The Sacramental Programme for Confirmation and First Holy Communion is currently under review in this Diocese. Therefore once again, for this academic year (2018/19), there is only a programme of preparation for First Holy Communion, and it is geared to Year 3 in Primary School (though older children who have missed the programme when they were in Year 3 are still welcome to join).
The programme, (which will also bring the children to the Sacrament of First Reconciliation), begins with meetings for parents, but the most important aspect is not special meetings, events or courses for the children - it is simply about growing in their sense of belonging to the church family. Most of the preparation will be covered in the context of Sunday Mass (or Saturday evening if this is easier). After all, when the children receive Holy Communion for the first time, they are, in effect, saying "Now I'm fully a part of this community, this Family of God!" What could mean more now, than simply growing accustomed to regular involvement in the Mass and really gaining that sense, with family and friends in prayer and worship, that they genuinely do belong?
THIS YEAR'S PROGRAMME - FIRST COMMUNION DATES
First Reconciliation (at parish Reconciliation Services) has now been completed. If your child missed the services or was unable to receive the Sacrament for any other reason, arrangements can easily be made on an individual basis.
First Communion Masses will be:
1 Saturday 22nd June, 6.15pm Mass at Holy Cross
2 Sunday 23rd June, 9.30am Mass at St Mary’s
3 Sunday 23rd June, 2.00pm additional Mass at St Mary’s
4 Sunday 30th June, 11.00am Mass at Holy Cross
5 Sunday 30th June, 2.00pm additional Mass at Holy Cross
All of these Masses (including additional Masses) are open to all parishioners. (No celebration is assigned to any of our three schools, primarily because so many children are not in Catholic schools and it would be unjust to have them feel like “guests” of another school. They are not guests—they are full members of the parish and we must respect them and their families as such).
Date allocations have now taken place. We are sorry that we have not been able to give everyone their first choice - and in some cases not even their second - but you will appreciate that space in the churches is limited as we try to accommodate some 1,000 or so extra people in addition to our regular (and often quite large) congregations. It was essential to avoid what would have been dangerous overcrowding (which would also have destroyed the prayerful atmosphere for the children). If you have any questions about dates, please speak to our programme coordinator, Mrs Darcy, at St Gilbert's School. We are most grateful to her for the huge task she has undertaken in organising the allocations with the greatest sensitivity possible to people's wishes.
FINAL PREPARATION MEETINGS
Thank you to all who attended the meetings on 19th/20th June.
There were no handouts given at these meetings - they was simply a practical explanation of what will happen at the ceremonies and an opportunity for the children to get a little practice.
The following were the essential elements - one bench will be reserved for each family (expecting a maximum of about 10 guests) with the children seated nearest to the central aisle. No photos or videoing, please, during the ceremony, but there will be a group photo taken after Communion and copies will be made available, and there will be plenty of opportunity for families to take photos afterwards.
Children are encouraged to receive Communion in the hand, and to complete the symbolism they are also encouraged to receive from the chalice - but if parents prefer otherwise their wishes will be respected. (If Communion is being received in the hand, any gloves should be removed prior to coming forward).
At Communion time, a Catechist will guide families forward one at a time, then the child receives Holy Communion first followed by family members.
Masses are expected to last around an hour and a half because of the extra time at Communion.
Thank you to all the families who were able to attend the meeting on 7th February. The main purpose of the meeting was the allocation of places for first Reconciliation and first Holy Communion, but it was also an opportunity to take stock and consolidate what has been considered so far with the children at Mass.
The importance of the Mass itself was emphasised again at the meeting - it is at the heart of everything we do and everything we are as Catholic Christians. The name "Mass" comes from the words of dismissal in their Latin form. The ceremony would end with the words: "Ita Missa Est" which roughly translates as "Go, you are sent." It is this "sending forth" and taking with us into the world (and sharing with others) the Graces we receive from the Mass which defines our Catholicism, and this is why the simple word of dismissal came to be used as the name for the celebration itself. In short, we cannot truly be "Catholics" and separate ourselves from the Mass. (This is why it is so important for those who are housebound that we do everything we can to take Holy Communion from the Mass to them at home).
A handout was given to the children at the meeting, consolidating in one place the various explanations of words and actions we have covered so far in the first half of the Mass (up to the end of the "Liturgy of the Word"). Over the next few weeks, whilst we will revisit these explanations at times, our focus will move more towards clarifying what we do in the celebration of the Eucharist: the second "half" of the Mass. We would be grateful if parents could look at the handout with the children from time to time, and maybe consider the final comment about family prayer, if it is not something you already do together.
For those who did not receive the handout, it can be viewed and downloaded HERE.
Meetings in preparation for First Reconciliation took place on Tuesday 12th March, 6.30pm at St Mary's Church, and Wednesday 13th March, 6.30pm at Holy Cross Church. Thank you to all who attended these short meetings. A handout was given to the children, and we would ask, please, that parents and carers go through these with the children, and speak with them about the Sacrament, before coming along for First Reconciliation. (This still applies for those who have been unable to receive the Sacrament so far).
For those who did not receive this handout, it can be viewed and downloaded HERE.
PHOTOS IN CHURCH
It has taken longer than was intended to organise the photos of the First Communion children in the churches - please accept our apologies for this. Most photos have now been taken and the displays are now being completed. If you agreed to your child's photograph appearing in the churches but it has not yet been taken, (if in doubt, check the board at Holy Cross where all those that have been taken are already up), please make arrangements with Fr Martin - ideally after Mass at Holy Cross - and we will complete the display as soon as possible. You will see that a noticeboard has now been put up at St Mary's in preparation, and this will be completed when St Mary's School returns from the Easter break. Our sincere thanks to all our schools for their support and assistance.
We have respected the wishes of parents who asked that their child's photograph should not be taken or displayed - but please let us know if you have changed your mind either way.
Thank you for your continued support as our programme progresses