Vacation Bible Schools are always fun. Take the group of 25 or so children attending Bible School at the former Our Lady of Consolation School in the Tacony section of Northeast Philadelphia June 24-28.
They played, participated in crafts, attended daily Mass and sang.
This particular day they were joyfully singing, “Standing on the Rock. He built the Church. One, holy, Catholic, apostolic.”
What was different about this particular Vacation Bible School is it was jointly run by two parishes – Our Lady of Consolation and St. Leo the Great.
At least they were two parishes at the time; on July 1 they become one parish — Our Lady of Consolation at Our Lady of Consolation. The Vacation Bible School just jumped the gun a bit.
The two parishes were part of a large wave of parish mergers in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced June 2.
Merging parishes is never easy, and it is especially difficult for the parish that will lose its identity. This is certainly true in the case of the St. Leo-Our Lady of Consolation merger at OLC.
Good people can disagree. It would not have been at all surprising if the initial joint planning meeting held June 19 at Our Lady of Consolation would have been somewhat acrimonious. Quite the opposite, both sides were surprised how smoothly it was going.
Toward the end of the meeting, during the discussion of upcoming plans both parishes had, the matter of the Vacation Bible School came up. By coincidence both parishes were planning to run one the same week. Since neither group was large why not combine them?
By mutual agreement both would provide staff, and the vacant school of Our Lady of Consolation was the most sensible site. St. Leo, which has a very strong food donation program, would supply the snacks, juices and water. Volunteers at OLC also came forward with snacks.
Staffing the programs were Sacred Heart Sisters Marie Therese and Sister Abby of OLC, and Chrissy Schiavello of St. Leo, along with about five volunteers.
“We are one Church with one faith,” Sister Marie Therese said. “The Church means the people. Our goal is to teach about Christ and the whole focus is about Christ and the Eucharist.”
“It’s real nice. We do lots of stuff and we play games,” said Joey Finn, a St. Leo child. “Today we drew a ship, it was about God.”
“I like it ‘cause we get to play outside and do arts and crafts,” said Lauren Gerstle, from Our Lady of Consolation. “We sing and we go to church. Today we sang about Peter building the Church on a rock.”
The kids were getting along perfectly no matter which parish they were from, playing and holding hands. As Chrissy Schiavello explained, “It’s ‘let the children lead us.’”