Faith and Fun Ruled the Days at St. Denis Vacation Bible School

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Fourth of a series
Marcello Greco and John Urbanowicz, who are both 11, are giving back to a parish Bible school that has given so much to them. They volunteered four mornings of their summer vacation to serve 68 campers ages 4 to 9 at the St. Denis Vacation Bible School in Hopewell Junction July 30-Aug. 2.
“When I came here for preschool and the camps, I felt a special connection with this building. I loved the activities and I always wanted to be a helper,” Marcello told CNY.
Marcello, a parishioner of St. Kateri Tekakwitha in LaGrangeville, was a volunteer for the first time after being a Bible school camper for four years. John, a parishioner of St. Denis and an incoming sixth-grader at St. Denis-St. Columba School, volunteered for a second year following five years as a camper.
“I just love this building and I love teaching the kids about Jesus and all the different biblical stories,” John said.
John played the role of Saul of Tarsus, who later became St. Paul the Apostle, in the short play on the third day. Saul was persecuting disciples of Jesus before Jesus appeared to him in a bright light that blinded him. Saul’s sight was restored three days later, and he began to preach that Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God.
Following the play, the campers and volunteers watched a video on St. Paul the Apostle before singing along to four songs about God and Jesus from YouTube.
Campers were separated into groups for outdoor games and crafts. After the first of two rotations, it was crafts with food by Father Bob Porpora, the pastor of St. Denis. Father Porpora prepared snacks to remind campers of what they learned in camp. On the third day, each camper received two rectangular sandwich cookies and gummy bears to recreate the sandals St. Paul the Apostle wore to spread the faith.
“I think the children are comfortable around Father Bob and remember him for the snacks, prayers and his messages,” said Laurie Urbanowicz, a parishioner of St. Denis who is a camp coordinator and John Urbanowicz’s mom.
“When they go to church, it’s that familiar face up there. ‘That’s Father Bob and he’s going to teach us about Jesus and help us on our path. If I’m sad or I have a problem, I can talk with him and it’s OK.’”
On the final day of camp, parents and families come to the school for a show and to watch a photo slideshow highlighting the week.
“I hope they bring two home two things. They learned something about their faith and they had a good time. If we’ve accomplished that, it’s been a great success,” said Father Porpora, who credited a dedicated group of adult and young volunteers for coming back each year to make the Vacation Bible School a success.
Ms. Urbanowicz and Lisa Coniglio have been a part of the Bible school for 14 and 12 years, respectively. Josephine Sardo was in her third year. The three adults coordinated the week’s activities.
“The joy we see with the kids and their takeaways are pretty amazing. The message is brought home to their families, and it’s very rewarding. We get as much from them as we give,” said Ms. Coniglio, coordinator of religious education at St. Denis.
Ms. Sardo added, “It’s important to have programs like this. Not only are they the future of our church, they are our church.
Ms. Sardo’s 7-year-old granddaughter, Josephine Kline, was a second-year camper, who said she enjoyed the waterslide and participating in the short plays, even if she was disappointed one day to play a “bad guy,” or a Philistine, in the war between David and Goliath.
Josephine, who will be a third-grader at St. Denis-St. Columba School in the fall, shared the lesson she learned at camp. “That Jesus will forgive you for whatever you’ve done,” she said.

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