Grab your crayons

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It all started with two little girls who loved to color. In 2004, the girls were second-grade students in a religious education class taught by Julie Luckey, coordinator of religious education at St. John the Baptist Parish in Front Royal. At the time, Julie was having a difficult time finding Catholic coloring pages that were detailed, but not cartoonish.

"I discovered there was really nothing out there for older kids and most of what was available to them was cartoony and silly," she said.

Around the same time, Julie's daughter-in-law, Amanda Luckey, used Photoshop to make coloring pages out of family photos as an inexpensive Christmas present for her nieces and nephews. After seeing the results of that project, Julie asked Amanda to use the same technique to make coloring pages that would be challenging enough for her older students. Some of the first pages were made by taking pictures of stained-glass windows at St. John the Baptist and tracing the lines in Photoshop.

In the years since then, Amanda has taught Julie and Julie's daughter how to make the coloring pages herself. Together, the women began uploading the pages they made onto the parish website, where parents and other religious educators could download them for free.

Today, there are nearly 100 different coloring pages up on the website. Last year, the pictures were downloaded 270,000 times by people in countries all over the world, including the U.K., China, Japan, Africa, Spain, Ukraine, Portugal, Germany, Canada and Australia. Most of those people, Julie said, are religious education teachers or mothers. They arrive at the parish website from Catholic mom blogs like catholicicing.com, showerofroses.blogspot.com or the online bulletin board website, pinterest.com.

The pages are based on images from holy cards, stained-glass windows, photos and works of art, always with copyright permission. In the past, Julie has used pieces from Christendom College in Front Royal and St. Patrick Parish in Fredericksburg, as well as churches in Michigan, Connecticut and New York. Two years ago, she made a coloring page of Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde, based on a photo of him leaving Mass at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax. Her current project is a coloring page of a mosaic of Our Lady of Guadalupe from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

Because of the level of detail in the pages, the pictures usually take her around eight hours to make. She said she usually works on them in the evenings, while watching television or relaxing.

"When other people are knitting, I'm making a coloring page," she said.

Her favorite pages depict the Stations of the Cross. When she was making them, Amanda said the experience was akin to a devotional activity.

"Making the coloring pages makes me feel a real sense of the saints' humanity and the humanity of Christ - especially when tracing the hands and feet of Christ. It was extremely emotional to trace the Crucifixion and Pieta scenes," she said.

In addition to pages traced by Julie and her daughters, the site also offers downloads from the Sisters, Servants of the Eternal Word, who made coloring pages depicting the words in the Apostle's Creed in English and Spanish.

"Basically, our purpose was to provide beautiful and devotional coloring pages for the children who love to color," Julie said. "Kids know the difference between the cartoony stuff and the beautiful art."



On the web



Coloring pages can be found at www.sjtb.org/releducolor.html.



© Arlington Catholic Herald 2011