Catholic Sentinel photos by Ed Langlois
Ryan Hass, an O'Hara School kindergartner, smells a flower held by Madeline Brainerd who is portraying St. Clare.
Catholic Sentinel photos by Ed Langlois
Ryan Hass, an O'Hara School kindergartner, smells a flower held by Madeline Brainerd who is portraying St. Clare.
EUGENE — Early this month, more than 50 middle schoolers from O'Hara School became saints for a day.  

Each spring for 13 years, each sixth grader at O'Hara has picked a saint to study.
After writing essays and studying maps, students dress up and take posts in the school gymnasium, portraying their saints for almost 1,000 visitors.

St. John of the Cross, as played by 12-year-old Sam Landry, told listeners how he was imprisoned for pushing for reform of his Spanish Carmelite order in the 16th century. Landry, sitting in a cardboard version of a prison cell, explained how the saint wrote some of the world's most famous poetry while under lock and key and then escaped with a rope of bedsheets.   

Near the gym's half court line, Hans Elliott donned a baldhead wig and massive beard to take the part of St. Jerome, great translator of Scripture and a leader of the 4th century church. Elliott, as Jerome, said he was born in Croatia and was a social lad, but moved to Bethlehem to begin a monastery and live a quiet life in the vicinity of the Incarnation.   

St. Jerome, Hans wrote in his report, "has shown me that being myself is often the true way to show others I am a follower of God."

Around the corner, Madeline Brainerd in brown habit portrayed the Italian St. Clare, who embraced poverty and once held up the Eucharist to fend off would-be convent pillagers. Not far away, Will Baldwin cradles a lapfull of roses, taking the part of St. Juan Diego, who encountered Mary in the 16th century near Mexico City and received miracle roses as a way to persuade a local bishop.  

The Living Saints Project, which has won national recognition, was started by teacher Maryanne Obersinner. She was named a Distinguished Teacher of the Year for 2009 by the National Catholic Educational Association.

Tammy Conway, principal of O'Hara, says the project is an ideal fit for Catholic education because it integrates faith into academic ventures like writing, art, history and public speaking.