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Goal of gift is to deepen faith of Sharpsburg St. Juan Diego youths

Jan Pakler | for The Herald
Marilyn Ganster wraps bibles for the children in her CCD classes in Sharpsburg.

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Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Marilyn Ganster traditionally presents her sixth-grade CCD students at St. Juan Diego Parish with a Bible.

Some might say that the presentation is half the gift.

The Bibles are carefully wrapped in five layers, each representing the significance of the total package.

“As they unwrap each layer, there is a poem to read on each one,” Ganster said. “When I first found this idea, chills went up my spine.

“I hope they think it is just as neat.”

Ganster begins with plain brown shipping paper.

It symbolizes how God speaks to the children through ordinary events in their everyday life, she said.

The next layer is floral to represent the seasons of the church. That comes before solid white paper, which symbolizes purity and Baptism.

“It should remind them how they are becoming more like Christ,” said Ganster, a lifelong member of the parish.

Next up is newspaper, which Ganster said shows how the Bible will deepen the student's prayer life through the stories of many people.

The final layer is gold wrapping paper, meant to symbolize value.

“This shows you how your Bible is a treasure that will deepen your prayer life,” said Ganster, who coordinates the religious-education program for 63 students in grades one through eight.

The sixth-grade students receive the Bibles to coordinate with their curriculum, which follows the Old Testament.

This year, there are nine sixth-graders who will receive Bibles during an annual presentation where the Rev. Mike Decewicz, pastor at St. Juan Diego, blesses each before handing them out.

Decewicz enjoys the special twist that Ganster has added to the tradition.

“It helps initiate the children in the wonder and mystery of God's word,” he said.

Ganster said she could present the Bibles as is, and they would hold just as much meaning. And though the ritual takes a little extra time and effort, she thinks it makes the ceremony more memorable.

“I hope they get meaning from reading the Bible,” she said. “I hope this helps them to want to read it.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or

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