Bishop O’Connell poses for a photo with a student who dressed as St. Francis of Assisi.
Bishop O’Connell poses for a photo with a student who dressed as St. Francis of Assisi.
St. Teresa of Kolkata, Blessed Carlo Acutis, St. Martin de Porres, St. Francis of Assisi . . . all “attended” the All Saints Day Mass in St. Rose Church, Belmar. Fresh from dressing as Winnie-the-Pooh or Luke Skywalker for Halloween, the religious education students donned costumes of a different type.

In a vivid demonstration of remembrance of the sacred, and sometimes ordinary, lives of the saints, the young students became saints themselves, if only for one evening.

PHOTO GALLERY: All Saints Day in Belmar

Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., celebrated the Mass for the Nov. 1 solemnity, focusing special attention on the more than 200 religious education students.  The Bishop noted that while students see pictures and statues of saints, and read about them, they should not view the saints as being distant from their own lives.  He encouraged the students to remember, “Not all were always saints. They became saints as they lived their lives.” 

He told the children that the path to holiness is found in the day’s Gospel reading on the Beatitudes. “It is possible to be a saint.  All you have to do is want it and then do it,” the Bishop said. Above all, he urged the youngsters to “stay close to Jesus.”

Msgr. Edward Arnister, St. Rose pastor and concelebrant of the Mass, thanked the Bishop for joining them, adding his hope “that the children will learn about the saints and see them as role models. Perhaps they will want to become a saint themselves.  It is possible!”

Mercy Sister Donna D’Alia, parish pastoral associate for catechesis, explained the students’ interest in Blessed Carlo Acutis, the 15-year-old who was beatified by Pope Francis in 2020 and about his passionate love of the Eucharist. 

Sister Donna recalled that when a relic of Blessed Carlo was received by the Diocese in April, students learned not only more about his profound spirituality, but also about his interests that were similar to their own: friends, soccer and video games. 

“Normally we look up to sports or historic figures,” Sister Donna said.  “But we want students to consider looking up to saints and become excited about them. Students grow in holiness when they learn about Blessed Carlo.” 

The students described their own connections to their favorite saint. Lauren Monahan said she chose to portray Blessed Chiara Luce Bodano because the saint saved a sick boy and “she liked tennis like me.”

Morgan Kolb and Isabella Allan both portrayed St. Rose.  Kolb said, “I really like this church and that she is our patron saint.  I like roses and flowers and St. Rose is really an inspiration.”

Allan found it “interesting that she changed her name from Isabel.”

Numerous students dressed as the young Blessed Carlo Acutis, including James Davis who selected him because, “He was around our age. This interested us and is inspiring.”

Cathy Gibson, grandmother of Kylie Hudson, believed that the Mass helped children to understand “what the Church is really all about.”