First Communion a time of transformation, community
By Mary Morrell |Managing Editor
“I stood in purposeful position on the side of the sanctuary … I watched each and every face of these little innocents receive the Eucharist for the first time, pressing the memory into my heart. Inspired by their pure hearts, overcome with humility, I thought, ‘Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God.’”
The experience of Fillie Duchaine, coordinator of religious education in St. James Parish, Red Bank, is a familiar one as First Communions were celebrated in parishes across the Diocese during the month of May.
As one of three Sacraments of Initiation, which include Baptism and Confirmation, First Holy Communion is part of the child’s journey of faith into the Church. As a sacrament, the child’s first reception of Holy Eucharist is a communal celebration, transforming not only the child’s life, but the life of the child’s immediate family and parish family, as well.
“First Holy Communion is a blessed day for the Church and the community,” said Denise Contino, coordinator of religious education in St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel. “The sacramental preparation process is full of grace throughout the entire year of preparation.”
Pat Hafner, coordinator of religious education in St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Cinnaminson, reflected, “The children enter the year with very little knowledge of what is going to take place and there is truly a transformation over the preparation time. It is truly wonderful to see how they mature and grow as they prepare to receive the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist. They go from being scared to joyful.”
Dorreen Griffin-Gallway, catechist in St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square, shared, “When the children first arrive and we begin to talk about Jesus and how the bread becomes his Body and the wine becomes his Blood, and tell them that he is in the Tabernacle, they say, ‘How can he fit?’
“It’s a little difficult to explain to eight year olds, but they do understand that the bread is truly Jesus by the time they are ready to receive Him. They are so excited to come to know and love Jesus more and they share that excitement with their families. … I’ve even had parents tell me that they have started to attend church regularly again. These little ones are leading their families back to the faith and that is all anyone could want!”
The joy of seeing their children receive the sacrament is often difficult to describe, but, for many, it centers on being involved in the process. “My daughter received her First Holy Communion, May 11, Mother’s Day. As an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, I was allowed to minister the Blood of Christ to my daughter. This was so special to us. I am so glad our parish allows us to be so involved in the religious education and formation of our children,” shared Claudie Ramirez, of St. Joseph Parish, Keyport.
“The whole process of First Communion makes a difference in the lives of the children and parents,” said Theresa Eckert, a catechist from Holy Family Parish, Keyport. “The parents have given me the opportunity to help prepare and guide their children. That, in itself, shows the parents commitment and trust in our Church. As a parish and community it is our responsibility to continue to guide and encourage the children and families through their religious education.”