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Sophia Randolph and Grace Arnold, fourth graders at St. Rose of Lima in De Soto, designed aprons with eucharistic themes during Vacation Bible School at the parish July 15.
Sophia Randolph and Grace Arnold, fourth graders at St. Rose of Lima in De Soto, designed aprons with eucharistic themes during Vacation Bible School at the parish July 15.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Pool-noodle game, apron-making have a faith message at Vacation Bible School

Vacation Bible School offers opportunity for children to stay active in the faith during the summer with fun learning experiences

Bennett Knipp passed a ball to another participant in a game of cooperation and understanding how Jesus fills the gap in healing relationships at Vacation Bible School at Mary Mother of the Church Parish in south St. Louis County on July 15.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston
Simple games for children illustrated a deeper meaning at Mary Mother of the Church Parish in south St. Louis County at a weeklong Vacation Bible School July 12-16.

When 5- and 6-year-olds lined up head to toe on the ground using only their feet to pass a pool noodle, it wasn’t just an exercise in teamwork.

Volunteer game leader and parishioner Lisa Raglin provided a faith perspective when things went awry: “Who do we call on when things get hard? Jesus, right?”

Then in The Great Divide game, the youngsters passed a ball to each other, gradually increasing the distance between throws, and leading to fewer catches. Again, Raglin drew a parallel as she provided a lesson.

Lyla Boyer prayed the Our Father with other participants at Vacation Bible School at St. Rose of Lima Parish in De Soto.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston
“When we do something wrong or hurt someone, we get a gap between us. It means we get farther from Jesus. But Jesus loves us and brings us back together. We don’t ever want that gap between us and Jesus to get that big, though,” she said.

Later, Raglin explained that it was her first experience as a Vacation Bible School volunteer. “I truly feel God told me to come,” she said. That’s because one of her grandchildren has struggled with his health and is scheduled for another surgery. The Vacation Bible School’s emphasis on hope and trust is one that resonated with Raglin, and something she’ll relay to family members.

“I needed to hear this message now,” she said.

Raglin was a reluctant leader, expecting to be in the background as a volunteer. So another message at the camp rang true with her — Jesus helps us be bold.

Braydon Fesler passed a pool noodle using only his feet to Avery Drury in a game of cooperation during a Vacation Bible School game at Mary Mother of the Church Parish in south St. Louis County.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston

Activities galore

Cheryl Degenhart, director of faith formation at the parish, explained that the activities — games, crafts, story time and music — brought excitement and energy to the five days for the 42 participants ranging in age from 3-11. Many parishes have similar events in the summer, offering fun learning experiences through parts of the Bible.

The theme of “Rocky Railroad: Jesus’ Power Pulls Us Through” echoed through Bible stories throughout the week. An animated rainbow trout named Finn was their Bible buddy. Children brought in coins to place in a jar for a fund to help a fellow parishioner with a need.

Volunteer Teresa Laramie, a parishioner and rising junior at Notre Dame High School, was a former participant, attending the day camp through age 11. Teresa enjoys the music and dance. Her role as a volunteer, she said, included helping children “to be stronger and more faithful with God, bringing them closer to God.”

Another volunteer, storyteller Mary Anne Howe, said “adults miss the boat” if they don’t pick up a children’s book every now and then because the books “teach us to be better people, with a fabulous moral.”

The book “Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree” by Robert Barry, for example, “gets across the message that God’s love is for everybody and He always gives you exactly what you need,” Howe said. “These are good morals, which we need so desperately in the world today.”

‘God Is in my Heart’

Jessica Milton, a teacher at St. Rose of Lima School in De Soto, also runs the parish Vacation Bible School. She talked with the 5- through 7-year-old participants during sharing circle.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston
At a summer program at St. Rose of Lima Parish in De Soto on July 15, children made aprons depicting thanks. Sophia Randolph, an incoming fourth-grader at the parish school, and Brooke Govero, an incoming fifth-grader at the school, made aprons with images of the bread and wine used at Mass. “I’m thankful because I can receive the Body of Christ,” Govero said. “God is in my heart.”

Of the Eucharist, Randolph said: “God is here, and He gave us this in memory of Him.”

Forty-four children — double last year’s number — took part in the July 12-16 program with a theme of “Marvelous Mystery — the Mass Comes Alive!” About 14 people helped, including high school students and parents, some of whom are educators.

Amelia Gilbreth and Spencer Randolph sang along to a song during a music session at Vacation Bible School at St. Rose of Lima Parish in De Soto.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston
Last year, Jessica Milton volunteered to lead a restart of the summer program for children after it had been dormant for a while. Speaking after the first day this year, and a bit exhausted, Martin said: “I wanted the kids to have the opportunity to have something to do during the summer, still have God in their life, and just be together.”

Milton, who teaches at St. Rose of Lima School, has a rising second-grader who attended the program and two older children who volunteered with the program.

Crafts were a popular part of the program. On the first day, participants colored T-shirts printed with an image of Jesus. At the faith station, the children walked to the church to learn about the parts of the Mass, details about the church and some prayers. At a music station, the children learned about worship and sang songs. At another station, they played games geared toward team-building.

Milton staffed the music station on July 14. Before the children moved on to another station, she gathered them in a circle, asked them to fold their hands, and they prayed the Our Father together.

Every day began and ended with prayer and songs. Themes varied. One was the Mass as a gift, with children making “faith banks” to hold money they donated as stewards; other themes included the parts of the Mass and the meaning of confession. A different Bible verse was read every day. A name game made the point that God gives everyone a name as a gift.

The last day of the week was family day, starting with Mass. Parents, siblings and grandparents attended. The day included craft-making, cotton candy and snow cones along with a barbecue.

St. Rose of Lima pastor, Father Alex Anderson, said he appreciated the volunteers and the enthusiasm of the children. And, he added, “it’s a nice break for the parents.”

Children learn to become modern-day missionaries at Totus Tuus

Summer program focuses on catechesis, sacraments, learning to become Christian witnesses

By Jennifer Brinker

A scenario was presented: Imagine you’re in the woods. It’s pouring rain, it’s dark and you’re hungry. You can’t find your way out. The next morning, a family approaches you and offers help.

“Now, imagine it’s Jesus,” Grace Makowski told the fourth-graders. “Are you going to choose to go with Christ?”

The scenario was an example in teaching the children about kerygma, a Greek word used to describe the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

Kenrick-Glennon seminarian Joe Lux taught first graders about the Rosary during Totus Tuus at Annunciation Parish in Webster Groves July 19. Lux told the children that when we pray to Mary, we’re asking her to explain to us what happened in Jesus’ life and what it means.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston
Makowski was one of several college-age students, called “missionary teachers,” leading Totus Tuus, a weeklong summer youth program dedicated to sharing the Gospel, on the campus of Annunication Parish in Webster Groves July 19-23, and offered through Holy Cross Academy.

A program of the archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry, Totus Tuus has elements of a vacation Bible school and a mission. Taught by young adult catechists, known as “missionary teachers,” participants learn what it means to share the Gospel and how to promote the faith through evangelization, catechesis, Christian witness and eucharistic worship.

There are two components: a day program for first- through sixth-graders and an evening program for seventh- through 12th-graders. Missionary teachers travel from parish to parish and stay with host families while presenting the program at parishes throughout the archdiocese in June and July.

Younger children learn how to pray, the importance of prayer and the sacraments, and how to participate in Mass, including why Catholics make the sign of the cross, genuflect and sing. Middle and high school teens focus on prayer and meditation, small-group discussions, adoration, Mass and reconciliation.

Totus Tuus is Latin for “Totally Yours,” St. John Paul II’s motto, taken from St. Louis de Montfort’s “True Devotion to Mary.” The program has a noted Marian focus, with a different theme every year that ties into Marian devotions, such as the Rosary.

Sara Figura became a missionary teacher for the first time this year after learning about the program from a friend. The parishioner of St. Joseph in Imperial, who will be studying nursing at Truman State University in the fall, said the experience has been “such a gift of self. I’ve never felt closer to Jesus before. He’s the one who is speaking, He’s the one who is working through us. The Holy Spirit is working through all of us, and it’s super cool to see how each missionary has that spirit of God working through them. It’s one of the most fulfilling things that I’ve done.”

Kenrick-Glennon seminarian Joe Lux taught first graders about the Rosary and how Catholics pray with the devotional. As they talked about the prayers said during the Rosary, he asked: “If we’re praying Hail Marys, who are we praying to?”

Lux told the children that when we pray to Mary, we’re asking her to explain to us — reflecting on certain mysteries — what happened in Jesus’ life and what it means; for example, the Resurrection.

“That’s when He rose from the dead,” said Anastasia Bergman.

“And what happened when He rose from the dead?” Lux asked.

“When He rose from the dead, He came back to life,” said Micah Lowe, “and His disciples followed Him.”

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