Wednesday, February 7, 2024
Linda Reeves - The Florida Catholic Palm Beach
Photography: LINDA REEVES | FC
FORT LAUDERDALE | The bleacher seats quickly filled, so some students grabbed a seat on the floor of the gym as St. Anthony School’s anticipated 2024 “super bowl of games” kicked off Jan. 30, 2024, matching enthusiastic competitors aiming to score and win for their home teams.
“Are you ready for the Bible Bowl?” shouted Jenna McIntosh, school principal, as she called for the competition to begin, firing up everyone in the stands.
The crowd of spectators, including moms and dads, grandpas and grandmas, jumped to their feet and cheered. Some waved banners and signs and flashed cellphone cameras, fueling the excitement of the day and the team players dressed in yellow, blue, green and red.
“Let’s begin with prayer,” said McIntosh, changing the tone.
The gym became silent. Then everyone joined in reciting an Our Father, a Hail Mary and a Glory Be, putting God at the center of the friendly match.
For the past five years, Bible Bowl has been an annual event at St. Anthony School, one of the many events held in celebration of Catholic Schools Week. The national celebration took place Jan. 28-Feb. 3 this year. Designed to showcase Catholic education, the week gives individual schools an opportunity to open their doors to parents and guests, show off their facilities, programs and curriculums, and brag on their students’ achievements.
Each year the event carries a theme. This year’s was “Catholic Schools: United in Faith and Community,” and the Bible Bowl fit the theme perfectly.
“The students compete against each other to see who comes out on top with their Bible knowledge,” said McIntosh, describing the game as “a faith-based pep-rally.”
In total, 32 students from the school’s 450 youngsters in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade competed in the Bible Bowl, designed for first to eighth-grade pupils.
The players dressed in various colors representing their house teams. The “house system” is something implemented at St. Anthony in 2022. Students, faculty members and staff of all grades are grouped in houses, each named after an evangelist: Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Each house has a captain and unique color, motto, chant, and crest. Siblings and family members are housed together.
Throughout the year, students earn points for their various houses through actions, achievements and performances building on character, sportsmanship and community spirit.
“We actually turn a lot of our service projects into house competitions,” said McIntosh. “We find that it is a fun way to motivate the students.”
The Bible Bowl engages youngsters to dive deeper into the Bible, helping them to learn more about scripture and the Church’s teachings, and to grow in faith.
“Our students look forward to this event every year,” said Gina Burpee, coordinator of religious education at the school. She explained that questions for the Bible Bowl are based on the students’ grade level and their religious studies.
“Watching the students get excited about their faith is one of the best components of the Bible Bowl,” said Burpee. “You see our students' knowledge of the faith and supporting one another as they compete. We see before our eyes how our students' knowledge and understanding grows as they advance in grade levels.”
Christine Goyette, the school’s youth ministry coordinator, said she enjoys watching the students cheer on their teams and get excited to “compete and be connected to our Catholic faith.”
She also said the Bible Bowl brings families together in faith. “For the students that are chosen to compete, they are spending time at home studying with their parents, making that connection through faith, and that, we know, is priceless.”
During the rounds, Burpee read the questions out loud to groups of competitors standing at a table before her and a panel of judges. The first contestant to hit the buzzer could answer the question.
Why is the Blessed Trinity the mystery of faith? Who is the Messiah? How many apostles were there? What is the mystery of the Incarnation?
The students tackled questions one after another, hardly ever missing an answer.
When it was time for the last round, the scores were neck-to-neck. The eighth graders were up to scrimmage, and the crowd was on edge.
“What are the sacraments of initiation?” Burpee asked.
Tierney Kubilis hit the buzzer, yelling out, “Baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist,” she said.
“Correct,” said Burpee.
The House of Luke won the game with 18 points on the board.
“I grew up in Catholic schools and can fully appreciate the benefits of a Catholic upbringing with focus on understanding the scriptures,” said Will Krysiek, arts integration specialist at the school. “I am so proud that St. Anthony is affording our students this opportunity to study the Bible, and that we have a fun event where our students’ scripture knowledge shines.”