Children participating in a summer vacation Bible school program at Webster’s St. Paul Church learned about social justice by collecting bicycles and donating them to children living in northeast Rochester neighborhoods.
The bicycles were donated to the independent ministry of Mercy Sister Karlien Bach, a resident of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Convent. Sister Bach maintains in the convent a toy library that neighborhood children may borrow from. She added bicycles to the library about two years ago when the children expressed an interest in them.
“Kids need a bike,” Sister Bach said. “A bicycle provides a little independence and empowerment for the kids.”
St. Paul got involved with the ministry after Sister Bach visited the parish to speak about it. Linda Pepe, the parish’s children’s faith-formation and vacation Bible school coordinator, and members of the parish’s service committee organized the bicycle-collection project, seeing it not only as a way to help Sister Bach’s efforts but also as an opportunity for parish youths to get involved in a service project.
Amidst the camp’s daily musical, craft and Bible-story activities, nearly 100 children in grades pre-kindergarten to fourth — with the volunteer help of 80 adults and older children — prepared the bicycles for donation by cleaning and repairing them.
“They enjoyed working with the bicycles,” Pepe said. “I think a lot of the kids were happy to see that their bicycles were going to be put to good use.”
Once the bicycles were washed and repaired, they were delivered to the convent. Children in the surrounding neighborhoods were excited to see the bicycles arrive, Pepe noted, and immediately wanted to take ownership of one.
“It was a good project because it was a way for kids to relate to kids in something that would be used for fun,” she said. “It’s one thing to give someone clothing, but to hand them something they could use for fun, I think that meant something to the kids.”
During St. Paul’s Olympic-themed vacation Bible school program, which took place July 19-23, children learned lessons about St. Paul and his journeys, and activities focused on the importance of being a part of God’s team, the strength that God gives to each team member and celebrating the rewards of arriving at team goals.
The goals of the week not only included the bicycle project, but other service projects as well. Children collected more than $200 in coins for a mission in Sao Paulo, Brazil, that provides food, homes, education and health care to children who daily go without such comforts. They also prepared and delivered snack bags for the children in the Mt. Carmel neighborhood.
Consistent with the vacation Bible school’s focus, children worked with one another to have fun, learn and serve in God’s name. First and foremost, “they learned about team-building and how we’re all a part of God’s team,” Pepe said.