Bible Buddy Program gives kids their own Bibles, thanks to sponsors

Second-grade students at Sturgeon Bay Parish receive free Bibles

STURGEON BAY — A Bible for every student is a dream come true for the catechists in the Genesis religious education program (grades one through five) who meet at St. Joseph Parish.

Credit for this dream coming true goes to people who sign up to be “Bible Buddies,” purchasing one or more of the Bibles for each of the second graders, and to Penny Biwer and her catechists who took the words of Bishop David Ricken to heart.

Penny Biwer displays a copy of the Catholic Children’s Bible, copies of which are distributed to second-grade religious education students at St. Joseph Parish in Sturgeon Bay. The Bibles are free to children thanks to the sponsors in the parish’s Bible Buddy Program. Biwer is coordinator of the Genesis religious education program. (Monica Sawyn | For The Compass)

“At one of the diocesan fall workshops, Bishop Ricken was sharing the fact that we need to get the word of God into the hands of children,” said Biwer, who is the coordinator for Genesis, which serves students from the Sturgeon Bay area parishes.

“We had always talked about getting Bibles for the kids, but we wanted them to be able to take them home eventually,” rather than have them just use books that belong to the program. That means buying new Bibles every year.

That first year, they had to purchase 60-plus Bibles to cover all the students. A label in the front of each Bible contains the student’s name, the name of the donor or the person in whose honor it is being given, and the date. This year, the third year for the Bible Buddy Program, 20 second-graders are awaiting their new Bibles. It was decided that first-graders don’t read well enough to need their own.

Besides purchasing the Bibles (at $34 each), donors agree to pray for “their” student, and the students in turn pray for them, sometimes during class prayer time and are also encouraged to pray for them on their own.

“Every fall, the kids get their Bibles at a presentation in church,” Biwer said. “The Bibles stay in the classrooms until they finish fifth grade, and then they can take them home to keep.”

Biwer said the catechists have become good about using the Bibles with the students, letting them look up Bible stories on their own rather than hear them read by the teacher. Teachers also take time to explain the structure of the Bible, and have the major sections marked off with bookmarks — a child’s version of the Bible tabs adults often use.

“The people who donate are very excited about it,” Biwer said. “I think they like that the kids will be able to take them home. It’s a very nice connection between the parish and the kids.” Fr. Bob Stegmann, pastor of St. Joseph Parish, has been one of the donors. The local Knights of Columbus council has also purchased as many as 10 in previous years.

The Bibles, published by St. Mary’s Press, are hardcover to withstand all the years of use by the students. They contain maps and some basic church teachings, the language is only slightly simplified for children, and they are full of illustrations that appeal to younger children — and to adults.

“Some of the adults have purchased them for themselves because they are so readable,” Biwer said.