Most Catholics have clear memories of their First Communion and, probably
tucked away somewhere, a photograph of themselves on that day. Our family album has four generations of such
pictures, certainly a testimony that my family, like so many other Catholic families, considered First Eucharist
to be a major event. With a little planning, this family/church celebration can be a teachable moment, not
only for second-graders and their parents but also for the whole parish.
Remember, First Communion, along with Baptism and Confirmation, is a sacrament of initiation.
Therefore, using the baptismal catechumenate as an inspirational model is more than appropriate. As often as you can,
include the community in the preparation and celebration.
Sometime this fall introduce the first communicants to the parish. This can be done by
asking the children and their catechists to stand up for a blessing at each Mass on a particular weekend.
In order to emphasize the fact that parents and parishioners have a responsibility in catechizing the youngsters,
ask the parents, and then the congregation, to stand up for a blessing as well.
Celebrate the sacrament at regular Sunday liturgies. Let youngsters sit in the
front pews with their families. If you keep the number of recipients to a dozen (or so) at each Mass, there is room for
parishioners to witness the happy event. First Communion can be celebrated throughout the Easter season. Just make
sure you have at least one Mass each weekend (well-publicized) with no special celebrations. That way, parishioners have a choice.
Plan a reception after each Mass, or host one large reception at the end of the
Easter season. Invite youngsters to wear their First Communion clothes so that parishioners can congratulate
them individually and make them feel special. In my book,
I suggest other ways of helping our first communicants feel special. (Click here to find other ideas.
At one of the parishes where I worked, I came to know a woman who brought her grandchild
to Mass each weekend. The child had been baptized, but her newly single mom no longer attended church.
After witnessing one of the First Communion celebrations, the child asked if she could be part of a group.
The next year, with her mothers permission, grandma began bringing the youngster to religious education
classes. Her mom came to her First Communion Mass and to Mass every Sunday afterward. She joined the parish
and is still active today. As I said in the first paragraph, First Communion can certainly be a teachable moment.