SHAW — School was out and summertime here. Bible verses were picked and vacation Bible school planned. God answered everyone’s prayers for a sunny week.

Parents and guardians in the Santiam area were seeking summer fun for their children by signing up their preschoolers or teenage children to attend or volunteer for vacation Bible school the third week of June.

Mary Reich, new faith formation coordinator at St. Mary Church in Shaw and her VBS volunteers welcomed more than 65 children. Everyone got on board the week’s theme: “A Radical Ride on the Wings of Prayer with Amazing Angels and Super Saints.”

Katie Grossen had run the vicariate program before the pandemic hit. With her help, Reich was confident vacation Bible school could make a comeback.

Each attendee arrived enthusiastic to see friends and make new ones. The first day began with children learning a new song about prayer led by the Jahn teens. Emma, Aaden and Nicholas Jahn took turns playing piano while the others led the words and movements along with Sarah Reich and Larry Etzel.

“I loved hearing all the kids singing at the top of their voices all about Jesus,” said Nicholas.

After morning worship, the children joined their age groups named for St. Raphael the Archangel, St. Faustina, St. Bernadette, St. John Bosco and St. Juan Diego. To show the universality of the church, and create a sense of adventure, they also were grouped according to world regions: Japan and India; Canada, Mexico and Brazil; South Africa; and France, Poland and Italy.

Little Mikey Sangster was telling everyone he went to Italy for the week.

The children packed their newly decorated cloth bags and made luggage tags as part of their first craft of the week, led by Mikey’s mom, Mary Sangster. Each “traveling” group had a photo taken and made frames to hold the images. The campers carefully decorated holy water bottles and prayer boxes.

Each group buckled up for more adventure as they heard lessons about prayer and the virtues of responsibility, trust, respect, zeal and humility. They then learned how to put the ideas into action.

Angels made an appearance and some youth leaders dressed up as saints and offered a small drama.

Father Paul Materu, pastor of St. Boniface in Sublimity and St. Mary in Shaw, led a prayer for the children. On another day, Father Dick Rossman, in residence at Shaw, answered the children’s questions about prayer.

The campers played daily games under the sun, a joy after a gray, wet spring. They greeted snack time with joy and on the last day the local Knights of Columbus barbecued hot dogs and hamburgers. Emma Jahn entertained at the picnic with her cheesecake puppet. Kim Lulay and her mother distributed 150 homemade ice cream sandwiches.

The people of St. Mary Church seemed delighted to host the vicariate vacation Bible school.

Kia Maslov’s children — Veronika, Sacha and Oliver — were sad the event was only one week. Each child has a group photo at home to remember the summer fun and their friends.

Most of all, they’ll remember the radical ride they took on angels’ wings of prayer by learning about the saints and virtues and by reciting Scripture and singing songs of praise, all for the love of God.

Etzel is director of religious education at Immaculate Heart Parish in Stayton and a Catholic Sentinel ambassador.