A Tradition of Saints
Wearing a white lab coat, dress shirt and tie, Isaiah Quasney explained to a fifth-grade classroom at St. Elizabeth Seton, how Saint Giuseppe Moscati, merged his profession and faith in God, to help those around him.
Soraya Pekny, wearing a religious sister’s habit, taught the class about Saint Mary MacKillop, a woman who dedicated herself to God in the service of the poor.
The two eighth graders from St. Thomas More High School participated in the yearly tradition of presenting saints to the elementary students. The morning starts with Mass where the entire eighth grade class attends, dressed as their chosen saint, and prays the Litany of Saints with the younger kids. In groups of two and three, the eighth graders then follow the elementary students to their classrooms where they teach about the saints and provide an activity – coloring, singing, etc. – followed by a pep rally in the gym.
In early October, each eighth grader is tasked with picking a Saint to learn about. Quasney picked his from a board full of Saints in his religion classroom. “I looked over there when Sister Maria told us to find a Saint. I saw that one had a mustache, and these little circle glasses. He looked like one of the most interesting ones that were on the board. He seemed smart, like he really made a difference in the world,” he explained.
“This project began many years ago when I first began teaching here 33 years ago,” explained Principal Mary Helen Olsen. “I wanted the students to do more than just write a report about a saint. By learning about the saint and giving the presentation in the first person, it greatly increased the chance that the students would remember the story.”
Not knowing who the Saint was, Quasney researched Saint Giuseppe online and learned that he was a modern-day doctor, canonized in 1987. A physician, medical school professor, and pioneer in the field of biochemistry, Giuseppe Moscati (1880-1927) took a holistic approach to treating his patients, treating not only the body, but the mind and soul as well. He treated poor patients free of charge and helped evacuate a nursing home in 1906 from Mount Vesuvius, treating patients in the 1911 cholera epidemic, and treating soldiers during World War I. He is attributed with several medical miracles following his death, including curing a man of leukemia.
“I liked that he helped many people using his medical knowledge and had a good relationship with God,” explained Quasney.
“I really wanted a Saint that not many of the kids would know about,” said Pekney. “I was looking in a book and then I just found Saint Mary MacKillop, and I thought, ‘she’s really cool.’
“She started her religious life when she was really young, and she just knew that she wanted to be a sister. She didn’t really have to think about it. She knew that she really wanted to help people and even though she was young, she still had a love for God.”
MacKillop took a job as a governess at the age of 14 to provide for her family. After two years, she became a teacher, and in 1864 started her own boarding school. Concerned about the lack of Catholic education, a local priest encouraged Sister MacKillop and the sisters to open a school in another area. In 1866, the women began to wear black and went by the name Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart. BY 1869, the Josephites were teaching in 21 schools across Australia. She also opened a home for homeless women and an orphanage. She was beatified in 1995, and canonized in 2010.
Quasney and Pekney ended their presentations to the fifth graders with bingo and a coloring page before joining the pep rally in the gym.
“When we were together in the same building, K-8, we had more of a relationship with the younger students,” said Olsen. “Now, this is our opportunity to interact with Seton students and have a very fun morning in the process.”