BRIDGEPORT—Summertime is upon us, and while this season brings opportunities for rest, relaxation and recreation, there are also many programs that allow people in the diocese to experience spiritual growth. Vacation Bible Camps provide this and so much more for school-aged children, as well as teen and adult volunteers.
St. Theresa Church in Trumbull has recently wrapped up their fourth Vacation Bible Camp to date, for children in preschool through Grade 5. Rose Talbot-Babey, the camp’s coordinator, has been directing the camp since she came to the diocese.
Open to regional Catholic and non-Catholics, over 100 campers and 70 teen volunteers gathered at St. Theresa’s the week of June 24-28 for the camp, which was led by three Dominican sisters from Mary, Mother of the Eucharist of Ann Arbor, Mich. Each summer, on their way back to their Motherhouse, the sisters who are in formation engage in mission work, including helping at Vacation Bible Camps.
This year’s theme at St. Theresa’s was “Meeting Jesus in the Mass,” and two of the sisters assisted with the teaching portion of the camp, while another, who is also a professional musician, provided liturgical music for the Mass held on the last day of camp.
St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown also held a Vacation Bible Camp this summer. The theme of this year’s camp was “Shipwrecked: Rescued by Jesus,” where the focus was on “the saving power of Jesus’ love,” says camp co-coordinator Laura Brennan. Campers had the opportunity to sing, dance, play outdoors and have time for a snack, while learning about God through all of it. “We refer to it as the happiest week of the year at St. Rose,” says Brennan.
Kathleen Rooney, director of Religious Education at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Wilton, directed this year’s Vacation Bible Camp. The parish has hosted a Bible Camp since the early 1990s and enrollment usually averages around 40-60 children. Each day consisted of a rotation of half-hour sessions, including music, crafts, Bible stories and outdoor recreation.
On the final day, a closing ceremony was held, during which children read Scripture passages that related to the camp’s theme, “Jesus is Our Friend,” and sang songs that they learned throughout the week.
Donna Lane has been helping out with the Vacation Bible Camp at her parish, St. Jude in Monroe, since she arrived in 2001. Each year, they have about 100 campers, as well as a combination of adult and teen volunteers. Most of the teens have already gone through the program themselves and then return as volunteers.
The Bible lessons are told through the stories of different animals, as part of this year’s theme: “Into the Wild.” The last day of camp includes a closing program, which Lane says is one of the highlights. The campers perform songs they have learned for their parents and grandparents, and they enjoy the interactive hand movements.
At St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan, children in Vacation Bible Camp learned about the Holy Trinity through the teaching of St. Patrick. One of the camp co-directors, Kiana O’Reilly, hoped that the children would come to “understand the Trinity like a family” and “keep thinking about God every day.” In addition to daily activities, such as music, crafts and Bible lessons, campers were treated to special programs, such as “water day” and shows put on by the parish’s Youth Group Bible Troupe.
Coming from the perspective of a parent, Kiana notes that “we’re all trying to do the best we can in raising them. When it becomes difficult, we can reach out to the Church.” Vacation Bible Camp is one of the ways parents can do that.
Children between ages 3 and 9 attended Vacation Bible School at St. Mary Parish in Bethel from July 8-12. “Led by adult staff and volunteer counselors, VBS offered fun and learning for the whole week,” says Maggie Kent of St. Mary’s Religious Education. Kent says “we look forward to keeping children engaged in the community, having fun and learning about Bible stories that affect their lives and how they can live those out every day!”
Every year, the town of Brookfield hosts an Ecumenical Vacation Bible Camp, a tradition that has been going on for about 50 years. St. Joseph Parish in Brookfield is one of three host parishes, along with two Protestant churches in Brookfield.
The camp is run by parents, college students and high school students, and “has the support of all church leaders,” says Margaret Petta, one of the coordinators.
Through engaging in Bible stories, creating a craft project, playing games outside, working on a science project or enjoying snacks donated from parishioners of the different host parishes, the campers learn about and encounter God as a Christian community, Petta said.
Karen Soares-Robinson is the director of Religious Education and director of the 5-Week Summer Camp at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Bridgeport. She has led the program for the last four years and notes, “I’m the director and I get excited about it!” The primary goal, she says, is for the kids to have fun and there are plenty of opportunities for them to do so.
On Fridays, they take field trips to various fun spots, such as Lake Compounce, Urban Air or a group hike with pastor, Father Joseph “Skip” Karcsinski. Toward the end of camp, they have opportunities to tie-dye t-shirts, build camaraderie through a field day and even participate in a baking competition (Top-Chef-style, with judges). Even with all of these activities, each day of the camp begins with time for the children to read books and receive spiritual formation.
St. Mark Parish in Stratford hosted their Vacation Bible Camp this year with the theme “Roar,” focusing on how “life is wild but God is good.” Students started the day with song and dance, surrounded by amazing life-size jungle decorations. Children ages K-6 broke up into groups for different activities throughout the day. “It is such a joy to see everyone in the parish come together for this camp every year,” says Patricia Nettleton, director of Religious Education at St. Mark’s. “We have people of every age helping out and wanting to be involved.” This was evident as young and old alike joined in the opening song, “ROAR!”