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Catholic School Advantage: A Letter from Chicago

Written by William Schmitt on Tuesday, 06 December 2011.

by Field Consultant Juana Sanchez

Juana Sanchez is ACE's Field Consultant for the Catholic School Advantage campaign in the Archdiocese of Chicago. She sends this update on a success story she learned about while working with the people of St. Genevieve Catholic School in Chicago.

At St. Genevieve, an elementary school not far from downtown Chicago, students from all backgrounds have been brought closer together by learning about the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe that is deeply rooted in the faith of the school's Latino community.

This learning takes a very tangible and compelling form every year on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Dec. 12, when the school community gathers for the presentation of a play about the Feast. The play had its genesis in one teacher's personal spiritual experience and her desire to serve Our Lady, the Church, and her school.
Daisy Perez, director of development at St. Genevieve, prepared this report on this play, due for its third annual performance on Dec. 12:

A Children's Play of Our Lady of Guadalupe was written, directed, and produced by Heather Cleaver, St. Genevieve Catholic School's second grade teacher. It was co-directed by the fifth grade teacher, Julianna Flores. It was performed by the second and fifth grade students of St. Genevieve School for the past two years and will be performed again this year on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in St. Genevieve Church on Dec. 12, 2011.

The following description of the play is an abridged version of Heather Cleaver's Preface to A Children's Play of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and it explains the driving force for the production of the play within the St. Genevieve School setting. [Publication of the play, written by Heather Cleaver and edited by Otilia Nigaglioni, is planned for the late winter in 2012.]

"About ten years ago, I had a strong urge to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (La Virgen de Guadalupe) in Mexico City," Heather Cleaver writes. "I kept having visions in my mind of her image as I was praying. I knew little about her story except what her image looked like and that her image was honored in the Mexican culture. I had a gut feeling that these recurring visions were a sign from God to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe .

"Over the years, I read a lot of literature, looked her up on the internet, and spoke with different people about Our Lady of Guadalupe. People shared with me her story from their own knowledge base. I came to a better understanding about her appearance to Juan Diego. She is mother to all of us, so in her apparitions, she appears to one of the people in the form of a human in their own ethnicity. Mary appeared as an Aztec princess, speaking to Juan Diego in his own Aztec language.

"I didn't really understand why I was called to go to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe until a couple of years ago.... However, a couple of years ago, I had a strong desire to celebrate her. I felt a need to spread Mary's message to my students and the rest of the school. . .

"My school has a very large Mexican/Latin American student population, but as a school we did not celebrate her together. The parish did a lot for the church members, but I strongly felt the school needed to do something as well. I talked this over with my principal, and she agreed that a prayer service was a great idea to move forward in their religious growth. I wanted to create a celebration of their cultural heritage in writing about Our Lady of Guadalupe, so after pondering about it, I decided to write a play to help the students honor and celebrate her. This play is a cultural preservation of Mexican history for generations to come. Acting her story out would help foster children's understanding of Mexican culture and our Catholic history."

This invitation is open to all parishioners and to the community to come and join St. Genevieve Catholic School faculty, staff and students in celebrating La Virgen de Guadalupe."

Accompanying photo: Marlene DeAngelo as Our Lady and Nathan Houlihan as Juan Diego in the school’s 2010 performance of the “Children’s Play of Our Lady of Guadalupe” at St. Genevieve School.

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