SPARTANBURG—Growing with the Saints is not your typical vacation Bible school program, which tend to be Protestant based. It is one written specifically for Catholics by Catholics.
Susan Lawson, who attends Jesus Our Risen Savior Church, said she teamed with her mother and two sisters in 2001 to create the program because they saw a need for a fun way to teach the Bible from a Catholic perspective.
“We have the truth, we have the sacraments, we have the tradition,” Lawson said. “We have a chance to get kids excited about their faith.” One way they have done so is by incorporating the lives of the saints into each of the four programs they have created so far. They also provide companion music CDs and storybooks on the saints with each series, Lawson said.
About 10 parishes in the Diocese of Charleston have tried at least one of the selections, which feature lessons on the Holy Trinity, Catholic virtues, angels, and priests.
Mitzi Weaver, director of religious education at St. Francis by the Sea Church in Hilton Head, said she has purchased all four programs even though they can’t always offer summer Bible school.
“We’re able to integrate it into our religious education classes,” she said. For example, the newest edition, which celebrates the Year for Priests, will be used to teach about vocations. Weaver added that the kindergarten teacher loves the music CDs and uses those in her class all year.
She said the skits suggested in the lesson plan also come in handy because they provide a great way to involve older youth, who can perform the mini plays for the younger children as part of their service requirements.
Growing with the Saints is based in Indiana, where the rest of Lawson’s family lives. Her two sisters, Maryalice Beach and Melissa Kaiser, designed and wrote the programs. Their mother Margaret Windle writes the stories about saints.
“She’s so inspirational,” Lawson said of her mother. “She always wrote stories for us as we were growing up, and she made them so much fun.”
She said they are a little Catholic family working to spread the word in the bigger Catholic family. To that end, Growing with the Saints received an imprimatur from Bishop John M. D’Arcy of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese.
Lawson said they address specific questions such as why priests are called father, or why Catholics choose the name of a saint for confirmation.
She remembers one group of children learning about the significance of making the sign of the cross, and they were so excited about it that they made the sign at every opportunity, even before eating snacks.
“We should be excited about it. We should be shouting our Catholic faith from the top,” Lawson said.
Visit www.growingwiththesaints.com to learn more about the program.