Caitlin Swan has never met her great-great-great aunt, but the story of how she saved a young girl who had fallen down a well with only a pair of Rosary beads is a popular favourite in the young woman’s home.
Miss Swan, from Brisbane, is the great-great-great niece of St Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghattas, a Palestinian nun and founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem who was canonised by Pope Francis on May 17, 2015.
As well as being a blood relative, St Marie-Alphonsine has played a direct role in Miss Swan’s Catholic faith as her confirmation saint.
While the Palestinian saint is a household name in the Middle East, St Marie-Alphonsine’s life is relatively unknown in Australia.
But Miss Swan hopes a new television show written byand starring herself will help raise the profile of her great-great-great aunt along with other saints.
Aired on Shalom World every Monday, Katie and Koco explores the lives of 20 saints, including St Marie-Alphonsine, with the help of the mischievous Koco the cockatoo.
“It’s mostly relating about their life,” Miss Swan said.
Some saints were harder to portray in the show – for example, explaining the sacrificial death of St Maximilian Kolbe or the murder of Japanese martyr St Paul Miki in an age-appropriate manner was a challenge.
“You have to explain it in an engaging way but in a way that they can relate to and not just feel frightened by it,” Miss Swan said.
“Since (St Paul Miki) was martyred, I don’t not say it, but also the focus is not the death but going to heaven.”
If the feedback from her young cousins, who watched the show’s debut in January, are anything to go by, the show is a Catholic parent’s dream.
But for Miss Swan, the project has also been a reminder to take her Catholic faith seriously.
“Obviously it helps having a saint as a relative, it’s always a good reminder in that regard,” Miss Swan said.
“You just realise every day how important it is that your life is not your own. It was given to you as a gift – to do as much as you can to give back to the One who gave it to you – God.
“Obviously, when I’m doing these shows, I can’t just talk about all these great people without trying to replicate it in my own life.
“That’s really the point of telling the lives of the saints – it’s not saying, look at all these people, it’s not giving any more glory to them, it’s for us to follow their examples.
“At the end of everything, that’s all that’s going to matter. If you love God, you do all that you can to do His Will.”
With a second season in discussion, Miss Swan hopes her humble television show can help show children that becoming a saint is not only possible, but necessary.
“I am getting more and more convinced that a second season would be good to do, because it’s not me that’s making it successful, and it’s not me that’s doing this all myself, I’m just the instrument,” Miss Swan said.
“If it’s working out now, then maybe God wants me to do more of them and He can work through me.”
By Emilie Ng. Reproduced with permission from The Catholic Leader, the online news publication of the Archdiocese of Brisbane.