Sixty-six children fill the front of Immaculate Conception Church, Trenton, as they prepare to receive their First Holy Communion May 11. The church is part of Our Lady of the Angels Parish.  John Batkowski photo

Sixty-six children fill the front of Immaculate Conception Church, Trenton, as they prepare to receive their First Holy Communion May 11. The church is part of Our Lady of the Angels Parish.  John Batkowski photo

By EmmaLee Italia | Contributing Editor

“It was an amazing experience [even though] I felt kind of nervous.” The words of Kathryn Franco describing her First Eucharist were echoed by fellow communicants in Our Lady of the Angels Parish: a mix of pride, nerves and joy.

As the Easter season progressed into May, children across the Diocese of Trenton celebrated reception of their First Holy Communion surrounded by their families and parish communities.

Photo Gallery:
First Holy Communion in St. Catherine of Siena, Farmingdale

Photo Gallery: First Holy Communion in Our Lady of the Angels, Trenton

In Our Lady of the Angels Parish, 66 children received Jesus in the Eucharist May 11 in Immaculate Conception Church – one of the parish’s two Trenton worship sites. Father Cesar Rubiano, pastor, celebrated the Mass.

“It’s amazing to see them start the [learning] process, and then to receive Jesus – you can see the glow in them after they’ve received Communion,” said Barbara Sanna, director of the parish’s religious education program. Sanna teaches one of the First Communion classes as well as one of the Confirmation classes. “They’re my little angels, but their halos slip sometimes!” she quipped.

Formation for First Holy Communion is a two-year process, Sanna explained. “We prepare for Reconciliation and then Communion. I love to see how they learn and how it inspires them – and [to see them] getting on their parents, too, to make sure they’re getting to Mass.”

First communicant Aury Vasquez said that to receive Jesus was “something very special as I was consuming him – it felt really good.” In preparation for the Sacrament, she learned “that Jesus picked his 12 disciples himself.”

Classmate Brandon Galeano was “happy and excited,” and learned “that Jesus died on the Cross for our sins … and he wanted us to become the best version of ourselves.”

Franco was especially grateful, thanking “my parents for being there for every step I took, and for supporting me … my teacher Miss Rosemary – she always makes me laugh, she’s the greatest teacher ever … and our priest Father [Rubiano].”

Sanna noted that the classes keep growing, which made her very happy. “We are probably going to have close to [the same number] next year. The celebration itself is beautiful. I always get nervous, but Father [Rubiano] says, ‘You worry too much!’ Being a mom and grandma, I always want things just right.”

She added affectionately, “They’re all my kids! I love to see them make the Sacraments and to go on, because I will likely have them all back for Confirmation!”

In St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Farmingdale, eight children received their First Holy Communion during the 11:30 a.m. Mass May 12 celebrated by Father Silvano Amora, parochial vicar in St. Dorothea Parish, Eatontown. Children from the parish also received their First Eucharist at the Vigil Mass on May 11 and the 10 a.m. Mass May 12.

“St. Thomas Aquinas has said, ‘You are what you eat,’” Father Angelito I. Anarcon, pastor, reflected. “Let us all give thanks and praise to Jesus as he offers and shares his life to us in the Eucharist, to sustain and nourish our lives, most especially the young children of our parish.”

First communicant Natalie Madrigal said she was nervous because of how many people attended, but “it was exciting to receive Jesus. I was also happy because my family was there … I learned that when [Jesus] died, three days later he came back; he sacrificed for us.”

Alexa Murray, also receiving First Communion, said it made her feel “like I was special. It was exciting because I received Jesus’ Body for the first time. I learned that he got crucified on the Cross and that he helped us with our families.”

Pastoral associate Laura Randazzo noted that First Communion represents a blessed day not only for the families, but also for the parish community. Father Anarcon moved the celebration to a Sunday Mass “so that the whole congregation could be a part of the celebration as one parish family,” she said. “What a blessing from God, and witness of the Holy Spirit that is alive in our parish community!”

Patrice Riley, parish coordinator of religious education, spoke of the rewards of preparing children for First Eucharist. “It is a joy and privilege to serve in a religious education program,” Riley said. “The preparation for the Sacrament of First Holy Communion begins at Baptism, as the parents are the child’s first catechist. Upon enrollment in Religious Education, the families are asking the Church community to assist them in preparing their child for the Sacraments. It is a blessing to witness the beauty of the dedicated families, catechists, and faithful parishioners as we lead our students to Jesus, all together understanding our call.” 

Catechist Barbara Ust noted the profound nature of First Communion, then said how glad she was to be a part of her students’ journey.

“Just looking at their faces today, confident that they have a personal relationship with Jesus,” she said, “knowing their relationship with him will grow from this day forward – how beautiful!”

Video from freelance photographers John Batkowski and Mike Ehrmann contributed to this story.