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NEW KENSINGTON – Mary, Queen of Apostles School students have become published authors and illustrators, and their work is going international.

MQA received a $6,700 Innovation Grant at the Catholic Schools Breakfast in October to support a program called Books that Bind: Connecting Cultures in Christ, which links MQA students with St. Clare Catholic School in Molo, Kenya.

Teachers Bernadette Grace, Kathy Hetu, Jayme Hadley and Lisa Matta, who teach third grade through kindergarten, respectively, coordinated publishing a book about the mysteries of the rosary, which will be distributed to St. Clare students.

The four teachers began working with their students in October. Each grade learned one mystery of the rosary — joyful, sorrowful, glorious and luminous. Teachers gathered their students’ thoughts about the five events in each mystery and compiled them into one-page reflections for each of the 20 mysteries. Student artwork illustrates the facing page of each reflection.

“We really got to dive deep into the mysteries for a more in-depth understanding,” Hetu said. “I was really surprised how deep (students’) thoughts were.”

Eighty copies of the 46-page, 8-by-10-inch softbound book, printed by Costello Printing in Tarentum, will be heading to Kenya in February in luggage carried by Marcy O’Neil. She is an assistant professor of anthropology at Michigan State University who founded Books that Bind through her nonprofit organization, Three Sisters, which funds educational outreach in West Africa.

O’Neil also is a board member of Friends of Kenyan Orphans, MQA’s initial partner when it was seeking an international outreach project. Grace said O’Neil will be translating the books into Swahili, the language spoken in Kenya, so students there can share them with their families.

St. Clare students will be reciprocating in some way.

“I’m (eager) to see what our friends in Kenya have for us,” Matta said. “We’re hoping to keep this project going in the future.”

The grant funded publishing and transporting the books to Kenya and also will pay for the Kenya school’s book to be sent to MQA and published.

Grace said the point is not just to teach the children the mysteries of the rosary, but to give them a shared experience of faith.

“The real lesson is that Jesus is universal,” Grace said. “Students learn that their religion is not just happening here in New Kensington. The church is global.”

— Maria Guzzo