When Molly Teeter started with the Vacation Bible School program at St. Matthew Parish in Hillsboro, the curriculums used were non-denominational Christian. But Teeter, the parish coordinator for children’s faith formation, and her team wanted a “100 percent Catholic” program.
“We had these kids for a week in the mornings,” she thought at the time. “What a great opportunity to get them excited about their faith with all of the music and activities that happen during a normal [vacation Bible school].”
So, she started looking for curriculums that were Catholic. She even had one parishioner at the parish create one on the Mass. At the time, not a lot of Catholic vacation Bible school programs were around. But parishes have numerous Catholic program options today.
For a week each summer, children in the St. Matthew vacation Bible school program, those kids entering kindergarten up to those entering 5th grade, spend their mornings at the church. Teeter ensures that one of the priests or brothers at the parish speaks to and blesses those gathered.
Then, they’re divided into small groups. They visit each of the program’s four stations: faith, crafts, games and snacks and then gather with all of the vacation Bible school attendees for music.
With the Catholic themes for each week, the children are able to interactively learn about various elements of the faith. The sacraments, the Mass, life: these are just a few of the weekly themes that have been explored at St. Matthew’s program over the years. Each day has its own sub-theme. One day of the Sacrements-themed vacation Bible school looked at baptisms. Each day then has a correlating saint and virtue. For baptisms, children considered the virtue of courage and the life and works of St. John the Baptist.
“They learn, in a fun way, about their faith,” says Teeter.
Becky Curl has been a member of St. Matthew Parish since 1998. She has six kids, ages 2 to 14 years old. Last summer, she had four children in the vacation Bible school program at the parish. They loved it.
“They look forward to it every summer,” says Curl. She adds that the family protects that week of their schedule.
Teeter allows teens to help with vacation Bible school. Curl appreciates that the older children can stick around.
“As they’re getting older, I see that they’re taking a lot of responsibility and ownership but that they’re also interested in seeing what’s new this year,” she says.
Each summer, Curl’s kids come home singing catchy, Catholic songs which Curl uses again as part of her homeschooling curriculum.
Shirley Rossetti has four children, three teenagers and one 9-year-old. The Hillsboro mom loves that the St. Matthew program is based on a Catholic platform.
“It’s not just ‘Yay, Jesus!’ It’s Catholic based,” she says. For her kids, the program has really made the Mass come alive. They still remember elements of the Mass that they’ve learned about through the years.
Like Curl’s children, Rossetti’s kids still eagerly await helping with the program each summer.
“When a teenager wants to keep helping, that speaks volumes,” she says.
On the last day of the week, the children and vacation Bible school staff and helpers gather for Mass and a potluck with the children’s families.
“[The kids] get a great sense of community,” says Teeter. “That in itself is the bonus.”