By Claudia Mathis
Amy Wocikowski, coordinator of faith formation at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Liverpool, would do almost anything to have a successful Vacation Bible School experience — including dressing in full bumblebee costume. That’s what she did last year when she participated in the “bug safari,” section of Immaculate Heart of Mary’s Vacation Bible School.
This year, the Vacation Bible School offered at Immaculate Heart of Mary July 11-15 promises to be just as much fun. The theme of the event is “Discovery Canyon” and it will be held from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. “My goal is for the kids to experience their faith formation in a fun way,” said Wocikowski. “I want to instill in them a foundation of faith that will last their whole life.”
The Bible school boasted 65 attendees last year and Wocikowski expects just as many children this year. She relies on 20 volunteers to coordinate various sections of the curriculum. They include music, Bible discovery, arts and crafts, snack-making and prayer. She has also invited a religious, priest and deacon to speak to the children about vocations.
Cathy Cornue, director of the diocesan Office of Faith Formation, said that Vacation Bible Schools offer children an opportunity to continue their connection with God after the school year and religious education classes end. “He’s out there loving us all year long,” Cornue said. “He’s not on vacation because classes are over. Vacation Bible School keeps them connected with their parish and their faith.”
Cornue explained the process of putting together a successful Bible School. “First and foremost,” she said, “you need to have enough people who are ready, willing and able to make it work.”
Cornue said that the people who plan it get together to brainstorm ways in which to involve the children, what age groups to include and how to organize the activities that will be offered. “It’s important to work on it together as a parish team,” said Cornue. She also noted that sometimes more than one parish will collaborate to plan one Vacation Bible School between them.
Renee Davis, catechetical leader at St. James in Johnson City, has been involved with her parish’s Vacation Bible School for the last nine years. This year, it will take place July 18-22, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. The theme will be “Hometown Nazareth, Where Jesus Was a Kid.”
Davis said that between 55 to 60 people, including many of the parish’s teenagers, volunteer to help with the event. Youngsters from 19 area schools participate. “Their service is invaluable to our parish,” commented Davis. She explained that the teens prepare and act out skits about saints. They compare the lives of the saints to those of the young children’s. “They make it relatable to the children,” said Davis.
Davis feels it’s important to offer the educational event to the community because it extends the catechetical year into the summer and it brings a great catechetical experience to adults and teenagers. “It’s a community-building experience,” she said.
“This year, I’m hoping to have the children build a relationship with Jesus,” said Davis. “I want them to realize that He, too, was a child like them and that they can relate to Him.”
St. Mary’s in Oswego is offering its Vacation Bible School in the evening hours — 5:45 p.m.-8 p.m. It will be held Aug. 1-4 and the theme is “PandaMania, Where God is Wild About You.”
Lisa Roman, parent volunteer, has been helping out for the last four years with the parish’s Bible school. “The attendance has been growing every year,” said Roman. “It’s been super rewarding — the kids get involved in the community and they gain a better understanding of Jesus and Bible stories.”
Following the PandaMania Bible School program, the children visit each activity station, where the daily Bible point is integrated into the activity to reinforce Bible teachings.
Roman said her hope for this summer’s experience is that “they will find meaning in their religion and their relationships.”
To find out how to offer a Vacation Bible School experience at your parish, call Cathy Cornue at (315) 470-1431.