I haven't been able to keep up with writing because of some extra responsibilities that came up during the holidays. I'm now in St. Louis (where the weather is sunny and 70 degrees!) giving a retreat to 77 men at the White House Jesuit Retreat House. On my way down I stopped to have lunch with a good Jesuit friend, Fr. John Belmonte, who is the superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Joliet.
The following is from a letter he wrote informing the Diocese of a special initiative for this year:
Perfect Friendship: The Diocese of Joliet Sacred Heart Project
To teach children the Catholic faith that we ourselves have received and invite them to a lifelong friendship with Jesus Christ through His Church is our privilege as Catholic school educators. This year our diocesan schools have the opportunity to participate in a project to promote devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The goal of this project is to introduce the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to our students, develop the devotional life of children and adults and create leadership opportunities for students and teachers.
The project will begin on Monday, October 17th, the Feast of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and conclude on Wednesday, February 15, the Feast of St. Claude La Colombiere, both saints of the Sacred Heart. ... Bishop Conlon will conclude the project with a Mass with students at the Cathedral in which he will consecrate the diocesan schools and our students to the Sacred Heart.
The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a most effective means of our students living always in the company of our Lord who they meet in the Eucharist.
Last month I met with Fr. Belmonte and two of the teachers, Kathy Scholz and Ryan Wolcott, who produced a manual for this project. Their manual, which they hope to publish someday, is filled with many good age-appropriate materials for grade school students. One of the ideas was for students to create holy cards with an image of the Sacred Heart. Scattered throughout this post are copies of some of those laminated cards.
Another part of the project was to have eighth graders teach the younger children about the Sacred Heart. The following is from a story that St. Scholastica Grade School student Sonja Kukulis wrote about that experience. It appeared in the Woodridge Triblocal news website.The main message taught was that Jesus is "all heart," and that He loves us and wants us to love Him too. We showed the students a picture of the Sacred Heart and explained it to them. Jesus is holding His heart, which is bleeding, has thorns around it, and a cross on top. All of this symbolism reminds us that Christ was willing to suffer and die for us; it also is on fire to symbolize God's light and Christ's love for us. We asked these students questions to make sure they understood what we were teaching them, and answered their questions as well. ... Each week the middle school students write one of the twelve promises that Christ gave to St. Margaret Mary. We explain how we can follow it in our lives. Students in the lower grades write about or color pictures that explain the twelve promises. At the start of every school day, we say the prayer to the Sacred Heart together. This is a great project because it teaches us about church history and helps us to grow closer to God and stronger in faith.
I'm sure that the Diocese of Joliet is going to be richly blessed by this Sacred Heart Project. May those blessings spread far beyond and touch the hearts of all!