Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Hundreds of Eastern Washington children enjoy Vacation Bible School

by Bonita Lawhead, Inland register staff

(From the July 31, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

Jenny Ann Edgren, pastoral administrator of St. Michael Parish in Inchelium who is also a diver, added a special wrinkle to the parish’s Vacation Bible School. The program used was titled “SCUBA: Super Cool Undersea Bible Adventure.” With her is Amy, a participant who had just written a note underwater. (IR photo from St. Michael Parish, Inchelium)

Children taking part in the tri-parish VBS in Spokane spend a moment in song and motion. (IR photo from St. Thomas More Parish, Spokane)

The Vacation Bible School program used by three Spokane parishes – St. Thomas More, Assumption, and St. Charles – included some live animal encounters. (IR photo from St. Thomas More Parish, Spokane)

Six students from Gonzaga Prep, Spokane, helped implement the VBS program at St. Michael, Inchelium. From left: Keegan Gardner, Aaron Kandratowicz, Peter Brown, Josephine Keefe, Kim Holt, and Libby Smith. (IR photo from St. Michael Parish, Inchelium)

Hundreds of young people throughout the Spokane Diocese have attended or are attending what has come to be known as Vacation Bible School (VBS). Religious education directors, coordinators and scores of volunteers organize the week-long events to help reinforce for children their spiritual learning from the school year.

At St. Michael Parish in Inchelium, the event is called Bible Camp. Parish administrator Jenny Edgren presented a program called SCUBA, the “Super Cool Undersea Bible Adventure” which is based on the story of Jonah and the Whale, from the popular Veggie Tales.

Edgren said anywhere from 22-28 children attended the camp, which was held June 23-27. The dates are coordinated with the other churches in the Inchelium area, so the children can attend all the summer church programs.

The program includes lessons, crafts and music, all related to the theme. Even the snacks were coordinated in the “Dive-In Diner.”

The children didn’t really have to dive for their food, but they were able to experience diving. Edgren herself is a scuba diver and she helped children don diving gear and take a “dive” into a special pool, giving added meaning to “Undersea Bible Adventure.”

Another bonus was that six students from Gonzaga Preparatory School in Spokane came to Inchelium for Bible Camp. The six are all seniors. Kim Holt has come to Inchelium for the past four summers, and Libby Smith, for two. Other Prep students were Peter Brown, Aaron Kandratowicz, Keegan Gardner, and Josephine Keefe.

Jesuit Father Jake Morton, St. Michael’s pastor, also helped out, and presided at a mid-week Mass.

The children took part in “Operation Kid-to-Kid,” an outreach to low-income children, donating simple items such as crayons and combs to St. Anne Family Center and St. Margaret Shelter, both in Spokane. Scott Cooper, parish social ministries’ director from Spokane, came to Inchelium twice, first to explain “Operation Kid-to-Kid” and then to lead the camp’s ending prayer session and collect the items the children donated.

The parish received a grant from the Catholic Foundation to hold Bible Camp for which Edgren is very grateful. “They’re so generous to support us,” Edgren said. “The Bible Camp is one of the most successful projects we do during the year. It reaches out to a lot of people.”

In Spokane, three parishes – St. Thomas More, Assumption and St. Charles – decided to hold Vacation Bible School together. A flyer went out with the title “Let the Children Come,” and they did. Main organizer Kate Bradley of St. Thomas More said early registration totaled 150 young people from the three parishes, but on the first day of the session, another 37 children showed up. The program was held at St. Thomas More Church July 14-18.

The VBS theme was “Fruits of the Spirit,” and activities centered around a country fair. The “fruits” that received particular focus were love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. Bradley said the children learned about making jam, growing seeds, and tending animals.

That last became a hands-on experience, as Bradley arranged to have real farm animals, a Vietnamese pig, a pony and chickens for the children to encouter. The parish campus has a large amount of open space and Bradley arranged pens for the livestock.

Bradley praised the volunteers, teens and adults, who helped out each day. Jesuit seminarian Sean Rafftis also helped. In particular he led the Stations of the Cross at Holy Cross Cemetery one day for the children. An outdoor Mass was held on the last day.

Even with the large number of children, Bradley said it was “the best Vacation Bible School” they’d ever had. “Everyone wants to do it again,” she said.

This summer saw Omak and Okanogan host their first Vacation Bible School in at least 10 years, said main organizer Jennifer Descoteaux. It was held July 14-18 at Our Lady of the Valley Parish in Okanogan.

Descoteaux said the first day there were 23 children and on the last day, there were 44. “We didn’t know what to expect. We thought we might have about 15 kids and we didn’t have enough materials,” she said. “We improvised a lot.”

They also used the SCUBA program. “The children really got into it,” she said. “It really clicked with them.” She was grateful for the many volunteers who assisted her, and for the assistance of Bishop White seminarian Mike Ishida, who is helping out at Our Lady of the Valley this summer.

One of the non-nautical highlights was a cakewalk with cupcakes. Ishida put together some questions related to the program and the children had to answer them before they received their cupcakes. In the end, though, everyone had a cupcake.

Sacred Heart Parish in Tekoa joined with the United Church of Tekoa for their community’s vacation Bible School June 16-19. About 50 children participated in the SCUBA program. The United Church facility was designated into nautical sections: the ship, the palace, the harborlights, and the belly of the whale. Each section had teachers and volunteers and the children would rotate to each one which allowed the teachers to repeat the same lesson and activities for the day’s theme.

Descoteaux encouraged those parishes that do not have VBS programs to check out the programs that are available. “The church has excellent materials, and the lesson plans are so well laid out, people can easily pick them up,” she said.

All the organizers agreed: Vacation Bible School is worthwhile and they will do it again.

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