BY: BRIDGET GOERTZEN DIRECTOR OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION
CATHEDRAL OF THE NATIVITY BVM
“The sacraments are living encounters with Jesus who strengthens us and helps us live out our commitment.” -Sr. Briege McKenna
I don’t think I’ve heard a better description of the sacraments before. It accurately sums up how I feel about my lifetime of receiving them. For me, receiving the sacraments lead to daily, monthly, lifelong gifts from God. That is how I want every child and family to feel when they receive the gifts of the sacraments. It starts with preparation. Not just the, stand here, say this, kind of preparation—but to invite and nurture a personal relationship with God. In Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, catechists and children alike are invited to journey and live in communion with God and all of his creation, to receive those gifts and then share them.
Preparation for First Reconciliation and Communion can start as early as three years old and continues through seven to nine years of age. At that time, we invite children to prepare to receive these sacraments over a period of two months. This gives them time to ponder the gifts with their peers, families, and catechists together. We have a tapestry that was donated to us with a Good Shepherd on it. At the first meditation, the children are invited to put their names on a sheep and place it on the tapestry as a reminder that Jesus calls us by name.
F o r t h e s a c rament of Reconciliation, we prepare the children by having five
weekly meditations on certain parables that Jesus used to teach people about the Kingdom of Heaven. One of the meditations is on the parable of the True Vine. This year, one girl was so moved by the message of the True Vine, she asked to be a leaf on the tapestry instead of a sheep. And so we made a leaf, she put her name on it, and placed it with the rest of the sheep.
At the week-long after-school retreat, we worked on their white garments that would be worn after Reconciliation, finished their Missals, read parables of their choosing, reflected on the life of Jesus in the Rosary, and sometimes went to the park when the weather was just too nice to stay inside. We remembered and pondered the Last Supper and how by receiving the body and blood of Christ, we are united with Him just as all who came before us and we are asked to share His love for us with others.
During their Reconciliation service, Fr. Pat Casey spoke to the children and their families about the gift they were about to receive, and in return, are asked to share with others. When the time came for their first individual confession, everyone volunteered to go first! We had to make a list of which order they went in. When confession concluded, the children were clothed in the white garments they had worked on, lit candles, and renewed their baptismal promises with the rest of their families.
First Communion followed the next evening. All the children were excited and ready to receive the body and blood of Christ. One boy expressed his sense of relief, “I finally get the real thing. No more crossed arms for me!” I can understand his excitement. I feel it every time I receive the Eucharist.
Each and every moment spent with these children and their encounter with our Lord has been a true blessing. I am looking forward to future journeys in faith
with our young parishioners.