Parish designs own vacation Bible school curriculum

Children begin the day with Mass during vacation Bible school at Our Lady of Good Hope Parish, Fort Wayne, in June.

By Claire Kenney

Sometimes doing things a little differently comes with perks. Such is the case for Our Lady of Good Hope in Fort Wayne.

The parish took a divergent approach to its vacation Bible school program, as the staff has developed its own curriculum that perfectly parallels the goals of the youth ministry program, which begins for children at a very young age.

As co-director of youth ministry and one of the parish’s pastoral associates, Jackie Oberhausen has firsthand experience with Our Lady of Good Hope’s VBS and is one of the creators of the curriculum, which she co-wrote with her daughter in 2000. It plays a major role in centering children in the faith and encourages them to foster faith in their lives as they grow.

“Our Lady’s VBS program is not just about VBS, but rather a program that empowers youth to be disciples, to own and share their Catholic faith and, most importantly, develop and foster a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” Oberhausen said.

She describes the relationship between the parish’s youth ministry program and its VBS to be one that works in tandem and is based on phased programming. Essentially, VBS is specifically designed to inspire participation in the youth ministry program and, by doing so, a long-term relationship with Christ that sets others on a similar path. This domino effect helps to create a true incorporation of Catholic values in the participants’ lives.

“Because we have a program that develops a call to discipleship at such an early age, VBS gives wings to our older youth to minister down and share their faith,” Oberhausen said. “Children can attend our youth ministry sessions as early as age three through a program entitled ‘Break Open the Word Children’s Liturgy,’ where middle school girls act as puppeteers and make the Gospel message come to life.”

Our Lady of Good Hope’s VBS builds Mass into its programming, something that might be atypical. The program offers a daily Mass that is short and simple, and Oberhausen said the eucharistic experience allows the children to “really walk with Jesus and pray alongside him.”

The program’s success is based on other factors as well, she added.

“…I can say without hesitation that the success of Our Lady of Good Hope’s VBS program is based on three important facts. It’s simple, it’s authentically Catholic and it begins each day with the source and summit of our Catholic faith, the Eucharist.”

Another variable factor embraced by Our Lady of Good Hope’s VBS curriculum is the duration of the program. Instead of basing programming on a five-day schedule, Our Lady of Good Hope bases it on a three-day   duration.

As much as possible, the parish works to ensure that its VBS curriculums lean on something timely related to the church. In the past, its VBS programs have been based on themes such as the church’s celebration of the Year of the Priest, on popes (in 2014 when St. Pope John Paul II and St. Pope John XXIII were canonized) and Corporal Works of Mercy and Jesus’ message of Divine Mercy to St. Faustina during the Year of Mercy in 2016. This year’s program incorporated Melissa Kaiser’s Tracking Mary curriculum in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima.

Of this thematic emphasis, Oberhausen said that “our hope with each of our programs is to incorporate the life and breath of the church into an experiential opportunity for our children.”

Additionally, by writing its own curriculum, the parish is able to keep costs at a minimum — making the experience affordable for families.

Oberhausen said Our Lady of Good Hope’s VBS curricula are consistently hits.

“… every year, youth ministry and VBS is a huge success,” Oberhausen said. “The reason is that Jesus and the truths of his church are experienced and made personal.” Next year, the program will run June 24-26. Oberhausen hasn’t decided on the theme.

“I will need to pray about it, and then do whatever he tells me.’ I always just wait for inspiration from the Holy Spirit,” she explained.

Posted on July 12, 2017, to: