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English as a New Language

Celebrando la Virgen de Guadalupe

Written by Katy Lichon, Ph.D., Clare Roach, M.Ed., Jennifer Dees, M.Ed. on Tuesday, 15 November 2016.

The English as a New Language team provides recommendations and a number of resources, including a printable worship program, for you to celebrate the upcoming feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in your school.

St.AndrewSLC 5Students at St. Andrew School in Salt Lake City, UT, dress in indigenous clothing and present gifts to La Virgencita.

For your students and families of Mexican origin, Our Lady of Guadalupe or La Guadalupana represents a powerful and deep devotion to the loving and caring mother of God. By celebrating the feast day of the Blessed Lady, the patroness of the Americas, on December 12th, your school can draw attention to the universality of the Church and the beauty of Marian devotions. More importantly, it offers your learning community the grace of participating in and honoring a magnificently rich tradition celebrated for centuries by the Mexican people.

As described by Fr. Virgilio Elizondo (2011), Our Lady of Guadalupe represents the “mother of new humanity” because she bridges for the Americas the Old World and the New. In 1531 when La Virgencita appeared to Juan Diego, the native peoples of Mexico had just been defeated by the Spanish armies and were in need of hope, rebirth, and spiritual healing. La Morenita (which translated means “brown skinned one”) appeared not to the powerful Spanish, but to the humble Juan Diego, an Aztec man, to ask that he approach the bishop and request that a church be built in her honor. The bishop was incredulous, but Mary appeared to Juan Diego again. This time when Juan Diego encountered the bishop, he had the brown skinned image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on his tilma (cloak) and his arms were full of roses, which were exceedingly rare in the region. Having won the bishop’s blessing, a shrine was built on the top of Mount Tepeyac, the hill where Mary appeared to Juan Diego. Today the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City is the most visited Catholic shrine in the world and it continues to represent a place of protection, consolation, mestizaje (mixture of races) , and unity.

¡Viva Cristo Rey! Honoring Saint José Sánchez del Río

Written by Katy Lichon, Ph.D., Clare Roach, M.Ed., Jennifer Dees, M.Ed., Fr. Lou DelFra, CSC on Thursday, 10 November 2016.

St. Jose Sanchez del Rio 1

This is the first installment of the English as a New Language Program’s Moments with Multicultural Saints, intended to provide useful classroom takeaways that will help you to broaden perspectives, teach about the universal Church, and find inspiration from saints from around the world. This month, we focus on Mexico’s newest saint, Saint José Luis Sánchez del Rio. You will find two different versions below, tailored to the appropriate age range of your students.

Seeking Challenge: Using Knowledge to Create Change

on Wednesday, 02 November 2016.

By: Lauren Kloser

Jenny O'Donnell Knowledge

Jenny O’Donnell stood in the entrance of St. Adalbert Catholic School, taking a deep breath as she prepared to start her interview with Principal Andrew Currier. As she looked around the school, at the brightly colored walls of each classroom and the hallway bulletin boards plastered with student work, she wondered: Is this where I am supposed to be? Where am I being called?

Outward Signs and Symbols of Grace AND Culture: Incorporating Culturally Sustaining Sacramental Traditions

Written by Jennifer Dees, M.Ed., Katy Lichon, Ph.D. on Tuesday, 30 August 2016.

God’s grace is everywhere and always present.  In the Catholic Church, sacraments are the outward and visible signs in which we celebrate this grace.  Precisely because sacraments are tangible and visible experiences, our sacramental celebrations are full of rich symbolism.  We feel water and oil, see white garments and fire, taste bread and wine, and actively exchange rings, to name just a few examples.

Because sacraments are universally celebrated in Catholic churches around the world, they serve as magnificent occasions to invite families and communities to recognize and deepen their encounter with God’s grace. They also offer profound opportunities to integrate outward and visible signs of the cultural richness of our Church.

Over the next few months, the U.S. Church will be doing just this – incorporating more cultural traditions into the experience of the sacraments, starting with the sacrament of marriage. The Order of Celebrating Matrimony, an updated name, will be celebrated using language that more closely reflects the changes made to the new Roman Missal.

Additionally, and perhaps most exciting, new ceremonies that have traditionally been included as marriage practices in many Hispanic and Filipino Catholic weddings will now be embraced as options in the new rite. These ceremonies include an exchange of coins and a blessing of a lazo (a veil or cord), which is wrapped around the couple during the nuptial blessing.

“Historically speaking, the Church has been very open to using the elements of various cultures in celebrating the sacrament of marriage. Different cultures have different ways of expressing what marriage means, and the Church has shown a lot of willingness to take in some of these cultural expressions,” explains Father Andrew V. Menke, associate director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Divine Worship. The cord tied around a couple symbolically represents their sacramental bond to one another. And the exchange of coins is an outward sign that they now share everything, adds Fr. Menke, “which is what marriage is about.”

These forthcoming additions by the USCCB should lead all of us in Catholic schools to reflect upon the cultural aspects of the sacraments we prepare for and celebrate in our faith communities.  Do we welcome the active participation of padrinos (godparents) at First Holy Communion? Do we allow for the wearing of aiguilettes or ribbons on sleeves, the sharing of recuerdos, or the use of lit candles?  Perhaps we need to consider the languages we incorporate at the celebration of First Reconciliation or the music choices we use at Confirmation Masses?

The sacraments are such outward symbols of what we believe that taking time to consider their cultural dimensions is vitally important.  We invite your school community to ponder the following questions to get the discussion started:

  • What do I know about the cultural demographics of our school and parish?
  • How can I learn more about the sacramental practices and traditions within these cultural groups? What resources can I turn to?
  • How could the process of sacramental preparation be adapted to incorporate culturally rich traditions and values?
  • How might the family, particularly the extended family, be welcomed into the process of sacramental preparation and the liturgical celebration of the sacraments?
  • How could the liturgical celebration of the sacraments better reflect the cultural richness of our school and parish community?  What textiles, hymns, instruments, flowers, and imagery could be added to make the liturgy more dynamic and culturally sustaining? Are the families involved in the liturgical planning?

Additional Resources:


Hudock, B. (2015). Changes coming to the marriage rite in the U.S.: Rollout of ‘Order for Celebrating Matrimony,’ approved by the Vatican, is expected some sometime in 2016. Our Sunday Visitor. Retrieved from

Helping Vocabulary to Stick: 7 Successful Strategies for Schooling Saponification (or at least how to teach the word!)

Written by Katy Lichon, Ph.D., Clare Roach, M.Ed. on Tuesday, 30 August 2016.

When it comes to learning new vocabulary, especially with English language learners, research tells us that simple, one-time exposure is not enough for language to “stick.” For more effective vocabulary expansion, consider utilizing the following seven strategies: say it, spell it, see it and specify meaning, Spanish translation, show it, synonyms, and a sentence example.

Let’s use the academic word saponification as an example.

1.  Say it

The first step is to say the word aloud several times. Let’s try . . . saponification, saponification, and saponification.  It’s a mouthful, but it’s important!  Students need to hear and read the word repeatedly.


2.  Spell it

Next, let’s spell the word. Spelling is important because it gets at underlying phonics patterns, as well as prefixes, root words, suffixes, and even parts of speech. Let’s be word detectives: sapo . . . what might that word look like to you?  Perhaps you think of soap. Additionally, when you see “ification” what do you think of? Perhaps a process. So, what might this word mean?


3.  See it and specify the meaning 

Let’s examine three pictures and see if we can determine the meaning of saponification


Saponification means the process of making soap. Saponification is a noun that describes a chemical reaction between an acid (oil or fat) and a base (lye) to form a salt (soap).


4.  Spanish translation

See if students know the word in another language.  In this case, saponification in Spanish is saponificación.  In looking at the words side-by-side we can highlight the parallel language pattern of “ification” and “ificación.”


5.  Show it

Let’s make an action for saponification to help us remember the meaning (this technique is known as total physical response or TPR). Perhaps we could rub our hands together like we are washing them. Maybe we could have a motion for each step (acid or oil = rub your arms like you are putting on sunscreen) + (base or lye = pretend to pouring water into a cup) = soap (rub hands like you are washing them). 

We might also watch a short video to aid in building background knowledge and add visual support.


6.  Synonyms

Perhaps there are other ways in which we might interact with this word: saponified (verb), saponifiable (adjective), saponifying (verb).  Additional synonyms include soap making, reaction, or conversion.


7.  Sentence use

The scientist made soap by completing the saponification process. She combined an acid and a base to form a salt in the form of soap.


We soap hope that you are able to see the benefits of teaching vocabulary using diverse strategies.  It’s no lye, our students will really appreciate it.

For more information about vocabulary development, view this ENL webinar.

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