By JOEY REISTROFFER
GAFFNEY — At Sacred Heart Church 25 youngsters are taking a week out of their summer playtime to learn about the foundations of their faith.
They are growing spiritually, and they don’t even know it. To them, Vacation Bible School is a chance to pal around with their buddies. They get to draw, paint, sing and dance.
The parish grounds were filled with laughter in late June as children ages 3 to 9 showed off what they had learned about the Lord.
“The Ligouri program makes it fun,” said Joanne Babin, director of religious education at Sacred Heart. This is the first time she has used the Ligouri lessons, and it has been a hit.
The lessons present Christian principles without overwhelming the students.
For instance, Helen Suttle let her 7 to 9-year-old class stack rocks on top of each other then glue them together and paint them.
During the project, Suttle talked about how the Catholic traditions are built on a sturdy rock foundation and how Jesus called Peter the rock of the Church.
Holding up a rock, Suttle told the children, “This is symbolic. It is a symbol of strength. Do you think God’s love can make us as strong as Peter?”
The children listened as they painted.
The 3-year-olds, meanwhile, were introduced to the Lamb of God by gluing cotton balls together in the shape of lambs. The lesson might be lost for now, but they had a great time watching those cotton lambs come together.
In another classroom, the 4 to 6-year-olds drew around their feet, cut out the pattern and with a few strokes of the crayons, transformed their footprints into little fish.
Teacher Mary Charbonneau held up a freshly cut print and told the class that Jesus wants his children to follow him. “We are all God’s followers,” she said.
Once the prints were colored in to look like fish, Charbonneau stressed to the youngsters that Christ wants them to be fishers of men. “We are all God’s disciples.”
Babin said the lessons are simple, enjoyable and important. And Suttle said she tries to focus on one lesson per day and hope that the children grasp it before their concentration wanders.
Throughout the week the students learned about Noah’s ark, how Jesus cured children, the foundation of the Church and the Magnificat.
All these activities gave the youth an enjoyable way to remember important parts of Scripture.
“The parish understands that it’s about learning,” Babin said. “But it’s also about touching the heart and having fun. We played, and we learned about Jesus.”
She said the children were encouraged to bring their friends, and they did. The week started out with seven kids in the older class, Suttle said, but it grew to 12 by the end of the week.
“We want to give children the sense of belonging to the family of God,” she said. “This is all about the basic Christian message: Jesus loves us and comes to save us.”
“What’s so great about this program is all the children are playing together and getting along,” she said.
Emily Paluszak agreed. She brought her 3-year-old son Phillip, whom she said loved it.
As did young Maureen Connelly, who joined the entire group in singing, “Yes Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.”
“This is a small parish,” said Babin, “but it is a jewel of a parish.”