First Communion 2019
Over the past few years, we’ve evaluated and adjusted the way we do sacramental preparation here at Our Lady of Lourdes. This is to ensure that we’re doing the best we can to meet the needs of our community. RCIA and RCIC (Becoming Catholic) transitioned into a year-round experience. This allows adults and older children begin preparation for Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist as soon as they present themselves to us, instead of having to wait until the following September. Teen Confirmation is now open to all high school students. This gives teens the opportunity to prepare when they’re ready for the sacrament, not simply because they’ve reached a particular age. This also gives families more flexibility during the busy high school years.
Now we’re considering changing the way we do First Communion and Reconciliation preparation. We know families are busy, and it’s often difficult to throw more classes, meetings, and retreats into the mix. We also have more and more students preparing to receive Communion in 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, and beyond. One change we’re definitely making is to the curriculum we use. The new program is called “Blessed” from Dynamic Catholic. It includes free access to a video series and weekly emails for parents from the publishers. You can check it out now at dynamiccatholic.com/blessed.
We have a plan that could address our flexibility concerns, and I would like to hear your thoughts on it. The biggest change would be transitioning from a classroom-based program to a family-led program. Here’s what it would look like:
Parents and Guardians attend a training session in the summer or fall. These can also happen by appointment. You’ll receive your student’s workbooks and all you need to know about using them with your student.
Your family completes the workbook at your own pace. Ideally this means a chapter a week for six weeks, but it’s meant to be flexible. When you and your student have completed your workbook, you, your student, and I will meet to talk with your student about what he or she has learned. Families may then decide when their student will make their first Reconciliation. At our Advent Penance service, first timers will be invited to line up at their desired station before everyone else. Families may also choose to attend one of our Saturday afternoon Reconciliation times, or make an appointment with Fr. Woody.
Families then begin the second workbook, to prepare for first Communion, in the same way. When your book is completed, we’ll meet and talk with your student about what he or she has learned. All families will be invited to participate in a retreat opportunity. In the past this has been on one Saturday morning, but we’ll have multiple opportunities at different days and times for this experience.
When your student has completed the book, met with me, and had a retreat experience, your family can schedule their first Communion at any weekend Mass. Your family will sit in a special pew and your child can wear their special first communion outfit. This allows your family to pick your ideal weekend, whenever you’ve finished preparation.
On the fourth Sunday of Easter (when the Gospel is always about how Jesus is the Good Shepherd), we’ll have a special blessing for everyone who received communion for the first time that year, at all the weekend Masses. Your child can wear their special outfit for this weekend, too. We’ll have a celebratory cake reception after each Mass on this weekend. For 2019, this special blessing and reception would happen on the weekend of May 12th (Mother’s Day weekend). Under the old model, this is the same weekend we would have our traditional First Communion Weekend in 2019.
I see many benefits to this kind of family-led program. Structuring First Communion this way gives the most families maximum flexibility. Families don’t have to worry about missing a class because of illness, sports, vacations, or custody agreements. Families can even prepare over the summer, when students aren’t in school. It gives parents and guardians a good reason to regularly talk about faith, at home. Studies show that children who regularly have “faith conversations” with their parents and guardians are much more likely to choose to receive the sacrament of Confirmation as a teen and continue to practice the faith into adulthood, regardless of whether or not they attend Catholic school or parish faith formation programs. The workbooks make these conversations easy to have.
However, such a change would be a big adjustment in the way we think about First Communion preparation. This is why I’m seeking your input before attempting such a change. Many parishes in our archdiocese that have already transitioned to this kind of First Communion preparation, and it has enriched their communities. Are we ready to do the same?
Let me know what you think; send me an email at email@example.com or click here.
Pastoral Assistant for Faith Formation