A routine summer maintenance project at St. Mary School in
Alexandria turned into an opportunity to teach students about the church’s
liturgical seasons and colors.
Father Edward C. Hathaway, pastor of St. Mary Church, asked
parishioner and interior designer Mary Petrino to help choose a color for the
school’s stairwells. They could have kept with tradition and gone with tan, but
Petrino had another idea. She suggested that the school paint the six
stairwells liturgical colors. The idea was greeted with enthusiasm by Father
Hathaway and Principal Janet Cantwell, who welcomed the opportunity to add
another faith-centered visual to the school.
“It is nice to know that it all has something to do with God and what we are learning about here.”
They chose the colors and names for the stairs: green for
ordinary time; purple for the penitential periods of Lent and Advent; rose for
Laetare Sunday, which means rejoice, for the fourth Sunday of Lent; red for the
martyrs and Jesus’ passion; blue for Marian feasts; and yellow for the
The holy hues were a big change for students and faculty when
school resumed in August.
“At first I was confused as to why they were painted all
different colors, and then I learned that they were for the liturgical seasons
and I liked them,” said third-grader Nicklaus Wallmeyer, who prefers the yellow
“It is actually supposed to be gold, which represents glory,”
added fourth-grader Faith Young. “Seeing them can be a reminder to think about
(the liturgical seasons) so you can realize that they are special times of the
year not just regular days of the week.”
The school added art to some of the stairwells to complement the
theme of the season. A picture of the Holy Family fleeing into Egypt hangs by
the penitential stairs, and a statue of Mary stands near the blues stairs
leading to the school gym.
Students from all grades have come to appreciate the colors and
their special meanings. It is one of many ways St. Mary’s has integrated faith
lessons into the school — literally.
“It is nice that they are all different colors and they are all
pretty,” said fifth-grader Carly Burstern. “But it is nice to know that it all
has something to do with God and what we are learning about here.”