IHM Students Enjoy Learning at ShrineTrish Shea
Hands-on Learning about Mary at Basilica Shrine
Catholic schoolteachers devote their lives to teaching lessons that introduce students to Mary and Jesus. Hands-on learning about Mary in school can help children develop a foundation for their faith and devotion.
Experienced religious educators like Mary Ann Kostic-King at IHM School in Philadelphia know that textbook lessons and classroom lectures are only part of a successful formula. Hands-on experiences are another vital component of spiritual formation. Students are more receptive to learning when something appeals to their senses.
A School Tradition
For many years, Kostic-King of Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Philadelphia, has fulfilled this fundamental need by bringing her students to The Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal for its Beyond SundayTM sacramental retreats.
“We can give them book learning and teaching, but I think when they actually see things, it makes it real and they understand (the lessons) better,” believes Kostic-King.
The Basilica Shrine is where IHM classes come to see, hear, smell, and touch the Lord and Our Blessed Mother in all their divine glory.
Beyond Sunday Programs
Through its Beyond SundayTM program, The Basilica Shrine offers an array of personalized sacramental and inspirational retreats serving student groups of all ages.
The spring retreats have become an annual tradition at IHM. In April 2023, Kostic-King’s second graders visited The Basilica Shrine as part of their preparations for First Holy Communion. Additionally, IHM’s seventh graders came to The Basilica Shrine to help prepare for Confirmation.
“It’s extracurricular and we pick out a theme,” she explains. “We work with (The Basilica Shrine) to pick what we would like to focus on. Obviously for First Communion, we’re focusing on the Eucharist. And for Confirmation, we do different themes in different years incorporating the Holy Spirit.
“We work together to pick out a whole-day program. All the activities we do and all the prayers we choose are focused on that theme we put together for the children.”
Mary’s Vibrancy at The Basilica Shrine
Forty-five youngsters, ages 7 and 8, took part in an IHM retreat. They were absorbed in the program from the start. The morning began with a prayer and a greeting from Deacon James Mahoney, The Basilica Shrine’s associate director.
The group then toured the cultural shrines on the lower level of The Basilica Shrine. In doing so, they witnessed the vibrancy of the Blessed Mother in her many varied presentations—Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of FIAT, Our Lady of Vailankanni, and Our Lady of La Leche.
In the main church, they visited Mary’s Central Shrine, America’s oldest shrine devoted to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal and a manifestation of the Blessed Mother’s loving power since 1927.
According to Kostic-King, “[The students] were in absolute awe. They could not believe how beautiful she was. They were so fascinated to see that Our Lady holds so many other titles. They were seeing this before their eyes, the different altars with Our Lady in so many different forms.”
I think they’re actually seeing their religion. In the mind of a seven-year-old, you can teach and teach, but it’s hard for them to understand if they don’t see and feel it. This makes them realize their religion and what devotion to the Blessed Mother is all about.
Fun Projects that Teach
A craft project focused on the Miraculous Medal was another meaningful highlight of the day. Led by Beyond SundayTM director Lynda D’Angelo, the children created decorative pillows commemorating their First Holy Communion. Inside each pillow, the students placed a blessed Miraculous Medal amid the plush stuffing.
“I think they will know that the Medal will always be there, and when they say their prayers at night and they put their head on the pillow, the Blessed Mother is with them,” Kostic-King says.
Invested in the Miraculous Medal Family
After the group celebrated Holy Mass at The Basilica Shrine, Deacon James Mahoney, Associate Director of The Basilica Shrine, invested each child in the Miraculous Medal. The investiture represents a promise from Mary that if they continue to wear the Medal, they will receive her graces.
All in all, it was a transformative day at a formative time of their lives.
I noticed the Sunday after they went to [The Basilica Shrine], we had a lot more children in church for Mass.
“I noticed the Sunday after they went to [The Basilica Shrine], we had a lot more children in church for Mass,” Kostic-King happily notes. “I think they’re actually seeing their religion. In the mind of a seven-year-old, you can teach and teach, but it’s hard for them to understand if they don’t see and feel it. This makes them realize their religion and what devotion to the Blessed Mother is all about.”