Summer is in full swing in Houston. Over these hot summer months, my parish is taking a break from religious education, there aren’t donuts after Sunday Masses and many families are traveling for vacation. A natural challenge for any parish during the summer is how to stay connected to the parish children and families over the summer? At St. Angela Merici, we have an engaging activity keeping us checking in with the church.
Our pastor, Fr. John Rooney graciously agreed for the second year to travel with families over the summer and experience their vacations with them. But, to cut down on airfare, and so he is available for Mass, Fr. John travels in the style of Flat Stanley – attached to a stick.
We call him Flat Father John.
Throughout the summer, families are encouraged to take pictures with Flat Father John at family prayer, church at grandma’s, while on vacation or at home. Pictures are then emailed to the church office to earn “points.” At the end of the summer, an award is given to the three children with the highest points. As an added bonus, pictures taken in a religious setting or location earn extra points.
Last year saw over 100 unique Flat Father John pictures submitted to the parish office, many of which made it in the weekly church bulletins over the summer months or on our parish Facebook page. My family loved opening the bulletin after Mass to see where Flat Father John had traveled – a cruise, a pilgrimage, or a wedding.
Flat Father John is a fun way to encourage families to flex that creative muscle while connecting us to the fellowship of our parish community. My kids took him everywhere last summer. We have pictures of him with cows, at a neighboring parish, in the pool and even at LEGOLAND. My personal favorites just happened to be of Flat Fr. John at Vacation Bible School (VBS) at our parish wearing his own SKY VBS shirt.
How does your parish stay connected with families over the summer months?