Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

College Park

Kid Track Offers Play With Purpose

By SUZANNE HAUGH, Special To The Bulletin | Published June 21, 2007

Children, many sitting beside siblings as well as parents serving as volunteers, experienced their family of faith on a grand scale during the kid track, which honored Jesus, the hero of heroes.

Scenes throughout the day chronicled the fun. Alexandra Lohmeyer, 8, liberally applied face paints on any willing victim sitting close. Nine-year-old Sophia from North Carolina colored a picture of the Cat.Chat Man and Moses the Cat along with friend Micah Wolven, 8, whose parents were managing a pro-life booth in the vendor area. At one point the entire slew of children formed a conga line and marched with popsicle-stick saints they had made to the song, “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

But the playfulness had a purpose: to make new friends and grow closer to Jesus Christ. Serving as the emcee for the day, Brother Leo Mary, MFVA, of EWTN’s popular children’s shows “Faith Factory” and “Hey, Brother Leo,” asked the crowd, “Who are some of your heroes?” Superman, mom and dad were popular answers, but by day’s end children in the kid track learned about “Jesus, a hero to believe in,” the theme for the day.

“It’s very beautiful to see so many kids,” said Brother Leo in between bites of his lunch.

“We need to teach in a simple way and in a way that they can enjoy their faith. They also get to know other kids.”

Brother Leo was joined by Brother Tio, MFVA, and throughout the day both mingled with the children.

“Brother Leo and Brother Tio, the kids just loved them. … They put the kids at ease even when they were waiting in the line to register,” said Natalie Gore, who coordinated the track with help from former coordinators Stacey Persichetti and Sara Boster, and also Sori Govin, director of children’s ministry for the Atlanta Archdiocese, who oversaw security and volunteers.

“It is a great way for kids to learn about the Catholic faith with fun that keeps the kids’ attention,” Gore added.

With plenty of volunteers this year, Gore still had one main worry.

“Ten minutes before the archbishop was to arrive (with the Blessed Sacrament), it was as noisy as anything,” she admitted. “The shocking thing, which shows, I have to say, that the Holy Spirit was present, was how 800 kids were quiet and silent and on their knees (at the appropriate time).”

As in past years, the main highlight was the visit by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory and Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament. The children’s silence was rewarded with the faint sound from the hallway of the distant chiming bells that grew louder as the Blessed Sacrament approached. The archbishop addressed the children. First communicants raised their hands at the archbishop’s request, and he added that they now have a “special friendship” with Jesus.

“No matter how old you are, no matter how many times you receive Jesus in Holy Communion, always appreciate the grace whether it’s the first time or 50,000th,” the archbishop told the children.

The magnitude of the moment and exchange was not lost on the children.

“It’s pretty awesome,” said Lucas Zamora, 12, who was enjoying his third Eucharistic Congress. “I get to see Jesus right in front of me. It’s not hard to believe. My Mom teaches me the Bible and everything. It’s not hard to believe that that’s really Jesus.”

Lucas was also excited to see Archbishop Gregory, whom he has met before. “He’s a very good man and deserves to be the archbishop. I think it’s very generous of him … to come here and spend time with us.”

Throughout the day, children were entertained with mini-concerts by the Cat.Chat Man and Moses the Cat, a music ministry composed mainly of a family from Alberta, Canada, that teaches kids the basics of the Catholic faith through songs and teachings.

“We’re very excited to be a part of the Eucharistic Congress,” said Gerald Monpetit, alias the Cat.Chat Man. He was standing beside his wife, Denise, co-creator of the ministry. “It was a long-standing dream to do something for the Lord … to teach something solidly Catholic.”

This was their first concert in the United States, which was a “big-time jump.” Their four children often take part in the show—a daughter dances, two boys play the drums, and their 3-year-old has shown promise “playing the spoons.”

Son Dominic, 9, wowed the audience with his drum playing and father and son both took to unicycles after Monpetit explained how we must go to God when we’re trying to learn what looks difficult, like riding a unicycle.

“Pray during difficult times, whether it’s schoolwork or something else. We need to invite God into whatever we are doing.”

Through fun with character Moses the Cat and songs led by the Cat.Chat Man, children further explored the concept of the Eucharist. “We, as Christians, make Jesus our hero; He’s our Savior. … When we’re hungry for Jesus, we can go to Mass and ask Jesus to fill us with his body, blood, soul and divinity.”

Archbishop Gregory accompanied another special visitor to the track, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, papal nuncio to the United States.

“It was a very sweet and unexpected surprise,” recalled Govin. “He told the kids that they were the most beautiful kids in all of Atlanta!”

He also brought greetings from Pope Benedict XVI.

Govin spent most of her time managing the volunteers and security and the wellbeing of the kids, which encapsulated such basic needs as feeding them and ensuring that they made it to the bathroom on time—and then back again. Govin sought the correct volunteer-child ratio.

“(It takes) a lot for them to be safe here and have a good time. The volunteers in the kid track really need to be committed to it.”

And they were, according to Govin, who also added that they sought out adults such as Melissa Sherwood, who had experience working with children.

A teacher from Pinecrest Academy in Cumming, an independent Catholic school, Sherwood knew other teachers from her school who had volunteered for the track and offered to help this year. She affectionately called those in her group “pretty hilarious.”

“I love it. It’s an awesome experience. Any time you get kids in front of the Eucharist—even if they’re a little spaced out and getting a little bit tired—it might make them see that they are a member of the church and say, ‘I have my own spot as part of the church.’”

They received information about the Catholic faith at their level, she added. “It’s a good experience and the way they interact with each other is really cute.”

The gift of the kid track also reaches outside its doors.

“It allows the parents to make the most of the weekend,” attending adult sessions, she said.

However, some parents, whose kids were turned away from the track last year because there were too few volunteers to staff it, volunteered this year and stayed with their children. Robin Osborn of St. John Neumann Church in Lilburn led a group of children that included her daughter Emily.

“It’s really great,” she said. “They learn more about their faith with people their age.”

Mother and volunteer Jamala Penton, from St. Stephen the Martyr Church in Lilburn, had twins attending the kid track and a teenager in the teen track. She brought her children “so that they see … that there’s more, there’s something bigger than their own parish.”

Emma Lammers, 9, sat with her group of new friends and father, Michael, who was the group leader.

“It’s kinda like vacation Bible school. Really, I look forward to it,” she said. “It’s really cool, like when Jesus was coming in, it was peaceful—everybody was quiet and we could focus on the Eucharist.”

Toward the day’s end, Maria and Rocio, both 9, recalled what they had learned about Jesus. “That he’s a hero,” Maria said, and Rocio added, “He helps you all the time.”

Amid the chatter and giggles the message came across to its audience.

“Kids have to be shown their faith,” Govin explained, “and let them experience it as a community. … Even the very young need to be molded as to what their faith is all about. Teach them reverence and they will model it. … We have to plant the seed.”