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Audacious Leadership

Have you heard about Mother Teresa Middle School? They are an audacious middle school located in the inner city of Regina, Saskatchewan. Serving a community of predominantly Indigenous families, MTMS forms graduates who are loving, religious, intellectually competent, open to growth and committed to doing justice. Read more about their mission here on their website!

Terri Cote, MTMS principal, recently shared with me how their school used Audacious Ignatius as part of their school’s Summer Leadership Retreat and Summer Leadership Academy. The retreat is for 7th and 8th grade students and takes place in Calgary, Alberta. The leadership academy takes place at the University of Regina and includes 6th, 7th and 8th grade students. 

From the cover of the MTMS Audacious Ignatius Journal

The students are given Audacious Ignatius Journals on the retreat that focused on being audacious: brave, courageous, and willing to take risks. They used their journals for prayer, and to record decisions they made to be audacious like Ignatius. They also have a connection to the Cree language, as “brave”, “bold” and “willing to take risks” are written in both English and Cree. (Terri notes that the words were vetted by Elder Harry Francis so as to be certain that they convey the correct meaning in Cree.)

A page from the Audacious Ignatius Journal

As a physical reminder of this challenge to be audacious, Terri made each student an “Audacious Ignatius necklace” that incorporated symbols of their school, and how their school loves and supports each of them. Terri explains, “The symbolism included in the necklace was intentional in the following ways.  Of course, “A” for audacious. The rings that are red because of the symbolic meaning of the color; confidence, courage and strength to name a few.  The three blue beads on each side of the A symbolize the color of our MTMS logo and three at MTMS means “We Love You”. So in this case “We Love You” times 2.”

After reflecting in their journals about their courageous plans, they receive a red ring for their necklace to symbolize their desire to be audacious like St. Ignatius.

Eagle, a student at MTMS, shows off his Audacious Ignatius necklace


I was fortunate to meet Terri at the Jesuit Schools Network conference this summer when I presented about how the life story of St. Ignatius is used to teach the fundamentals of Ignatian spirituality. It was so inspiring to talk with Terri and see the energy and love she brings to her work. 

Katie, Terri, and Audacious Ignatius at the Jesuit School Network Conference

This inspired us to make a coupon code especially for Jesuit institutions in Canada. Shipping internationally is quite expensive, but we’ve made the coupon code “SJCanada” to try to offset some of the shipping costs.

Paul and I are Ignatian educators at heart, and we are delighted to know how Audacious Ignatius is being used in schools. Are you using Audacious Ignatius at your school? We’d love to hear about it. Best wishes to Terri and the MTMS community for a bodacious school year!

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Audacious Ignatius featured on Lisa Hendey and Friends Podcast

It was so fun to talk to Lisa Hendey about the process of creating Audacious Ignatius. My kids love Lisa’s Chime Travelers books, and I was so excited to be a guest on her show.

You can find Episode 61 of the Lisa Hendey and Friends podcast in your favorite podcast app, or here on Lisa’s blog.

Fun fact: my five year old son has a cameo on the podcast (at 24:30)… he had painted a picture of a star for me, and couldn’t wait to give it to me to hang up in my art studio!

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Audacious Art

Illustrating a spiritual concept is a fascinating puzzle to me. The Spiritual Exercises, imaginative prayer, talking to Jesus as one friend talks to another… what does it look like? When I was working on the pictures for Audacious Ignatius, I thought a lot about how to make images that would convey the spirit and flavor of Ignatian spirituality, images that could unfold over time, offering meaning to children and adults. 

I was reminded of this the other day when I visited the chapel at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago. It was when I taught at Cristo Rey that I first learned about St. Ignatius’s life, and there’s a picture of the Cristo Rey chapel in the book! 

The Chapel of the Sacred Heart at Cristo Rey: in Audacious Ignatius and in real life!

Cristo Rey’s Chapel of the Sacred Heart was renovated in 2010 with beautiful art that celebrates Cristo Rey’s Jesuit and Latino spirituality. One of my favorite parts is the retablo, the paintings around the altar. The paintings show four stories from the Gospels, and the artist, Roberto Valadez, painted Cristo Rey students into the scene of each story.

The retablo

I love this visual representation of contemplative prayer, and how tailored it is to high school students. 

It’s also a great illustration of the progression of the four weeks of the Spiritual Exercises.

  • The Parable of the Prodigal Son: representing God’s boundless love, and the first week of the Exercises.
  • The Nativity: representing our call to be disciples, and the second week of the Exercises.
  • The Passion: representing Christ’s suffering, and the third week of the Exercises. 
  • The Road to Emmaus: representing our walk with the risen Christ, and the fourth week of the Exercises.

I was reminded of the scene in Audacious Ignatius when Ignatius prays:

First, know well that I’m loved even though oh so flawed.

Next, spend time with the Lord and walk where he trod.

Offer all I possess, beg for my stony heart thawed, 

And act from a deep love, the Love that is God.

Ignatius prays about writing the Spiritual Exercises

As Ignatius prays, he imagines himself being baptized in the River Jordan, and walking with Jesus. I loved creating these images and how it allowed me to engage the concept slowly, savoring it and examining it in a new way. I love sharing these images with my kids knowing that their understanding of them will unfold over time.

If you ever have a chance to visit Cristo Rey and see the chapel, let me know what you think! It is a beautiful place to pray. 

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Audacious Ignatius featured on the Sorta Awesome Show

Audacious Ignatius was featured on the Sorta Awesome Show this week! In the latest episode, I spoke with host Meg Tietz all about the creative journey of illustrating Audacious Ignatius. Hope you enjoy it!

The episode and show notes are available here, and Sorta Awesome is available in every podcast app, and from Spotify, Pandora, and Stitcher.

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Educational Resources for Audacious Ignatius

Finished product: the examen handprint activity

As parents and teachers, Paul and I think a lot about how to best communicate the message of Audacious Ignatius with kids of all ages. We have created some educational resources to give you an opportunity for further discussion of the book. Great to use at home or in a classroom!

  1. The Examen handprint activity

The Examen handprint activity is a way to begin praying the examen with your child. I was recently asked to do an Audacious Ignatius event for a group of 2 and 3 year olds. I wanted to read them the book, and also do an activity that would allow them to create something related to St. Ignatius’s story. How could I introduce an element of Ignatian spirituality to children so young?

I thought of the examen, a traditional Jesuit prayer where we review our day with God. My young kids and I often “talk about our day” before they go to bed, recognizing the blessings of the day, and it is very much like an examen. I thought it would be a fun challenge to take the next step and make an activity to help children and parents (like us!) pray the examen together.

The result is a fun paint/cut/paste activity that becomes a tool you can use during prayer time to walk through the steps of the examen. This activity uses a handprint as a guide to the five steps of the examen (and handprint crafts are my favorite! So cute!)

My friend Molly made it with her 2 and 4 year old sons, and now they ask to do the “plate prayer” every night! Her 4 year old particularly likes the numbered steps, and enjoys counting which step they’re on.

2. St. Ignatius Search Game

Cut these colorful cards apart and use them to play any of the following games, or make up your own!

Sequence game: Put the cards in order of how the events happened in the book. Talk about what is happening in each picture.

Search game: For younger children, you hide one copy of each card around the room, and keep the other copies in your hand. Your child can do a treasure hunt for the cards, matching them to the cards in your hand.

Matching game: Put the cards face down on the table and take turns finding cards that match.

Cards for the St. Ignatius Search Game

3. Audacious Ignatius Vocabulary Activity

It’s no secret that Audacious Ignatius will build your vocabulary! If you want to spend some time learning some new words that rhyme with Ignatius, this activity will help you make a vocabulary booklet. Kids can read the words and definitions, and draw a picture of what the word means. This has been our most requested resource from teachers!

In The Religious Potential of the Child, Sophia Cavaletti says that our job isn’t so much to teach children to pray, as it is to create the environment where prayer can arise in them. I hope that these activities can help you create an environment conducive to prayer for your family or classroom, and to having conversations about God that are enriching for you and the children in your life!