Ste. Marie School in Spirit River spark students’ curiosity on All Saints Day

With teachers dressed in habits, sporting mitres, miraculous medals, and even carrying swords, it was not your typical day at Ste. Marie Catholic School in Spirit River.

For this year’s All Saints Day the teachers of Ste. Marie’s decided to try a new and interactive way for students to learn about the lives of the saints. On the Nov. 1st solemnity, each of the 12 teachers on staff dressed as a saint of their choosing: from great church leaders like St. Ambrose and St. Patrick, pious religious sisters like St. Therese of Liseux and St. Rita, and holy apostles like St. Jude and St. Andrew. It was up to the students to uncover the identity of each of these hallowed figures.

Carla Knezevich, principal of Ste. Marie School in Spirit River, helped spearhead this unique All Saints Day celebration. The idea was first discussed at a staff meeting in early October, when the teachers were looking for ways they could better spark the curiosity of their students.

Principal Carla Knezevich (St. Jude) and Robyn Duthie (St. Nicholas)

“We were talking about how we were wanting the kids to be more curious about things and more engaged in their learning. Because it’s when you are curious about something that you really desire to learn about it. And we wanted to find ways to get them to wonder about the saints,” said Knezevich. “So rather than telling them and teaching them about the saints, like we would normally do, we talked about coming to school dressed as saints and having the students try to find out what saint we were.”

Most years the school would celebrate All Saints Day through a series of teaching lessons or videos about the saints, so this marked the first year they put together this new initiative – putting a costumed spin on the day’s festivities.

“We decided we would not say anything until we gathered them in the gym right before lunch – just to get them curious about what we were doing,” the principal explained.

“A few of the students caught on; they realized it was All Saints Day and started asking which saint we were dressed as, and we’d tell them they would have to wait and figure it out for themselves.”

Each teacher picked a saint that they were particularly interested in or inspired by, and then prepared a poster that included the saints’ feast day, a general biography and other interesting information about the saint, like their patronage. The students were put into groups and brought into the school gymnasium, where they studied each poster and each teacher, having to decipher the identity behind each saintly costume. The teachers would only answer yes or no questions from the students.

Teacher Denise Beaupre as St. Therese of Lisieux

“It was interactive and fun. It got them learning about the saints in a different way,” said Knezevich. “They were really engaged with it. They didn’t have to sit their and listen to us, they got to discover the saints for themselves. Some of our teachers said that it was the most their students have been engaged in a long time.”

Local pastor Fr. Arockiam Savarimuthu was invited to the school that day, but like the students he too was kept in the dark as to how the celebration of All Saints Day would unfold. He was asked beforehand to prepare a write-up on a saint, and he chose the Jesuits founder St. Ignatius of Loyola.

“When I first went into the school I saw Carla with black marks like a beard all over her face. I thought that at first she had probably dressed up for Halloween yesterday and the paint from her costume had not fully come off. Then I saw the other teachers, and realized they were all dressed as saints,” Fr. Arockiam recalled. “I really admired that even the non-Catholic teachers were very much involved. That impressed me.”

Fr. Arockiam was particularly impressed by the level of detail in costumes like St. Teresa of Lisieux and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Arockiam himself had worked with the Missionaries of Charity in India, and he says the costume was pretty much identical to the habits of the real sisters he knew.

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