Maryanne Obersinner, sixth grade teacher who founded living saints presentation, stands with Liesl Benda as St. Katharine Drexel.
EUGENE — For an afternoon, 51 O’Hara Catholic School sixth graders came to life in character and costume as the saint they chose to study for three months.
The annual Living Saints Project, in its 15th year, combines religion, history, writing, public speaking and art. This year, the class portrayed saints and blessed persons of the church who hailed from six continents. Students picked a saint to whom they felt a connection.
The students wrote about the countries their saints lived in, studied ancient cartographic techniques to create antique-looking country maps, wrote reports about their saints’ lives, and studied the medieval art of illuminated manuscript and the prayerful art of iconography.
The project culminated in the Living Saints Presentation that drew more than 1,000 visitors from all over Oregon to O’Hara’s gym, including area priests and religious. It's like walking through a living museum. Saints included Jeanne Jugan, Chiara Luce Badano, Joan of Arc, Francis of Assisi and Joseph Moscati.
In the role of their saints, students are prepared to answer questions from visitors. “When were you born, and when did you die?” “When were you sanctified?” “Did other people know that you were really holy while you were alive, and how?” “Why should anyone admire your example?” It’s an opportunity for students and visitors alike to learn about the lives of the heroes of faith.
In The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton wrote: “The discovery of a new saint is a tremendous experience…They become our friends, and they share our friendship and reciprocate it and give us unmistakable tokens of their love for us by the graces that we receive through them.”
The Living Saints Project was started 15 years ago by sixth grade teacher, Maryanne Obersinner, and has been recognized nationally.