A new program that asks students to write or draw pictures of times when they felt God near to them is encouraging gratitude while exploring faith.
Our Lady of the Annunciation Catholic Primary School Pagewood piloted the SNAPSHOTS: Discovering God in our Day initiative over one term in 2017. Another 95 primary schools in the Archdiocese of Sydney will experience it over the next two terms.
SNAPSHOTS is one of several programs delivered by Family Educators, whose role is to support faith formation and build links between families, schools and their parishes. Families receive a kit that includes a prayer and 12 blank cards in the shape of Polaroid photos to fill with representations of moments they can see or feel God’s presence.
It was a really great opportunity to reconnect with your children and appreciate the simple things.
OLA’s Family Educator Angela Siemsen wrote the program with mentor and Family Educator Project Team Leader Meredith Lemos. Students could draw, write or glue actual photos onto their snapshots.
“It didn’t matter what level of faith our families had, anyone could be part of it so long as they were awake to the moment,” Mrs Siemsen said. “Each class had their own photo album and could display some of their snapshots in our prayer space. At Thursday prayer assemblies, some of the children would also read their snapshot to the rest of the school.”
A family day out at Clifton Gardens provided ample inspiration for Carol Audisho and daughters Tiana, in Year 6 and Maiya, in Year 3, to complete their snapshots.
“I found it was a really great opportunity to reconnect with your children and appreciate the simple things and that God is with us everywhere,” Mrs Audisho said.
“It was really nice to be given that okay to stop, breathe and look at the clouds. Tiana caught her first fish on that day and that was a very exciting moment where she really felt God in her life.”
Gillie Datar Adlawan’s daughter Samantha, in Year 2, took snaps of eating dinner with her family, watching a movie together, and playing with her three-year-old sister. The family go to Filipino and local Mass and have displayed their snapshots on a prayer space at home.
“Because it was an activity that was new, it helped to remind her of God in a different way and how He helps us spiritually,” Mrs Datar Adlawan said. “My husband is an amputee. Samantha always remembers God by thanking him that her Dad is alive. My 3 year-old daughter also gets to participate because she gets to click [the camera] and wants to explain why.”
Principal Deborah Buchanan said families are still clicking a year after SNAPSHOTS was trialled at OLA. “You don’t often get those opportunities to stop and think about God,” she said. “It says that people are yearning for that in the busyness of life and family and living in a secular world.”
Mrs Lemos said the SNAPSHOTS program would benefit close to 27,000 families in the Archdiocese of Sydney. “SNAPSHOTS is mindfulness at its best, and research on the benefits of mindfulness are clear,” she said. “Living in the moment allows us to enjoy and appreciate what we have, and be thankful to God for it.”