What inspires a vocation to the priesthood or to the consecrated life? How does a child or a young person recognize that he or she is “called?” In this year’s Address on the World Day of Prayer for Vocations , Pope Benedict XVI reflected: “In the universal call to holiness, of particular relevance is God’s initiative of choosing some to follow his Son Jesus Christ more closely, and to be his privileged ministers and witnesses.” He also says our “first duty” is to keep this “divine initiative alive in families and parishes.”
On June 19, 2009, Pope Benedict inaugurated a “Year for Priests,” calling all Catholics to unite in continuous trust and diligent prayer for the holy priesthood, and by extension all vocations. The Holy Father recognizes a world that is forgetting what it means to be beloved by God, and therefore he is urging, through almost every address he makes to the Church and the world, how important it is to discern what God calls each of us to do. Similarly, as a new decade dawned, the United States Catholic Church celebrated National Vocations Awareness Week to promote the universal call to holiness and to encourage discussion in Catholic parishes and homes about what it means to have a vocation.
It is in this same spirit that Indianapolis husband and wife team, Steve and Joni Abdalla, founded Wee Believers® , a Catholic toy company. The mission of Wee Believers® is to enkindle the fire of faith in families , accomplished by offering a range of playful, innovative and high-quality products that are authentically Catholic and which inspire both child and adult to know, love and serve God.
“We believe in the immense depth of Christianity and in the importance of teaching and sharing the Faith around the world ,” Steve Abdalla, co-founder of Wee Believers® said. “My wife Joni and I saw the need for playful, high-quality catechetical toys for children. Our toy line was created to educate children, entertain families and enrich faith , and we’re confident that the fruits of these products will be seen for generations to come .”
Wee Believers® has developed an entire line of characters which center around a Catholic family of dolls who reside in an animated town named Mercyville. In this town, Fr. Juan Pablo is the parish priest and Sr. Mary Clara is a consecrated Religious Sister who serves as a sacristan and teaches in the parish school. As the toy line develops through new product releases, children will be able to interact with the characters through a variety of mediums including online games and activities, additional soft-sculpture manipulatives and animated videos.
Recently, Wee Believers® introduced Vocation Dolls™, a plush doll series to help foster a better understanding of the priesthood and consecrated religious life. Sr. Mary Clara and Fr. Juan Pablo are brought to life in 13-inch plush, huggable dolls. Designed to give little boys and little girls an inside look into the lives of real-life priests and Religious Sisters, Vocation Dolls ™ will assist parents with ways to foster vocations within the family and will help educators talk to young children in the classroom about the call to the consecrated life.
Each Wee Believers® product is accompanied by a signature companion booklet , written to compliment the particular toy with relevant and educational material. The Sr. Mary Clara and Fr. Juan Pablo dolls (sold separately) are accompanied by their own booklet that features the real-life vocation stories of five priests and five Religious Sisters.
Archbishop Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, recently shared how a toy mass kit he was given as a young boy first inspired him to the priesthood. Upon seeing the Vocation Dolls ™, the Archbishop said, “It is my hope and prayer that the Wee Believers® Vocation Dolls™, together with the companion booklets, will help young children to recognize the beauty of the vocations to the priesthood and to the religious life in the Church. ”
Often times a child’s vocation is inspired by what draws their attention in their youth. Children who play with fire trucks might aspire to be firefighters; children who play with rocket ships might aim to become an astronaut; children who learn about vocations to religious life at a young age might receive God’s call to become a priest or a sister.
Wee Believers® introduced their first toy in early 2009. My Mass Kit™ is a toy geared towards the early childhood stage of development and faith formation. The pieces of My Mass Kit™ are child-friendly replicas of the items used by the priest during the Liturgy. My Mass Kit™ helps children, in a playful and tactile way, learn about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, understand the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and love and respect the Holy Priesthood . Also included is an illustrated, ecclesiastically approved companion booklet to help families learn the meaning and use for each item in the kit. My Mass Kit™ is an excellent tool for catechists and faith-formation teachers, as well as parents, grandparents and godparents, anyone who interacts in faith formation during early childhood development.
Several priests and bishops have reviewed My Mass Kit™ and said that “playing Mass” as young boys was instrumental in the discernment of their priestly vocation. “This is great, ” said Monsignor Christopher Nalty, a priest who recently served at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy. “I played ‘priest ’ as a kid, and I know that was one of the first ways that God called me to the priesthood. ”
Another product certain to ignite the fire of faith in children is My Quiet Church . Expected to be released in 2010, My Quiet Church is a plush (soft-sculpture) church created to teach children the proper names of furnishings and sacramentals seen inside a Catholic Church. The toy will include a line of cloth Wee Believers® characters including Fr. Juan Pablo and Sister Mary Clara , and the Wee Believers family. My Quiet Church contains all of the Wee Believers® characters so that children can role-play Holy Mass and the Sacraments. My Quiet Church ’s design will be portable for active play, where the roof and side wall unzip and open, revealing easy access into the interior.
Fr. Brad Pelzel, the Vocation Director for the Diocese of Sioux City, recently remarked about the Wee Believers toy line, “I regularly visit the children in our Catholic schools and religious education programs. I have found the Wee Believer’s “My Mass Kit™” and “Vocation Dolls™” particularly helpful in preparing presentations that hold the children’s attention and accentuate the points I am making about the Mass, how we live out our Catholic faith and our need to respond to the vocation that God calls us to. Every parent, teacher and DRE would be well advised to bring these “tools in the form of toys” into their homes and classrooms . ”
All Wee Believers® products are thoroughly safety tested; CPSIA certified , constructed of high-quality materials and designed to last and to be cherished.
To purchase any of the Wee Believers® products or to learn more, please visit www.WeeBelievers.com or call (877)Wee-Blvr.