Activity helps children view the ‘Church as One’
By Tom Maguire | Associate editor
When one’s name goes on a product, one takes particular care.
On Day 3 — bread-making day — at Vacation Bible School, 46 children from eight nations filled the St. Vincent’s kitchen and church hall to make individual loaves they would take home: bagged with the child’s name on it. The kids worked the dough: Flip and mash, flip and mash. Fingers sprouted webs of clingy ingredients as the supply of cinnamon and sugar dwindled. Some kids added raisins on top or mixed in sunflower seeds.
“Their enthusiasm is so obvious, It’s so obvious,” said the volunteer baking instructor, Rosemary Dacko. She has been making bread for churches, the jail ministry, and summer camps since 1976.
For the Bible School, the bread-making was symbolic, she said. Forming the main ingredient were grains of wheat that she ground up, she said, “just as our prayers are put together as a community as everyone shares.”
The sense of sharing was also expressed in Day 3’s theme: “The Church is One: We have one Lord and we share one faith. We receive one life in the Holy Spirit. At Mass, one bread is broken for all of us to feed our souls.”
Bread is essential at Mass and quite critical at Vacation Bible School too. In the kitchen, the yeast was rising fast in a big bowl of dough. “Oh yeah, we don’t fool around,” Dacko said.
The children reveled in the protocol. “How old are you?” one asked another. “Eight.” “You belong in that group.”
After the loaves were baked, some of them looked like chunky rolls; others featured crags and crevices. “Very special. … All part of the whole, but it’s your special bread,” Dacko told the little bakers.
One of Dacko’s assistants, Nassirou Taffa, 10, from Togo, was no rookie. “I made banana bread with my mom,” she said. She enjoys making bread but said the main reason she was there was “to learn more about Jesus.”
“And we are all going to be like Jesus, right?” asked Sister Mary Joana Baidoo, IHMMC, who works with immigrants and refugee families at St. Vincent’s.
She added: “We come from different nations but we are all one in Christ, as children of God. Today we are treating the Church as One. … No matter where we come from, we are the same. We pray to One God. We share the … same faith, God loves us the same, and then … during Mass we share One faith.”
Day 3 included spiritual songs from a DVD that played on a big screen. Swaying to the music with the children was Sister Mary Anuli, IHMMC, deputy chaplain at Upstate Medical Center. “I hope and pray that they continue to learn and grow in the faith,” Sister Mary said of the children.
The 46 children also learned from another activity: making paper flames to represent the Holy Spirit. One of them, Alek Koudadje, 9, from Togo, said, “My mom wanted me to come here so I could learn more about the Catholic faith. And I like [it] here because it’s a lot of fun, there’s different activities, and … you only have to pay two dollars to come. And you’ll get a shirt. On Friday, it’s the end of it, and then you get prizes on Friday.”
Another benefit for Israel Toe, 10, from Liberia, is that Vacation Bible School is shorter than regular school days. He liked making the Holy Spirit “torches” because they are used to celebrate in some churches in Africa.
“We work with the whole refugee family,” said Carl M. Oropallo, a semiretired attorney who has been the coordinator of the refugee program at St. Vincent’s since 2001. “And this is one aspect to get the young people together in a spiritual sense for just one week in the summer to spend their time learning more about Scripture, Church teaching, spiritual music, and generally enjoying each other’s company.”
Oropallo noted that in addition to the Vacation Bible School, St. Vincent’s has a daycare that helps children socially, educationally, and developmentally.
Another adult volunteer for the Vacation Bible School is Bang Ayeil, the youth minister at St. Vincent’s.
“The benefit of the program,” he said, “is to bring the kids to grow in a healthy environment, in a Catholic environment, teach them about the Catholic faith, and make them grow strong in the faith.”
The bread-making was meaningful, he said, because there is hunger and starvation in other countries, such as his native South Sudan. Later in the day, he said, the children would be praying and singing so that God will give bread to those who don’t have it.
Day 4 of school focused on the theme “The Church is Apostolic,” and the final day was a fun day with lots of food.
By praying and reading the Bible, Sister Joana, coordinator of the Bible School, comes up with each year’s practical themes that will help children learn and know more about Jesus’ love for us.
Asked how she makes Vacation Bible School fun but also instructive, educational, and lively, she said:
“It is a gift from God.”
Bible school stalwarts
Here is a list of people who volunteered to help out at the
St. Vincent’s Vacation Bible School:
Medina Aboir, parent, volunteer
Athyang Aman, instructor, volunteer
Sister Mary Anuli and the CPE (clinical pastoral education) students from Upstate Hospital, volunteers
Achot Aroma, volunteer
Achab Ater, volunteer
Ajak Ater, instructor, volunteer
Ater Ater, volunteer
Ajok Ather, parent, in charge of catering
Bang Ayeil, youth minister, volunteer
Mary Ayeil, parent, volunteer
Sister Mary Joana Baidoo
Jean Bills, instructor, volunteer
MaryAnn Caruso, volunteer from the Legion of Mary, St. Vincent
Deacon Michael Colabufo
Rosemary Dacko, instructor, volunteer
Patricia Holliday, volunteer from the Legion of Mary, St. Vincent
Barbara Kren, volunteer
Nyrow Longar, volunteer
Adut Mo, instructor, volunteer
Carl Oropallo, coordinator, refugee program
Father John Rose, pastor
Source: Sister Mary Joana Baidoo, IHMMC