By Dominique Johnson
The North Star Catholic
Vacation Bible School (VBS) has been a way for children to grow in the faith during the summer while doing activities outside, making crafts and meeting new friends. Unfortunately, VBS programs last year were put on hold due to the pandemic, and religious education directors began planning how they would move their fall programs online. Two parishes shared with us how their programs went this year.
At St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Juneau, the VBS program planned for 2020 was used this summer. Director of Religious Education (DRE) Kimberly Watt said the theme, “Rocky Railroad: God’s Power Pulls Us Through,” was fitting following the pandemic. Each day would focus on a different bible story that showed how God could help the students when times are difficult. One example was the story of the conversion of St. Paul, the patron saint of the parish.
The summer program took place the week of June 28th in the parish hall with 42 preschool-6th grade students in attendance.
Not knowing if the VBS would happen this year, Watt and her team of volunteers kept the activities simple, so if they could not hold the program, they would be able to use the materials later in the year.
Watt said the program was well received this summer; “I think people were really excited to be able to do something where we could come together.” It wasn’t just the participants that were excited, but the teen and adult volunteers as well. Watt added, “There was a real sense of excitement that we were all physically together in the same place.”
Because the high school camp could not take place this summer, Watt held a mini-retreat for those who volunteered at VBS. After they volunteered in the morning, the teens would go to noon Mass together, pray the rosary and divine mercy chaplet and participate in an activity. Watt shared that she only planned for clean up and pizza for the teens on the last day of VBS, but the teens insisted on going to Mass. “So, we went to Mass, which was awesome to see their desire to attend,” she said.
Tying in the theme of the Olympics to faith, Holy Name Parish in Ketchikan’s VBS program in July was called “Cathletics: Training to be Champions for Christ.” The program had many sports-related games and activities, Anna Sherman, Holy Name DRE, shared.
The VBS had a saint of the day that the eleven kindergarten through 5th-grade students would learn about to tie in the faith. The program also focused on the Ten Commandments, beatitudes and the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Sherman, who has been the DRE at Holy Name for three years, shared that this was the first VBS the parish had organized in many years. Following the pandemic and with the VBS taking place during the fishing season, Sherman wasn’t sure what to expect for the turnout, “so we were excited to have the participants we did, along with five middle school volunteers.” She hopes the summer VBS will grow over the next few years.
Sherman said having the VBS was “a nice way of reaching out to the community, especially those who have been away from the Church and trying to bring them back, especially our families.”