By Elsa Baughman
JACKSON – St. Therese Parish Vacation Bible school (VBS) children dedicated their theme, “Circus of the Stars,” to the 24 religious sisters living at St. Mary of the Pines Retreat Center in Chatawa. According to Betsy Carraway, the director of the VBS, they are all older than 80-years-old and two are older than 100. VBS has held June 16-20.
Carraway said the children made cards for the sisters and retired priest Father Alfred Camp. “The cards say ‘Thanks for saying yes to God,” “We love you,” and one of them says, “Thanks for being God’s husband,” she said laughing but adding, “they got it wrong but the idea is they (religious women) marry Christ and then he is their husband, that’s beautiful.”
She is thrilled this is a Catholic VBS. “K4J (Kids for Jesus) is a wonderful program that helps children understand the faith and grow in virtue,” she added.
During the week participants learned about the virtue of balance, she said. “They had a balancing act where they had to work, play, rest and pray every day.”
Carraway noted they also learned about four saints, St. John Bosco, St. Catherine of Siena, St. John Vianney and St. Teresa of Avila and Friday was dedicated to Mary, the Mother of K4J starts. “I am so pleased they learned about all these saints and other things they would have not learned if they didn’t have attended this special Catholic program,” she added.
On Friday, every child received a photo of one of the sisters living in St. Mary of the Pines so they can pray for her individually. The sisters will receive the cards the children made for them plus a monetary donation from the children.
Early on Friday, June 20, Father Camp visited the children to tell them about his life and how he decided to become a priest.
“When I was 12-year-old, one of the nuns at school, Sister Alfred (that’s my name!) said to me, ‘you know, someday you will make a good priest,’” he told the children. “I was young and impressionable and I believed her! That’s all it took,” he added as he related the story of how at the age of 13 he entered the seminary.
Father Camp went on to tell the 23 children gathered around him that during his first months in the seminary he missed his mother, his father and home and that at times he cried himself to sleep because he was lonely but he got used to life in the seminary and soon it was a lot of fun. The children asked Father Camp questions about his life as a priest in the Diocese of Jackson and now as a retired priest living at Madison St. Francis of Assisi Parish.