Studying the lives of the saints and holy people helps build family faith and inspires Catholic kids. Feast days are an opportunity to remember and be inspired by the lives of the saints, who are examples of holiness for us today. Children and families in your Catholic religious education program can use the short biographies and printable activities below to celebrate popular saint feast days in January!
We’ve also bundled the biographies and activities featured in this article into a Catholic Saints with January Feast Days Resource Kit. This free resource kit can be downloaded and distributed in your school, parish, or home. Kit includes biographies and activities for:
On January 1, the Church celebrates the feast day of Mary, Mother of God—the greatest saint, and our greatest example of discipleship.
Download an activity that invites children to learn more about discipleship by learning about Mary’s life and example.
Though her feast day is celebrated January 1, Catholics honor Mary every day of the year through prayer. We remember the many ways God blessed Mary. We read about Mary in Scripture. Since Mary was the first to hear about the mission of Jesus, she is his first disciple. She dedicated her life on earth to following him and supporting his work. She showed others how to follow Jesus as well. Her faith came from an understanding of the great gifts that God had given to her, especially the gift of her son Jesus. By following Mary, we can see the way to love Jesus more deeply and appreciate how much he loves us.
Mary grew up during a difficult time in her country. Her people lived under the control of the powerful Roman Empire. This made many people long for their freedom. There were many opinions on how to gain this freedom, and this difference of opinion sometimes developed into violent conflict.
A woman in Mary’s time worked hard to maintain a home for her family. She not only had to cook the meals and wash all of the clothes, but she also had to grow much of the food and even weave the cloth to make the clothes. There was no running water, so she had to make daily trips to a well and carry water back to the house.
Faith in God was an important part of the lives of Mary and the people of her country. They followed religious laws that were intended to prepare them for the coming of a Messiah, or Savior, who would liberate them.
"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior." (Luke 1:46–47)
Mary grew up learning about the promise of the Messiah. When she was a young girl, Mary was engaged to a man named Joseph. Before they were married, she received a vision of an angel who asked her to be the mother of the Messiah she had waited for her whole life. Mary accepted, saying "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). When Mary accepted her role as the Mother of the Savior, she knew that he was her Savior as well. She exclaimed her gratitude to God in her prayer we call the Magnificat.
Being the mother of Jesus was not an easy task. Mary’s life was full of great joys and great sorrows. Mary and Joseph were poor people, so they both worked hard to provide food and shelter for Jesus. Mary raised her son in the traditions of her culture, presenting him in the temple when he was a baby and taking him to Jerusalem for the religious festivals. Since she knew who Jesus was and what his mission would be, it would have been a huge responsibility! During one trip to Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph lost Jesus. Since he was only 12 years old, they were very worried about him, and searched the city for three days. They finally found him in the temple, preaching to the elders and teachers.
When Jesus was an adult and began preaching, Mary accompanied him. She asked him to perform the miracle at Cana, in which he turned water into wine. Mary was completely faithful to the message that Jesus preached, and she was confident that he would grant her request. She instructed other people who were there to "do whatever he tells you.”
Mary was also with Jesus when he carried his cross. She witnessed the terrible deeds that others committed against him. Because of her faith, Mary did not leave Jesus when he was suffering, even though it would have been a painful experience for her. She stood at the foot of the cross still listening to him and trying to comfort him. It was there that Jesus entrusted all of us to her care. This mission was very close to Mary’s heart. She comforted the Apostles and prayed with them after Jesus' Ascension into heaven. Mary was with the Apostles when they received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and watched them depart for many different countries to spread the Good News of God’s love.
On January 4, the Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.
Download an activity that invites children to design a bookmark to remember Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, who loved to read and was passionate about education.
Elizabeth Ann Seton was born two years before the American Revolution in New York City. She was the daughter of a wealthy Protestant physician and was a part of the high society of New York. When Elizabeth was three years old, her mother died. Her early years were often lonely, and she spent much of her time reading. One of her favorite books to read was the Bible.
When Elizabeth was nineteen years old, she married William Magee Seton, a wealthy businessman. Their first years together were happy and successful. Together they had five children. After they had been married about ten years, William's business failed, and he became very ill with tuberculosis. To improve his health, the Setons traveled to Italy where William had friends. William died there. William's Italian friends introduced Elizabeth to the Catholic faith, and she became a Catholic in 1805.
Elizabeth Ann Seton returned home and was rejected by many of her Protestant family members and friends because of her Catholic faith. Without any help from her family, Elizabeth Ann Seton had to earn a living and provide an education for her family. She started a Catholic school in Baltimore, Maryland, with two other young women. This began the tradition of Catholic parochial schools in America. In 1809, Elizabeth Ann Seton founded the Sisters of Charity to help run this school system. This order was the first native religious community for women in America.
Elizabeth Ann Seton was kind, courteous, and patient. Daily, she sought to know and accept the will of God in her life. She spent much time reading Scripture and journaling. She died of tuberculosis in 1821.
Elizabeth Ann Seton faced many losses in her life. The deaths of many family members and the loss of financial security strengthened her faith in God and her desire to do his will. Elizabeth Ann Seton is an example to us when we are faced with difficult times and losses in our lives.
Elizabeth Ann Seton began the first Catholic parochial school in America. Catholic parochial schools continue to educate children in America today. There are six groups of religious women who can trace their beginnings to Elizabeth Ann Seton's original order of the Sisters of Charity in America.
On January 21, the Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Agnes.
In hagiography, writing devoted to telling the lives of the saints and martyrs, saints are often portrayed with a symbol that tells something about the way they lived, about their vocation, or about a particular virtue that they embodied. Saint Agnes, for example, is often shown holding a lamb, a symbol of purity. Download an activity in which students are invited to design a hagiography for Saint Agnes.
Although we know very little about the life of Saint Agnes, she has been honored as a young girl who put her faith first. Over the centuries, she has been revered as a young woman of great strength and courage.
It is believed that Agnes was born in the year 291 to parents that were members of the Roman nobility. Agnes was very beautiful, and many young men wished to marry her. She refused them all, saying that she had promised her life to Christ. One of these men tried to win her heart by offering her gifts and promises of a wealthy life. When she turned him down, he was so enraged that he reported to his father, the governor, that Agnes was a Christian. The governor tried to bribe Agnes with gifts in exchange for her giving up her faith, but his attempts failed. He condemned her to death, but her face only showed the joy she felt in staying true to her faith.
Saint Agnes is often depicted in art holding a lamb, a symbol of purity. Her name also resembles the Latin word for lamb, which is “agnus.” Her name in Greek means “pure” or “sacred.”
On January 26, the Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Timothy.
Download an activity that invites children to reflect on friendship, a quality that Saint Timothy embodied in his relationship with Saint Paul.
Timothy was born in Lystra, a city in what is now the country of Turkey. His father was Greek, and his mother was Jewish. It is believed that his grandmother was a Christian.
When Paul came to Lystra as part of his first missionary trip to the region, Timothy was around 20 years old. Timothy converted to Christianity and eventually joined Paul in his apostolic work. Over the years the two became good friends. Together they traveled through what is now Greece, Turkey and Israel to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. Timothy helped Paul in starting Christian communities in the ancient cities of Corinth, Thessalonica and Philippi.
Paul had great respect for Timothy and thought of him as a son. In letters he wrote to Timothy, Paul indicates that his young friend was somewhat timid and was frequently ill. He encouraged Timothy to be strong and to take care of himself (1 Timothy 5:23). He also urged the communities to receive Timothy with warmth and hospitality. Timothy’s kind and unselfish nature provided great comfort for Paul during difficult times.
Eventually Timothy went to Ephesus, where he was made bishop and lived for several years. When he tried to stop the worship of pagan idols, he was stoned to death by angry townspeople. He is honored by the Church as both a bishop and a martyr.
Besides his dedication to spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ, Timothy reminds us of powerful influence that community and friends can have on our faith. Saint Timothy reminds us to be thankful for our true friends and strive to be a good and faithful friend to others.
On January 31, the Church celebrates the feast day of Saint John Bosco, popularly known as Don Bosco.
John Bosco included God in everything he did. Download an activity that invites children to reflect on ways that God has blessed them with talents, and ways that they can be shared with others.
As a young boy, John Bosco dreamed of becoming a priest. This dream seemed impossible. His family was poor. John’s father had died when he was only two years old. He lived on a farm with his mother and two brothers. He helped care for the sheep, and this responsibility prevented him from attending school full time.
While he had to work hard, John had happiness and a great imagination. He learned how to juggle and do acrobatics from circus performers. He would often entertain others with his tricks. He began and ended each of his performances with a prayer.
Although he lacked education, John Bosco was taught to read and write by a priest who recognized his intelligence. Through the help of his mother, some kind neighbors, and money he earned doing various jobs, he was able to finish school and enter the seminary.
John’s lifelong service to young people was inspired by a meeting he had with a poor orphan in the city of Turin, Italy. As a seminarian, John spent his free time working with boys who were neglected and orphaned. He taught them religion, entertained them with his acrobatics, and told them stories that they could understand. He did not believe in punishment; he treated all with kindness and respect. John Bosco believed that God lived within each person he met, and he treated each person accordingly: with love.
At the age of twenty-six, John Bosco fulfilled his dream of becoming a priest. He wanted to continue his work with neglected boys. He started a boarding school where these boys could live and learn the skills needed to make a living.
"Do you want our Lord to give you many graces? Visit him often."
John Bosco was a writer and wrote many letters and publications during his life. Like his work, his writing supported young people’s spirituality and his approach of using reason, religion, and kindness to educate and form young people in the faith.
In 1859, inspired by the example of Saint Francis de Sales, Don Bosco founded the Society of St. Francis de Sales, popularly known as the Salesians of Don Bosco. This order of priests was focused on befriending, helping and educating poor boys. The original group included 22 members, but by the time Don Bosco died in 1888, there were more than 1,000 in Europe and South America.
In 1872, John Bosco also co-founded an order for women, the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians, with a friend, Saint Mary Mazzarello. This order is popularly known as the Salesian Sisters, and it is one of the largest Roman Catholic religious congregations of women. Like the Salesians of Don Bosco, the Salesian Sisters the sisters followed Don Bosco’s philosophy of education.
Today, the Salesians evangelize and educate young people, especially those who are poor and at risk, in the style of Don Bosco. The schools that John Bosco began are still in evidence today and have spread all over the world. The Salesians continue to operate these schools, carrying on John Bosco's philosophy of education. John Bosco believed in teaching the skills necessary to enable young people to get jobs. This is still a focus of his schools today.
John Bosco died on January 31, 1888. He was beatified in 1929 and canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1934 and called the “Father and Teacher of Youth.” Pope Francis thanked God for the gift of John Bosco during Mass on his feast day in 2019. He recalled that Don Bosco had the eyes and heart of a father and a teacher. He said, “Today, let us ask the Lord, through the intercession of Don Bosco, for the grace for our priests to be joyful: joyful so that they have the true sense of looking at things regarding pastoral ministry, the people of God with human eyes and with the eyes of God.” (Pope Francis, Mass at Casa Santa Marta, January 31, 2019)
The saints’ love and prayers for the Church are constant. Teaching children about saints provides inspiring examples of discipleship and models for living out their faith. Children in Catholic religious education programs can use the activities in this article at home or in the classroom to celebrate saint feast days in January!
Looking for more resources about popular saints for kids? Let Catholic kids and their families be inspired by these and other Catholic saints any time of year!