In order to provide children with a fun environment to learn more about Catholicism, several Warwick churches and schools are hosting their annual summer Bible vacations this week.
Sts. Rose and Clement, St. Peter, and St. Gregory the Great are a few that are instructing their school children and parishioners about what it means to be a follower of God through educational crafts, games and activities.
Campers at Sts. Rose and Clement are getting a glance at what Jesus’ childhood was like, as volunteers set up the entire basement of the church to resemble Nazareth, the town in Israel where Jesus grew up.
“Bible camps usually focus on the Old Testament, which was prior to Jesus’ birth,” said Religious Education Director Cheryl Berube. “Here, we’re doing the New Testament and teaching campers things they would have done in Nazareth. It was a small, peaceful, self-sufficient town.”
The town comes complete with nearly 10 locations campers can visit, including a bead store; carpenter shop; rock quarry; synagogue school; food market; farmer’s field; and a store to learn how to make olive oil, as well as a shop to create wool.
“They each have three coins a day to spend at the shops,” Berube said. “Over the course of the week, they will do all the activities.”
Campers can also chat with the Blessed Mother Mary and other Biblical figures played by parishioners, as the holy family’s home is open for guests. There, Mary told the children of her experience with the Angel Gabriel, who came to her and informed her she would give birth to the Son of God.
“I like visiting Mary,” said Kaleigh Sisson, 9, a fifth grader at St. Rose. “We got to learn about what Jesus was like when he was a baby. She taught us how Jesus saved us so we can go to Heaven.”
Second grader Hayley Collins, 6, said, “It was nice to see Mary. She told us what our names mean and then I [went to the bead shop and] made a necklace and bracelet.”
Another second grader, Ella Olea, 7, also made jewelry. She said, “The crafts are fun. I learned how to build a [wooden] sheep, too.”
Along with adult parishioners who volunteer their time and help run the shops and locations, recent St. Rose graduates and current students are assisting, as well. Adrianna Kremer, who just graduated and will be heading to The Prout School in September, said she is not only helping out to fulfill community service and confirmation requirements, she is enjoying the Bible school.
“It’s nice to teach children that in Jesus’ time, there weren’t wash cloths or soap,” said Kremer, who is serving as the manager of the wool shop. “People had to use what they had and make their own. They didn’t have the advantages we have today. The children are learning that and they are grateful.”
Aaron Mackisur, who also graduated from St. Rose this year and is heading to La Salle in the fall, said he thinks it’s important to set a good example for the younger children. Dressed as a rabbi who questions whether or not Jesus really exists, he did just that.
“Church is already there for them, but for kids, it’s hard to concentrate and pay attention in mass,” he said. “We are teaching them in a way that’s easier for them to learn.”
The church’s pastor, Fr. Edward Wilson, feels the same. He believes the interactive Bible school is important for youths because it’s showing them what Jesus’ life was like as a child.
“It makes Jesus more real for us and for the children,” Fr. Wilson said. “We always see him on the cross, but here, they can say, ‘Jesus was just like me.’ To think of him as a child is a beautiful thing. It’s making a deeper bond with Jesus, who lived as a person.”
The Bible school at Sts. Rose and Clement began Monday and will conclude tomorrow afternoon. Children visit from 9 a.m. until noon.
St. Peter is also holding their Bible school program this week. Similarly, they have parishioners, both adults and students, who are volunteering their time. In contrast, their hours are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a “Pandamania” theme that focuses on the fact that “God is wild about you.”
Matt Gabriel, owner of Animal World Experience based out of Stoughton, Mass., was on hand for a show that featured exotic creatures, including a corn snake, a tree frog and a giant African millipede, to show children the beauty of God’s creatures.
“We decided to incorporate animals to give them a fine source of the things God created,” said Margaret Andreozzi, the elementary faith formation coordinator. “Most of our volunteers are educators in the Warwick School Department.”
Bethany Mascena Tracy, who works part-time at Bay View Academy as the director of special events and is also a parishioner, is in charge of both junior and high school counselors. Prior to Monday, she said she spent some time working with the young adults in order to prepare them for the school.
“We spent a couple of evenings and weekends talking about their roles as mentors and as friends to the campers,” she said. “We talked about things they could do that would help them build relationships with the campers and how they can develop a team spirit. I’ve been making sure they know they have someone to talk to if they need an adult for a certain situation.”
Mascena Tracy also said the older children have been teaching the younger ones dance moves and lyrics for their religious musical presentation set for Friday evening. She feels they are serving as role models.
“The younger kids are seeing older kids as active members of the church,” she said. “It helps paint a picture for them to be more engaged and still participate in church and church activities as they grow older. For themselves, it keeps their connection with the church. It reminds them that they are children of God. It’s good, clean fun.”
Tomorrow’s production begins at 6 p.m. in the lower part of the church. It will serve as the grand finale of the Bible school.
“None of this would be possible without the fantastic support of Fr. Roger Gangé,” said Andreozzi.
Fr. Gangé, who attended the opening of the school on Monday morning and will be at tomorrow’s ceremony, said he is thankful to have dedicated parishioners who are spending their time and energy on the project. He also feels grateful for the youth volunteers.
“We couldn’t do it without their help,” he said. “The kids all love it and it’s a fun way to learn about the faith. When I was a kid, we got some crayons and a coloring book at Bible school. But, this is incredible.”
St. Gregory the Great is also hosting their Bible school this week. They, too, are using the theme, “Pandamania.”
“It’s a great way to get their faith across to them,” said Eileen Kelly, the director of religious formation at St. Gregory. “Sometimes, they don’t even know they are learning.”
She said it not only teaches children more about Catholicism, it also helps them build character and improve their social skills.
“It brings some of the quiet kids out of their shells and quiets down the ones who have trouble paying attention,” she said.
St. Timothy Church and St. Rita Church are hosting their summer Bible schools this week as well, while St. Kevin Church held a two-week program, which wraps up this week.