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Essex Catholic Community’s Vacation Bible School

Imagine going back in time to the ancient city of Ephesus in what is now Turkey where Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is believed to have lived, to learn about her life and mission. 
 
This was the journey taken by 60 youngsters who recently attended the Essex Catholic Community’s Vacation Bible School focused on the holy woman, Mary, the Mother of God. 
 
Each day of the program introduced kindergarten through fifth-graders to themes like “Mary served others” or “Mary said ‘yes’ to God” as well as to some of the modern appearances or apparitions of Mary in Fatima, Spain; Lourdes, France; and Banneux, Belgium. 
 
“I hope the children have learned that Mary was the first and most courageous of Jesus’ disciples,” said John McMahon, faith formation director at Holy Family-St. Lawrence Parish and vacation Bible school creator. “What made her so special was her total faith and trust in God and that she always leads us to Jesus.”
 
The week-long camp, a collaboration between Holy Family–St. Lawrence and St. Pius X parishes, concluded with a sacred Mary Procession, followed by a traditional water balloon fight.
 
The equal mix of fun and substantive learning about an aspect of the Christian faith follows a hands-on model of learning where youngsters, for example, can create icons and rosaries while contemplating what Mary’s “thy will be done” means in their own lives. 
 
A team of 35 volunteers, from former campers to retired parishioners, guide participants in the catechesis or direct craft activities, such as making rose-filled mantles like the one impressed with Mary’s image at Guadalupe, Mexico.
 
“This program tries to model active discipleship,” said McMahon, who has directed the 15-year effort.  “Our entire staff grows together in faith alongside the children they are serving. The volunteers are wonderful role models; and the youngsters witness the teens and adults practicing their own faith.”
 
Other themes through the years have included Jesus’ early years of ministry, Holy Week leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection and Catholic saints through the centuries. The program aims to give the youngest Catholics access to the history, vocabulary and spiritual learning of the holy men and women who walked and witnessed before them.


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By Marybeth Christie Redmond


 

Show Mercy to Our Common Home

Joyce Dawson, a member of the Green Committee at Holy Family-St. Lawrence Parish in Essex Junction, says “going green” is “as easy as one, two, three: desire, information, planning.”
 
She was one of the presenters at the April 23 “Mercy for Our Common Home” event at the Holy Family-St. Lawrence parish center, preceded by evening vespers in Holy Family Church.

The event was held as part of the Global Catholic Climate Movement's Mercy2Earth Weekend, a global initiative combining Earth Day and Divine Mercy Sunday celebrations to encourage Catholics to reflect upon Pope Francis' "Mercy to Earth" message and put it into action.
 
About 35 people attended the 2-hour event that focused on caring for the Earth as part of the Diocese of Burlington’s observance of the Year of Creation called for by Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne.
 
As she spoke to persons at her presentation, Dawson sat at a table with a picture of Kermit the Frog with the words “It’s so easy being green.” And though it does take some effort to reduce, reuse, recycle and compost, she said the effort is worthwhile not only from a cost-saving perspective but also because such actions show care and respect for the Earth as called for by Pope Francis in his encyclical, “Laudato Si’: On Care For Our Common Home.”
 
Ernie Clerihew of St. Alphonsus Liguori Parish in Pittsford expressed concern about getting people to separate trash from recycling and composting at events like bingo. “A lot of people don’t want to be bothered,” he lamented. “Everybody should care.”
 
Linda Hemond of Holy Family Parish said the effort is worthwhile and made easier by products like biodegradable compost bags.
 
Dawson said parishes need to be leaders in the effort to care for creation. “We want to lead by example. We want our parishioners to do this and their families and their neighbors.”
 
In a workshop on “living simply,” presenter Marybeth Redmond, a writer and parishioner of Holy Family-St. Lawrence Parish, said for her living simply “is about disconnecting from the consumerist society we live in and finding more time for meaningful things, creating more space and time in my life for experiences, relationships with people and activities that bring meaning to my life.”
 
Many people, she said, are looking to have a less stressful existence with a higher quality of life, deeper spiritual/faith lives and more meaningful relationships.
 
Other topics of roundtable discussions were renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean water, impacts on communities and eco-spirituality.
 
Anita Wellman, a Secular Franciscan from Corpus Christi Parish in St. Johnsbury, attended the “Mercy for Our Common Home” event. “It is so Franciscan,” she enthused. “It fits into our way of life.”
 
She said the event helped her to continue to grow; “it’s called that ‘ongoing conversion,’” she said.
 
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