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All Saints' Day feature from our Oct. 21 issue
BY LAURIE GHIGLIOTTI
For All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1, parents and teachers who have been searching for resources to introduce children to the lives of the saints have only to search the Internet for new crafts and ideas to celebrate this special holy day, a solemnity in the Church.
Among the ideas they’ll find is a unique presentation of the saints: Happy Saints.
Victor Teh, the creator of Happy Saints, took note of the media competing for children’s hearts and developed a new way of seeing the saints that would appeal to children of all ages.
Trained as an architect but specializing in marketing communications, Teh now works full time producing resources for Christian evangelization.
"I read a lot about saints and wanted to introduce them to children in an appealing way," Teh said. "I observed that many pictures of Catholic saints looked rather dated, and we could do with more contemporary styles."
Inspired by the simplicity of Japanese manga cartoons, he set out to create a series of "Happy Saints."
He has found that many adults and young adults are also interested in his line, which includes about 80 saints, including several depictions of Jesus and Mary and Gospel scenes.
Fans constantly suggest additions to the lineup of saints, and Teh has a long list of saints in the pipeline. "Just to name a few: St. John Baptist de LaSalle, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Dominic Savio and, of course, the apostles."
Although Teh does not own a physical store, Teh’s products are available through a print-on-demand portal, and the company produces the various merchandise: mugs, t-shirts, buttons, hats, bags, stationery, cards and other items.
Teh also sells a PDF eBook of printable artwork. He has also illustrated and published three picture books based on the Eucharistic miracles of Lanciano and Assisi, Italy, and Seefeld, Austria.
Teh’s work is finding its way into Catholic homes around the world.
Cid Afonso Fortuna of Brazil was drawn to Happy Saints for their originality and the loyal physical depiction of the saints. "When children see the drawings, they’ll instantly see the physical characteristics of the saints as well as recognize that those saints lived sainthood with joy and happiness, even in the hard times," Fortuna said.
Fortuna has made extensive use of Teh’s eBook to print out cards, posters and notes: "It’s simply delightful for children. Children love something that can inspire their imaginations for more and something that is truly honest."
Happy Saints are easily adaptable for use at home and in the classroom. Parents and religious-education directors use them for crafts and gifts.
Angela Berczek of Virginia has two children and is the coordinator for two home-schooling clubs.
Berczek makes extensive use of the eBook. "The Happy Saints eBook is unlike any other book about saints that I have ever seen," she said. "Most books on saints are reference books, where only a few of the entries are read at one time. The Happy Saints eBook is so colorful, with each illustration cuter than the last. It entices you to read every entry."
Berczek will use Happy Saints for a home-school group activity. "Our junior book club meets once each month, and each month I make the kids a bookmark," Berczek said. "Our November meeting will be on Nov. 2, All Souls’ Day, and the day before is All Saints’ Day, so I will be making a double-sided bookmark for the kids. One side will have the Happy Saints’ All Saints’ Day sticker and a prayer, and the second side will have the Happy Saints’ All Souls’ Day sticker and a prayer."
Monica McConkey of Stouffville, Ontario, blogs about Catholic crafts and family tradition and uses Happy Saints in her craft projects. "The circle format happens to be a perfect size for recycled frozen-juice lids, and I plan to make my own little saints’ trivia game with them using a format I designed," McConkey said. "I love the way Teh has portrayed our mentors in the faith and how appealing these little faces are."
Jason Halstead, principal of Holy Trinity School in Ocala, Fla., includes Happy Saints in his school’s resources. "The artwork and presentation of the saints found in Happy Saints is very engaging and attractive to our students," Halstead said. "The biographies and prayers are written in very child-friendly language."
"This year, each of our classrooms selected a patron saint," Halstead said. "We used the posters found in the Happy Saints eBook and the information on HappySaints.com as the source for each classroom’s signs."
Eileen Wickham of Leander, Texas, has six children ranging in age from 2 to 15 and uses Happy Saints at home and with her job as a religion-education director. Her classes, as in Halstead’s school, are using patron saints for each class. "To celebrate this, I am going to be using items from Happy Saints to get the kids excited about their saint," Wickham said. "I am more than confident this will be a big hit, and I’m eager to see their faces as they learn to love these saints through the Happy Saints products."
At home, Happy Saints are popular with her own children, too. "They all love the Happy Saints," Wickham said. "I think it is because the saints are friendly and very kid-oriented. Their faces are so inviting, and the sayings are easy for little ones to read and remember."
"I like them because it is a great way to introduce a new saint in a fun way," Wickham added. "I mean: What better conversation starter than to make a cup of hot chocolate in a St. Clare mug? The kids ask who she is, and it opens up a great way to talk about God’s love. Really, I love opening my cabinet in the morning and seeing someone like St. Bernadette or St. Michael smiling at me."
Wickham has used Happy Saints’ products to celebrate St. Nicholas’ Day, Christmas, Easter, birthdays and recognize her children’s baptismal anniversaries. "For their baptismal anniversary, I was able to find a saint that the church they were baptized in was named for," Wickham said. "Now, I am looking forward to purchasing saint items for my oldest two, who will be confirmed this year."
Blogger Lacy Rabideau of CatholicIcing.com discovered Happy Saints while she was searching the Internet for "fun Catholic stuff for kids."
"The adorable pictures were so striking — I never forgot them," she said. "I absolutely love Happy Saints because they’re fun, colorful, and kids absolutely love them. I’m always looking forward to Victor’s next adorable saint to smile at me through my computer. It’s a beautiful ministry to Catholic children."
Laurie Ghigliotti writes
from Atchison, Kansas.