A Different Kind of VBS

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A few years ago, when I moved to a new town, I was trying to find a way to connect with people in our new parish in Easton, Massachusetts. I signed up to help with confirmation, and to teach CCD to my younger kids – but I was looking for something more with an opportunity to connect with adults. Our new pastor, Father Jim, reached out to me to see if I would consider something, and asked to meet with me. I was so excited!

My heart dropped to the floor when I learned that what he had in mind was to run the Vacation Bible School program over the summer, as the current director was stepping aside after three years. This was more than I’d bargained for – and it would directly interrupt our family summer schedule. Doing VBS was not on our radar for many reasons – my husband was not a fan of this volunteer choice as it would take up a few weeks in July and August when we usually “unwind.”

After prayer and reflection, I said “yes.” How could I say no? “I am sorry Father, we take the WHOLE summer off to be on the beach” seemed a bit lame – to those whom much is given, much is expected, right? I did insist that the first year I shadow the existing director to get to know the kids and how the parish went about putting on their summer weeklong camp.

That first summer I learned a lot! We had as many teens as we did campers. I quickly realized it was about the teens as much as the campers – we only had four adults to help; the rest was all teens, but they delivered.  Designing sets and seeing them through from beginning to end, showing up early every day to set up and staying late to tear down – many hands made light work. My heart was joyful to be a part of this with my own kids – especially my younger two. But my daughter Grace – who was 11 at the time – said, “You know, Mom, for a Vacation BIBLE school, there isn’t much Bible in it!” While the program was fun, she was right – there was not much learning involved about our faith. I set out to find something richer – deeper – that everyone who was a part of it could learn from!

I  researched online and discovered a beautiful family company: Growing with the Saints, out of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The next summer we did their camp on St. Patrick, which the kids loved, and the following year, The Vatican Express! The Vatican Express was truly unique, with a suggested Popemobile and a template to replicate parts of the Vatican!

In the middle of all this, I started having sleepless nights. As I’m a daily Rosary warrior, my heart and soul were seeking a VBS on the Rosary and our Blessed Mother. On a whim and a prayer, I reached out to Growing with the Saints and Father Patrick Peyton’s ministry, Holy Cross Family Ministries. Two years later, we did “Tracking Mary: Mysteries and Messages” – a joint venture of Holy Cross Family Ministries and Growing with the Saints Catholic Kidz Camps! This was the last VBS I did for our parish here, and it was beautiful. On the last day, all of the campers and teens and volunteers prayed a Rosary together – we had exactly as many people there that day as we needed for each bead; it was truly special. From the campers’ perspective, they learned about Fatima, Lourdes, Knock, and Father Peyton’s remarkable life!

If you are looking for 100% Catholic VBS programming or are a DRE looking to freshen up your content with some new ideas, this company is for you. The programs are complete with all of the “stations” or workshops of the traditional VBS programs included in the kit – crafts for each day, songs with a video DVD, content for Bible time, suggested snacks tied to the theme of each day. The end of the week can be concluded with Mass or Adoration – or a Rosary! Each year we did something different.

Visit GrowingWithTheSaints.com for more information.


Copyright 2019 Margaret Dwyer Hogan

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About Author

Margaret Dwyer Hogan is a mother of four, married for 20 plus years to Michael Hogan. In 1998 at the gentle invitation of a friend, she learned to pray the mysteries of the Rosary using a card published by Holy Cross Family Ministries. This led to a radical change in her family life. Margaret now promotes devotion to Family Rosary however she can! At CatholicMom.com, Margaret coordinates the Sunday Gospel Activities.

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