Student art depicting St. Francis of Assisi hangs on the wall during a St. Rose School exhibit of saints and heroes. (Courtesy St. Rose School)
Student art depicting St. Francis of Assisi hangs on the wall during a St. Rose School exhibit of saints and heroes. (Courtesy St. Rose School)
Graduation Mass for the eighth graders of St. Rose School in North Portland is set for Tuesday, June 14, 9 a.m. at St. Rose of Lima Church. Graduation ceremonies begin in the church that evening at 5:30 p.m.

The pandemic changed how schools do many things. Some activities were paused while others went away altogether. Beginning in February 2021, St. Rose School returned to in-person learning and eventually some select extracurricular activities. Large-scale gatherings, however, were still on hold. Students were together and learning, but fostering that bigger sense of community remained difficult. It was also a challenge to continue to provide the soon-to-be graduates with opportunities for leadership and togetherness.

This spring, St. Rose School gathered during two community events, giving eighth graders the opportunity to share their own spirituality, faith, and a strong call to action through two major art installations: Earth Day and a tribute to saints and heroes. The projects gave the students a chance “to look back on how we have grown from the beginning of the year,” said eighth-grader Kate Cowan.

The class led the entire school community in music and prayer at an annual Earth Day prayer service. A large-scale art piece dedicated to protecting the earth was unveiled amid the prayer. This beautiful mural created in eighth grade art classes was a reminder of the call to protect all of God’s creation daily. This installation became a central exhibit at the Art Walk and open house in early May.

During Art Walk, families had the opportunity to wander, see classrooms, and take in the festive atmosphere of art from floor to ceiling in hallways and cafeteria. Families gathered, smiled, laughed, and shared in community, together after so many months of being apart.

On the same night, another exhibit which drew in many focused on saints and heroes. Eighth graders chose a saint or hero to study and create a portrait using the art of copper tooling. The bright spirits of students shone forth in their final month as students of St. Rose School. “We’ve certainly learned how to be better people to ourselves and our community, as well as growing in our faith,” said eighth grader Samantha Gross.

The result was pure magic. Parents' and grandparents' hearts were bursting with joy seeing the art and community alive in the hallways. Hope for a brighter future filled the air and families left feeling a little closer to each other, and a strong sense of community in being together.