Diocesan seminarian Thomas Dzwonczyk leads a group of young children in Bible study on July 23, the final day of Vacation Bible School, at Saint Catherine of Siena Parish in Moscow.

MOSCOW – From singing songs praising God to listening to bible stories and even learning composting – Saint Catherine of Siena Parish was buzzing with activity the week of July 19-23, 2021.

The weather cooperated as the Lackawanna County parish hosted its annual Vacation Bible School. The weeklong event was held outdoors for the first time to keep both students and volunteers safe.

“We’ve never been outside. It really worked out well,” Sandra Czyzyk, Saint Catherine of Siena Parish Director of Religious Education, said. “We could move from one session to another, getting some fresh air and the kids loved being outside.”

A total of 88 students attended the program. This year’s event was centered on the theme of “Earthkeepers.”

Czyzyk said it took 65 volunteers – many of them young adults – to make sure the program was a success.

Children participate in a Vacation Bible School activity at Holy Rosary Parish in Hazleton in early August. The theme of this year’s weeklong program was “To Mars and Beyond.”

“It means a lot to see the students grow throughout the week,” aide Samantha Bajor, 16, said. “At the start, the kids are always so shy and they don’t really want to talk to you but by the end of the week they all break out of their shell.”

After COVID-19 forced the parish to hold a virtual event last year, Bajor said she is glad everyone was able to gather in person this year. She helped to lead the fourth, fifth and sixth grade students during the week.

“I’m glad it’s back,” Bajor explained.

Fred Kloss, 15, agreed. The teenage youth group member also volunteered to help make this year’s vacation bible school a success.

“It was a great experience. I think it definitely brings younger kids closer to church,” he said.

Kloss believes the students he worked with learned a lot.

“Most of the kids liked the music a lot and the dancing. They learned songs and they sang the lyrics that teach them about their faith as well. A lot of them really liked the bible stories as well,” he added.

Czyzyk said vacation bible school is an important summer event to keep kids connected to the faith and let them see their pastor at their level having fun with them.

“Just coming out in the sunshine and being elbow-to-elbow with other young people, peers of their age, whether they’re 3 or 13 has just been so invigorating, physically and spiritually as well!” she said with a smile.

The reviews from the kids back up the week’s success.

“One little guy said to a teacher – this must be what heaven is like!” Czyzyk added.

Holy Rosary Parish in Hazleton also recently completed a successful weeklong vacation bible school program from Aug. 2-6, 2021.

With the theme “To Mars and Beyond,” 20 students participated in the nightly program at the parish.

“I wanted to start something that would get the kids into their faith, meet new kids and find other followers of Christ and that they could bond together with and spread the Gospel with,” Hailey Dudinyak said.

Dudinyak, a sophomore at Moravian College, put together Holy Rosary’s vacation bible school two years ago for a Girl Scout project and jumped at the chance to do it again this year.

“All the kids, they really put the energy in that we needed to have for it to be successful. I loved all the kids that came. They were just so energetic and they really enjoyed themselves. They all worked together beautifully,” she added.

Dudinyak, along with her brother and a few others, did most of the work for the event.

“Each day we started out with the kids seeing a skit between me and my brother. My brother was a robot called “EP3-20,” which stands of Ephesians 3:20, which was the key bible verse,” she added.

Each session also consisted of learning dances, bible stories and participating in craft projects.

“I actually just received a video from one of the parents of their kid doing the dances in their backyard by the campfire,” Hailey explained. “They’re continuing to praise the Lord and spread the Gospel, which is all we need, and that’s what the whole goal was!”