By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
BETTENDORF — During December, students in grades K-8 at Lourdes Catholic School learned about Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego. Artwork by junior high students, who study a specific unit on Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, adorned the parish center/school cafeteria.
“It is one of the ways I can bring church history and culture into Spanish class, and we get to learn a ‘tiny’ bit of history of how Mexico became a Spanish-speaking country,” said Spanish teacher Tori McCollum. She also likes to show how Mary made her point by “looking like an Aztec princess and speaking a native tongue.”
As part of the junior high unit, each eighth-grade student received a printout of a portion of the traditional Our Lady of Guadalupe image. “Each person worked on his/her own square, sometimes more than one. We agreed on which colors were going to be used for the different parts.”
Seventh-graders were responsible for displaying the finished image, which resembled a mosaic. “The finished artwork currently hangs in our cafeteria, where they all have the chance to see her watching over them as they eat and build community,” McCollum said.
“One of my favorite lessons to show our students is how we each bring our own personality and gifts to the art, but when we put it together and stand back, the differences become an integral part of the whole. They make it more beautiful, the same way God sees us. Individual, imperfect and lovely; when brought together in grace, we are an important part of the beautiful whole.”
The week before the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec. 12), McCollum began lessons on the story of Guadalupe. Later in the week, the students began learning the Hail Mary in Spanish. “We begin learning the prayers of the rosary in December, so that by May we can do a decade of the rosary every day in Spanish.”
For the Guadalupe unit, McCollum said seventh-graders learned about Our Lady of Guadalupe, watched a video and discussed the miracle of the tilma that Juan Diego presented to the bishop, and how it remains on display in Mexico City. Eighth-graders learned more about the history, the time and place in which Mary appeared to Juan Diego.
Students learn why the hill of Tepeyac was important to the Aztec people, why Our Lady of Guadalupe chose to appear there and to appear specifically to Juan Diego. “We learn about the history of this place in time as it pertains to Spanish history, what the arrival of Spain in the Americas meant to the people there, and why there was indeed so much conflict.”
The art project “has grown as an opportunity to teach our students how to slow down, be patient, pay attention to one another and focus on the real lessons of Mary: coming to and being with her Son.”
“The middle of December is a very hectic time in school and in their lives. I have come to love the week when we slow down and color, discussing the lessons we have learned or our own encounters with the Holy Mother.” Also taking time to pray together as a group “with her and to her is a peaceful and lovely tradition.”