Catholic schools take up pope-inspired projects

Posted at 2:07 PM, Sep 20, 2015

CINCINNATI -- As any St. Gertrude student will tell you, Pope Francis has been visiting Madeira.

Actually, the K-8 Catholic school is hosting a flat, paper, cut-out version of the pontiff, but he still generated a lot of excitement.

To get St. Gertrude’s students energized for the pope’s U.S. visit, Flat Francis appears in a new location around the elementary school each day so students can search for him.

Created by the Catholic Extension, a national fundraising organization which supports the American Catholic Church, the printable, cartoon-like cutout of Pope Francis was meant to encourage people to express their excitement about the pope’s visit to the United States, according to the organization’s website.

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"Flat Francis" has been visiting the students of St. Gertrude School in Madeira.

Flat Francis is a takeoff from the Flat Stanley children’s books by Jeff Brown and school projects that send Flat Stanley cutouts for adventures around the world. Images of Flat Francis at locations across the country have popped up on various social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, marked #FlatFrancis.

Pope Francis will be attending the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, a Catholic event emphasizing the impact of the love and life of families on our society. This is the first time the event will be held in the United States.

The pope is scheduled to speak to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 24, in Washington, D.C., and the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Sept. 25. He will celebrate mass at the World Meeting of Families on Sept. 27.

“As a Catholic school we should be attentive to the head of the Catholic Church coming to our country. It’s very exciting,” said Sister Mary Aquinas Halbmaier, St. Gertrude principal, who will be traveling to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. “We are always trying to build a community and build family here. We wanted the kids to know that even the pope thinks that the family is important, and that is why he’s coming to our country.”

In addition to searching for Flat Francis, St. Gertrude students attempt to answer a daily pope-related trivia question. School families are invited to bring donated canned goods and attend a Pope-A-Palooza party to gather together and watch the pope speak online and participate in a fall cleanup on the grounds, as well as enjoy refreshments and a movie.

Flat Francis isn’t the only flat fellow making the rounds on social media in advance of the pope’s U.S. visit. Archbishop Moeller High School in Kenwood is using Flat Flaherty – a cutout of staff member Brother Robert Flaherty -- as a way to raise awareness and funds for Pope Francis’ mission to end world hunger.

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"Flat Faherty", a paper cutout of Moeller High School's Brother Robert Faherty, travels around the all-boys school in Kenwood to raise world hunger awareness.

People who download Flat Flaherty are encouraged to make a financial donation and then take photos of themselves with Flat Flaherty in various locations and submit them on social media (or email them to the school) with #FlatFlaherty, said Teresa Meyer, Moeller director of communications.

Moeller’s six school “houses” of students will compete with each other to donate the most canned goods to their annual food drive this fall. The house with the most donated food, will take the money raised through the Flat Flaherty campaign to shop for additional food items to add to the donations for St. Vincent de Paul.

Pope Francis challenged Catholics to help end world hunger by 2025. In response, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati launched the Food for All: Be Multiplied campaign and asked local parishes and schools to participate with canned food drives and other activities as a welcome to the pope and to participate in his mission to feed the hungry.

Many schools have heeded this call with food drives. St. James School in White Oak has tasked its Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and American Heritage Girls troops with leading a food drive with the goal of filling their Boy Scout bus with food for the hungry, said Rick Porotsky Jr., the group’s cub master.

In addition to a food drive, students at Our Lady of the Visitation School will participate in an all-school prayer service focused on feeding the hungry.

“It’s an awareness event so they can spend time thinking about the kids in the world that are starving and what are some practical ways as a 10-year old that they can make a difference,” said Jeanne Hunt, director of religious education at Our Lady of the Visitation.

Purcell Marian High School is also getting in on the social media fun with their #FollowTheCavalier campaign which showcases a cutout of the school mascot as a way to drum up excitement among students, alumni and the community for the school’s fall food drive, said Tammy Reasoner, director of marketing and communications.

St. Ann School in Hamilton set a goal of donating 500 food items to a local food bank. Students will write a prayer to the pope for each food item collected.

St. Ursula Academy in East Walnut Hills has set a goal of collecting 40,000 food items to donate.

Corryville Catholic School has asked all children to write their prayers on a link that have been connected into a prayer chain displayed in the school cafeteria.

Students throughout the area’s Catholic schools will also watch and listen to the coverage of the pope’s historic visit.