The story of St Patrick is being brought to life for hundreds of schoolchildren in a super slithery way in St Patrick’s Church of Ireland, Coleraine.
Since last week, pupils from local schools have been visiting the historic church – which marks its 400th anniversary next year – to learn more about St Patrick’s story and the type of person our patron saint was.
Helping children and families’ worker Alice McAlary delve into history is a rather lengthy 20–year–old Milk Snake from South America who is taking his part in portraying history in his stride – or should that be in his slide!
Alice normally speaks about St Patrick in school assemblies at this time of year, but a grant from Coleraine Borough Council allowed the parish to produce booklets on the life of St Patrick for children and to open up the church as a fun centre for learning. The mosaics and stained glass help bring the saint’s story to life.
Alice said: “We thought it would be great to encourage children to come into the church. We give them all a book on St Patrick and how God guided his life. It is easy to think of saints as people on stained glass windows but in fact they were people who were needed by God and who reached out to their community.
“Patrick reached people not just with words, but he made them step out of their comfort zone.”
In dispelling some of the myths about St Patrick, particularly in relation to shamrocks and snakes (cue our scaly friend!) Alice aims to pass on some valuable advice to the children. “We ask them to describe a snake and they come up with words like ‘scary,’ ‘poisonous’ and ‘slimy.’ When they get to meet him they find snakes are not like that at all,” said Alice.
“As people we all have stickers attached to us, some are bad, some are good, but they don’t belong to us. God wants us to rise above the stickers and, like a saint in a stained glass window, he wants the sun to shine through us.”
Alice is assisted in this school project by youth worker Ryan Galway and parishioner and teacher John Kildea, while the snake is on a break from the local pet shop.
The project got underway on Thursday March 6 and will finish on St Patrick’s Day, March 17.