By Sharon Burns
EL CENTRO — Vacation Bible School proved to be an out-of-this-world experience for 108 children from Our Lady of the Valley Parish.
The five-day event, designed for children in the first through sixth grades, was held July 9 to 13 in the parish center at St. Mary’s Church.
Our Lady of the Valley is the only Catholic parish in the Imperial Valley to hold Vacation Bible School.
Each participating child and volunteer received a T-shirt featuring this year’s space-exploration theme, “Stellar,” and the week provided a unique opportunity for children to engage in faith-based learning through a variety of fun activities.
Participants were assigned to a “crew,” led by a leader and assistant. After learning a theme song, each crew was “cleared to blast off” to its first activity, rotating out after about 30 minutes. Activities included games, interactive Bible stories, dancing and crafts.
Eddie Madueño, director of religious education at the school, said that First Christian Church in El Centro donated Vacation Bible School materials to Our Lady of the Valley after holding its own program, June 19 to 25.
“We have an astronaut out there, a moon vehicle, and a Styrofoam rocket ship,” he said.
Annika Mitosinka and Marisa Perez, teen volunteers for this year’s Vacation Bible School, taught the children dance routines for the various songs they would perform for their parents.
“We’re trying to get the kids more involved, and make them want to come back,” Perez said.
Both teens find music to be conducive to prayer. Perez said it helps keep her focused during Eucharistic adoration.
Lupita Moreno Perez, who served as station leader for the Bible stories, has been volunteering with Vacation Bible School for nine years, since her own children were participants.
She shared that the Bible story told on the first day of this summer’s program was about the birth of Jesus and how His light shines through the darkness.
Children were welcomed into a dark room where volunteer actors told the story of Jesus’ birth. As the story progressed, the room got brighter until the children were instructed to turn on their light-up candles. When they did, the lights came on, and Lupita Perez explained that telling others about Jesus has just that effect: bringing more light into the world.
Lupita Perez considers the Bible stories to be the most important part of Vacation Bible School.
“Children take what they learn here and apply it to life,” she said, expressing hope that they recognize that these are true stories that volunteers “make come to life.”
Madueño praised the many volunteers who helped put Vacation Bible School together.
This is its 10th year on the campus of St. Mary’s Parish, which along with Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in El Centro comprises Our Lady of the Valley Parish.
When the call went out for volunteers, there was no shortage of interest, he said. He added that he would like to reduce the cost for school registration, which was $40 per child this summer, or make it completely free.