TRUMBULL—During the last week in June, St. Theresa Parish hosted its seventh annual Vacation Bible Camp, with about 140 campers attending. This year’s theme, “Our Lady of Fatima: the Blessed Mother Speaks to the Children,” was chosen in honor of the hundredth anniversary of Our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima, Portugal, in 1917.
Over 70 teens volunteered, and a number of adults as well. “We were very blessed with the presence of two Dominican nuns from Mary, Mother of the Eucharist order in Ann Arbor, Michigan,” said Father Brian Gannon, pastor of St. Theresa. “The children took home with them a wonderful experience of Catholic hymns (even some in Latin!), arts and crafts based on items sacred to our Catholic faith, beautiful lessons from our two nuns, and most of all, learning to pray in the presence of the Most Holy Eucharist in the monstrance during Adoration.”
Father Gannon, and all the staff at St. Theresa’s, are very grateful to Rose Talbot–Babey, diocesan coordinator of elementary formation, for her expert help in coordinating the camp. “Our thanks go, too, to the incredible teens and adult volunteers who worked so hard, and gave much of their time and talent to help spread the message of our Lady of Fatima to our children,” he said.
“We pray that the time spent by the children in front of the Most Holy Eucharist, while learning prayers, hymns and skills, will bring them and their families into a deeper relationship with the Virgin Mary and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. These are the greatest treasures we can ever give our children.”
Bringing kids closer to Jesus
By KATHRYN GRIECO and ISABELLA BOUCHER
At the Bible Camp at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Norwalk, camp leader Mickey Mannella, a high school senior, was asked the question “What did you learn this week about yourself or about the campers?”
He responded, “To be patient. Every year I become more and more patient, but this year, being in the highest position I have been, I have become more patient than ever before.”
This special Bible Camp, held at St. Thomas in June, assisted in not only learning passages from the Bible, but also developed comprehension skills which enabled campers, leaders and counselors to listen, pay attention, and work together as a team. This was a fully inclusive camp—high schoolers implemented the lessons and middle school counselors led campers throughout the day. Leaders learned how to communicate effectively and to be understanding of those who can’t respond as quickly. Many counselors and leaders come back time and time again.
Each day started with a morning prayer with St. Thomas’ pastor, Father Mirek Stachurski. Then DRE Michelle O’Mara gave campers the schedule for the day, which included science, recreation, art, sacraments or Bible stories. Many crafts and activities combined religion and science, so kids were able to learn in a fun and effective way.
College student Stephanie Walsh, a returning counselor, enjoyed making crafts with the kids and said that “it was heartwarming to see that they wanted to make them for their mothers, fathers, siblings—and even for me too.”
Each day there was something new and exciting for the kids. On the first day, Lisa and Penny from the Stamford Museum and Nature Center brought their “magical animal” collection, connecting a frog, snake, chinchilla, African bull frog, ferret, bearded dragon, goat and an owl to the main theme of the camp and helped the kids pet all of the animals, except for the owl.
Second day was dress up day, and since the camp catered to a medieval theme, kids, counselors, leaders, and even adult helpers dressed up like kings, queens, and dragons. Kids could pick things out of a dress-up box filled with shields, swords, helmets, wands, and crowns, to sit on a throne in front of a castle backdrop for a photo. They decorated their own swords and shields and got to use them for recreation in their very own battle for the Kingdom of God.
During recreation each day, they learned about the seven deadly sins by playing games such as obstacle courses, battles, parachutes, and so on. The activities guided them to guard their hearts and minds from these deadly sins and taught them how to conquer these sins as princesses and princes of the Lord.
On the third day, a bouncy castle arrived in the morning for the campers. While some were jumping in the castle, others were being face painted by Cecy Gillen. There was even a third option: water balloon tosses. “It’s fun to see my friends I already know from school,” said kindergartener, McKenna Testa. “Now I can see them in the summer, too.”
The fourth day was sundae day. All the campers came together to make their own sundaes during snack time, with fifth graders showing the younger kids how to take turns and not make a mess.
The last day of camp, Father Mirek celebrated a special children’s Mass and campers sang their favorite new songs while parents and grandparents joined the group.
By the end of the week, campers did not want it to end.
(Youth counselor Kathryn Grieco is entering her junior year at Chaminade University in Hawaii Isabella Boucher, a counselor in training, is going into the seventh grade at Nathan Hale Middle School.)