The School of Art presents the Stations of the Cross

On Maundy Thursday, in the gymnasium of St. Michael Catholic Academy in Thornhill, Ontario, the lights are dimmed and reflective music is played as classes walk through an artistic display of the Stations of the Cross.

Created by K-8 students at the school offering York Catholic District School Board’s only regional elementary arts program, the showcase is an annual event during the Easter season. Each class is assigned different Stations of the Cross and, in groups, is tasked with creating representations of each path using dance, drama, music, or visual arts.

On showcase day, a Grade 5 student leader is there to explain each station to the groups as they come to see the artwork and also takes time for prayer and reflection.

“It’s always extremely moving to see the students move through the different stations,” said Carol Cotton, school administrator. “It has a big impact on me to see how they accept the experience and what it means to them when it is presented to them in this way.”

“It’s very moving to be able to walk this journey with the students and really have them experience the Stations of the Cross as Jesus experienced it on his journey,” said Tammy Paniculam, an 8th grade teacher. “Going through these stations with the students running them really gives them that leadership role. Coming together to reflect on this as one school community is such a beautiful thing to do.

After each class receives their station assignment, they are divided into groups to decide on an artistic performance. In the Paniculam classroom, station number two of Jesus taking up the cross is represented by stained glass-inspired images colored with acrylic paint. In the class of Grade 8 teacher Crystal Chance, students used technology to create digital mosaics using Google Drawings software. Other groups created dramatic tableaux and took still photos for display.

The school is delighted to hold the showcase in person this year for the first time since COVID-19

“It’s a great way to come together as a community,” Chance said. “We haven’t had the opportunity to do that in the past two years to really celebrate everyone’s talents and the wonderful things that come out of our school arts program.

The Elementary Regional Arts program includes drama, dance, visual arts, vocal music, instrumental music, digital media arts and communication technologies and introduces budding artists and performers to various artistic disciplines. The program offers children the opportunity to specialize in an artistic field or to integrate their artistic strengths with those of other students in the program.

According to Principal Dayna Fitzpatrick, the Stations of the Cross event represents the seamless integration of religious goals and artistic development that are integral to the school’s curriculum.

“I think the most important thing to take away from this as we journey is that it teaches our students to live the expectation of Catholic graduates, but also to live the gospel,” Fitzpatrick said. “They understand their faith in a deeper way because it’s part of what we do every day.”

More than the opportunity to reflect on their own Lenten experience, students appreciate the opportunity to see how other classes have interpreted the assignment. Although elementary school students all come from Catholic families, some may not be religious, Fitzpatrick says, so fostering a two-way connection between church and home is especially important. They strive to manifest a living relationship with the school’s affiliate, The Good Shepherd Parish, to help students who are not officially enrolled in the church by their families to understand and embrace the message of Jesus and to grow in their faith.

“Everything they see, talk about and learn about will foster those additional opportunities to talk with their families and bring their faith home and bring their traditions from home to school,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s just this beautiful circle of community.”

Kayleen C. Rice