Arts, crafts and catechesis

St. Mary’s students learn about the Faith through monthly art project

St. Mary’s Catholic School is providing a unique and tactile way for students to encounter the Faith.

Since last September, students from the Sexsmith school have been sharing Catholic-themed art pieces at the local Immaculate Conception parish once a month. The Student Art Show provides an opportunity for the students to both learn more about the faith and to get more involved with parish life.

At the April art show, held after Sunday Mass on April 23rd, Grade 3 student Chelsey Wickberg shared her artwork alongside 14 of her classmates. She described to Northern Light how she first painted her canvas a sky blue, and then glued several gold pieces to create her own monstrance – the sacred vessel commonly used in adoration and processions to contain the Blessed Sacrament.

Grade 3 student Chelsey Wickberg

It provided Chelsea not only a chance to be creative, but to learn what this extravagant religious item is, and, most importantly, what is the centre and focus of the monstrance – the Eucharistic body of Jesus. Like all the art pieces there, glued into the center of Chelsey’s monstrance artwork was an image of Jesus’ face.

The students aren’t the only ones being catechized by their artwork. Sexsmith parishioner Shirley Roth says the art shows have deepened the faiths of the adults in the church as well, as these art pieces reveal a glimpse of the Catholic faith through the eyes of youth.

“It’s nice to see the children’s perspective on something that we maybe take for granted,” said Shirley. “We don’t see with their eyes, with their innocence. We look at how they each made a monstrance in their own way, and what’s in the middle of each piece – they got it, it’s Jesus. It’s not about a pretty gold thing. It’s about Christ, who’s right in the centre. They know exactly what it’s all about.

“I think the art shows have allowed us to get in touch with a child’s perspective – to see it innocently.”

Immaculate Conception parishioners Barbara London and Shirley Roth say the monthly art show has been a great addition to the parish.

The creative force behind the monthly Student Art Shows is St. Mary’s principal Laura Tapson, who prepares these art shows with a different class each month. In her first year as principal, Tapson says she wanted to find a way for the students to grasp and see the immense beauty of the Catholic faith, and what better way to do that than through art.

“We really wanted to capture the beauty of the Catholic faith and exemplify that through art,” she said. “I think art is the best and kids love art. And it’s a way to get the students into the church each month and highlight the work that they do.”

Each month Tapson visits with a class at St. Mary’s and the students explore a different element of the Faith. The art projects range from painting, sculpture, to other mixed media artforms.

To prepare for April’s art show, two monstrances were brought into Rebecca Gipman’s Grade 3 class, one from St. Joseph Church in Grande Prairie and one from Immaculate Conception in Sexsmith. The students got to learn about the features of the monstrance, about adoration, and about the meaning of the real presence in the Eucharist.

St. Mary’s new principal Laura Tapson started this Student Art Show to both help students learn more about the Faith and to become a bigger part of parish life.

Then the students were to demonstrate these ideas in their individual art pieces. They were able to both channel their creativity and to deepen their understanding of the Church’s teachings.

This is only an excerpt. Read the full story in the May 2023 edition of Northern Light