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Parish VBS Offers Truly Catholic Curriculum


St. Mary's Church
Kalamazoo, Michigan
Diocese of Kalamazoo
United States

More Info

For more information, email DRE Anne Holewa.

St. Mary's Vacation Bible School enhances religious education program.

"It gives St. Mary’s a solid Catholic approach not only to the ongoing formation of the children in our parish, but also enables us to have an effective outreach to the children in our area who are not Catholic."

Father Robert Sirico
Pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church
Kalamazoo, Michigan

The need it meets

Father Sirico wanted his Director of Religious Education, Anne Holewa, to start up the parish Vacation Bible School (VBS) program as a way to draw together the young people of the parish during the summer and develop fellowship, as well as to enhance the current religious education program.

Where it came from

For the first two years, Holewa used a Christian VBS program but wanted to find an “authentically Catholic” VBS centered on Catholic tradition and doctrine. The "Growing with the Saints" (GWTS) VBS was just what she was looking for.

How it works

  1. Materials: GWTS offers reproducible VBS materials in a format easily adaptable to a particular parish’s needs. The kit includes:
    • age-appropriate Bible lessons and activities, skits, crafts ideas
    • music (professionally produced by Christ Kids Music –
    • four saint “companion” storybooks (saint information is integrated throughout the program)
    • service project and Field Day ideas
    • a CD including clipart and all the necessary VBS forms to implement the program
  2. Program structure: St. Mary’s uses the GWTS 5-day Adaptable Rotation Plan, which is designed for a 3-hour day with four age groupings: pre-K-Kindergarten; Grades 1-2; Grades 3-4; and Grades 5-6. Grade levels rotate through various sections of the program throughout the day.
  3. Recruiting volunteers:
    • GWTS suggests recruiting 5-6 parish adults and older teens to help as “lesson leaders” and “individual leaders.”
    • At St Mary's, Holewa also has younger teens from the parish girls' club work as volunteers. She hosts a two-day camping trip for the girls before the VBS so they can prepare for the camp.

The results

  1. At St. Mary’s in 2008, about 15 teens volunteered and 30 students attended. The parish plans to expand the program in the coming years.
  2. Holewa says the VBS summer program has helped enhance camaraderie of the teens who volunteer.
  3. More than 500 parishes have implemented the GWTS VBS program since its inception.

Key elements

The GWTS program itself includes tips for advertising and marketing to the parish and community.

How to implement it

VBS programs are usually organized by the DRE, as in Holewa’s case, but also can be organized by the Youth Minister or a VBS coordinator, utilizing parent and student volunteers to help implement the program.

Costs: * The GWTS package costs $229.
* Additional music CDs: $5.99 * T-shirts: $7.99.
* Bulk pricing is available for the companion saint books.
* It is possible to save the VBS binder materials and reuse them every few years.

Father Robert Sirico is pastor of St. Mary's Church.

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