September 3, 2014
Editor’s Note: On Aug. 24, Bishop Patrick J. Zurek spoke with the organizers of a summer Vacation Bible School at Church of the Holy Spirit, Tulia. Here are excerpts from that conversation, which will air on Wednesday, Sept. 24 during the opening day of the annual RadioThon for St. Valentine Catholic Radio, 1360AM.
Tulia—It was an idea that was born in a beauty shop, that became a reality, that in turn helped 32 youngsters learn more about their Catholic faith.
For the first time in nearly 15 years, parishioners at Church of the Holy Spirit offered a Vacation Bible School for its younger parishioners. It all began with an idea from parishioner Yolanda Villegas, owner and operator of Hair Design, Trends and Coffee Corner.
Bishop Patrick J. Zurek: Yolanda, where did the idea come from and what was your dream?
Villegas: The idea came from noticing that there was not enough activity here in our parish for our youth. I kept pondering what to do. One day I made an appointment with Father Marco Gonzalez (parochial vicar at Church of the Holy Spirit) and told him that we should have a Vacation Bible School. All the other local churches are having them and our children are attending theirs. I said that we needed to have one for ourselves.
He asked if I thought we would have enough help. I told him that I could find people to help from my circle of friends. I knew I could get enough help. The next thing I knew I was asked to call Sister Janet Abbacchi, SSND (Diocesan Coordinator of Faith Formation). I told Sister Janet that I had no experience in teaching because I am a hairdresser. I said that we had a need and someone has to get it going. Sister Janet said that was all it takes—to have help.
Bishop Zurek: Someone had a dream and she did not just sit on the dream. You had the initiative to go to your pastor, Father Gonzalez. I thank you for that because it is a lesson to all the people in our diocesan parishes and missions. If you see a need, don’t just wonder about it or talk about. I want to thank you for having the courage and persistence to move on and talk to the pastor and see what could be done.
Villegas discussed her idea with Delia Gonzales.
Bishop Zurek: I understand that this ended up in your lap and you took the idea and fleshed it out.
Gonzales: I walked into Yolanda’s beauty shop, and she came up to me and told me about her idea. Something inside me just fluttered and I thought “Oh, yes.” Someone finally has brought up this idea. I have done Vacation Bible School in the late 1990s. My youngest daughter and I put it together by ourselves. We did not have all the help we had this time. So it was hard.
Bishop Zurek: It was difficult to start from scratch again. What did you do at that point?
Gonzales: I told Yolanda, “Yes, let’s do it.” I wanted to do it. I was excited. After that I talked with Father Gonzalez and asked if we could order the materials. At his request, I talked to Martha Rocha, our parish finance person, who told me to get whatever we needed.
Bishop Zurek: In the beginning you had enthusiasm and the idea and the creativity. I like the term you used; that you fluttered inside. At Church of the Holy Spirit, a bird can flutter its feathers and so you talked to Father Gonzalez and ordered the materials. How did you put the program together? How did you get others to help you?
Gonzales: I ordered copies of the program for everyone, so we would know what would happen every day. We met, went over the program and the DVD; we made sure we had all the supplies and everything we would need. We had specific people in mind to help us and we called them.
Bishop Zurek: That is courage and persistence again, both key parts of the process.
One of the people Gonzales reached out to for help was Terrie Rodriguez.
Bishop Zurek: Terrie, can you tell us what program you used and how it went. What impressed you the most? Did any of the heroes, stand out for you?
Rodriguez: The program was about “The Holy Heroes.” King David was the hero who stood out for me. The children really enjoyed the school. All of them came every single day. We had about 32 children who came consistently.
Bishop Zurek: That says the program was good and that those of you who delivered it to the children were very successful.
Another parishioner who helped was Irene Cruz.
Bishop Zurek: Irene, tell us your impression of the program?
Cruz: I was very impressed with the enthusiasm that the children showed. They came and participated. They asked questions and learned a lot. The teenagers helped so much and the adults who helped us were very enthusiastic.
Bishop Zurek: So more than the 32 children participated. You had junior high and high school students who helped. When a pebble is dropped in the water, the ripples go everywhere. What heroes stood out for you, Irene?
Cruz: Jesus comes to mind. After we talked we went into the chapel to pray and visit the Blessed Sacrament. There were some things that the children did not know and they asked questions. There were things we clarified for them. They were wide-eyed and enthusiastic.
Bishop Zurek: You used the art in the church to teach the children. I love it when parents take their children, before or after Mass walking through the church, and point out the statues and stained glass windows to them.
Also helping with the Vacation Bible School was Felipa Rodriguez.
Bishop Zurek: Felipa, what were your impressions of the program?
Felipa Rodriguez: I really like the activities that the children participated in. They made stained windows and put together a prayer book. They were so ready to do it. They were excited and we were excited too.
Bishop Zurek: I believe that kids are like dry sponges. They are ready to take in absolutely everything. Delia, can you explain how your paired food with the teaching, just as they pair wine with food in a restaurant?
Gonzales: The program itself was so wonderful. At the beginning of each day, we would watch a DVD on which children would speak to and welcome our children. Then we would pray a decade of the Rosary each day. We would serve a snack that went with the lesson. When we talked about stained glass windows, we crushed candies of different colors on cookies.
Bishop Zurek: Ah, stained glass cookies.
Gonzales: Another example is the day we assembled the prayer book, we served trail mix. Each ingredient was a symbol from the lesson, e.g. the pretzel was a symbol for hands. We’re grateful to the Knights of Columbus, the Guadalupanas and the Altar Society for the purchase of materials and snacks.
Bishop Zurek: Let me thank you, Yolanda, as your bishop for having this idea and not just sitting on it. You actually made it happen by involving others. And, Delia, I want to thank you for taking the “bull by the horn” and talking with Sister Janet to find out what was possible and with Father Gonzalez and making it happen. Thank you, Terrie, Irene, Felipa and all the teenagers and adults who helped you—you are a model for me now for the diocese. Thank you very much.