Summer Bible schools keep kids connected to their faith

  • Written by Mary Louise Van Dyke
  • Published in Local
Children play while at the Agents of Mercy vacation Bible school at St. Michael Parish in Olympia. Photo: Courtesy Anne Kunkle Children play while at the Agents of Mercy vacation Bible school at St. Michael Parish in Olympia. Photo: Courtesy Anne Kunkle

As summer began, children at Olympia’s St. Michael Parish were learning about homelessness by building shelters out of cardboard and duct tape. They also saw a “tiny home” shelter crafted by Peter Roderick, a parishioner at St. Leo Parish in Tacoma.

The lessons were part of the parish’s “Agents of Mercy” vacation Bible school, created by the staff to tie in with the Jubilee Year of Mercy, according to Anne Kunkle, parish steward for children’s ministries. Each day of the June 20-24 camp, for children from age 4 to sixth grade, focused on one or two of the corporal works of mercy, she said.

Teams of youngsters made soup-in-a-jar mixes and prepared food for a community meal, grating cheese, combining spices, and cutting up peppers and onions. Inspired to give comfort to the sick and injured, kids designed cards for Father Jim Lee, St. Michael’s pastor, who is recovering from a bicycle accident. 

making cardboard shelters
Children attending the Agents of Mercy vacation Bible school at St. Michael Parish in Olympia made shelters of cardboard and duct tape to learn about the difficulties faced by homeless people. Photo: Courtesy Anne Kunkle


St. Michael’s isn’t the only parish in the archdiocese that is keeping young parishioners connected to their faith this summer.

At St. Joseph Parish in Issaquah, students in kindergarten through sixth grade participated in a variety of activities during the Christian “Cave Quest” program June 27 through July 1. The program — focused on following Jesus, the Light of the World, through the dark times of life — was customized by the parish staff to reflect Catholic teachings, said Amy Field, pastoral assistant for children’s faith formation.

St. Joseph Parish in Isaqquah
Children at St. Joseph Parish in Issaquah learned about the significance of candles in church during the parish’s Cave Quest vacation Bible school. Photo: Courtesy Amy Field

So participants made wrist rosaries and listened to their pastor, Father Todd Strange, explain the significance of candles in church, Field said. “We got a lot of feedback from parents that they really appreciated staff’s efforts,” she said. One parent even asked if the program could run through the summer.

The Cave Quest experience is also on tap at St. Rose de Viterbo Parish in Longview Aug. 1-5. Organizer Claudia Alvarez, the pastoral assistant for children’s faith formation, created a cave-shaped box where parishioners can contribute items such as flashlights and snack foods that tie in with each day’s theme. 

Preparing for the camp — open to children age 4 through fifth grade — is a lot of work, but Alvarez said she knows it will be worth it. “What I enjoy the most is seeing the kids’ faces,” she said. 

In Auburn, Holy Family Parish had its first vacation Bible school in 20 years, planned by Lindsay Carter, pastoral assistant for children’s ministry. “I attended vacation Bible school here as a little girl,” Carter said, explaining that she wanted her daughter and other parish children to have the experience. 

Barnyard Roundup VBSMadilyn Kelley, left, Natalie Lewis, Charity Jordan, Kiera Warm and Finley Hancock made lamb and bead necklaces during the “Barnyard Roundup” vacation Bible school at Sacred Heart Parish in La Conner. Photo: Courtesy Shari Mentel

Called “Barnyard Roundup,” the July 11-15 program included a petting zoo with sheep, goats, rabbits, pigs, and even a tortoise. Carter said the animals helped children connect with Bible stories of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. “The animals help us remember that just as we care and watch over animals, God cares and watches over us,” she said.

Barnyard Roundup was also this year’s vacation Bible school program at Sacred Heart Parish in La Conner. Shari Mentel, faith formation director, said she was “delighted” when the parish’s middle schoolers volunteered to help shepherd the attendees — age 4 to third grade — at the June camp.

One of the middle-school leaders came up with the idea for a daily group activity: reading a verse from Psalm 23, writing and coloring it on paper, then cutting it into puzzle pieces. At the end of the day, the kids reassembled the words, Mentel said.

“This was our first year, and with the Holy Spirit helping us, we had a wonderful week of fellowship, singing, dancing and praising,” she said.