Radio Show

Saints for the School Year: Holy Men and Women to Accompany Teachers With Amy Cattapan

Many students and teachers are on spring break this time of year, and Father Dave welcomes middle school teacher and author Amy Cattapan to discuss her new book, “A Saint Squad for Teachers: 45 Heavenly Friends to Carry You through the School Year.”

Amy notes the struggles that many teachers face, and discusses her own times of burnout throughout the pandemic. “It’s still been very challenging as a teacher, even post- pandemic. We’re still dealing with the fallout, the polarization of our society, and how our culture has changed. I kept thinking, what else can I do?” 

She began to read more books about saints and says, “I was really surprised to find out how many of them were teachers, either for their whole career or part of their career. I had no idea how many patron saints there were of Catholic schools, school children, education of the poor,  catechists, and university professors. They each have something to share that I think can really benefit us.”

LISTEN: Top 10 Tips for Catechists This School Year With Joe Paprocki

Amy compiled her favorite saints and strives to tell their stories in an accessible way. “I’ve been told my writing style is very easy to follow; I teach middle school. You have to word things in a way that’s going to engage your readers and keep their attention,” Amy says. “The biographies of the saints are short. You could spend five minutes every morning reading through a saint and the reflection that I give on that saint’s life, and what we can take from it.”

“There are saints in there that were students, catechists, and parents. So anyone who does any kind of educating, evangelizing, and working with young people, I think can find something in there to appeal to them,” she continues.

Amy highlights one of her favorite saints in the book, Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini. She references the new movie about Mother Cabrini’s life and says, “I’m hearing from people who are seeing it and are wanting to go learn more about her…A lot of people don’t know she started as a public school teacher. She wanted to be a nun, but had poor health from the time that she was very young. She was actually rejected from a couple of convents because of her health issues, so she decided to become a teacher instead and got her Italian public school teacher license.”

“[Mother Cabrini] was so good with the kids,” Amy continues. “She had a very gentle yet firm style that other people started taking notice of her, including her own pastor who said, ‘Hey, you’ve got some great organizational skills here. We’ve got an orphanage nearby that’s in desperate need of some new leadership. Can you come over and fix the orphanage?’ So she started coming in as the fixer upper; when schools or orphanages needed a good leader, she would come in.”

LISTEN: Bringing Mother Cabrini’s Story to the Big Screen With Screenwriter Rod Barr

Another saint Amy highlights is Saint Thomas Aquinas. She says, “Thomas Aquinas was known as being a very quiet student, so much so that he was given the nickname ‘the dumb ox.’ They thought he was quiet because he wasn’t very bright. They discovered that once he started preaching, he was actually very bright and very good at preaching. Suddenly [they said], ‘Where did he come from?’”

Amy details how she also was a quiet student and had a similar experience in college after giving a presentation. “The feedback I got from all my classmates was, ‘Where has this girl been all semester? She was so quiet, I didn’t even know she was in the room. Why doesn’t she speak up more?’ So when I read about Thomas Aquinas being so quiet in his class and then suddenly surprising everybody, I’m like, now this is another saint I can relate to.”