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Using the Theme Throughout the Year 2015

Symbols: Sheep, Shepherd, Shepherd’s Staff, The Good Shepherd

Icon: Saint Raphael

Theme Song: Troparion of St. Raphael

Reference Book:

Our Father Among the Saints, Raphael, Bishop of Brooklyn
Copyright 2000 by The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

Website on the Life of St. Raphael:

Throughout the Church School Year: Use the logo and/or symbols on name tags, room signs, letterhead, bulletin announcements, bulletin boards, posters, crafts, gifts and incentives. Oriental Trading (www.orientaltrading.com) sells various craft kits and gifts relating to the theme of a shepherd and his sheep.  Available items include:

  • Shepherd Bulletin Board Cutouts
  • 4 in. Plush Lambs that say “Lamb of God”
  • Ewe Dry Erase Magnets
  • Virtues for Ewe Sign Craft Kit
  • Virtues for Ewe Drawstring Backpacks
  • Talk to the Shepherd Lamb Craft Kit

Danielle’s Place of Crafts and Activities contains many ideas based on the theme of sheep/the good shepherd:

Additional ideas for sheep crafts can be found on Pinterest: (www.pinterest.com)

Incentives: Using a chart with each child's name on it, place a sticker for each thing you are trying to encourage (attendance, being on time, memorization, class participation, attending extra services, participation in a service project, etc.) When this chart is filled up, reward the child with a small theme-related gift, or use a points system to save up for bigger gifts or outings.

Lesson Plans: Downloadable lesson plans are provided by AODCE for age levels ranging from preschool to high school at www.antiochian.org/festivals/cf/lesson-plans-2015.

Saints of South Canaan Mini-Unit: The Orthodox Church in America has a mini-unit available for age levels ranging from Kindergarten to Grade 8. http://dce.oca.org/assets/files/mini-units/saints-of-south-canaan.pdf

Quoting from their website: “The Saints of South Canaan is a mini unit, based on activities designed for the 100th anniversary of St. Tikhon’s Monastery, the oldest Orthodox monastery in the United States. The lessons are designed for 1 to 2 sessions, with activities for 2 more sessions. The additional activities will also enrich and enhance the unit. This unit can also be utilized for Vacation Church School, or special church school activities. The purpose of this unit is to provide information to students about saints in America who lived in many parts of the United States, as well their association with St. Tikhon Monastery, located in northeastern Pennsylvania. The rich, 100 years of history of the monastery, as well as of the building-up of Orthodoxy in America, are highlighted in the lives of four of the saints who lived and walked there:

  • St. Tikhon of Moscow
  • St. Raphael of Brooklyn
  • St. Alexis of Wilkes-Barre
  • St. Nicholai (Nikolai) of Zicha

The goal is to equip Orthodox youth with the knowledge of saints in America, as well as the historical significance of the times in which they lived.”

Material and activities on St. Raphael can be found throughout this unit and can be printed separately, such as word puzzles. Other activities, while not specific to St. Raphael, can be adapted to teach the students about him, such as making a triorama, creating a character cluster, crafting a monk figurine, etc.

Saints Festival: This is especially good in the month of October as an alternative to Halloween, but it can be held at any time. You could also hold it on or near St. Raphael’s Feast Day, which is celebrated on the first Saturday in November in the Antiochian Archdiocese. Base the theme of the Festival on St. Raphael. Have someone portray St. Raphael in costume as he tells a brief version of his life story. Have the children dress in costume as a saint. Teach them that we are all called to be saints and we can be inspired to live a life of holiness like St. Raphael. Do some of the crafts and activities available from Oriental Trading in the "Throughout the Church School Year" section or from the “Saints of South Canaan Mini-Unit” mentioned above. Provide snacks, play games, award prizes. Make learning fun!

Snack: Create edible “sheep” using pretzel sticks, a regular sized marshmallow for the body, and a miniature marshmallow for the head. These can be used as a snack for the Saints Festival, or on the day that you’re teaching the lesson about the theme.

St. Raphael’s Feast Day:  Plan a “Theme Day” on or near St. Raphael’s feast day, which is the first Saturday in November. Introduce the theme. Teach the students St. Raphael’s Troparion. Have centers or stations for the different Festivals- one for art, photography, poetry, and creative writing. Have the students brainstorm ways they might depict the theme.

The Synaxis of the Archangels: St. Raphael was born on the feast of the Archangels, November 8, 1860. Celebrate the Archangel Raphael, St. Raphael’s namesake, on or near this feast day. Draw comparisons between the Archangel and St. Raphael as messengers sent by God to tend His flock.

Food Drive: Collect food for a local food bank during the Nativity Fast- perhaps foods that could be used for a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Have your students volunteer at a food bank or soup kitchen. Teach them to reach out to others in need, the way St. Raphael did. Another collection could be conducted during the Lenten Fast. If possible, keep the donations going throughout the year. Consult with your food bank to see what items are most needed. Provide your parishioners with a different list of foods or personal hygiene supplies each month to maintain interest.

Christmas Pageant: Put on a Christmas pageant that focuses on the shepherds receiving the message from the angels that Christ is born. Or instead of a traditional Christmas pageant, create a play based on the life of St. Raphael. Have some simple speaking parts, and in order to avoid the students having to memorize large portions of dialogue, have some students read aloud descriptive portions of his life while other students act out in pantomime the actions that are being described.

Be a Messenger: St. Raphael wrote to the Arab Christians he located in his travels and created The Word as a way to educate, inform, and keep people on the right path. The students could write notes, email, or text their classmates who are missing from Church School, saying “We missed you!” and tell them what the lesson was about that day. Or the teacher, being a “good shepherd” to his or her students, could take on this task instead. The teacher could also set up a file for each student and if the student is absent, put a copy of the day’s lesson or material, along with items for a craft or activity they may have missed and give it to the student or parent with instructions as to how to cover the material at home.

Invite a Friend to Church Day: Discuss with your students the importance of witnessing their faith to others, especially friends or classmates who do not go to church regularly, if at all. With your students’ input, choose a Sunday for them to invite a friend to Divine Liturgy and Church School. Provide an opportunity for fellowship by serving light refreshments. Teach an introductory lesson about the Orthodox faith and allow time for questions and answers. Encourage your students to continue to reach out to the “lost sheep” in their communities in order to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them, the way St. Raphael did.

Visit the Sick or Elderly:  If members of your parish are in the hospital, nursing home, or are shut-ins confined to their own homes, help keep them connected to their faith, following the example of St. Raphael. Have the students visit them, if possible, or if not, make cards that say, “Thinking of you” or write a letter updating them on the activities of your parish. You can also send cards on holidays and feast days to let them know they are not forgotten. Remember them in your prayers.

Pray for Others Around the World: The IOCC (International Orthodox Christian Charities) publishes a Prayer Journal for children. They give a brief description of the countries they serve and examples of how the IOCC helps those in need. Each page has a section which says, “I’m Praying For:” or “I Thank God For” and space for the child to make  a list. Journals can be ordered by going to their website: www.iocc.org/news/prayerjournal.aspx

Fundraise for Syrian Relief: Hold a fundraiser and donate the proceeds to IOCC, earmarked for Syrian relief. The IOCC is helping families inside Syria and the refugees that are now living in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Armenia. They are providing emergency aid, including critical food aid, personal hygiene supplies and medicines. They are also offering pre-natal and post-natal care for infants and infant nutrition programs. Go to www.iocc.org or call 1-877-803-IOCC for more details. You can also assemble personal hygiene kits for the displaced families.

Orthodox Christian Mission Center: Hold a fundraiser and donate the proceeds to the OCMC. Their goal is to make disciples of all nations by bringing people to Christ and His Church. Go to www.ocmc.org/index.aspx for more information.

Other Orthodox Charities: Other charitable organizations to consider funding include:

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