On June 20, 2012, the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge paid a visit to the Vacation Bible School (VBS) at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Raleigh. He toured the campus, speaking with the children and the teachers, and watched a musical presentation at closing as the youngsters sang “Anything Is Possible With God.”
The VBS at Our Lady of Lourdes, a morning program, has 200 participants this year, according to its Director, Jennifer Kearney. “A large percentage of them are students at our school,” she said. “However, there are also quite a few others from within community, and friends and family that come in from a distance as well.”
This year the school has some 75 junior volunteers, rising 6th-12th graders, plus several recent high school graduates who have been involved in the program since they were young participants, and approximately 50 adult volunteers.
“The adult volunteers help with everything from registration, planning, creating, and setting up the decorations, leading the music, purchasing snack supplies, preparing and serving snacks, and breaking down at the end of the week,” Mrs. Kearney explained. “The junior volunteers do much of the same -- helping to set up, assisting with the teachings, prepping and serving snacks, and breaking down at the end of the week.
“The biggest role for our juniors is as leaders of the participants throughout the day (about 60 percent of our junior volunteers are "crew leaders", where they take responsibility for 4-5 participants each). They act as role models and chaperones. They lead small group discussions and guide them in each station.
“I feel a lot of VBS is for leadership development of our junior volunteers as much as it is for the participants,” Mrs. Kearney said. “We have been blessed with some amazing volunteers, both adult and junior, who have returned to help year after year.”
The theme for the Lourdes VBS this year is "Sky: Everything is possible for God."
“Each day the participants learn a new Bible point about trusting God,” Mrs. Kearney said. “Today's Bible point was, ‘No matter what people do...Trust God!’ Monday's was ‘No matter who you are...,’ Tuesday's was ‘No matter how you feel....’"
After an opening prayer and singing, the participants break into their crews and rotate between four stations (plus snack) that teach about God by incorporating different methods of learning. Bible Adventure is an interactive theater, Sky High Games is learning through motion, Imagination Station incorporates science and arts and crafts, Sky High Cinema shows a short video clip. Then the youngsters come back together for a review, more singing and dancing, and a closing prayer.
The Lourdes program chooses one or two service organizations to support each year. “This year we are collecting gently used clothing for the benefit of Note in Pocket, an organization providing school clothes for homeless children in Wake County,” Mrs. Kearney said. “We are also collecting non-perishable food items for Catholic Parish Outreach to support needy children who go hungry during the summer months when they can't rely on school breakfasts or lunches for a meal each day. We like to support the local community and believe these are two worthy programs that the kids can relate to.”
Vacation Bible School (VBS) is a growing evangelization activity in the Diocese of Raleigh. According to Sr. Rose Marie Adams, IHM, Diocesan Director of Evangelization and Catechesis, the number of parishes with VBS is up from 27 in 2011. “It’s formational, its evangelizational, it's intergenerational,” she said. “People of all ages interact as teachers, students and volunteers, working with decorations, food, all the things it takes.”
Sister Laura Downing, IHM, will be teaching VBS at Sacred Heart Parish in Whiteville during the week of June 25. The VBS will run from 9-12:15, Monday through Friday, Sister said, “using a curriculum leant to us by St. Stephen's Church, Sanford, and some materials donated to us by St. Francis of Assisi in Raleigh.” Sister will be assisted by a team of seven (four boys, three girls) of her former students and recent alums of Cardinal Gibbons High School.
There will also be a three-night adult catechesis on Scripture for the people of the parish. In between the programs, the team will be having a daily Holy Hour including vespers.
At St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Wake Forest each day’s program begins with Daily Mass. The children then engage in activities which center around the Eucharist, vocations and devotions to the Blessed Mother. The curriculum comes from and is taught by Totus Tuus (Latin for “Totally Yours”), a Catholic Vacation Bible School group that assists parents and parishes in the evangelizing and catechizing of their youth by supplementing the work they are already doing. “The children’s enthusiasm for the Eucharist is really beautiful to see,” said Sara Rider, Totus Tuus teacher.
Totus Tuus assists several parishes in the Diocese of Charlotte. With their presence at St. Catherine, the group is piloting their program in the Diocese of Raleigh, hoping to engage other parishes in the Diocese in the future.
Above: Children at Our Lady of Lourdes VBS sing "Anything Is Possible With God."
Below: Totus Tuus missioner teaches VBS children at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Wake Forest.