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St. Cecilia students raise awareness for Year of Mercy

Using banners that feature original art

By Father James Secora

Special to The Witness

AMES — As part of the St. Cecilia Parish celebration during the Extraordinary Year of Mercy, the school children, along with some help from their teachers, put their creative efforts to work to make a lasting impression on their parish family and the wider city of Ames, Iowa.

“I was happy to be part of this project,” says art teacher Lisa Teske. “Driving by the church recently and seeing the drawings selected for the banners outside hanging from the light posts was very inspirational.”

With ordinary paper and paints, school children from the fourth and fifth grades were asked to draw interpretations of the seven corporal works of mercy. A panel of teachers were chosen to review the drawings. At our weekly Mass as well as in the classroom thoughout the school year, I would ask the children to reflect on the works of mercy. With help from Mrs. Teske, our art teacher and the other classroom teachers, the kids ran with the idea.

Banners and posters were the fruit of our common reflection. Fourteen pictures were chosen, two for each work of mercy. A banner was created. At the bottom of each picture, multi-colored handprints of children from kindergarten to third grade were placed making a border. The picture was then printed on both sides and covered in vinyl. Now if you are the mailman or a parent, as you turn into the church parking lot from the city streets, you are immediately greeted by a corporal work of mercy. If you are a St. Cecilia student, as you leave school for the day, you can look up to see a corporal work of mercy staring back at you. Currently hanging from the lightpoles that line the drive in front of the church, the banners hang with pictures and handprints together reminding everyone that it is through the work of our hands that we are to carry out works of mercy commanded by Jesus.

If you take time to stop and look at one, you can see the creativity and insight of the students. One banner depicts “welcoming the stranger,” where two people extend a hand of friendship to one another–one individual is white while the other is black. The black individual is dressed in Iowa State University colors of cardinal and gold, while the white individual is dressed in University of Iowa black and gold. Humorous, of course. But looking deeper, it calls us to reflect on overcoming the many barriers and prejudices we may harbor. We risk losing out on the radical call to Gospel love and solidarity with every member of the human family.

This is especially important for the “strangers” and “foreigners” among us. Inside St. Cecilia Church, the walls serve to display another set of drawings as you approach the Burke Chapel. All drawings serve an ongoing reflection as we seek to find ways to carry out the corporal works of mercy in our daily lives. It is through the eyes of children, gaining insight into their own imagination and creativity of thought, where we can hope to add new life to our own spiritual life and that of our community. All of the banners and posters will remain displayed until the closing of the holy year on Nov. 22, 2016 with their invitation and inspiration to all who strive to live out the message of mercy. Father Secora is pastor of St. Cecilia Parish in Ames.


PHOTO: Father James Secora, pastor of St. Cecilia Parish in Ames, with Anna Tallman, one of the young artists whose work is featured on a series of banners dedicated to the works of mercy. (Photo submitted by Sue Stanton)