Category Archives: Lessons

The Catholic Community of the United States Series Complete

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What a story we have to tell. As I researched and discovered our Catholic journey in the United States, I met phenomenal people who stood strong in the face of discrimination, hardships and challenges. As I glimpsed backward to the past, the people I found and the events I encountered helped me feel more determined to create my journey forward. Our students in middle school need to be introduced to our Catholic past so they will want to create a Catholic future for themselves and our country.

The Catholic Community of the United States, a three-part series, is now complete with the availability of Part III, the Catholic community of the 20th century. What made the research on this third part so interesting was that I recalled so many of the events and Catholic practices from the second half of the 20th century.

The American Catholic experience has drastically changed since the mid-twentieth century. The Catholic culture I grew up in has become something of the past and rarely experienced by students of today.

Like all big cultural change, some aspects are good, while others leave us wanting.

I hope the lessons found in The Catholic Community of the United States provide teachers and students learning experiences which create encounters with who we have been as American Catholics.

Click the sample sheet below for more details about the series.

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The Prince-Priest Died 175 Years Ago

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One hundred seventy five years ago, on May 6th, a remarkable missionary priest died. His story is one of contrasts – royalty and poverty, well-loved and disinherited, injured and always on the move.  Fr. Demetrius Gallitzin, aka Augustine Smith, was born in Holland in 1770. His father was a Russian prince and Augustine lived a life of ease. After arriving in America at the age of 22, Augustine entered the first class at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore.  For forty-one years, Fr. Gallitzin was as a missionary priest in the wilderness of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. Fr. Gallitzin started a Catholic colony called Loretto, in Pennsylvania. He has been given the title “Servant of God” on his way to sainthood. Visit the website www.demetriusgallitzin.org to view a 1945 comic book about this “Apostle of the Alleghenies.” Fr. Gallitzin is also featured in our PA Catholic community resource. His story is inspiring. His story makes me proud to be a Catholic. His story needs to be told to our young people so that they can catch his passion for the Catholic faith.

Take Students on a Catholic Journey

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What a journey through time as I wrote the lessons for The Catholic Community of the United States: Highlights from the Colonial Period through the Early Republic. I had a goal for my journey – a finished product in mind, but truly it was the journey that mattered most of all. The Catholic people of the past that I met, the events I experienced through their writings, the awe inspiring faith they shared with me made me a better person. I am prouder to be Catholic than I was before I began this journey. I realize now that I go forward in faith stronger and more passionate because of this journey – because I have met them.

Our children need to take this journey. If there ever was a time when our children need the fortitude and the zeal for their faith, it is now. This journey through time will be what inspires them to journey into the future with God at their side. These Catholics of the past can be examples of how to live, love and sacrifice well.  This book is my gift to students, but they need to be led. Within the few moments that teachers have in history class, during math instruction, while reading in Language Arts, or after prayer in Religion class, these lessons can be integrated into the school day. The children may not thank their teacher for the journey, but they will be blessed and, I dare say, so will the teacher.

Kim Lytle

3/3: Feast Day of PA Saint – St. Katharine Drexel

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It was a front page story when Katharine Drexel gave millions away to join a convent and become a sister.  Founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, Drexel was dedicated to serving Native American and African American communities.

We encourage teachers and students to visit the Interactive Timeline about Saint Katharine found on the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and National Shrine of Saint Katharine Drexel website.

Share with students the amazing life of Saint Katharine via these incredible pictures and student-friendly content.
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Saint Katharine Drexel is featured in our Pennsylvania Catholic history resource, The Catholic Community of Pennsylvania: Past and Present. This lesson includes a two-page telling of Saint Katharine’s life story, a graphic organizer to guide students’ interaction with this story, and a crossword puzzle.

A Saintly Valentine

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One idea to bring Catholic identity into Valentine’s Day parties at school is to have a Saintly Valentine Activity. Have a Valentine card, see sample below, for each student with a saint name and message. Have each student select a card from a container. After selecting, students read the messages aloud to the class and place their cards on a wall display. Later each student will learn about his or her saint and create a heavenly scene in which the student is meeting their selected saint.
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Have Students Create a Catholic Timeline

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A Catholic Timeline

Timelines are symbolic representations of how events are sequenced as one moves from the past toward the present. A Catholic timeline can add the aspect of how Christ is at the center of our lives and events in history. By using a circle to represent time, we can symbolize a Christ-centered view. The Chi-rho is most likely the oldest symbol for Christ. It consists of the Chi (x=ch) and the Rho (p=r) which are Greek letters that form the first three letters in the name Christ. The alpha and omega symbols represent the beginning and end, as they are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Tally marks can then be used to symbolize dates or time periods in history. This graphic would clearly make the point of Christ being center of our lives.

A Visit to St. Patrick Church – Pittsburgh , PA

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I expected St. Patrick Church in Pittsburgh to be in a setting that one would expect for such a historic building – spacious grounds, large entrance sign touting its historic significance, and a fancy walkway leading up to enormous doors. This church was the first in the Pittsburgh area, built in 1808. This is the church that is the “American Shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes.” This is the place where over two million (yes, 2,000,000) free meals were given to those in need during the Depression. This is the place where the pastor, Fr. Cox, was known as the Mayor of Shantytown and the “Pastor of the Poor.

There were no spacious grounds. There was no large entrance sign, no fancy walkway and no enormous doors. This church was sitting in the middle of life in the Strip District of Pittsburgh. The sign was so modest. The grounds were modest with a few statues. The walkway was modestly done. The wooden doors were modest in design. This church was nothing like I expected and everything that I was hoping for. This historic church was now like it was probably then at the center of everyday, plain ordinary life.

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After walking inside, the first view that struck me was the Holy Stairs. These stairs represent the 28 steps between Christ and Pilate, when Christ was condemned to death. The sign says to ascend the steps on one’s knees and prayers are provided for each step. What an act of penance and humility for one to climb these steps. This picture is looking down on the steps from above.

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As I learned about Fr. James Cox and prepared the lesson in the PA book about him, I was so impressed by the way he lived the faith. Sometimes I think that it is so easy to talk the talk of the Catholic life, but someone like him who lives it by loving the poor and voiceless is a WOW in my book.

What a sense of the sacred amidst ordinary life. Thanks, Sara, for taking me. It was a pleasure sharing the experience with my daughter.

I realize that most of your students can’t come here, but please tell them the story of St. Patrick Church. It is Lesson 14 in The Catholic Community of Pennsylvania: Past and Present. We need their ordinary lives to be immersed in the sacred.

Principals: Create a Catholic Schedule

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“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible;
and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

– Saint Francis of Assisi

This quote from St. Francis is a great “start of the school year” quote for principals.

There is the energy that comes with starting a new school year and the awareness that this will be another year of trying to do the impossible. This quote is even relevant to something as simple as putting together the school calendar. Put on the calendar the activities/events that are necessary. Then build into the calendar those things that can heighten a school’s catholicity.

Some celebratory events that are rooted in Catholic PA history could be:

  • Feast day celebrations for the two PA saints (St. John Neumann and St. Katherine Drexel)
  • Anniversary celebrations for the formation of the diocese or parish
  • Thank you event for the religious order that staffed the school during its early years
  • On Constitution Day, a recognition of the two Catholic signers of the Constitution: Daniel Carroll (Maryland) and Thomas Fitzsimons (Pennsylvania)

The class that is studying PA history and using our The Catholic Community of Pennsylvania: Past and Present resource could be assigned the responsibility of organizing these events. Some of the follow-up activities in the resource could be used at multiple grade levels to make the events school-wide.

Blessed scheduling!

10 Reasons I am Proud to be a Catholic from PA

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  1. St. Katherine Drexel was born in Philadelphia.
  2. St. Anthony’s Chapel is in Pittsburgh and it has the most relics in the whole world outside of the Vatican.
  3. The colony of Pennsylvania was unique because of the freedom William Penn gave to Catholics to practice their faith.
  4. Pennsylvania can lay claim to Fr. James Cox of Pittsburgh. This priest was called the “Pastor of the Poor” and led a huge march on Washington.
  5. The first Benedictine Monastery in the United States was in Pennsylvania.
  6. Operation Rice Bowl began in Pennsylvania.
  7. A church in Brownsville is in Ripley’s Believe It or Not as the only cemetery with heated graves!
  8. Eighty-seven different Religious Communities for Women are currently serving in Pennsylvania.
  9. Fr. Walter Ciszek grew up in Pennsylvania and spent over 20 years in a prison camp in Russia. He never gave up on his faith and depended on God’s strength to carry him through terrible conditions.
  10. Our churches and cathedrals are beautiful and are filled with believers who are even more beautiful.

Help our students be proud Catholics from Pennsylvania.
Teach Catholic History – Create a Catholic Future

All of the above are featured in:

The Catholic Community of Pennsylvania: Past and Present

Kim Lytle, Author and Owner
History of the Catholic Community

Topic of Special Interest – St. Anthony Chapel

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What a story – a man, a saint and a lot of bones! A phenomenal place that has quite a history and many inspiring stories from those who have visited. This chapel is the focus of one of the lessons in The Catholic Community of Pennsylvania: Past and Present.

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As with many of our lessons, the one about Saint Anthony Chapel is included on our Resources page.  Here you will find links to useful websites and source documents – such as newspaper articles and photos – that will assist in the teaching of the lesson.

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If you are a teacher or parent using our resources, please contribute to the From the Field page of best practices.  We hope this will be a spot where additional resources utilized in the field can be shared.

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