by Louis Bosco, Director of Religious Education

Campers walked through the Triumphal Arch to get to the Roman marketplace at this year’s Vacation Church & Bible Campl

This summer’s Vacation Church & Bible Camp, “Saint Paul and the Underground Church,” was truly a blessing in many ways! Our goal in faith formation is always to help others grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. It seemed obvious that this summer’s camp (June 19-23) was a meaningful encounter with Jesus that children, teens and adults will not soon forget.

The best way for one to learn is through real-life experiences, and the children definitely learned through all they saw, heard and did during the week of camp. They learned by singing the energetic praise songs, and by playing authentic versions of Roman games. They learned from perusing the numerous shops of the Roman marketplace, where they conversed with various characters, some of whom were worshippers of the Roman gods and others who were secretly Christians. They learned from the daily skits that took place spontaneously throughout the camp, and perhaps most memorably from visiting the Apostle Paul while he was under house arrest. They also visited a replica of the Roman catacombs, where they met St. Peter and other early Christians praying and celebrating Mass.

One of the lessons we wanted to communicate was the importance of the Church to the early believers. It was from the Church, in fact, that we received the Bible (which is why we were sure to include “Church” as well as “Bible” in the Camp’s name.) History tells us that Saint Mark accompanied Peter in Rome, and that his Gospel developed from his writing down of the Apostle’s sermons. The campers witnessed Peter preaching in the catacombs, while Mark dutifully recorded his words on a scripture scroll. They also witnessed Paul writing his Epistle to the Romans.

It was edifying to see the children actively use their imaginations, getting into the events of the day. On one occasion, when Roman soldiers came to close the bake shop on suspicion of Claudia the baker being a Christian, the children spontaneously booed and chased away the soldiers and took up a collection of pretend denarii to give to Claudia.

Things like this touched the hearts of us volunteers, to the extent we felt as though we were being taught by the children. There are simply too many volunteers (85 total) to list everyone, but I want to take this opportunity to thank them all: from those who helped plan and organize, to those who provided the daily snacks, to those who helped set up, build and paint the marketplace, Paul’s house and the catacombs, to those involved with music and games, and those who worked with the drama team.

We want to thank our pastor, Father Kevin, as well for his gracious support of this undertaking. And a particular “thank you” is owed to our local Giant Eagle for donating bread for the “bakery” and day-old grapes for the campers to stomp at the wine-making station. A great deal of time and effort went into this year’s camp, but seeing the wonder and awe on the faces of the children, hearing the joy in their voices, made it all worthwhile!