April 27, 2012

Final first Communion class at St. Ann Church receives ‘greatest gift’

Trevor Langley, front left, and Lily Thomas, right, bring up the offertory gifts during the first Communion Mass on April 22 at St. Ann Church in Terre Haute. Catechist Lisa Ferguson, back left, and religious education coordinator Marti Goodwin help the children. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber)

Trevor Langley, front left, and Lily Thomas, right, bring up the offertory gifts during the first Communion Mass on April 22 at St. Ann Church in Terre Haute. Catechist Lisa Ferguson, back left, and religious education coordinator Marti Goodwin help the children. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber) Click for a larger version.

By Mary Ann Garber

TERRE HAUTE—Receiving first holy Communion is a very special, once-in-a-lifetime experience so Sylvia Goodwin brought along her favorite doll, Julie, also dressed in a beautiful white gown, for this spiritual occasion on April 22 at St. Ann Church.

Sylvia and 11 other children received the Eucharist for the first time during a vibrant liturgy with joyous music as their families and parishioners watched with pride.

The Mass was a time for rejoicing as a new generation of Catholics began to participate in the sacrament of the Eucharist. (See a photo gallery from the Mass)

Pots of Easter lilies accented by cute little ceramic rabbits and ducks decorated the sanctuary for the liturgy.

After the Mass, the children were invited to choose a bunny or duck to take home as mementos of the fundraising project they shared as a class during their religious education instructions.

Several months ago, each member of the first Communion class received three gold $1 coins from Providence Sister Constance Kramer, St. Ann’s parish life coordinator, and given the task of raising money to help purchase farm animals for poor families in developing countries through the Heifer International Project.

The gold coins were donated to the parish by an elderly parishioner.

As a class, the children sold baked goods and crafts, and completed several other parish or community fundraisers to earn $496.74 for their service project.

They also wrote the prayers of the faithful for the liturgy. Their petitions were:

  • “For our church—that teaches us about Jesus and how to love one another,”
  • “For the beautiful world that God has made—that we will all learn to take better care of it,”
  • “For peace to come for all people of the world,”
  • “For everyone who is sick, and for all those we love who have died,”
  • “For our parents, … and all who helped us get ready for our first Communion,” and
  • “For all those we wish to pray for in a special way.”

In his greeting at the start of Mass, Father Robert Hausladen, sacramental minister, reminded the children that “Christ gives himself wholly to you, Body and Blood,” in the Eucharist.

“You are called to be one with Christ as all of us are,” he said. “It’s a wonderful day.”

During his homily, Father Hausladen explained to the children that the disciples came to know Jesus after his resurrection in the breaking of bread.

“That’s what the early Church called Mass,” he said. “They called it the breaking of bread and the Lord’s Supper. … That’s how Christ is made known to us, too—in the breaking of bread and the sharing of this meal.”

The sacrament of reconciliation, which the children participated in several months ago, “is the way we prepare ourselves to receive Communion,” Father Hausladen said. “… This is the greatest gift ever given to us—the very body of Christ. … This is a day to truly be excited. We should be happy that we are finally fully part of Christ’s Church in the Eucharist and receiving his gift.”

On May 20, Father Hausladen and St. Ann parishioners will celebrate their final Mass together at the 120-household parish, one of four Terre Haute Deanery faith communities designated for closure by the archdiocese during 2011 and 2012.

Before the first Communion Mass, Sister Connie said she and the parish religious education catechists focused on giving the children a wonderful year in preparation for receiving the Eucharist.

“What we did for our children in order to make it a very special year was—at the end of first reconciliation during the first semester in mid-December—I gave them each an envelope with three gold dollars,” Sister Connie explained. “… And I said, ‘Go multiply this because we want to buy animals through the Heifer Project for children in other countries, which will help their families so they can go to school and have a better life.’

“We’ve done the Heifer Project before,” she said. “Next week, they get to look through the book and pick out what animals they want to fund and send it in for the children. That’s been very life-giving for them, and it’s been life-giving for the community to watch them do this project. Yes, it’s bittersweet [to see the parish close soon], but we made it special for the children.

“What they know is the sense of family at the table, and they want to come to that table” to receive the Eucharist, Sister Connie said. “The Eucharist is meant to be a meal that nourishes us for service so we have helped them do the service and then be fed so they can keep helping others.” †

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