Local News Archive
Print Issue: June 6, 2002
'We Love Jesus!' Activity-Filled Track Weaves Fun With Faith
By Gretchen Keiser, Staff Writer
COLLEGE PARK - To the rhythm of a Jamaican beat, catechists wearing maroon polo shirts were leading a train of little children around the hotel ballroom, singing "Our Father who art in heaven, holy, holy, holy be thy name, Our Father who art in heaven, holy be thy name!"
Each of the children rattled a homemade maraca-a folded paper plate, decorated and filled with rice-as they congaed around the tables that filled the room, singing the prayer that Jesus taught. In the doorway onlookers grinned as individual tables of children began to meet up with other groups to make a continuous dancing chain around the room, catching the happy beat of Father Richard Holung's "Our Father" with every shake of their shoulders and their "shaker plates."
It was time to stretch and move for those in the daylong children's track at the Eucharistic Congress, about 850 children who were receiving their own program in two different convention-center areas. Their day focused on the Apostles Creed, studying about God the Father, Jesus, the Son, and the Holy Spirit through Bible verses, crafts and activities, songs and a movie.
"We learned about God's creation. During lunch we watched a movie on Jesus," said 9-year-old Andrea Raville. "We learned a cheer: We love Jesus, yes we do. We love Jesus, how about you?"
"My favorite story about Jesus is when he was born," added the blond third-grader from St. Anne's Catholic School in Columbus. "He came into our world and he cured people from sicknesses. There was a big star to lead you where Jesus was. That's how important Jesus was!"
"I like the story about Adam and Eve, and Noah," said Mary Lin, 6, who was assigned to the same table. As for Jesus, "he gave me bread to eat and I like him too."
An adult catechist at each table worked with the children, who ranged from pre-kindergarteners through fifth-graders, said Deb Frost, one of two co-leaders of the children's track. A parish school of religion teacher at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Kennesaw, Frost also worked on the children's track for the 2001 Corpus Christi celebration. This year there was more space given to the children and the sessions benefited, Frost said. "We had plenty of lunches . . . We could have used more catechists . . . (The track) wasn't quite as rushed. It has run smoothly."
Sessions on God's creation, on Jesus' ministry, on his Passion and resurrection, on the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the Eucharist were looked at through "a little bit of everything," Frost said, including Scripture readings and a craft or game and a song. "The children are usually really good, open to what you're doing with them."
In addition to their "paper shakers," children made mosaic crosses to wear, banners and bookmarks to use for their summer reading.
One volunteer catechist, Jeanine Purvis from Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Decatur, said she brought her own three children to participate in tracks for their various age levels. Purvis and her children, who live in Lithonia, got up at 4:30 a.m. June 1 to come to the Georgia International Convention Center where volunteers were served a free country breakfast beginning at 5 a.m. before beginning their day of service. Roy and Olga Myers of St. Mary's Church in Jackson, volunteer hospitality coordinators, arranged the breakfast, as well as the box lunches provided for the children so they could stay in one place.
Purvis praised the way the day went in the children's track, which lasted from 11 a.m. until 4:45 p.m.
"We had so much fun. I am going to come next year . . . It was excellent," she said.
An administrator in the Clayton County school system, Purvis said they told Bible stories, made banners, had singers and performed a Nativity play. "I love kids," she said, adding that the program was "good" and the children were great. "They were very energetic. We had no discipline problems-none."
A surprise visit to one children's track room by Archbishop John F. Donoghue and Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, who represents the Vatican in the United States, delighted the children, said Cathie Riola, the track co-leader.
A native of Colombia, Archbishop Montalvo chatted in Spanish with about 50 of the children who spoke mostly Spanish, said Riola. She recruited five bilingual catechists, including a visiting nun, Sister Anne Frances, OP, from the Nashville Dominicans, when she realized how many Spanish-speaking children she had that morning. A face painter and musicians visited the room.
Also a member of St. Catherine of Siena Church, Riola said the lesson plans were designed by her co-leader, Frost, after a fruitful time of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament gave her the basic inspiration. "I call it adoration revelation," said Riola.
Assisted by volunteers, including those in confirmation classes at the parish, the two put in many hours since March finding crafts, assembling the craft packages for each child and preparing the lesson plan materials for over 80 catechists. The catechists "give up any opportunity to participate in the Congress in order to serve the children," Riola said. "We couldn't do it without them."
Delighted in particular by young ones like 4-year-old Sammy Willits of St. Pius X Church in Conyers, who asked permission to lead the room in praying the Our Father, Riola said, "I love being with the children . . . It's just beautiful hearing their enthusiasm, not being meek. Singing 'This Little Light of Mine,' they were shouting!"
"Of course, it's exhausting," she said, "but it's wonderful. It worked and God was present in that room."