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Kids learn about saints during 5-mile Janesville parish trek

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Catherine W. Idzerda
November 8, 2010
— The Blessed Junipero Serra walked thousands of miles, created 21 missions in California and might, someday, be canonized a saint.

On Saturday, about 15 Scouts walked five miles between Janesville's four Roman Catholic Churches, learned about saints and might, someday, get badges or patches for their efforts.


The event was "The American Saints Hike," and it was sponsored by the Diocese of Madison Catholic Committee on Scouting.


"As part of growing up, kids need adults that they can learn from," said the Rev. Stephen Umhoefer of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Janesville. "That's in addition to their parents, who are their primary role models."


Saints are ordinary people who lived extraordinary lives in service to God and others. In the Catholic faith, believers don't pray to saints, but rather ask saints to "intercede for them." Umhoefer compares it to asking someone to "put in a good word for you."


It's an important distinction. Protestants since the time of Martin Luther have criticized Catholics for "praying to statues," a practice that sounds dangerously close to idol worship.


The saints are examples, and their statues serve as reminders and inspiration to believers.


However, the Boy and Girl Scouts on Saturday's hike weren't particularly interested in theological distinctions.


They knew there were snacks at St. Patrick's and pizza at St. Williams—a more earthly distinction, but an important one.


Many of them already knew about the saints and had favorites.


Peter Breiten, 6, who attends Our Lady of Assumption School in Beloit, likes St. Matthew.


"My friend's name is Matthew," Breiten said.


Jarret Taber, 8, a third-grader, likes St. Juan Diego—that's his classroom saint at Our Lady of Assumption. Taber laboriously recounted the story of the saint, a 15th century native of Mexico who converted to Catholicism after the arrival of the Spaniards.


According to the story, Mary, the mother of Jesus, asked Juan Diego to build a shrine to her on a hilltop.


"He went and told the priest about it, and the priest asked for a sign," Taber said.


"And then he went back to the hill, and there were flowers on the hill."


At this point, he was interrupted by Joseph Breiten, 9, who reminded his friend of an important detail.


"It was wintertime," Breiten said. "They don't have flowers in winter, even there."


Undeterred, Taber went on with the story, explaining how the shrine was built and dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe.


Brayan Nolan, 9, of Madison likes St. Maria Goretti because that's where he goes to school and because she is the "patron saint of children."


BIOGRAPHIES

Some of the people kids learned about in Saturday's "Saint Hike" include:


St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, 1850-1917, Italian-American who founded schools, hospitals and orphanages. St. Frances is the patron saint of immigrants.


St. Damien of Molokai, 1840-1889, spent most of


his life helping lepers who were quarantined on the island of Molokai near, which was then the "Kingdom of Hawaii." He is the patron saint of leprosy, AIDS patients and outcasts.


The Blessed Miguel Pro, 1891-1927, Jesuit priest who carried out a secret ministry to the faithful in Mexico during the presidency of the vehemently anti-Catholic Plutarco Elias Calles.


"Blessed" is a designation given to individuals who have not been canonized yet.


Blessed Junipero Serra, 1713-1784, helped establish 21 missions in California and tried to protect the Native Americans from the Spanish military.



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