VBS attendees in St. Thomas More Parish, Manalapan, beat the heat with a water activity on parish grounds. Rich Hundley photo
VBS attendees in St. Thomas More Parish, Manalapan, beat the heat with a water activity on parish grounds. Rich Hundley photo

Summer offers children a break from the rigors of the school year – but practice of the Catholic faith continues enthusiastically through Vacation Bible School and Camp programs throughout the Diocese.

Michael Kane, 14, and rising freshman in Manalapan High School, and parishioner of St. Thomas More, Manalapan, enjoyed attending the parish’s Vacation Bible Camp for the first time, which followed the theme “Rocky Railway: Jesus’ Power Pulls Us Through.” 

Photo Gallery: Vacation Bible School Around the Diocese

“I’ve learned a little bit – I didn’t know that Peter’s name was Simon at one point,” he reflected. “[The volunteers] acted out a scene where someone was a friend, and then acting how someone was getting scared of doing something hard; it was good.” He looked forward to learning more and believed attending the camp was important because “it teaches people more about Christ Jesus and the Church.”

Third grader Elena DaSilva, whose mother and siblings were also in attendance, believed that Vacation Bible Camp “is important because you want to learn about the Bible and Jesus. So far, I learned that if you make mistakes, it’s all right, because another day you will learn and not make those [same] mistakes.”

Camp counselor Sabrina Smurro, who will be a junior this fall in Colts Neck High School, volunteers at St. Thomas More Parish throughout the year, and attended the parish’s religious education program from first through eighth grades.

“I love working with little kids, and I love the idea of being able to help [them] become closer with God and guide them through their religious education experience,” she said. “I feel like it’s very fulfilling for me, and I enjoy watching them learn more about their Catholic faith.”

Although she hadn’t attended a Vacation Bible Camp previously, Smurro’s religious education experience taught her many of the same concepts. “I learned a lot about how God is always with us, and I found that a beautiful and heartwarming concept, knowing you’re never alone,” she reflected. “I learned why my faith is important, and that’s become a pivotal aspect of myself.”

Smurro believes that VBC offers a unique opportunity for the faith to be instilled while children are young and receptive.

“What you learn when you are young becomes a part of who you are,” she explained. “It molds you into being the best version of yourself … a better person who follows in the light of Jesus … they’re learning more about their faith and becoming more faithful Catholics.”

“Our theme is ‘God is good,’ even when life is unfair, when life is scary,” said Jeanine Loh, director of VBS for St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square. “It is wonderful to see the happy faces, the goodness of God through the campers, and that there is a sense of joy that comes from VBS programs … Children are the future of the Church.”

Loh applauded the efforts of the parish’s religious sisters and pastor, saying, “Our pastor, Father Michael Hall, and our wonderful sisters have been so supportive, and we could not have run this program without them.”

Video interviews from freelance photographer Rich Hundley contributed to this article.