We have much to learn from the saints, as do our Sunday Church School students. It is important for us to help the children learn about those who have fought the good fight and finished the race before them. There are many ways to do so. One way that is both educational and fun is for your parish to host a saints festival.
Every saints festival should have a theme. For example, one can have as its theme one specific saint’s life. Another festival may focus on a story from scripture that includes a variety of saints. Or perhaps the festival will celebrate many saints by learning about a theme such as faithfulness, featuring stories from various saints’ faithfulness. When planning a saints festival, the theme will drive the activities, so select the theme carefully!
Some parishes encourage children to arrive at the festival dressed as a favorite saint. They may even have a “parade of saints” and allow the children to tell everyone else a little about the saint whom they are emulating. This extends the learning by having the children learn more about a saint, pre-festival, and allowing them to learn from each other during the festival.
Regardless of whether the children dress up or not, plan a variety of activities for the festival. Included in the activities should be a story from scripture or the life/lives of (a) saint(s); related games/activities; a snack (which could also be related, if you have creative people in your parish); and a related craft. Some parishes have also included doing service projects that fit with the theme. Others have invited various parishioners to tell about their work and how the saints help them with it. There are a myriad of ideas and possible ways to extend the learning. While planning, keep in mind two important considerations: 1. How does this activity help to communicate the theme for the festival? Does this particular activity help to teach the theme? and 2. Are we helping children with a variety of learning styles to learn in their favorite way, in these activities? Are the activities varied enough?
The saints festival can be simple or elaborate: depending on the planners and how much time they wish to spend in preparation. Much more important than intricate decorations or flashy games is the theme of the event and how each activity helps to teach the children about an aspect of that theme. Active involvement will translate into lasting learning.
There are so many saints whose lives are great examples for us! Adults and children alike can benefit from learning about their lives! Let us do what we can to learn from them, and find ways to teach the children in our care about them as well, so that we can all work to become more like them; and ask them to intercede on our behalf.
Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.