From staff reports
When it comes to religious education, the “lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer” in the Diocese of Trenton are instead transformed into the opportunity for faith enrichment for many parishes.
For the 315 children from St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, religious education put on its summer gear in July, providing an experience of intensive learning through immersion in a variety of engaging activities and lessons. The Summer Academy is a one-week experience for students in Grades 1-6, running from Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The goal of the program, which is an alternative to weekly catechesis during the school year, is for families, not just children, to grow in faith throughout the year.
“We are building our family ministry at St. Benedict Parish,” said Denise Contino, director of faith formation, “and the activities for the summer families are a component of this ministry.”
St. Mary Parish, Middletown, also holds a summer faith formation, dubbed “Radiant Joy.” About 800 children attended from July 31 to Aug. 11. A Eucharistic Procession on Aug. 9 engaged staff and students throughout the campus; for many of the children, this was the first time they had ever participated in a solemn procession.
“It was a very moving event for all,” said Father Jeff Kegley, pastor. “The kids were so reverent. One little girl in second grade kept saying, ‘I want to see Jesus! I want to see Jesus!’ All of our hearts should be like that right now.”
Every day of the St. Mary program began with a morning assembly, selection of a saint of the day, a Marian apparition, and ended with prayer. Peggy Dunne, parish coordinator of religious education, and assistant Suzanne Pfirrman conduct the program.
Learning experiences take place so that children are part of a community working together and developing a moral foundation.
St. Benedict students led prayer services, under the direction of a priest, deacon or lay leader, and conducted social justice activities, such as creating cards for children in foster homes and group homes in Monmouth County. The Holmdel parish, too, conducted visits to the Adoration Chapel, which Contino believes are an “awesome experience for our children, as well as the adult and teen volunteers.
“We are trying to show our youngest members of our church various ways to give glory to the Lord,” she said.
This year the program, which is designed to address the six tasks of catechesis as outlined in the Trenton Diocese’s Elementary Religion Curriculum Guidelines, ran for three separate weeks beginning July 10 and included more than 30 high school volunteers.
Participants in the St. Benedict family catechesis ministry must attend four of 10 intergenerational sessions offered throughout the year, each of which is designed with elements for parents and children at their own grade levels.
“The family days throughout the year reinforce the tasks of catechesis for the entire family,” Contino said.