By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
This summer, Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine hosted its first Vacation Bible School (VBS) since 2019.
“We were so happy to be back,” said Sister Cheryl Demmer, PVBM, the parish’s director of religious education and faith formation. “We chose not to do it last year, because COVID was still a bit high and (online programming) is difficult for many of our young people.”
The Muscatine parish hosted VBS the week of June 13. About 100 youths participated. Sixty-eight teens and adults served as crew leaders. She is grateful for the ministry that VBS programs can provide. One mother said her children were singing “Awesome God” in the Walmart aisles after VBS ended. Sister Demmer also received a text from a mother whose child said, “Mom, It’s time for us to go back to church.”
Many other parishes in the Diocese of Davenport hosted VBS and VBS-type programs this year, some for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020. St. James Parish in Washington hosted VBS the week of June 27, with a record 72 youths participating. The parish used the Totally Catholic Rocky Railway program from Group Publishing and Our Sunday Visitor.
“We purchased the starter kit two years ago, before COVID hit, so we had to implement some of our own activities, since many of the supplies were no longer available,” said Lori Fritz, the parish’s faith formation coordinator. The parish borrowed most of the set pieces from another church, a huge blessing, she said. Programming included music, prayer, lessons, testimonies, crafts and snacks. “With five adult volunteers and 14 teenage crew leaders, we definitely trusted in the power of Jesus to pull us through!” She hopes the participating youths will “continue to grow in their relationship with Jesus” and live out the lessons they learned at VBS.
Holy Family Parish in Davenport resumed its VBS program last year. This year’s program served nearly 45 students the week of June 20, using the Monumental Love program from Our Sunday Visitor. “Students rotated between Bible lessons, games, KidVid and imagination stations,” said Diane Lannan, director of religious education. Each day’s programming focused on a different Bible verse. Father Nicholas Akindele, pastor, participated in daily skits as Cliff Towers, a fictional mountain climber. On the last day, parents and loved ones listened to the children sing some of the songs they learned at VBS.
St. Anthony Parish in Davenport resumed its annual Vacation Bible Music and Arts Camp last summer. A parish team creates an original program in which participating youths learn through music, art, drama and culinary creations. “All of the activities are within the overall theme and the theme of the day,” said Kim Noftsker, music director. This year’s theme was Passport Through the Bible, complete with paper “passports” and a 16-seat cardboard “airplane.”
Noftsker observes that participants seem to retain much of what they learn in the summer program. “I have some teenagers in my English adult choir who, from time to time, comment on the readings for that particular Sunday. They’ll reminisce about the reading and remember the things they did at Vacation Bible Music and Art Camp! I think it’s because our program is so hands-on and interactive. It brings the stories of the Bible and the traditions of the Church to life for the kids!”