Eucharist is the Greek word for giving thanks. When we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, we give thanks for all that God has done and continues to do for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. In the Eucharist the crucified and risen Jesus – the complete divine Son of God – reaches down to us and lifts us up to join him in offering ourselves to God the Father. It is a complete offering of ‘self’ into God’s hands, an encounter with the Divine that is the summit and source of our lives as Christians.
First Holy Communion
A vital part of our Catholic Christian experience is the sharing in the Sacraments. Catholic parents have an obligation to provide religious education for our children. The church teaches that religious education begins at home and is the responsibility of the parent to provide moral, education and spiritual formation. The church expects us to teach our children about God, angels, saints and Catholic traditions. Again, as a Catholic parent, we have an awesome responsibility to educate and train our children in the Catholic faith, worship and morality which should begin in the earliest years. Therefore we, as parents are the first and most important educators of children in the Catholic faith and we are also expected to prepare him / her to receive the church’s Sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation, Eucharist and Confirmation. Significantly, the children have to want to learn and understand about the sacraments that they are about to undertake, so it’s vitally important that they are encouraged to understand what they all mean and are not forced to, or be given a three line whip to go through the process, as that in itself will likely alienate the children to the Sacraments which is the last thing we want to achieve.
The children that want to, will normally make their First Confession sometime in the six weeks before Easter Sunday and their First Holy Communion in May or June. These times may vary depending on school year or other outside influences (e.g. pandemic).
To assist parents to fulfil their responsibilities, our parish arranges educational classes for children – from the age of 7 and above – for their First Confession (Reconciliation) and First Holy Communion. In preparation for the programme – which normally begins in November, a full six months prior to First Holy Communion – a meeting for parents will take place in the school and will be well publicised.
This process is carried out not only by classroom discussion and teaching, but also through participation in prayer, special celebrations and worship opportunities, and service to others. The process is managed and facilitated by the teaching staff at the school and a number of Catechists in the parish who give up their time to be part of the workshops and especially the church events. Not only does Fr. Gildea and the school deserve our thanks for ensuring our children succeed but thanks must also go to John Glynn, Joanne Cullen, Glenn Rowlinson and Frank Hawley who have given up their time for many years to encourage, cajole and provide direction to our children through this daunting time (for them). Parents must play an active role in this process, the school and church are in essence simply facilitating the process.
In our parish, the process revolves primarily around a series of 4 workshops beginning in November and gathering pace as we move through the early months of the new year towards the Easter period.
Each workshop in the series, includes a booklet which the child must complete as part of that stage before moving on to the next. There is a related booklet for parents (which includes all the answers) but there must be no cheating ☺. Parents should be proactive to ensure the experience is as rewarding for the children as it almost certainly is for the parents themselves. All of the workshops will be done in school, but there are also elements done in church, and with Fr. Gildea specifically (Reconciliation for example) to ensure there is a practical element to the process and it’s not just all words and more prayers. We have found that, the children get a lot from these practical exercises, and it helps to remove any fears that they may have as they move forwards through the process.
The workshops generally follow the following pattern:
Workshop 1 - November
Labelled “Take us back”, this section allows the children to ask WHY? How they got here, why they are doing it and what it all means. As part of this part of the process, the children are able to undertake a kind of treasure hunt in the church to enable them to find things and understand more about the sacred parts of the church and its operation.
Workshop 2 - December
Labelled “Come back to me” this section encourages the children to want to come to church and understand what happens in church and more about the mass itself. Towards the end of this section, they will be taken through Reconciliation (First Confession) and this will also include a short period of time in church showing them the confessional area and eventually making the Reconciliation process less daunting. Experience tells us that the children find this part of the process sometimes quite scary! It’s lovely to see them come through this with a smile on their faces.
Workshop 3 - Jan-Feb
This section focuses on some of the deeper aspects of our religion and includes a Q&A on all aspects of our religion. Focus is on such things as The Holy Spirit and The Lords Prayer.
Workshop 4 - March-June
Labelled “Bring Us Together”, this focuses on Mary’s role as the mother of Jesus. What she must have thought about her son and how she supported him throughout his ministry. It also includes preparation for the celebration of Holy Communion through the Presentation Mass where they are introduced to the congregation of the parish, then on to the actual celebration of their First Holy Communion.
These times may vary depending on school year or other outside influences (e.g. pandemic)
Each section of the process has a booklet which must be completed by the child with support from their parents and which is subsequently marked by Fr. Gildea. As far as we know, no-one has ever failed! ☺ ☺
As you can see, the entire process is quite demanding not only for the children, but for the school and the church itself, however the rewards at the celebration day far exceed any hard work necessary to get there. We can confirm that it is always the happiest of days for all parties; children, school, church, families and the whole parish! The children are our future, not just of our parish, but of the Catholic church itself. What we invest in them now, will hopefully guarantee our success and existence into future generations.
For further details of the Holy Communion, please contact Fr. Gildea or use our parish email to ask your questions on the process and we will respond as soon as we can.