Not just for Protestants anymore

Long the realm of fundamentalist Christian churches, vacation Bible schools now being offered at increasing number of Catholic parishes in Diocese of Orange

A camper organizes donated shoes collected by Mount of Olives “Kids Club” Children’s Ministry in the sanctuary of the Lutheran Church in Mission Viejo. (photo: OC Register)

Catholic parents seeking summer activities for their children should look no further than their parish, because a growing number of vacation Bible schools are offered at Catholic parishes throughout the Diocese of Orange.

Long the realm of fundamentalist Christian churches, vacation Bible schools typically offer a weeklong program of daily activities structured around Scripture.

Catholic vacation Bible schools are much the same, with special focus on Jesus, the Blessed Mother and the saints sprinkled in. Some programs involve the whole family while others welcome children from kindergarten to fifth grade.

Sandra Gutierrez, director of Faith Formation, says St. Justin Martyr Parish in Anaheim presented a child-focused program every summer, but has now switched its focus to the entire family beginning last year.

“Little by little our focus is on adult evangelization, so we wanted this experience to be shared in a family atmosphere so that families can implement these lessons into their daily lives,” Gutierrez explains. “We want them to know what stories and activities they can share with their kids and that they can go beyond the week to continue to have fun learning about Jesus.”

St. Justin Martyr’s Vacation Bible Camp this year runs from August 1-3 beginning at 6 p.m. with dinner each night in the parish hall, Gutierrez says. “There is praise and singing, then story time focusing on Jesus. We have crafts with stories and songs.” This summer Gutierrez expects 100 to 150 people to attend.

Like the programs offered at Christian churches, Catholic vacation Bible school programs are centered on Scripture. One difference is that Catholic VBS programs attempt to build relationships between children and their families.

“How does the life of Jesus relate to your life? It’s bringing the lessons into the context of living the Gospel today and continuing Jesus’s ministry,” Gutierrez says.

At Christ Cathedral Parish’s VBS, Sister Theresa Trang Nguyen oversees three coordinators who plan the weeklong programs.

“Our theme of the day ties everything together,” says Angela Nguyen, one of the coordinators who serves with fellow volunteers Nicole Berrera and Abraham De Santos. “Mass opens VBS on Monday and closes it on Friday. We have adoration every day. The kids perform skits related to the theme and share what they’ve learned from the Scripture. They participate in craft projects based on the day’s theme and play games to get to know each other.”

Christ Cathedral Vacation Bible School will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. from July 17-21 and will include a hot lunch. Last year’s program drew more than 300 children, Nguyen says, as well as more than 200 volunteers.

“Mary Our Mother of Love is our theme this year to tie in with the international theme of Mary,” she adds.

At Holy Family Cathedral Parish, last year’s Vacation Bible School attracted 215 children ages 5 through 10, says Lisa Condon, program director. This year’s VBS at Holy Family was cancelled due to extensive construction on the school grounds, she adds.

One of the kids’ favorite parts is music and the hand motions they learn to go with each song. “They are songs about God and what He does,” Condon explains. “The children all get a CD and keep it forever. I hear parents saying, ‘We play the VBS CD all the time!’

“The kids also enjoy so-called ‘God sightings,’” Condon adds. “They receive a bracelet that reminds them to see God in everything – such as when someone does something nice for you or when you see a beautiful sunset. We want them to always look for God in the things around them.”

VBS at Holy Family always incorporates a service project, such as collecting food for the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry, gathering toys for Spencer’s Toy Chest at CHOC hospital, or sponsoring an iguana at the Santa Ana Zoo, Condon notes.

“Kids can make a big difference doing little things.”

Full story at OC Catholic.

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  1. Bob One says:

    Do I live in a different world? In the three parishes I’ve attended over the last forty years there has been a summer “bible school”, some by other names for at least thirty years. This is not new stuff. I guess the question is why others haven’t been doing it all this time.

  2. In many parishes in the mid-West, there have been bible studies run by the Catholic church. Unfortunately, most of the material taught by the instructors is humanism at best. There is no link between Catholic dogma or morals, and how their basis comes from Scripture. Fifty years ago when I was a girl scout, there was more morality and devotion taught by the scout leaders then there is today when the summer activity is run by the Catholic Church. It is a shame, but I believe it is a waste of money to spend children to a bible camp where they will end up worse Catholics than they were before in addition to being totally confused about the faith.

  3. Billy Bob says:

    Another indication the American Catholic Church is becoming more Protestant. How about a summer program focused on the catechism or the Saints?

  4. Bob One says:

    One commentor above said: This half-century-plus of urging Catholics to take up the Good Book and parse its verses has had predictably disastrous results. Another said How about a summer program focused on the catechism or the Saints? From whence does the Catechism come? From whence does all our faith come if not from the Bible, the Good Book. The Basis of our faith is the Bible and the teachings of the Apostles, the Magisterium which bases its teachings on the Bible. The Catholic Church is based on the Bible, as are all Christian churches. Now, if we could get all of them to read it the same way and interpret it the same way, problem solved!

    • Linda Maria says:

      Maybe the big problem here, is– why not definite teaching of Catholic doctrine, and a clear teaching especially, on the Sacraments, holiness, and morality– for Christ?? A lot of humanistic pop psychology has been wrongfully replacing Our Lord’s definite moral teaching, since Vatican II!! Instead of dumb, secular pop psychology– how about teaching “self-improvement,” in Christ’s Name?? For example– following the Ten Commandments, going to Confession, trying to be more kind, patient, listening, communicating, loving, and forgiving, to your family members; self-control, sacrifice, (etc. etc.) improving oneself— for Christ? How about daily Family Rosary pledges, too??

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