Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel
Eighth graders at St. John Fisher School in Southwest Portland created a shrine to St. Peregrine near the playground. Archbishop Alexander Sample blessed the prayer site.
 Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel
Eighth graders at St. John Fisher School in Southwest Portland created a shrine to St. Peregrine near the playground. Archbishop Alexander Sample blessed the prayer site.
Eighth graders from St. John Fisher School in Southwest Portland have created a shrine dedicated to healing and wholeness.

The shrine — which resembles one of Portland’s tiny roadside libraries, but with a statue of St. Peregrine inside — is located just off the playground. Children will see it daily.

St. Peregrine, an Italian Servite friar in the 14th century, was about to have a cancerous leg amputated when he prayed to Christ. The leg was healed overnight. Statues show him revealing his injured calf.

“We are expecting that kids will go pray for kids who are sick and for others in the school and community,” said Luke Harkness, the eighth grade teacher who helped build the structure.  

Archbishop Alexander Sample visited Feb. 3 to bless the new shrine. In a light rain, the archbishop sprinkled it with holy water and prayed that we might all expend ourselves in service of others.

Two members of the school community were in the front row for the blessing. Delores Beckers, a teaching assistant in kindergarten for 22 years, has ALS. Debbie Grbavac, a math and religion teacher in middle school for more than 20 years, went into remission from cancer just after the shrine was installed. Both were treated as guests of honor.  

On the same morning, at a school Mass held on a day when grandparents were visiting, Archbishop Sample told students that Jesus asked us to be three things: salt, light and leaven.

When he asked the purpose of salt, one youngster raised her hand and answered confidently, “To make cookies.” After announcing that he prefers chocolate chip, the archbishop explained that, right, we put salt in food to enhance the flavor. “We are supposed to season the world with Jesus,” he said.

Light, the archbishop told the crowd, means clarity and hope.

“We are supposed to be light wherever there is darkness, wherever there is hatred, wherever there is despair, wherever there is injustice, wherever there is disregard for human dignity,” he said. “Where there is sin we are to be light.”

He asked about leaven and students knew that yeast makes bread rise. “We make the world rise,” the archbishop answered. “We let the whole world experience the presence of Jesus Christ.”

He told students they had two good tools for becoming salt, light and leaven. Their Catholic school and their grandparents, he explained, both teach them how to love and serve Jesus and other people.