St. Patrick School tradition pits saints head to head on a March Madness-style bracket, encouraging classrooms to learn, vote
WHITE LAKE — Students at St. Patrick Catholic School in White Lake are engaging in friendly competition throughout Catholic Schools Week with the school's third annual “Tournament of the Saints,” a March Madness-style bracket of holy men and women, going halo to halo — and may the best saint win.
Since 2021, each of St. Patrick’s homerooms, from preschool through eighth grade, have picked a saint to compete in the weeklong tournament. The entire school votes, and only one saint can win.
Don't miss another story
Did you know you can get Detroit Catholic's latest daily or weekly articles delivered to your inbox? It's easy and free to sign up.
The tradition was started by former principal Jeremy Clark, who has been at the school for 11 years and currently teaches middle school English language arts. The previous years' winners include St. John Paul II in 2021, St. Nicholas in 2022, and St. Joseph in 2023.
The 2024 bracket includes St. Catherine of Bologna, St. John Baptist de La Salle, St. Joseph of Cupertino, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Gabriel the Archangel, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Anthony, St. Gertrude, St. John Bosco, St. Sebastian, St. Francis of Paolo, St. Anne, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Cecilia, St. Zita, St. Juan Diego, St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Padre Pio, St. Rita, and St. Peter Claver.
“Every classroom choses their own saint to represent them as well as a virtue exemplified by that saint,” Clark explained to Detroit Catholic.
After choosing their saint, each class has to come up with five facts about the saint. Students then create an image of the saint, which they proudly display outside of their classrooms. Throughout the week, the competitors are announced each day over the school’s intercom, and one of the facts is read out loud. Classrooms then privately vote for who they think should advance, said Charlie Hoying, St. Patrick's principal.
“They try to find facts that will persuade their peers to vote for them,” Hoying said. “Obviously, there are some more well-known saints, but even with the lesser-known saints they sometimes win because they have the most interesting facts.”
By Friday afternoon, the school declares a winner. Hoying said once a saint wins, they are retired and can’t be entered in the tournament again.
Hoying and Clark view the tournament as a positive way to keep the focus of Catholic Schools Week on the uniqueness and blessing of Catholic education, while still having fun.
“We are always trying to find new ways to share the faith, and sometimes a lot of the fun can overtake the whole purpose of the week, that we are able to celebrate Christ and the saints (at school),” Clark said.
The veneration of the saints is uniquely Catholic, Clark added, and through this friendly tournament, students not only learn more about this aspect of their faith, but also might walk away with a new patron saint and someone they can look to for help and prayers.
“Everyone is ultimately a winner by learning the saint facts throughout the week, and we get to celebrate that saint,” Hoying said. “Being able to celebrate the saints inspires us and inspires everyone to live in the way God intended by Jesus’ ultimate example.”
As of Wednesday, eight saints remained in the running for this year's title: St. John Baptist de la Salle, St. Gabriel the Archangel, St. Anthony, St. Sebastian, St. Francis of Paolo, St. Zita, St. Teresa of Calcutta and St. Peter Claver.
To learn more about the winner of St. Patrick School's 2024 "Tournament of the Saints," visit St. Patrick's Facebook page on Friday, Feb. 2, when the winner will be announced.