Year of Mercy bags boost home prayer for Epiphany School families in Normal

Molli Wey and Summer Clark look over the materials in the Year of Mercy bag before the Epiphany School third-grader takes it home. She's the first one in her family to get the bag and said she was looking forward to praying the rosary. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

NORMAL — It’s not unusual for homework and other important information to go home with the students of Epiphany Catholic School each week, but that looks a little different during the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Msgr. Eric Powell, pastor, and religion teacher Karen Overby collaborated to develop 10 Year of Mercy bags filled with prayer resources. The bags go home with one student in each grade on Friday and return the following Thursday.

“We had prayer cards we wanted to include and thought it was important to have the rosary. We also included a sheet that explains how to pray the rosary,” said Overby, who teaches junior high religion and character education to students from preschool through fifth grade. “There’s a small plaque of Divine Mercy.”

Entries from the third grade journal show how much the students and their families have enjoyed the project. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Entries from the third grade journal show how much the students and their families have enjoyed the project. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Msgr. Powell also found a book, “A Short Guide to Praying as a Family” by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, that went into the bags.

“We thought that these would be things, no matter what grade the student was in . . . that would be easy to understand and covered a variety of areas of prayer life,” Overby explained.

In addition to the prayer aids, each bag contains a journal for the students to write about how their family used the materials and what they thought about the experience. These entries have been very moving, according to Molli Wey, third grade teacher.

“It was the best school activity we have done at home,” one student wrote, while another shared that “we really liked the prayer before going to bed. We loved it so much!”

Another told of how praying the rosary had helped them teach a family member to pray.

Wey said one of her families set up a prayer table at home and another rang a bell to call family members together when it was time to pray.

“They’ve taken it in all different directions,” she said.

Msgr. Powell suggested that each student bring back a selfie showing them and their families with the resources in the Year of Mercy bags. All of this helps to make the activities personal, Overby told The Catholic Post.

TIME CAPSULE PLANNED

The bags will take a summer vacation when the students do. Next fall, they will follow the children into the next grade so the journals will continue to tell the stories of that class.

Overby said she developed a schedule so that each school family had a Year of Mercy bag at least once this year. And each eighth-grader will have the opportunity to take one home before they graduate.

To make the bags look special, Bernadette An designed a logo that she embroidered on them.

Principal Mike Lootens called the project a great teaching tool and said he enjoys seeing the genuine excitement of the students when it’s their turn.

“So much of faith is inward, but this is an outward expression of faith,” he said.

Msgr. Powell said the materials would eventually be incorporated into the walls of school as renovation continues at Epiphany.

“The most accomplished pieces will find their way into a time capsule — to be housed near our renovated front doors,” he said.

He finds the idea of putting the photos and journals of the Year of Mercy families into the building’s foundation to be quite moving.

“I can’t think of a more symbolic or evocative way of binding our families with their beloved school and its spiritual mission,” Msgr. Powell said.

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