In a lesson on the Philippines, fifth-graders at Seton Regional Catholic School in St. Charles were surprised to learn that nearly 80% of Filipinos identify as Catholic. Christianity was introduced in the Asian country 500 years ago this year.
They also learned about climate, food, industry and culture — but nothing quite compared to learning about the Catholic faith in the Philippines, including the story of St. Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint. St. Lorenzo and several companions were martyred in Japan in 1637 during the Tokugawa Shogunate’s persecution of Japanese Christians in the 17th century.
This school year, classes at the regional elementary school in St. Charles have adopted different saints to study throughout the year. The school built the idea off of the Year St. Joseph (designated by Pope Francis from Dec. 8, 2020-Dec. 8, 2021), with St. Joseph being the patron saint of the universal Church. Classrooms have chosen patron saints from 20 countries, spread out across most continents. A display in the school hallway maps out the chosen countries.
Students currently are researching each country and its details such as culture, food, religion and industries. The school also wanted to make sure that the saints were representative of students from different cultures, including Hispanic, African-American, Indian and Filipino heritage, said principal Ken Morr. “The more we show this to all of the kids — they get an idea of some of the different types of traditions,” he said.
Fifth-graders in Shannon Purvis’ class learned that St. Lorenzo is not only considered a patron saint of the Philippines, but also patron of Filipino youth, people working overseas and altar servers.
St. Lorenzo, who was accused of murder, took refuge on a ship only to discover it was bound for Japan, where Christians were being persecuted there at the time. “He thought he was going somewhere safe, and not a place where he would end up being persecuted,” Purvis said. “He stayed true to his faith.”
Missionary accounts noted that the saint said right before his death: “I am a Catholic and wholeheartedly do accept death for God; Had I a thousand lives, all these to Him shall I offer.”
Students also observed several cultural items on loan from Purvis’ friend who moved to St. Louis from the Philippines about 20 years ago. One of those items was a statue of Santo Niño, the child Jesus. Sinulog-Santo Niño is a major religious and cultural celebration held every year in Cebú.
When fifth-grader Trisha Crowder saw the statue, she immediately shot her hand in the air. Her family has several of those statues in their home — her mother is from the Philippines. Trisha also shared with her classmates that she participates in a Santo Niño celebration every year in St. Louis.
“It’s really important to me, because it’s part of my culture, and I love it,” she said. “And because it’s about Jesus.”
Jamaica — Blessed Virgin Mary
Costa Rica — Our Lady of Guadalupe
Canada — St. Joseph
Brazil — Black Madonna
Chile — St. James the Greater
Colombia — Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquira
Greece — St. Nicholas
France — St. Joan of Arc
Czech Republic — St. John Nepomuk
Italy — St. Francis of Assisi
Sweden — St. Lucy
Israel — St. Michael the Archangel
Philippines — St. Lorenzo Ruiz
China — St. Ji Zhenmei
India — St. Teresa of Calcutta
South Africa — Blessed Benedict Daswa
Kenya — St. Saizana
Egypt — St. Mark the Evangelist
Nigeria — St. Patrick
St. Mary McKillop