A mix of faith and fun

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You could tell that the children were having fun June 18 at Vacation Bible Camp at St. John the Evangelist School in Warrenton. Laughter and excited giggles poured from the gym where children played "Simon says", running across the gym floor following "Simon's" orders.

It was the same joyous noise when the campers worked together to make cardboard tabernacles and when they went on a scavenger hunt.

The 96 children who registered for the five-day camp which began June 15 expected faith and fun, and they got what they bargained for.

There has been a summer camp at St. John the Evangelist for many years, but the camp was given new direction after Father James R. Gould became the pastor five years ago.

"Academic, social and spiritual," he said were the three areas he wanted emphasized in the camp.

Father Gould also wanted a focus on Mary, the saints and Scripture in religious education. He said that if the children are engaged, they will bring their parents to church.

About three years ago, Father Gould hired Sherin Murphy to be the director of religious education. He gave her a suggestion.

"Let's bring the sisters in," he said.

The sisters were the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, based in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The sisters have returned to St. John the Evangelist every summer since and were there for this year's camp "In the Beginning: The Holy Bible." This was a new program in the "Week of Graces" series developed by Carol Ann Jones, and designed for children ages 5-12.

This year, Sisters Michael Vincent, Juan Jose and Gabriella helped lead the Bible camp.

The camp traced events in the Bible, beginning with the creation story and finishing with the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. There was prayer each day, a rosary on two of the days and a Mass on Friday. The sisters helped students with crafts and prayers. There were 18 high school students who volunteered to help out receiving service hours.

"They're here because they love their faith," said Murphy.

Like every summer camp, there were crafts, but these had a biblical theme. Each day brought something different from creation wheels on Monday to gifts of the Holy Spirit bracelets on Friday.

The campers ended each day with a play. On June 18, costumed students presented the five luminous mysteries: Jesus's baptism in the Jordan, the wedding feast at Cana, the proclamation of the kingdom, the transfiguration and the institution of the Eucharist.

Children in period costumes took to the stage interpreting the mysteries as their parents looked on.

At the end of the day campers met their parents and talked with their friends about their experience.

Camper Maria Camarca, 7, thought the camp was good and she had fun.

John Paccassi, 12, was a young volunteer who was a bit more practical.

"I like the snacks," he said.

The sisters praised the experience too.

"This is a great parish," said Sister Michael Vincent. "The family and the kids are so welcoming."

Camp director Murphy said the camp was a hit with campers and their parents.

"It was a great success," she said. "Everyone left tired. It was a joyful noise."

Borowski can be reached at dborowski@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @DBorowskiACH.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015