“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”

The line in today’s reading The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” is found twice in the bible (Luke 10:2 and Matthew 9:37) and I have heard it many, many times in my life. Today it made me think of our work at Grace and how we have had some wonderful volunteers, many of them under the age of 16!  It has been wonderful working on this new venture with people who are so happy to help.  I just wanted to share with everyone some pictures of the work that has been done and the smiling faces doing it.  Enjoy! michelle heart signature 2

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Too Much Planning Too Little Joy

Humble Pie:  The Crust

Confessions of a homeschool mom burdened with the gift of administration.  Can a gift be a burden?  Yes, sometimes I believe it can be.

Our last MARCH meeting made me realize that just because we are given a gift, it doesn’t mean it is to be used in EVERY situation.  The group leaders for the year are Lisa and MaryAnn and in order to prevent burnout, they have devised “Mom Teams”.  Each month 2 moms will volunteer to ‘run’ the group.  Running the group can mean anything from picking up the key, unlocking the door and setting up for a carefree social.  It could mean bringing the food and drinks or making sure that food and drinks are provided.  It may entail planning a book discussion or topical discussion for the moms to chat about.  It could also involve faith lessons for the children.  The meetings would then be as varied as the moms leading them.

Celeste and I had signed up for January.  Mercy DoorsWe took the opportunity to plan for the meeting by having our families get together for the day a couple of weeks before hand.  The children had a great time and kept themselves busy all day. Celeste and I had lots of fun, brainstorming and planning.  However, by the end of the day, we had planned an entire Journey of Mercy!  We had designed everything right down to the food to bring and a layout for the table so that once the food was placed on red and blue tablecloths of course, you would clearly see the rays on the Divine Mercy Image, as rays of red and blue food flowed down each side of the table.

We thought it would be nice to start by defining Mercy, what it is and how we are being called to live it out more deeply this year and how we can obtain mercy and give it. Although most of our families already pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, we thought it would be a nice lesson to start with so that people could start praying it all year long. We also planned a small lesson on the Holy Door, it’s history, it’s unveiling, what’s inside the box, what does it mean to pass through the holy door and where are the Holy Doors in our Diocese for this year. We also found craft ideas to compliment each topic.  We planned that next month too, since Celeste is also signed up for February and Lent begins February 10.  We decided that February’s Mercy theme would be the Sacrament of Confession.  We even made our own MARCH Confession Guide for Children.  Yes, that’s right, do you see where I am going with this?  We were on fire!  Ideas were bursting out of us!  We hoped that other topics could be covered by future Mom Teams, like the parables of Mercy, the saints of Mercy, the Works of Mercy, you get the picture.

National Shrine of DM

We also had two capstone ideas.  1) an Enthronement to the Sacred Heart in the Family and 2) an ACTUAL pilgrimage to Eden Hill, the home of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts!  The end of the day came and we parted exhilarated and fulfilled.  We were so pleased with ourselves, we had devised an amazing plan and were looking forward to sharing it with everyone.

Over the next week, Celeste and I emailed to finalize details, we copied coloring pages, and gathered all the materials we needed for our craft projects.

checklistWe broke down the 42 children that we knew were coming into 3 groups to make things easier and decided that they would travel in their groups from her class to my class to a game room.  We would meet at 3pm to pray the chaplet, have snacks, and settle the children with a video on St. Faustina while the moms gathered their things and helped to clean up.  Celeste emailed the moms about our plans.

The day before our meeting I checked for email responses, a couple of moms signed up to bring cups, water, plates and napkins, no one had signed up for our red and blue foods, strawberries, blueberries and punch.  Celeste and I were bringing Divine Mercy decorated cakes and gluten free cupcakes frosted with red and blue frosting.  Oh no, our theme table may be empty.  Lisa called and offered to bring the strawberries, but we would still have to pick up the blueberries and juice, oh no what would we do!

~Can you just sense the dramatic sarcasm?~

To make matters worse we got a call from Lisa, yes, Lisa the Leader (and trusted friend).  She conveyed to us that other moms may be feeling a little overwhelmed by all our ideas and that we should be aware of that and take it into consideration.  I listened, I was hurt, and I was confused, what was so overwhelming?  All the excitement and energy drained from my body, I no longer wanted to do anything.  A couple of hours later, it was time for the meeting. Celeste and I met briefly to ‘tone down’ our presentation, she was taking this so much better than I.  Before we knew it, families started to arrive.

Humble Pie:  The Fruit

2016-01-21 01.34.25As everyone began to arrive there was joy.  Although it was freezing out, moms had a hard time making it into the building because as the cars unloaded, children were squealing when they saw the friends they hadn’t seen in a while and the moms were hugging for the same reasons. We were commenting on moms who had lost weight or gotten a hair cut.  Everyone ran to see the newest babies in the group.  It felt as they we hadn’t seen each other in years.2016-01-21 01.58.06  Once everyone was inside there was a constant hum of activity and everyone mingled and reconnected. Food was dropped off, babies were settled and the day began.  It was a truly beautiful scene.

2016-01-21 01.57.52Did it began with my nice typed out lesson on the meaning of Mercy and the call to walk this journey together this year month by month at our meetings, NO it didn’t!  As I looked around and peaked into the rooms where the children were already gathered playing with Legos and chit-chatting about all the things they wanted to share with one another, I barely had the heart to gather them together in the big room.  I even noticed a new family had joined us. Who were they?  What would they think?

With Celeste by my side we agreed to toss aside all the formality and just offer our craft projects for those interested. No theme speech, no holy year here we come, no matching table cloths, no blueberries, nothing.  Just let go and let God.

As usual, I had overprepared for the meeting.  The meeting didn’t need me or my ideas, it had everything it needed, love, joy, peace, faith and holy friendships.2016-01-21 01.32.31  There was plenty of food and the kids were happy being with their friends and the moms gathered to share, laugh, love and learn from one another.  I learned a valuable lesson, God will provide. My joy had been taken away by all the planning and because Celeste and I had saddled ourselves with a lesson, we were unable to partake in free time with the other moms.  2016-01-21 01.57.43As homeschooling moms, we are with our children all day everyday, teaching everything from A to Z.  MARCH time should be preciously guarded as ‘Free Time’ to be at peace and enjoy the beautiful people God has placed in this group.

So, did I waste all my time planning for the Year of Mercy?  No, I didn’t.  I will be using most of these ideas with my own family and hey, maybe this spring some of us can take a road trip to Stockbridge.  Love you and may this year be one of true Mercy for all of you.

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A Cloud of Witnesses

A cloud of witnesses

all saintsCCC # 2683 The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom,41 especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today. They contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were “put in charge of many things.”42 Their intercession is their most exalted service to God’s plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world.

 

We celebrated All Saints Day just a couple days early on October 29th.  As we gathered at the parish hall of Notre Dame Church in Waterville, we waited to see who would arrive next.All Saints Day Party 2015 025

How joyful it was to be surrounded by so many different ‘saints’! Even some of the moms were inspired! Can you guess who they are portraying*? All Saints Day Party 2015 051

These children were a witness to how the spirit can move a child who has been taught to love God and his holy heroes in heaven.All Saints Day Party 2015 044

A special thanks goes out to our Host Moms, Lisa and MaryAnn.  Well Done!All Saints Day Party 2015 008

After a slightly belated start (due to car trouble, but other moms came to the rescue with ‘cab’ service), eleven families gathered, beginning in prayer.   We were so blessed to have Father Dominic join in the fun.

 St. John Vianney, patron of priests, bless and inspire Father Dominic Savio in service to Holy Mother Church!

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Oh, what a table of food! Thank you to all who brought goodies to share, from pies to cookies to popcorn to cupcakes! Mulled apple cider and hot chocolate rounded out the fare.

Good Saint Martha, bless these generous cooks!

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Several families brought board games. There were also homemade games specifically for All Saints’ Day, such as Saint Bingo and Pin the Tail on the Lion. A popular and visually tempting set of Guessing Jars were set out, jars full of Swedish Fish (St. Anthony preaching to the fish); Froot Loops (haloes); Caramel Bullseyes (St. Therese, a carmelite♥); Candy Corn (St. Kateri) .  Closest guess wins the jar full! http://www.catholicicing.com/saint-guessing-jars// One of our moms brought a giant Jenga game and homemade carnival games, just right for the small wiggly people.

St. Philip Neri, patron of  joy, inspire our dear ones to play well always.

catherines photos 109catherines photos 143All Saints Day Party 2015 058All Saints Day Party 2015 063All Saints Day Party 2015 031All Saints Day Party 2015 024All Saints Day Party 2015 010All Saints Day Party 2015 009All Saints Day Party 2015 007All Saints Day Party 2015 003 The biggest project of the day was decorating pumpkins.  Such inspiration, skill and abandon! Apologies to anyone still trying to scrape off burnt umber acrylic paint from the leather seats in the van!

Saint Catherine of Bologna, patroness of artists, bless these creative souls!

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The high point of the party, in my opinion, was the “Who Am I?” portion of the afternoon. Each costumed kiddo shuffles to the front of the room and gives clues as to which saint he/she is representing. Completely adorable are the chubby-cheeked urchins, some giving tough clues.  “I once punched a heretic  in the nose.” (St. Nicholas of Myra) “I was put into a barrel of spikes and rolled down a hill.” (St. Erasmus aka St. Elmo).  “I was a Greek princess. The Emperor Diocletian tried to kill me because I wouldn’t marry him, but I survived (the first three attempts).” (St. Philomena)

And the occasional ‘softball’ clue–“I was the Mother of Jesus.” Thank goodness, all hands shot up.  Afterward, since all the saints had been ‘introduced’, we prayed the Litany of the Saints (an abbreviated version), while each of the ‘saints’ present intoned his or her name.   Kudos to kids and moms for their resourcefulness in their costume-making–I nominate the hair of that little wild man St. John the Baptist, artfully played by a brown cloth rag mop.

St. Aloysius Gonzaga, patron of Catholic youth, instill a holy fervor in the hearts of our children!

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The older girls even put together goody bags for everyone to take home.  The afternoon ended as it began, with prayer.  The moms gathered together to pray for one of the moms who would be heading into eye surgery on Monday morning (the feast of All Souls).  We also included in our intentions the speedy healing of an absent MARCH family, and successful surgery for the daughter of the Gray family.

Saint  Luke, guide the hands of the surgeons! Saint Lucy, please assist in this mother’s healing. Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, speed the Bakers back to health. And Blessed Virgin, our Mother Mary, please be with M during her surgery and healing afterward.

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If the custodian had peeked in on our boisterous party, he would have seen merely a gaggle of over two-score children and a bunch of mommies. So much more than that, we are a spiritual sisterhood, fellow pilgrims, and we are so very blessed to have one another.

St. John, the Beloved Apostle, keep our hearts attentive to our friendships!

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CCC #957  Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ.

All Saints Day Party 2015 030All Saints Day Party 2015 027All Saints Day Party 2015 023All Saints Day Party 2015 016Did you guess correctly? The moms came as St. Zelie Martin, mother of St. Therese of Lisieux; St. Josephine Bakhita; St Gianna Beretta Molla All Saints Day Party 2015 051 All Saints in Heaven, Pray for us.

All Saints Collage

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Sweet and Simple

Our first meeting in October was sweet and simple.

Oct 8 MARCH

When we get together……….we’re family!

Best wishes to Christine, Mary and Grace on their new journey.

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‘A’ Is For Apple

The Unlucky Apple MARCH Apples Nicky Hiltz (2)

‘Twas the apple that in Eden
Caused our father’s primal fall;
And the Trojan War, remember —
‘Twas an apple caused it all.
So for weeks I’ve hesitated,
You can guess the reason why,
For I want to tell my darling
She’s the apple of my eye.

-Paul Lawrence Dunbar

letter On a glorious day in late September, 6 moms, 29 children, and about 12 buckets of apples met in Dixmont, Maine at Maine-ly Apples. As I scanned our small horde, I was warmed to observe lanky teenage boys galumphing with apple buckets, adolescent girls practicing maturity while being helpful, “tween” girls munching Macouns, their heads bent in conversation, preschoolers peering up into thick foliage for fruit, and mamas doggedly pushing their strollers up gentle hillsides. I’m sure I was not the only mom to feel ‘lucky’ that afternoon. MARCH Apples Some Smiths (2)
After a short stop in the gift shop, and a romp with the hay bales, most of us headed ‘down the road a piece’ to Celeste’s home. Kids took full advantage of unstructured time and the beautiful weather outdoors, while the moms did the same inside, near the refreshments set out by our hostess. MARCH Apples Patrick, Dom

MARCH (29)MARCH (4)MARCH (6)MARCH Apples Lizzie,CatMARCH (20)
MARCH (3)

On the same day, two other families of MARCH met in Lemieux’s Orchard in Vassalboro for a smaller version of the same. september 2015 038september 2015 041september 2015 054september 2015 058september 2015 063september 2015 076

Michelle B and Michelle T got their families together and enjoyed a less boisterous afternoon.  They enjoyed the orchard, a hayride, a trip through the corn maze and a tour of the packing facility.  Lemieux’s Orchard is a supplier of apples to Hannaford Supermarkets. september 2015 068september 2015 070september 2015 072september 2015 075

After their time at the orchard they went to Michelle T.’s home to meet another family and enjoy some homemade applesauce.  The mothers gathered on the deck to enjoy some pleasant conversation while the children played together in the yard. september 2015 089september 2015 101september 2015 092september 2015 099

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Our Apostolate

MARCH march banner

Maine Apostolate of Roman Catholic Homeschoolers  (MARCH) as the name indicates, is a lay apostolate. What exactly is a lay apostolate?

From websites Wikipedia and Catholic Exchange:
The lay apostolate is made up of laypeople and consecrated religious who exercise a ministry in cooperation with the Catholic Church. These organizations cooperate with ecclesiastical authorities. They operate “under direction of her pastors” but are not members of the official Church hierarchy nor in Holy Orders. Apostolates operate with the permission of the local Ordinary of the diocese, but often without material support… Lay apostolates comes in two broad varieties — individual and group. A group apostolate might involve something like running a pregnancy counseling program or operating a values-oriented private school… A key part of lay apostolate is that it happens in a secular environment, not in church. Vatican Council II’s Constitution on the Church spoke of it as a “special vocation” — making faith “present and fruitful” in those places where that can only be done by the laity.

Members, doesn’t that make you feel important?

MARCH has become, for many of us, a valued support system. We began small, but now there is truly strength in our numbers. And we find that it is a symbiotic relationship; we can be both givers and takers in this association. More than a coffee klatch, we offer spiritual and emotional support, and encourage perseverance in our vocations of wife, mother and teacher. In times of more profound need, support might even involve child care, or a casserole or two.  Catholic homeschooling is not for the weak of heart. MARCH on Pope Francis join the March

MARCH currently has two gathering times each month, on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays, at least September through May. At present, we are set up to use the St John (Winslow) Faith Formation building once per month. We may be able to use St. John’s the second Thursday also. We have met during the summer as well. Our meeting time slot is ~1pm – 4pm.  Group members also attend First Friday Masses and benediction on their own or in small groups.

A Little Housekeeping

Our Lady of the BroomThis post will be a little different as we have some housekeeping to take care of before our next meeting on October 8, 2015

Those who attended the apple picking day on September 24th also met informally at Celeste’s home for a small meeting.

In attendance were Celeste, Christina, Mary Ann, Sue and Lisa (Betty had to leave early). With no formal agenda, several topics came up.

Here is a synopsis of the conversation.

Please Read and Pray!  

What would you like to see our group do?  What do you and your family need from the group?  What benefits are you and your family currently receiving from the group? In what ways can you contribute to the group?

New Ideas

Smaller cluster groups?

One mom suggested, since MARCH is spreading out geographically, that we arrange cluster groups based in various locations. What are your thoughts on this? The attending moms on Apple-Picking day seemed to agree that this may well happen naturally, and there may not be a need to do so formally. Indeed, driving in Maine’s winter weather may play a role in ‘clustering’. Many of the moms queried truly enjoyed having the “big meetings”.

Adoration for moms of young’uns?

Is that even a thing? Is it even possible?…. Christina B will be asking her local priest for cooperation in arranging a time for Eucharistic Adoration, separate from our regular MARCH meetings. Note that this is only a germ of an idea at this point!  Adoration would take place at St. Agnes Church in Pittsfield. Plans entail having child care available in a separate room so that mothers wishing to spend time alone with Our Lord might do so without distraction. Would you be interested?

Info-Sharing

Since our group has been growing, we need to share contact information. Please send all contact information to Lisa’ s personal email so she can add to or update what we already have.  We just need the basics: Names of all members of the families including ALL your children and husbands, address and phone numbers for home and cell, and everyone’s birthdates for future ideas.  Also, the homeschooling program you are currently using would be great information to share with the group, as your knowledge in that program may help others who are considering the same.

Events

fr mitch pacwaFather Mitch Pacwa will be speaking at the parish retreat at St. Paul the Apostle Parish October 24. Here is a link with more info. http://www.stpaulbangor.me/parish-retreat-with-fr-mitch-pacwa. Doesn’t this sound like a road trip to you? Think about child care and let’s consider a carpool!
2015 Catholic Men’s Conference with speaker Peter Kreeft. Some of our husbands may have been interested in attending, but I just got off the phone with the diocese who told me the event has been cancelled. Apparently Mr. Kreeft had to cancel, and so the diocese cancelled the entire event. Sad!

Leadership & Running Meetings

Most of us agree that having a single leader of any group made up of over-busy moms is a recipe for Leader Burn-out! Just ask Michelle B; she’s still recovering -haha!  Even if she can avoid burn-out, it may allow the rest of the members to become complacent. Since last spring, Christie, Mary Ann, and Lisa have been acting as “core leaders’ and heading up the planning. We would like to propose a kind of ‘shared leadership’, or turn-taking, among the entire group. There are plenty of active members (though we know that some families cannot make it to every gathering) to be able to have a vibrant group! meeting leadership

One way of achieving a more balanced responsibility would be for a couple of moms to be responsible for ONE meeting during the year. The core leaders mentioned above would still be available, for guidance or advice. The meeting co-planned by you could be very informal, such as a gathering prayer, food, and social time. Or you might be very ambitious and plan out activities for different age groups, or even spread out a ‘teaching unit’ into two meetings. You might know of a terrific venue for a field trip, and arrange that for all interested. If you have the space and means, you might host a gathering in your own home with potluck snack foods. Perhaps you even have a friend or acquaintance who could give an inspiring talk. There are so many options! Hopefully having two moms working together will ease any anxiety you have. Then your ONE meeting will be a fulfilling and fun 3-hour gig!

You will soon see a sign-up form in circulation! Thank you so much for your able assistance, you wonderful women.

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Hospitality of the Heart ~ Advent 2014

Pope John Paul II Christmas Cards now available through Claydon Fine Arts

Pope John Paul II

This love must then spread to your whole community, even to the whole world, precisely through you, dear children. Love will then be able to reach those who are most in need of it, especially the suffering and the abandoned.

What joy is greater than the joy brought by love? What joy is greater than the joy which you, O Jesus, bring at Christmas to people’s hearts, and especially to the hearts of children?

Raise your tiny hand, Divine Child, and bless these young friends of yours, bless the children of all the earth.

+John-Paul P.P. II, Christmas 1994

Who knew our December meetings would bring so much conversation about the most appropriate and proper way to celebrate Advent.  Our MARCH group meets twice a month and as December approached we sent out the meeting dates and topics.  Actually, we opted for no clear topics for the month of December, knowing full well that we all had our hands full with Advent and Christmas preparations.  We opted to have a Christmas party.  It wasn’t going to be a party with Santa Claus, games, and gifts.  Our intention was a get-together to encourage one another as we headed into Christmas. Well, the word ‘party’ did not sit well with some of our families.  After much discussion about proper activities during advent we decided on two things.  A peaceful lighthearted luncheon at the Smith family home for early December, a Cookies and Cocoa gathering for later in the month and our annual Sweet Dreams service project for the homeless shelter.

The Smith home provided a warm respite to gather and share the joy of the season.  Advent Gathering 106 Advent Gathering 105 Advent Gathering 102 Advent Gathering 101 Advent Gathering 098 Advent Gathering 097 Advent Gathering 096 Advent Gathering 094 Advent Gathering 093 Advent Gathering 092 Advent Gathering 089 Advent Gathering 088 Advent Gathering 087

The Cookies and Cocoa gathering was filled with song, stories, and of course lots of holiday treats to eat.  The children ended with an ol’ fashion snowball fight at the end of the night.

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This year the homeless shelter ask us to include a few specific items for some of their residents with special needs.  These requests made us feel more connected to those we were helping, it truly is better to give than to receive. cocoa 009

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Cold Weather Warm Hearts

November was cold and cloudy, but that didn’t dampen our spirits.  I think we were all still recovering from the Saint’s Day party and welcomed a less structured meeting.  We set up one room as the Lego Room and another as a game room.  When the rain subsided, the children found themselves outside playing soccer and using a few hula hoops we found in the storage closet.  Mrs. Gray worked with several of the children to make fall cupcakes.  The children enjoyed being in the kitchen so much that it made me think about adding a homemaking class to our schedule. (Sorry I don’t have pictures of the cupcakes-they were so cute and DELICIOUS!)

Advent Gathering 024Advent Gathering 025Advent Gathering 026Advent Gathering 029Advent Gathering 030Advent Gathering 031Advent Gathering 032Advent Gathering 033If you looked in on the adults, you’d notice we have a new family joining us!  They relocated to Maine for the year. Welcome!  The mommy meeting focused on academics, what was and what wasn’t working.  New moms had lots of questions on reading and spelling.  Veteran moms offered up lots of suggestions for spelling and phonics programs and offered to share materials.

Our service project for the month was gathering food for the local food bank.  All the moms brought in food to bring to the local food pantry and the children decorated bags and even included special notes to those receiving these goods.  Overall it was a successful and productive meeting.  The moms enjoyed the fellowship and the kids had a great time with their service project, games and Legos.  michelle heart signature 2

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Saints Alive!

Each year we celebrate the glory of the saints in heaven on All Saints Day.all saints photo The church teaches that everyone in heaven is a saint, although we have many days assigned to specific canonized saints, All Saints Day is a day to celebrate EVERY saint in heaven.  Celebrating All Saints Day versus the secular day of Halloween helps to keep the faith alive for our children.  Any time you can take a secular custom and transform it to show the beauty of our faith you are helping your children grow closer to God.  Just think, our children are happy because they know that for everyone in heaven there is no more pain and suffering only complete happiness.

 

Our Saints came from all around the world. Several girls came as St. Elizabeth of Hungry. (I think we had 5)

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We began with prayer and the children marched in costume singing, When the Saints Come Marching In, as they set out to their first station.  The teens and moms led small groups of ‘saints’ from station to station.

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We had stations which included: Memory of Saints, Saint Bingo, St. Peter’s Fish Pond, a Works of Mercy station, Saint Cecilia’s Musical Chairs, Daniel’s Pin the Tail on the Lion, a craft table and coloring area too.

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What is a feast day without a FEAST?  There was plenty of food for everyone.

THANKS MOMS!

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This year we combined our Harvest Fest Gathering with our All Saints Day Party.  Which means we added more fall favorites like pumpkin carving!

All Saints 022All Saints 019 All Saints 018 All Saints 017saints day mikes camera 056Amidst all the fun, moms still found the time to relax and connect with one another and enjoy the day with their families and friends.

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