Our young people in Year 8 or above now prepare for their Confirmation with the Parishes of St. Ambrose’s, St. Peter’s and St. Philip’s. They are invited to attend a ‘Come and See’ meeting in September, when the Programme and what is involved is explained to the young people and their parents. The sessions begin in October. We meet in St. Peter’s Parish Room and as well as having input time together, there are opportunities for discussion and activities in small groups of about 6 or 7. Usually, Confirmation is celebrated in July and there are 10 meetings including a Lenten Reflection and a Reconciliation Service.
The purpose of the preparation is to complement the religious education the young people receive at home and at school. The Catechists’ and Group Leaders’ roles are to help the young people understand more deeply the meaning of the Sacrament, to encourage them to pray, and to strengthen their sense of belonging both to their Parish and the Local Pastoral Area. The sessions look at the Baptismal Promises made by their parents on their behalf and which they will make for themselves at their Confirmation.
There are two Liturgies celebrated in the Parishes – the Celebration of Enrolment, when the young people promise to take part in the Programme and the Parish Community promises prayer and support, and the Celebration of Election, when the young people ask to receive the Sacrament and the Parish Community promises their support. Each Candidate for Confirmation has a Prayer Sponsor from each of the parishes; parishioners who pray for the Candidate daily.
Preparation for First Forgiveness and First Holy Communion
Since 1996 we have offered sessions for all our children preparing for First Forgiveness and First Holy Communion. The children are prepared both in school or at home and at Explorers for the Sacraments of Forgiveness and Communion, but the Parish is where the children celebrate the Sacraments and these meetings help them to celebrate with the Parish. Also, as the children attend a variety of schools, these meetings provide an opportunity for them to meet and get to know each other.
We meet after Sunday Mass, six times during the period of preparation, to think about a particular theme, through a mixture of discussion, activity and prayer. On the following Sunday morning at Mass, the children contribute in a specific way relating to the theme, so for example, when we have looked at the theme of ‘God’s Gift of His Word’ on the Saturday, at Mass on the Sunday the children process up the aisle singing ‘alleluia’.
We prepare for the Forgiveness Service and the Thanksgiving Mass, which is usually the Children’s Mass in July and so the children can be really involved in these celebrations.
We offer two fairly informal meetings for the parents of children who are about to receive First Forgiveness and First Communion. Why do this? What do parents need to know, other than vital dates and times? One of our main aims is to help find some answers to the many questions the children will ask during their preparation for First Sacraments and for the parents to consider the meaning of these Sacraments in their own lives.
Explorers is for those children of Primary School age who do not attend a Catholic School. It is called ‘Explorers’ because the children are exploring their journey of faith. The Group meets once a month during Mass for about twenty minutes and then join their parents. We explore various topics, usually based round the Liturgical Year.
Children’s Liturgy of the Word
The aim of the Children’s Liturgy of the Word Group is to involve the children in the celebration of the Liturgy of the Word at a level they understand and can participate in more fully.
It uses recognised catechist materials that introduce children to important aspects of the Gospel message and the way in which it relates to their lives today.
Every Sunday, at the beginning of Mass, the priest invites the children of 3 years and upwards to go with their catechist to the Meeting Room. The children are welcomed, they gather round in a circle, the sign of the cross is made and the candle is lit. Sometiems the group sings or says a prayer. Then the children sit down and the theme of the day is introduced. The children stand and sing a Gospel Acclamation and a recognised children’s version of the Gospel is read out. The group sits to discuss the Gospel and take part in some activity. The children then process back into the church during the Offertory Procession where they present their work and often interact with the priest.
By providing a special Liturgy of the Word, the children receive an enjoyable and meaningful version of the Gospel. It gives the Parish an opportunity to share its faith with its younger members, and for many parishioners of all ages who act as Catechists, it is their opportunity to enjoy the experience of working with the younger children of the Parish.