on something other than academics and to bring a faith dimension to it, that’s the goal of our Catholic school system, to keep our faith in the forefront.”

Jim Gauger is a freelance writer and a member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish, Glenside.