Preparing to Celebrate Sacraments
with Children in 2021

As families, parishes and schools begin to think about preparing to celebrate the sacraments of Reconciliation, Holy Communion for the First Time and Confirmation in 2021 it is hoped that the following resources and suggestions will help to navigate the sometimes choppy waters of doing this as best we can while learning to live with COVID 19. We have learnt a lot since March 2020, and it is important to bring that learning to bear on what we do in the future.

Step 1: A Collaborative Approach; We do it better together

Invite and gather a small group of people to support the parish in this work.  If there is a sacramental coordinator, then, they will be able to lead and support this group. If there is no sacramental coordinator, this might be a good time to consider appointing someone to this role. Smaller parishes might work collaboratively in this appointment.

There may be members of the Parish Pastoral Council; parents who have been involved previously in sacramental preparation; parents from this year’s cohort of families; JPII students and their leader/s who would be more than happy to help coordinate the gathering and inputting of data, support the parish in its efforts to reach out to families and facilitate families in reaching in as part of their engagement. Members of this group may also have some expertise and experience using social media platforms and web-based communication systems that would be invaluable in maintaining connections with families in the coming months.

Step 2: Make Contact

One of the key learnings of the past few months has been the importance of being able to make contact with people, particularly, when we can’t gather as a community of faith. In the past we may have depended on the school as a vehicle for this contact but, now we know that each parish needs to be able to make contact independently.

  1. This work can be started by distributing the Contact Information Form. The form can be initially distributed through the school, but, thought should be given to having it returned to the parish office or a nominated member of the Coordinating Group who has agreed to take responsibility for inputting the information
  2. Decide on how families are going to be contacted by the parish and input the information accordingly
    1. Email
    2. Text
    3. Post

Step 3: Reach Out

Having established a way of contacting families the next step will be to consider how best to reach out to them during the next few months. An initial communication outlining some of the ways in which the parish will be reaching out would be a good first step. You can download a sample communication here that can be adapted to suit your own context. You might also include Bishop Denis’ Statement on Preparing to Celebrate Sacraments in 2021 with your communication.

Step 4: Invite families to Reach In

Each time you reach out from the parish, think about including a corresponding way that invites families to reach in and engage with the faith community. There are some suggestions in the ideas that follow:

Some Ideas for Reaching Out & Reaching in

Beginning in Prayer: The traditional Enrolment Mass/Liturgy may not be possible this year but, we can still find ways to make a formal beginning to the sacramental journey and engage families and the wider faith community.

  • The names of those preparing for sacraments could be read out at a Mass on one of the Sundays of Advent or early in the new year. Parishioners and those watching could be invited to pray for the children and their families over the coming weeks and months.
  • A dedicated ‘Preparing to Celebrate Sacraments Space’ could be created in the church; Begin by adding the child/family name; items could be added to this space as the year progresses. As a way of inviting families to reach in they could be asked to complete:

and return it to the parish for inclusion in the space

  • A candle could be lit for each family and placed in the dedicated space visible on the parish webcam. JP II students might place the names of the children on each candle. The candles could be lit at subsequent daily/weekly masses and the families remembered in prayer
  • Alternatively, a candle, blessed at this Mass, could be then gifted to each family for their Family Prayer Space.
  • Watch this great video from Newbridge Parish on how to make a Family Prayer Space at home

Some ideas for your Family Prayer Space can be found here.

Catholic Schools Week 2021 at Home

Catholic Schools Week 2021 begins on January 24 and ends on January 31. It may seem strange to be celebrating Catholic Schools Week when our school buildings are closed but, as everyone at home know, schools are still open, teachers are still teaching and children are still learning at the kitchen table, in their bedrooms; on the floor and in a myriad of different places. This year, in Kildare & Leighlin, we have asked our schools to help children celebrate by making a Prayer Box at home.

This is simply a box of any size, covered and decorated with favourite prayers, quotes from the Bible or prayers that the children write themselves, they might even choose to ask every member of the family to add their favourite prayer. When the Prayer Box is ready they can place it in their Prayer Space or the Prayer Box could become the Family Prayer Space. There are lots of things to worry about in these days, but, there are also things to be thankful for. The Prayer Box could become the place where, having written down what is worrying us, or what we are thankful for and placing them in the box, we can hand all these over to God to take care of for a while. .In this way we are helping the children and everyone in the family to strengthen their relationship with God, through prayer.

This video will give some further explanation of the Prayer Box Activity.

Advent 2020     

Here is a video that shows families how to make a traditional Advent Wreath for their Family Prayer Space at Home (credit: Naas Parish Youth Group)

You can read about The Story of the Advent Wreath here.

A Suggestion for making a simple Advent Wreath at home can be found here. 

Reach In: Consider inviting families to send a picture of their Advent Family Prayer Space to be included on the parish website or Facebook page.

A Blessing for the Advent Wreath at Home can be found here. This could be included on the parish newsletter, Facebook page or sent as part of an email.

Reach In: A suggestion for a Parish Reverse Advent Calendar that can be sent to families preparing for sacraments can be found here. This Reverse Advent Calendar invites families to place some item of food (Non-Perishable) in a box for the first two weeks of Advent. These items will then be given to the Vincent de Paul or other designated local charity to be distributed to those who need help this Christmas.

Advent Calendar to download and colour can be downloaded here.

Pictures, wordsearches and other activities highlighting some of the key Feasts of Advent

There are four activities for Saint Nicholas:

Learn about the Feast of St Nicholas, December 6

Colour a picture of St Nicholas

See what you know about St Nicholas

Every year, on December 8, we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. On this day, we remember that Mary was conceived without sin, and so chosen from the very first moment of her life to be the mother of Jesus. The Church tells us that Mary never sinned throughout her life. God kept her free from sin. Tradition tells us that Mary’s parents were called Joachim and Anne although this is not mentioned in the bible. May and October are the months during which the Church honours Mary in a special way. Mary has many titles. She is called Mother of God, Queen of Heaven, Star of the Sea, Queen of Peace, Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin Mary, among many others.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 12

Feast of St Lucy; December 13

This year the Feast of St Lucy falls on the Third Sunday of Advent or Gaudete Sunday. Although her feast day is not celebrated this year you might like to learn about her story today.

St Lucy’s Story

St Lucy Colouring and Activity Sheet

We hear about John the Baptist in the gospel for the Third Sunday of Advent. Find out some more about John the Baptist here

The Crib and St Francis: Find out more about the history of the Crib and if you haven’t already put yours up this would be a good time to put the crib in your Prayer Space. There is a prayer to bless your crib too.

St Francis and the Crib

The first people to visit the crib were the shepherds. Colour the picture here

You might like to go an visit the crib in your local church during Christmas.

See how well you know The Christmas Story

January : Beginning  A New Tradition

As you know we return to school on the Feast of the Epiphany, a Holy Day of Obligation and we know that schools will want to mark the sacredness and solemnity of this day. Some will join the parish celebration of Mass either virtually or in person, depending on the level of restriction that we find ourselves in. We are also offering the opportunity to begin a new tradition in our schools this year, one that many of our parishes will also be offering to their parishioners.

This resource contains a short explanation of the tradition of  Chalking the Door to celebrate the visit of the Three Kings or Magi to the baby Jesus and a prayer service to accompany this lovely idea

This is a template banner for those schools that would find chalking the door a challenge.

We hope that you find this idea one that will help mark this important day in our church year and an appropriate way of welcoming God into our classrooms and schools again and asking for his blessing and protection as we begin the new year. We would love to see pictures of the chalked doorways when you have completed them. Please send them to maeve.mahon@kandle.ie

Monthly Newsletter

There is a two page template for a newsletter to families available here; this template can be adapted by each parish to suit their own needs. The first page of this template has some ideas for a communication for Advent and the second page has been left blank for parishes to include their own ideas, calendar items, invitations etc, this second page could also be deleted and a one page newsletter be sent instead.  Suggestions for family prayer, activities, directions to useful web resources to help them prepare to celebrate the sacraments, invitation to reach in could all be included in this newsletter. This template can be adapted to suit the needs of individual parishes

Zoom Gatherings

Invite families to gather on Zoom using the guidelines offered by the Diocesan Safeguarding Office/s. These gatherings might be an opportunity to highlight different ways for families to prepare to celebrate the sacraments; give time for prayer together as a community; invite a sharing of ideas; model ways to set up a family prayer space, make an advent wreath; pray together; read gospel stories together; talk about faith as a family; etc

Do This in Memory

Consider continuing the Do This in Memory Mass on webcam, Facebook Live, Zoom or whatever platform the parish uses to facilitate continuing worship during Level 5/3 restrictions. Families can be encouraged to attend via webcam etc, send in a Prayer Intention for the Mass, be named and prayed for during the Mass; items added to the Prayer Space. When it is possible for a congregation to be in the church, perhaps small numbers of families could be invited to be present at the Mass. The Do This in Memory material, THUMB and Grapevine could still be distributed to families and suggestions for their use included in the Monthly Email.

You Shall Be My Witnesses:

It is difficult to imagine, at the moment, how You Shall Be My Witnesses might be run in parishes in the coming year. It may be possible to adapt the material to be used in Zoom format. We await the upcoming guidelines from Safeguarding before making a decision on this.

We Belong to Christ:

We are exploring the possibility of adapting the material for use with parents and candidates in this three-session programme so that it can be used online.

Other Resources:

The following web-based resources may also be useful as you consider ways to engage with families in the coming months

First Holy Communion; Come to the Table of the Lord:                         

This is a three-part series of videos in which Eleanor, Johanna and Fr Chris help children prepare to celebrate Reconciliation and Holy Communion for the first time.

These videos were produced for the Catechetics Council of the Irish Bishops Conference by iCatholic. There is no cost involved for using this material.

https://www.icatholic.ie/come-to-the-table-of-the-lord-1/

https://www.icatholic.ie/come-to-the-table-of-the-lord-2/

https://www.icatholic.ie/come-to-the-table-of-the-lord-3/

Confirmation; Come Holy Spirit

This is a three-part series of videos in which Eleanor, Johanna and Fr Chris help children prepare to celebrate Confirmation.

These videos were produced for the Catechetics Council of the Irish Bishops Conference by iCatholic. There is no cost involved for using this material.

https://www.icatholic.ie/come-holy-spirit-episode-1/

https://www.icatholic.ie/come-holy-spirit-2/

https://www.icatholic.ie/come-holy-spirit-3/

My Faith.ie  

The team behind this programme are based in the Diocese of Ossory and seek to develop a parish-based preparation programme that would permit children and their families to journey together towards the celebration of the Sacraments within their parish communities. There are online video modules, online interactive games/challenges and quizzes to reinforce learning and downloadable resources. There is a cost involved for using this material.

https://myfaith.ie

Grow in Love in the Parish

This resource provides a link for families during their First Holy Communion year. There is a cost involved for using this material.

www.veritas.ie