Paula Montal was the oldest of five children who lived with their mom and dad by the sea in Spain. When she was 10 years old, her dad died. She had to go to work to help support her family. She did not become bitter, however. When she grew up, she decided to make it possible for other girls to go to school and get the education she never had.
Paula was especially concerned with the many girls living in poverty who had few opportunities to go to school. So when she was 30 years old, she and her friend opened a school for girls in a nearby town. They went on to open several more schools. Because of their work, many girls were able to go to school for the first time.
Trusted in God
Paula trusted in God and brought hope to the lives of others through her actions. We too must follow what God calls us to do in our lives. Through prayer we can get through difficult times. We can let our difficult experiences make us people of compassion for others. We can turn our misfortunes into opportunities for others.
Founded a religious order
In 1847 Paula helped start an order of sisters (Pious School Sisters) to teach in these schools. She served God with all her heart and encouraged her followers to do the same. Today there are schools staffed by the sisters in her order in 112 countries around
the world. This all began with one person. Paula Montal was canonized a saint in 2001.
What we can do
■ Talk about her life. Why did Paula have to go to work? When she grew up, why did she open schools? How can enduring disappointments teach us compassion? Why did she start an order of religious sisters? Why is it important to be people of hope in God? How can we help children at school?
■ Create a hope sign. Give children copies of this verse: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace” (Romans 15:13). Then have them attach their copy of the verse to individual foam frames. Children can decorate their frames with foam stickers of stars, hearts, and triangles. Talk with them about having hope in God, who is always with us.
■ Collect books for schools. Reach out to a school in your community that serves many low-income families. Collect gently used books for the school’s library or after-school program so children will learn to love reading. In this way your students can reach out to other students.
God of love, help us to think of others the way St. Paula Montal did. Fill our hearts with your love. When we see a need, may we do something about it. Open our hearts to reach out with love and kindness to other people. Guide us to trust always in you and bring
hope to the lives of others. Amen.
Patricia Mathson, MRE, has years of experience as a director of religious education. She has authored many books, including her latest: 33 Mass Lessons and Activities for Children from Twenty-Third Publications.
This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, February 2019.
PHOTO: Sidney de Almeida, Shutterstock