CLYDE — “If you’re happy and you know it stomp your feet,” sang a group of 18 children before they joyfully began stomping on the floor.
“All right, give yourselves a hand,” Father Jim Hewes said with a smile, looking up from his guitar at the children gathered around him. “You were great. What a choir, our new choir at church,” he joked.
This impromptu July 24 sing-along with Father Hewes served as the conclusion of the first session of a new drop-in religious-education program in Clyde. The program is run by Sister of St. Joseph Catherine Gibbons, who serves as faith-formation coordinator for St. John the Evangelist Parish in Clyde and St. Patrick’s Parish in Savannah and as religious-education coordinator for St. Michael’s Parish in Lyons.
The program is a little bit different than most vacation Bible schools, which are often held during weekday mornings for one week during the summer. Sister Gibbons’ program, however, was held on three Saturday mornings during the summer and was open to any children in the areas she serves.
“Saturday is a day when (parents) are generally home and they’d be willing to drop their children off,” she explained.
Sister Gibbons hoped the program would help her evangelize and reach those children who had not previously been enrolled in religious education or Catholic schools. Stewardship was the program’s overall theme, and each session focused on a specific topic related to it.
The creation story was the theme of the July 24 session, which began with an opening prayer praising God for all of his creations. After the prayer, Sister Gibbons asked the children if they knew the term used to describe someone who helps passengers on an airplane. The children said those people are called stewards and stewardesses.
“The job of that person is to help us. They help take care of everything we need. How many people in this room help take care of things other people need?” Sister Gibbons asked.
Small hands instantly shot up, and several children said they help their grandparents bring in the groceries and make pancakes and popcorn, while other children help their parents by mowing the lawn.
“In some way we are stewards and stewardesses when we help others. … As part of God’s creation, we are stewards and stewardesses for all of God’s creations,” Sister Gibbons said, explaining that everyone has their own unique gifts to use when helping others.
Throughout the rest of the morning, the children sang a song about God’s goodness, devoured a snack and took a break to play some outdoor games. One of the games — a variation of musical chairs that instead used towels — was 8-year-old Nick Marchitell’s favorite part of the morning. If he had his way, he said he would have played rap or rock music as the children walked from towel to towel, but he settled for Sister Gibbons’ CD of religious music for kids. Four-year-old Derrick Chance said he had enjoyed the whole day so far, but especially liked coloring his name tag when he arrived.
After coming back inside, the children learned and sang five verses of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” before working on a project to take home. The younger children colored pictures of God’s hands cradling the world and glued them onto construction paper. The older children took a pair of paper hands, joined them with a heart and labeled each finger with one of their gifts.
While the children worked on their projects, a handful of teen and young-adult helpers roamed the room.
Matt D’Amato, 15, said he decided to volunteer with the program because the children needed his help and “they’re cute and it’s fun.” Amanda Hall, 20, said she decided to volunteer because she’s helped Sister Gibbons with religious-education programs in the past and enjoys working with the kids.
Dolly DeJohn, a member of St. Michael’s Parish in Lyons, brought her great-granddaughter, Allessandra Ross, to the July 24 session and ended up staying all morning. She felt it was important for 6-year-old Allessandra to attend, she said.
“She hasn’t been in any religion program so far, so I thought it would be a good opportunity for her to find out some things that I might not remember to tell her,” DeJohn said.
Marianne Weaver, a member of St. John’s Parish in Clyde, brought her cousin’s grandchildren, Garron and Chase Bramon, and also stayed for the whole program.
“I hope they get a lot out of it. They’re out in the country, and this is good for them, to get with other kids,” Weaver said.
Sister Gibbons said she had intended to close the morning’s program with a short movie, but instead decided to take Father Hewes up on his sing-along suggestion. The children would enjoy the opportunity to move around and sing, she said.
“I think it’s good for them to see him, too,” she added.