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Local churches share VBS decorations while sharing their faith with children

Posted By August 30, 2017 | 5:47 pm | Lead Story #2
 Vacation Bible School volunteers pose next to some Cave Quest decorations at St. Joan of Arc Parish.  (Photo submitted by Kelly Sullivan)
 Vacation Bible School volunteers pose next to some Cave Quest decorations at St. Joan of Arc Parish.  (Photo submitted by Kelly Sullivan)

By Christina Galeone
CFP Correspondent

At different times throughout the summer, Worcester County churches created welcoming, camp-like atmospheres where children could enrich their faith while participating in fun activities. These Vacation Bible Schools give kids, parents and volunteers something to look forward to. And to keep things exciting, each Vacation Bible School centers its activities around a new theme each year. But bringing those themes to life often requires colorful – sometimes elaborate – decorations.
Joyce Leite, the VBS director for St. Bernard Parish at St. Camillus Church in Fitchburg – which partners with Our Lady of the Lake in Leominster to hold a joint summer session – has seen how that requirement can be challenging for many churches.
“For some churches, their budgets give more flexibility to create these things … as well as purchase pre-made decorations. And then, unfortunately, not all churches have these types of budgets or any budget at all,” Mrs. Leite said. “It’s always been my passion to see lots of people team together and share resources. This lessens the financial burden on a church and also the labor, when getting volunteers to create these decorations is not an easy task.”
For the past two summers, Mrs. Leite has been happy to see various churches sharing their VBS resources. She’s also been delighted to be part of a multi-denominational chain of churches that have shared one particular set of vibrant VBS decorations.
Those decorations were for the Group Publishing VBS program titled “Cave Quest: Following Jesus, the Light of the World.” In it, children are taught about caves, and they use what they learn to explore their relationships with God.     “These particular decorations originated in Connecticut,” recalled Mrs. Leite. “A church associated with New Life Church … in Leominster had a connection to this other church … and they went with a U-Haul to get the decorations. Then … they repaired and added ideas they had to make the decorations work in their church.”
When a parishioner from Our Lady of the Lake heard that New Life Church wanted to bless another church with the decorations, the Cave Quest themed bounty was offered to Mrs. Leite.
“Since we run the VBS at St. Bernard’s Elementary school, the space is very labor intensive to fill with decorations, so I was happy to check out what was being offered,” Mrs. Leite explained. “I had actually been calling around the diocese to other churches … to see if they were doing the same theme and wanted to share decorations or other program needs,” she said. “In the process of hearing back from them, many had already committed to sharing with another church, and it wasn’t going to work out.”
But receiving the decorations from New Life Church worked out well. Not only did they ease budget concerns and relieve the pressure to find additional volunteers, they helped children and churches beyond St. Bernard and Our Lady of the Lake. That’s because Mrs. Leite, whose children experienced the program so vividly, then passed the decorations on to Leominster United Methodist Church and arranged for them to continue on to Holy Family of Nazareth Parish – her home parish – in Leominster.
“Passing them on for even more children to benefit and enjoy … made me overjoyed,” Mrs. Leite said.  “Things like this make me feel God’s love and presence across cities.”    Vacation Bible School Photo 3
And it didn’t stop there. Father José A. Rodriguez at Holy Family then contacted Kelly Sullivan, who runs the VBS at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Worcester, and, as in past years, he offered the decorations to her. She said she was excited to receive such a blessing for the parish’s summer program, and she noted that the children and the counselors enjoyed the secenery.
“Cave Quest just happened to be the VBS program that our pastor, Father Nelson Rivera, had chosen for this summer, so it seemed like divine intervention to be on the receiving end of such great VBS decorations and supplies,” Ms. Sullivan said. “It was definitely a great feeling to know that this VBS program and decorations had traveled to four or five other parishes before Joan of Arc. Jesus is the Light is the theme of Cave Quest, and clearly, Jesus was the Light in making this happen!”
Mrs. Leite couldn’t agree more. “It’s been such a blessing to see the children enjoy learning more about God and building stronger relationships with him and each other,” said Mrs. Leite.  “I don’t believe in creating boundaries, because boundaries set limits to what God can do in our lives.”