EDUCATION: Formed in His Communion


Note:  All VBS Essays are written by Colleen Zarzecki, with the approval of Sr. Roberta Harding, D.R.E.  


Day 4:  God’s Plan: 2 SAVE Us! (The Salvation Solution)

“Christ died for sins once and for all time.  The One who did what is right died for those who don’t do right.  He died to bring you to God.” (1 Peter 3:18) 

Today’s VBS Bible story presented children with the story of Jesus’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection as told by the disciples to the stranger on the road to Emmaus.  We emphasized that Jesus’s passion, death, and resurrection was part of God’s plan to save each and every one of us.  We told the children that, even though the disciples, and we, are heartbroken at the suffering Jesus endured, we are also awestruck by his love for us. The Bible story emphasized that the disciples did not understand God’s plan and that sometimes we do not understand it either.  But we trust that God’s plan always works for our good. 

As Catholic Christians, the fact that Jesus’s identity on the road to Emmaus remained hidden from the disciples until he said the blessing over the bread and broke it, just as he did at the Last Supper, resonates deeply. We too recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.  We too understand that, in the Eucharist, Christ is truly present to us.  Today, at least one of the classes took the opportunity to visit the Perpetual Adoration Chapel (Our Lady’s Chapel) in the basement of the main Church.  We explained to the children that the opportunity to visit with Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration is one that they can always take advantage of – Jesus is there waiting for them, waiting to share his peace, his joy, his love. 

As a parent, I often feel the need for peace and for communion with Jesus.  I think longingly of the Eucharistic Adoration chapel and tell myself that I really should stop by for a little while after dropping my children off at school or before picking them up. Sometimes I even take myself up on my own offer!  I’m never sorry that I have, but I’ll admit that it often takes me almost all of the time I have to spend just to turn off the “to do” list running through my head.  Quieting the constant busy-ness within my head is challenging, but so worth it.  It is in Eucharistic Adoration that I have, at times, felt God’s presence intensely.  It is that presence that we all seek, for ourselves and for our children.  If you can, I urge you to take the opportunity to stop by Our Lady’s Chapel to bide with the Lord for a while. I promise that he won’t be mad that you spend three-quarters of you time trying to remember if you turned off the oven or thinking about everything you need to get done before picking the kids up from school. 

All the classes explored the idea of transformation as a way to illustrate that Jesus has transformed our lives by his sacrifice.  First, they marveled as vinegar and baking soda reacted when mixed, making carbon dioxide bubbles.  They watched opened mouthed as their teachers poured bleach into the glass we used the other day.  Remember that the red corn syrup represented Adam and Eve, the blue colored water represented the sin that separates man from God, and the baby oil represented the purity of God.  Pouring bleach down the inside of the glass made the blue colored water (sin) transform into a clear liquid, representing that Jesus washed away our sins and reconciled us to the Father.  They thought that was pretty neat. 

Conversations in the Domestic Church

Here are some ways to start a conversation with your child about what he or she learned today:

  • What happened when Jesus went to a garden to pray?
  • Why didn’t Jesus stop the people who lied about him and hurt him?  
  • How did Jesus’s friends feel when he died? 
  • What are some of the reasons we are glad Jesus is alive? 

Science and Art Corner

Today, your child made pictures with colored shaving cream, which they loved.  They all started with pure white shaving cream and added paint to it.  Mixing the paint into the shaving cream yielded beautiful pastel colors which the children used in Q-Tip paintings.  They also observed an experiment in which various solutions were tested to see which cleaned a penny the best. Soda, ketchup, and vinegar and salt were the solutions tested.  Surprisingly, the children found that ketchup cleaned the pennies best.  Don’t be surprised when they want to recreate that particular experiment at home!


Eucharistic Adoration at St. John the Evangelist

The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist

2015 Eucharistic Conference, Atlanta, Georgia

Panis Angelicus

Day 3:  God’s Plan: 4 Us 2 KNOW Him! (The Personification Revelation)

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father also.’” John 14:6–7. 

Today’s VBS Bible story presented children with the way out of the trap of sin – Jesus Christ incarnate in the world. We introduced the theme of the day, which is that God's plan is that we should know him.  We then linked that plan to Jesus, reminding children of what Jesus said -- that we could know the Father by knowing Jesus.  We asked the children to tell us what they know about how Jesus came into the world (the Christmas story), then told them several stories about things Jesus did during his ministry.  First, they heard about Jesus healing the paralyzed man in Bethesda, then they heard about Jesus walking on the water in the Sea of Galilee.  Finally, they heard Jesus tell his disciples that, by knowing him, they know the Father.  We told the children that an essential part of God’s plan is that we know him, and that we know who God is by learning about the things Jesus did while on earth and by participating in the life of the Church, Christ’s body on earth after his Ascension into heaven. 

My friend, Susan Niebur, whom many of you will remember, began a blog when our children were small to express her delight in their insatiable need to KNOW about things.  She called herself “WhyMommy,” since she heard that phrase all day long.  Susan worked tirelessly to answer that question for her own children and for others.  As illness struck her life, she sought to answer it in a larger context.  These questions about why things are as they are, what God wants from our lives, and how we can know him best begin in childhood and continue throughout the course of our lives.  We here at VBS believe that turning to Jesus, secure in the knowledge that he seeks us out in love, provides the answers our children, and we ourselves, crave. 

All the classes also did a fun experiment with a glass of water, a metal pie plate, an empty toilet paper tube, and an egg (I practiced with uncooked eggs at home and used a hard-boiled egg in class – both work fine).  We placed the metal plate centered over the glass of water, set up the toilet paper tube in the center of the pie plate, and perched the egg on top.  Then, we quickly and sharply hit the side of the pie plate with the flat palm of our hand. This caused the pie plate to move quickly sideways and its rim to knock the toilet paper tube out fo the way.  The egg dropped right into the glass of water, and the children thought this was the most incredible thing they’d ever seen.  We used this experiment to illustrate the law of motion (a body in motion stays in motion, a body at rest stays at rest, until an outside force works upon it to either start it moving or stop it from moving).  We said that Jesus was like the force that moved the pie plate and we were like the egg – stuck in one place, unable to move ourselves out of sin.  Earlier in today’s skit, the children also saw the law of motion illustrated with bats hitting light and heavy balls off a podium.  The children are really enjoying the (mis)adventures of Professor Petrie Dish. 

Conversations in the Domestic Church

Here are some ways to start a conversation with your child about what he or she learned today:

·         What words would you use to describe Jesus?

·         Would you like to meet Jesus in person?  Can you?  If so, how?

·         Where can we find out what Jesus is like?

·         Why does Jesus say that, if we come to know him, we also know what the Father in heaven is like? 

Science and Art Corner

Today, your child learned about the principles of the law of motion by creating a pinwheel in the lower grades.  After decorating and assembling their pinwheels, the children blew on their creations in order to make them spin. For those without sufficient lung power (the paper used was quite heavy), the children ran around the room watching their pinwheels rotate in the breeze caused by their moving bodies.  Older children explored the law of motion by doing marble paintings.  They placed different colors of paint on squares of paper that they had put into square cake pans.  Then, they dropped a marble into the pan and tipped it in all directions to make the marble roll through the paint.  They learned that the marble couldn’t move without their action in tipping the cake pan and that the sides of the pan were an effective force stopping the marble from moving.  


Do You Know Jesus? (article by apologist Jim Blackburn)

Jesus is God.  (article by Tim Staples of Catholic Answers)

Pope Francis:  Get out into the real world to find Jesus (article in UK “Catholic Herald” newspaper)


Day 2:  God’s Plan: 2 BE WITH Us! (The Sin Separation)

“Everyone has sinned.  No one measures up to God’s glory.” (Romans 2:23)

In today’s Bible story, SJE’s VBS attendees learned about how sin separates us from the God who loves us.  They heard the story of Adam and Eve and their choice to disobey God’s will.  They learned about how Satan tempted Eve to disobey God and about these humans whom God had created succumbed to Satan’s deceit.  We said that choosing to do wrong has consequences and that the most important consequence of sin is that we are separated from the love of God – we are afraid and ashamed.   Tomorrow’s lesson shows us the way out of our separation from God – Jesus Christ incarnate in the world.

Every parent knows that children are intimately acquainted with the idea of choosing to do the wrong thing – whether it’s refusing to behave properly in public, fighting with a sibling, being disrespectful, or disobeying a rule (or is that just my children?)  What’s more, because our children do sometimes choose to do the wrong thing, they also know what it feels like when they do.  In the second grade classroom, we used the example of mom or dad making a lovely batch of cookies for an ill neighbor, putting them into a beautiful glass jar, and telling the child not to touch.  Unable to resist temptation, however, the child reaches for the cookies and knocks the glass jar off the counter, making a big mess and ruining the cookies.  We asked the children what they would do, how they would feel, in those circumstances.  Some children said that they would ‘fess up right away and apologize (good job, parents!), while others admitted that they would be afraid and might even hide from their parents, just as Adam and Eve did. 

All the classes also did a fun experiment with blue colored water, baby oil, and red colored corn syrup (all liquids with different densities so that they are layered within a glass) which illustrated that God (the baby oil), human beings (the red corn syrup) are separated by sin (the colored water).  Later in the week, we will use this same layered glass to illustrate how Jesus washes our sins away. 

Today’s scientific principle was cause and effect – in our morning skit, the children watched our youth helpers make a ping pong ball float in the current of air from a blow-dryer, watched a beach ball levitate above a leaf blower’s blast, and laughed their heads off as the leaf blower blew an entire roll of toilet paper streaming off the stage. 

Conversations in the Domestic Church

Here are some ways to start a conversation with your child about what he or she learned today:

·         Can you tell me what the word “sin” means? 

·         What are some of the wrong things that children your age do?

·         What might happen as a result of these wrong choices, or sins?

·         What is the most important effect that our choosing to do wrong has on our relationship with God? 

Science and Art Corner

Today, your child explored the long-term relationship of cause and effect by planting seeds in the shape of the first initial of his or her name.  All of these projects went home today – as your child watches his or her zinnias or radishes grow (seeds were distributed at random), you can talk about cause and effect – sunshine helps the seeds germinate, nutrients in the soil help the plan to grow, water allows the seedlings to grow tall and strong.   


Paradise Lost is John Milton’s epic poem which takes as its subject the temptation in the garden, the fall of man, and the exile from Eden.  Perhaps the most stunning work in all of English Literature, and arguably the best epic poem in English, Milton’s work is beautiful, complex, and utterly compelling.

St. John Vianney, the Cure of Ars, was a renowned confessor, said to know without being told what each penitents sins were.  His beautiful Sermon on Sin speaks eloquently on how sin separates us from the love of God.  

Some classes today went to confession with Father Calis, while the second grade class, which will be making their first confession this coming year, went into the church to look at the confessional and to talk about what confession means.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation is one which has fallen out of favor among many Catholics - who likes to admit they are wrong, after all?. It is a sacrament that I myself struggle with -- anyone who knows me well knows that I can get really defensive and closed off when I have done something wrong.  However, when I am resistant to receiving the Lord's forgiveness in this sacrament, I try to remember the beautiful smile on the face of my eldest child as she came bounding out of the confessional after her first experience.  She threw herself into my arms, hugged me, and whispered, "Mommy, I am so happy!"  When I looked into her face, she was teary-eyed.  That feeling of freedom from our own sin and weakness is precious and something we should run towards, not avoid.  I'm resolved to try to do better myself. It's been several months since my last confession -- I think it's time that Fr. Calis and I had a little Saturday morning talk.  Here are some resources to help us all use the Sacrament of Reconciliation to become ever closer to the Lord.  

Catholic speaker, Mark Shea, has an interesting Examination of Conscience for Parents

St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Picayune, Mississippi has a very good guide for going to confession.

The Act of Contrition


Day 1:  God’s Plan  2 MAKE Us! (The Creation Formulation)

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  So God created man in his own likeness.  He created them in the likeness of God.  He created them as male and female.” (Gen. 1:1, 27)

In today’s Bible story, SJE’s VBS attendees heard about the Creation of the universe by a loving and imaginative God.    By recounting the familiar creation story in the classroom, we introduced the concept that the beginning of all things was not random.  God’s work has structure and purpose.  It has laws, such as the law of gravity, which govern how things operate within the universe – apples don’t fall UP from trees.  We then connected this kind of law (Newtonian physics) with other kinds of law – the law of human nature and human purpose.  We helped children understand that, just as gravity pulls our bodies in one direction, the way God created us pulls our souls towards him.  Written in every human heart, no matter how young, is the desire to know and love the God who made us. 

Beginning Vacation Bible School with the story of Creation allows us to present the design of God’s plan for us – our creation, our fall, our redemption in Jesus Christ.  Although it may not seem like it at times (when you check their bedrooms or playrooms) children are naturally drawn to and understand order.  When my younger daughter was still in a crib – preverbal – she used to insist on having EVERY.SINGLE.ONE of her stuffed animals and dolls in the crib with her as she slept.  Since she was well above the age when she wouldn’t be able to move a toy away from her face if she rolled onto it, we would allow this – if only to get her to sleep!  I will never forget the morning I walked into the nursery to find that she had lined up every single one of those toys in size order all around the perimeter of her crib.  She was making sense of her world – imposing order.  It may seem like a stretch of imagination, but I do believe that this kind of thing shows our connection with the God who makes order out of chaos.  We have a place in that order, and it is as beloved children of God – brothers and sisters in Christ. 

We can look at the created order and understand our place within it through science, among other disciplines.  This week, we will be using principles of science and principles of fun to explore the world and its order in the light of God’s graced and revelation. 

Conversations in the Domestic Church

Here are some ways to start a conversation with your child about what he or she learned today:

·         How did God show his love for us when he created the world, the animals, and you? 

·         What makes people different from the animals and plants that God made?

·         What are some other ways that God shows love to you?

·         What are some of the things that God made when he created the world?

·         Which of God’s creations was made in God’s image?

·         Why do you think that God made the world to have the things we need?

Science and Art Corner

Today, your child made either a comet toy or a parachute toy to explore how the law of gravity works.  We told the children that when God made the world, he created all of the scientific laws that govern it – laws like gravity.  Our project today reminded children that God created the world, laws of science, and us.  Children made predictions as to how they would behave. 


Laudate Si is Pope Francis’s latest encyclical and addresses humanity’s role is caring for the creation that God has made.  

The Canticle of the Sun prayer by St. Francis 

The Canticle of the Sun (song by Marty Haugen)  

What does the Catholic Church teach about the theory of evolution? 

In general, the Catholic Church teaches that, while Catholics do not have to believe that evolutionary theory is true as a matter of faith, the Church recognizes that science indicates that it is true and that there is no conflict between believing in evolution and believing that God created the universe.  EWTN has several interesting documents on the subject.  The first gives a general background, while the second is Saint John Paul II’s Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Evolution.

Do Catholics Take the Bible Literally (or, was the universe really created in six days, while God rested on the seventh?)

Catholicism has a rich tradition of interpreting the Word of God in the Bible. When I was in college, one of my English professors made his classes memorize what he called the "Four-Fold Medieval Method of Exegesis,"  -- the four viewpoints from which medieval scholars and theologians interpreted the inerrant Scriptures.  Those ways were:

  • literal:  what the Scripture says about past events

  • allegorical:  what the Scripture can tell us about Christ

  • moral:  what the Scripture can tell us about how to live

  • anagogical:  what the Scripture tells us about our ultimate fate 

This might seem to be a very strange way to look at Scriptures, but I have always found it helpful.  It tells me that the Catholic Church recognizes that the Bible is not a newspaper account of events, nor is it a meticulously researched history book.  Instead, the Bible (a word which literally means "library") is a collection of books of different types -- there are orally-passed down accounts of Creation, Noah's Flood, the Tower of Babel, and the calling of Abraham from the Land of Ur.  There are books of laws, histories, mystical wisdom narratives, adventure tales, poetry, and any number of other kinds of literature.  As we get closer to modern times, we have the historical Gospel accounts of Jesus's life, death, and resurrection, the exciting adventure recounting the history of the early Church, the epistles of the apostles and St. Paul, and St. John's apocalyptic and highly symbolic Book of Revelation.  As we look at all these different kinds of literature, it is important to realize that, while the Church doesn't require us to believe that all of the Old Testament is factual, it does tell us that it is true.  

So, in terms of the story of Creation, we know scientifically that the Universe was created over many millions of years, not six days.  However, we also know by Divine Revelation that God is outside of time -- a thousand years in his sight are like an evening gone, as the song says. Further, when we look at the creation and development of the Earth, we find that the sequence described in Genesis tracks very closely with what science tells us (the earth was covered with water.  Then land appeared.  Then plants appeared.  Then animals developed.  Then human beings appeared on the scene).  So, what I tell my own children is that the point of the story of Creation is that God created the entire Universe out of nothing and saw that it was good.  But, because God is Love and love deserves a worthy object, God created human beings to know and love him and to be with him forever.  Human beings separated themselves from the love of God, but they can always be forgiven and reconciled to the Father who created them and who loves them.  

They get it. 


July 20, 2014

Dear Parents,
We are so excited to welcome your children to the 2015 SonSpark Lab Vacation Bible School at St. John the Evangelist.  Every day, children will learn more about the love of God and deepen their relationship with him as they sing, laugh, play, and connect with friends old and new.

This year, VBS takes place at SonSpark Labs, where children learn about the wonders of the Universe and the God who made it and everything it contains, including us.  They will learn various scientific principles that reinforce the Bible lesson of the day, as will all activities, songs, and games.  

Day One:  God’s Plan:  2 MAKE Us!   Today’s Bible Story teaches the children the story of creation and how God created the universe according to laws that he designed.  The children learn about the law of gravity and how, without it, everything would float off into space -- God truly  made the earth a place where people could live, grow, and learn to love him. 

Day Two:  God’s Plan:  2 BE WITH Us!  In today's story, the children learn about the way that sin separates us from the love of God and disturbs the order that God has created.  Using the principle of cause and effect, children learn that the choice to sin causes us to become separated from God -- a separation that we ourselves cannot remedy.  

Day Three:  God’s Plan:  4 Us 2 KNOW Him!  Today, VBS campers learn that God is knowable in his Son, Jesus Christ.  They learn about what Jesus did while on earth and learn how these actions tell us what God is like and what he wants from us -- he loves us and wants us to know him.  Today's scientific principle is the law of inertia -- a body at rest stays at rest, and a body in motion stays in motion.  The children learn that people were "at rest" in sin until Jesus came and put God's plan for salvation into motion.  

Day Four: God’s Plan:  2 SAVE Us!  Today's story talks about the way two followers of Jesus encountered a stranger on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus and recounted to him everything that had happened during Jesus's passion, death, and resurrection.  The stranger explains all the prophets and the law of Israel to the travellers, but they do not recognize him as Jesus until he breaks break with them -- it is then, in the breaking of the bread, that they recognize their travelling companion as Jesus himself.  The scientific principle the children learn about today is transformation -- when something new is introduced to an object, it changes, just as Jesus changes us.

Day Five:  God’s Plan:  2 LOVE Us 4-Ever!  In today's Bible story, the children will learn about how word of God's saving plan spreads -- in a chain reaction. They learn that the Holy Spirit was the spark that ignited the faith of the apostles at Pentecost and that the early church established itself and rapidly grew in Jerusalem and throughout the ancient Near East and, from there, into Europe, Africa, and Asia.  

Again this year, SJE’s VBS team is excited to share our very own webpage on the SJE website.  Check it every day at! The VBS team will post information about the day’s activities, resources and suggestions for how parents can extend and enrich the lessons presented that day, and, of course, adorable photographs of the day’s activities. In addition, this is the place to look for general information about the schedule, what color shirt your child should wear, what to bring, and any changes to the schedule or special announcements.

This year's service project is to collect items needed by the local non-profit, St. Joseph's House, which provides daycare and respite care services to families of children with multiple and severe disabilities.  Please be on the lookout for more information about this wonderful cause and what you can do to help.





Renovation of Our Lady's Chapel

Read More »

Recent Events...

Visit the Parish Photo Galleries to see pictures from recent events at SJE


No results found

HOME  |  WORSHIP  |  EDUCATION  |  COMMUNITY  |  SERVICE  |  ADMINISTRATION© Lumen Catechetical Consultants, Inc. All rights reserved.