Thursday, April 24, 2008

Review: Parachute with the Angels and St. Catherine Laboure

Review by Mary G.

Vacation Bible School can strike fear in the hearts of many. Often "vacation bible school" implies and in fact means a heavily Protestant-biased week for children. With all the good intentions of those involved, VBS for Catholics tends to become a watered-down program with a “Catholic” shell thrown loosely on top of a Protestant base.

Thanks to a group of Catholics families, there is now a glitzy, child-friendly, easy-to-use package available that is Catholic through and through. Growing with the Saints Incorporated has produced three different VBS programs. The one that we used is a VBS that focuses on the Catholic interpretation of angels – both scripturally and factually based. Titled Parachute with the Angels and St. Catherine Laboure, this VBS is a complete turn-key package that is well-written and well-thought through in order to give children – from grades pre-K through 6th – a good understanding of the Catholic view of angels in a fun and enjoyable atmosphere.

Each day of the five-day camp the students will learn about a different angelic job:
  1. the Annunciation and the angel’s role as messenger
  2. Daniel in the Lions’ Den and the angel’s role as protector
  3. Agony in the Garden and the angel’s role as comforter
  4. Jacob’s Dream and the angel’s role as guide
  5. Peter’s Escape from Herod’s Prison and the angel’s role as missionary.

Each day is linked by reading a section of an original booklet about St. Catherine Laboure’s life and how an angel filled each of these roles at a particular time in Catherine’s life.

We did this VBS as a home-school project the week after Easter. My younger children (ages 5-9) and I followed the program and thoroughly enjoyed the stories, the crafts, the snacks and activities as detailed within the package, spending each day of Easter Week from about 8:30 till noon. The program includes a morning prayer, scripture reading, and memory verse to learn. Each day there are different crafts that are age-appropriate and tied to the angel theme. Mine particularly enjoyed making the angel gift bag and the lion paper bag puppet. The package includes suggested snacks which carry through the day’s theme (although sometimes the snack is a bit of a stretch). There are also games and other activities and suggested “bringing it home” handouts for the children to bring and discuss at home with their families.

Everything for a full, week-long VBS for grades pre-K through 6th is included in the kit – from parent letters to craft shopping lists to snack ideas. Music is included on a CD of original songs. We found the songs a bit over the top for cuteness; but with a room filled with children, the CD could come in handy for getting the children back into their seats or up and dancing around as needed.

Growing with the Saints has two other VBS programs: Assorted Saints and the Virtues of Faith, Hope and Love and St. Patrick and the Holy Trinity. These programs are not inexpensive, but do contain everything necessary (except the craft and food supplies) for hosting a complete, Catholic-rich VBS. For further information, or to order a program, please check their website: www.growingwiththesaints.com/.

2 comments:

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Marie said...

We just finished using this program at our VBS, and it was a bit of a flop. I was in charge of the music, and I cut out several of the songs. I just could not bring myself to teach "I've got a crush on Jesus" or some of the "cutsey" songs. The ones we did do the kids found rather boring. However many kids still thought the music was the best part. My own son thought the whole thing was dull.

Last year we did the K4J program "Win the World for Jesus," and this one really engaged the kids and held their attention, and they still remember things from it. I borrowed one song from last year, and it was everyone's favorite this year.