St. Helena Parish in Blue Bell recently held a Vacation Bible School mirroring the Olympics. It was called “Cathletics: Training to be Champions for Christ.” The purpose of this title was to remind loyal young pilgrims that prayer is a very important part of the Olympics. Without prayer, an athlete cannot compete to the best of his or her ability.
“It was an opportunity to talk about the Olympics and learn how the athletes pray to get through trials and accolades to their achievements,” said Kurt Zampier, director of Youth, Young Adults and Adult Ministry at St. Helena.
Zampier ran the Aug. 8-12 program for 98 children ranging from incoming kindergarteners through some entering fifth grade. He said it would not have been possible without so many volunteers, 46 of whom gave up their time to help out. They included a sixth grade student of the parish school all the way up to a senior in her 70s. While a lot of the participants were fellow parishioners, it was open to anyone interested.
Having such a large age-range of people volunteering turned out to be a great way to bring the parish together, according to the parish’s pastor, Msgr. Joseph Nicolo, particularly during the summer months when many folks tend to go on vacation.
“There is a connection being made,” he said. “Many adults look forward to it. You get high school kids involved. They are learning in a fun atmosphere.”
Fittingly, the camp opened on Aug. 8, the feast of St. Helena and in honor of the occasion, the parish hosted a picnic on the day.
“It gets families involved,” said Msgr. Nicolo. “From my standpoint, it helps build the community.”
The one-week program focused on exposing children to the Word of God and focused on the Ten Commandments, the beatitudes, the gifts of the Holy Spirit and evangelization.
The routine stayed consistent from day-to-day as the children were divided into five groups and each morning included five different stations: faith, crafts, music, snack and fun and games. Among the activities that reminded them of the Olympics was making tasty torches out of waffle cones to symbolize the Olympic torch.
The group discussed several virtues such as excellence, temperance and fortitude. They did a demonstration of blowing up a balloon so that they could channel their energy in a suitable way and remember the importance of those virtues in their everyday lives.
“If we didn’t blow it up, we could be loud and uncontrollable,” said Zampier.
There was also a saint to remember each day. They included St. John Paul II, St. Anne (mother of the Blessed Virgin), St. Francis Xavier, St. Marguerite d’Youville as well as Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.
“Every day started with morning assembly and a verse from the Bible that would link to the theme,” said Zampier.
On the last day there was a closing prayer service followed by a musical performance by the children. The week concluded with a party with soft pretzels and water ice and all children went home with prayer cards including a saint’s life story.
They also received a CD of the songs they learned, encouraging them to become more like the saints and perhaps see them as heroes to follow.
“This is a way to reinforce God’s teachings and be a special friend of Christ,” said Msgr. Nicolo.