UPDATED 01/26/2014

From: The Kentucky Standard

Sister Grace Saia smiles as she signs a copy of her book, “Catherine Spalding: Woman of Kentucky” for Director of SCN Associates Jo Ann Paulin at the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.

A children’s book detailing the life of Mother Catherine Spalding has been published by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.

The congregation recently published the book, which details several of its founder’s accomplishments, to coincide with the bicentennial celebration of its first schools. This is the first children’s book released by the Sisters.

Written by Sister Grace Saia, “Catherine Spalding: Woman of Kentucky” was unveiled during a book signing and presentation at Nazareth Saturday and to a group of 100 students at St. Joseph Sunday morning.

Saia said she wanted to write the book to teach children about Mother Catherine, whom she considers a great role model for children.

“I want children to know that at one time, a long time ago, there was a lady who very much loved children and wanted to help them in a big way,” Saia said. “I just think other people need to know about her, especially in Kentucky.”

Sister Pat Hill, who teaches at St. Joseph Montessori Children’s Center at Nazareth, said Saia’s book would be a good addition to the classroom.

“The kids will love it,” Hill said after the book signing Saturday.

Several people who attended Saia’s presentation Saturday said her book impressed them.

“The presentation couldn’t have been better,” said Sister John Mueller. “I thought (Saia) went into great detail.”

Sister John Ann Kulina agreed.

“I think it’s beautiful,” Kulina said of Saia’s book.

Mother Catherine was born in 1793 in Charles County, Maryland. At age 19, she was elected leader of a new religious community, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.

During her presentation, Saia discussed how Spalding helped establish Nazareth Academy on St. Thomas Farm in Nelson County in 1814, Presentation Academy in Louisville in 1831, and Bethlehem Academy in 1819, as well as St. Vincent Orphanage.

The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth also opened St. Monica School in Bardstown for African-American children. The school remained in operation until 1967.

In 1822, Mother Catherine helped move Nazareth Academy to where SCN is currently located. The school became well known as a place where young women could learn about the arts and sciences.

According to Saia, Mother Catherine made it her point to educate women, because during the 1800s, women typically didn’t go to school.

“She was a pioneer in Kentucky that pushed for girls to read,” Saia said.

Sister Maria Brocato added that the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth have had a huge impact on education in the area.

“Our school was well known throughout the country as a place where young women could learn the basics of education,” Brocato said.

When writing her book, Saia knew she wanted to write it for children, so she asked a group of students from St. Louis Catholic School in Memphis, Tenn., to edit and critique her book.

“I’ve worked with children for so long, and I feel very comfortable with children,” Saia said. “And I wanted children to know about this great lady.”

Teddi Niedzwiedz, principal of St. Louis Catholic School, said she wanted her students to be involved in the editing process so they could learn what goes into creating a book.

Another benefit, Niedzwiedz said, is that the children were able to learn about a good role model, like Mother Catherine.

“Children today don’t have those kind of role models who give up their possessions,” she said.

Saia agreed, adding Mother Catherine has influenced her as well.

“God called us to be of service to others, and that was so deep in Catherine’s heart,” Saia said. “She left everything she had to work for God.”