(The results of the first day of St. Mary Magdalene's VBS, right.)
In an effort to attract fathers toward getting involved in their children's religious education, St. Mary Magdalene Church of Bemeely, Minnesota, has created an innovative Vacation Bible School concept: "Come Follow Me: I Will Make You Fishers of Walleye."
"It was inspired," said parish council leader Kay Richtmann. "Half the time we can't pay the men of our parish to attend Sunday mass during fishing season, so we're doing something good for the students and as well as a good outreach initiative to our brothers in Christ."
The VBS format is angled toward a midday fishing trip each of the five days the young people attend. "Each day we read a different scripture dealing with fish in the New Testament," says Richtmann, a lead teacher in the VBS. "We have the miracle of the loaves and fishes, the calling of Andrew and Peter while fishing, the resurrection narrative in John where Jesus eats fish, etc. And then we quietly reflect: what if the fish were walleye? Would the Lord have had to multiply miraculously as many of them to feed those crowds? After all, it's a meaty fish. When Andrew and Peter retrieved their nets full to bursting, should they have reverted to tackle and bait on a line? Do the gospels imply a bias against catch and release? I tell you, the stories spring to life for them after that point." After reflection and discussion, the school heads for the lake and contemplatively fishes for walleye, "in solidarity with the apostles."
Richtmann says the enrollment has quadrupled from last year, and due to popular demand, the parish plans to run the VBS again in August. The public is invited to this session's closing fish-fry on Friday during the Noon hour celebrate the links between fishing walleye and discipleship. Please bring your own tartar sauce.