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St. Joseph students learn church history with ‘We Are’

For the seventh and eighth graders at St. Joseph High School, a performance Friday morning was the culmination of a 6-month-long research project.

The students combined acting, music and history for “We Are,” a performance that explored church history as well as the family history of many of the students.

“It helps them understand their faith,” Maria Whaley, religion teacher for the school, said.

The project started last summer, when students began researching their family genealogies and folk stories. Then came the research into church history, which eventually was developed into a script.

“I think they learn perseverance,” Whaley said. “I think obviously they learn the facts of church history and the lives of very holy people, but also they learn how to manage time, how to focus and how to be a team.”

This year was the third performance of “We Are,” which coincides with Catholic Schools Week. It was also the first time that student musicians provided much of the music for the performance.

“It was fun,” Shannon Litton, who played guitar, said. “That last song was hard.”

For seventh grader Amber Neal, the project was a great opportunity to learn more about her own family’s history.

“I liked how in the picnic scene at the end we talked about our family history,” Amber said, referring to the performance’s final scene. “I’ve learned more about the church history and my family history.”

Kaitlin Thompson was one of the performance’s narrators. For Kaitlin, who is not Catholic, the research project was especially educational.

“I just know a little bit more about the church than before,” she said.

Student Joseph Payton, an eighth grader, portrayed John Carroll, the first bishop of Baltimore.

“I learned that a lot of what we learned in religion class is writing from the saints,” he said.