School in Cicero partners with Mexican art museum on mural

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, September 15, 2021

School in Cicero partners with Mexican art museum on mural

Our Lady of Charity School in Cicero blessed a new mural of six youthful holy people on Sept. 8, 2021. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Artist M. Zayuri Pacheco from the National Museum of Mexican Art puts finishing touches on the mural. (Photo provided)
The mural was painted in a stairwell. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

When students at Our Lady of Charity School in Cicero go up or down the stairs, they are met with the images of six youthful holy people: Blessed Carlo Acutis, St. Maria Goretti, St. José Sánchez del Río, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Kateri Tekakwitha and the Venerable Father Augustus Tolton.

The saints — or people on the path to sainthood — depicted were chosen as role models for the students and painted as part of a mural done in cooperation with the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen.

The mural was blessed by Auxiliary Bishop Mark Bartosic on Sept. 8.

“Our school mission is to create saints and scholars. That’s been our mission for several years,” said Our Lady of Charity Principal Frank Zárate Jr.

This year, as part of Our Lady of Charity’s school improvement plan for Catholic identity, students will be learning about saints, starting with those on the wall.

They were selected by Our Lady of Charity pastor Father Sergio Mena, religion teachers at the school and Zárate.

“We selected young saints because we thought the students could identify more easily with them,” Zárate said. “And we wanted cultural diversity as well.”

Those who died as adults, like Tolton, are depicted when they were young.

Student artists Sofia Meza, an eighth grader, and Emily Miranda, a sixth grader, said they are looking forward to learning more about the saints they helped to paint.

“They’re supposed to be role models for us,” Sofia said.

The young artists were volunteers who were already participating in a summer program at Our Lady of Charity, the girls said, and they had fun doing it because it gave them time to be with their friends.

“It was easier than I thought,” Emily said. “They had everything ready for us.”

Zárate said the school used COVID-19 relief funding to help pay for the mural, which he wanted to lift the moods both of the students who helped paint it and those who pass by it each day.

“The Mexican American community, the Latin American community was heavily affected by COVID,” Zárate said, noting that most of his students are Latino. “Some had family members who were sick, some had family members who passed away. Art can be therapeutic for children.”

He approached the National Museum of Mexican Art, which had worked on projects with the school before.

Officials at the museum suggested drawing on the Mexican tradition of murals, and connected the school with artists M. Zayuri and Jan Pacheco, who are sisters.

The Pachecos designed the mural and worked with six students to complete it over four weeks in July and August.

M. Zayuri Pacheco said being part of a bigger art project can be good for children who might not have as much opportunity as they would like to learn or practice art.

“If you don’t have many art resources, and it’s something you’re into, something like this is a highlight,” she said. “It makes you feel good to be able to share your work, knowing you contributed to something, especially when you’re young. I feel like it is important for kids to get involved, especially when it comes to the community. They can actually contribute something.”

That’s something Sofia and Emily enjoy: knowing that for years to come, students who pass through the halls will see their names on the mural.

Pacheco said the mural — both the saints depicted and the student artists — demonstrates that young people’s contributions should be valued.

“It’s not all about the grown-ups,” she said. “We want them seeing people closer to their age. They should feel seen.”


  • catholic schools
  • saints

Related Articles