By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
WEST BURLINGTON — Children, parents and volunteers at Ss. Mary & Patrick Parish created heart chains out of red, white and pink construction paper, writing encouraging messages like “Jesus loves you” on each one.
The festive chains were one of many decorations parishioners crafted Jan. 11 in preparation for the parish’s Valentine Taco Luncheon on Feb. 8, but the craft day wasn’t all about making the gathering space look pretty. It was about getting children involved with parish life.
“A majority of the parishioners are long-term members; we want to increase the parish appeal for younger families,” said parishioner and volunteer Mary Rae Schnedler. “They are the future of our parish. If we don’t get parents and kids involved now, where are we going to be?”
As part of the parish’s Assessment and Renewal program, the parish Community Commission decided to start hosting quarterly events in 2015 to involve parishioners of all ages. The valentine crafting and lunch served as the inaugural event.
The Jan. 11 craft day took place after Sunday Mass. Two parish members who work in the education field set up 10 stations and utilized the help of several adult volunteers. Each station offered a different crafting opportunity, including papier mache maracas, cards, sponge printing, paper snowflakes and weaving. About 25 children participated. “The kids were very enthusiastic,” Schnedler observed.
Parishioner Amy Drew brought her children Maddie, Jack and Bella to the craft day. “It was fantastic to have so many young families from our parish joining in for a fun craft day with the kids as the focus.” She said her children most enjoyed making papier mache maracas.
Laurie Rapp is Drew’s mother. She volunteered at the craft day and observed her grandchildren participating in the crafts. She expressed a hope that events such as creating decorations for a dinner will help youths “feel a sense of ownership in their church community beyond just being altar servers.”
The crafts, in turn, were an incentive for the children to invite their families to the lunch Feb. 8. The handmade decorations filled the hall where guests dined. Schnedler said about 130 people attended the lunch, including many sets of children, parents and grandparents. After the lunch, the children took their crafts home. “They were excited to bring parents and grandparents there to see their work,” Schnedler said.
She hopes this renewal event – and those in the future — will work to create a new generation of involved parish members. “If we can get them there as little kids, it’ll be easier to keep them (as they get older).”
Amy Drew considered the endeavor a huge success. “The (commission) did such a nice job organizing this event!”