Monday, March 25, 2019
Linda Reeves - The Florida Catholic Palm Beach
FORT LAUDERDALE | First Communion Mass was a big affair this month at St. Anthony Parish, with parents, parishioners and members of the women’s guild looking on as children received the body of Christ for the first time.
“It will change your life,” said Father Michael Grady, pastor of St. Anthony, as he began the celebrations talking directly to the youngsters, all wearing white. “It will connect you to God, but also connect you to the community. We are so happy that you move to the big table.”
A total of 26 children from the parish religious education program received their first Communion at the packed noon Mass March 2. That followed an earlier morning Mass for 39 first Communion students from St. Anthony School.
Catechist Dot Bevins continued to prepare the religious education students —asking them questions and making sure they were familiar with what to do and what not to do — up until the moment when the parish choir began to sing and the youngsters processed down the center aisle, taking seats in front pews.
Also sitting in a front pew was Patricia Solenski, director of religious education, and members of the St. Anthony Women’s Guild. The group of nearly 40 women have been praying for the children as the little ones walked on their journeys of deeper faith.
Solenski came up with the prayer project. She presented it to the women’s guild and they welcomed the idea. “It is all about connecting the parish at large with the children,” said Solenski, who was worked in religious education at the parish for nearly 40 years.
She firmly believes in the power of prayer. “Prayer is so important,” she said. “I believe that this program will go on for many years to come.”
The guild members did not know the children at the center of their prayer until meeting them just a few days before the big celebration. “I told my child that I was proud of him,” said Pat Provenzano, who was praying for Brian Luya.
Marilyn Black, another guild member, arrived early for the midday Mass. She was excited to see her child dressed in white coat and tie. He wore a small pin, a gift from the guild that featured a picture of a host and chalice. “He is a real sweet boy,” she said.
During his homily, Father Grady expressed his delight. “This is an important day. This is a joyful day for our entire community. We know you have worked hard,” he told the children. “We have members of our women’s guild who have been praying for you.”
At the end of Mass, the children posed for photos at the altar, and then, in the spirit of community, everyone chatted and socialized. Some of the guild members presented their children with small gifts.
Dolores McDiarmid hugged her child, Delaney Lefka, 7, and presented the girl with a keepsake which she created. The note had the following message: “Jesus is your shepherd, and you are his little lamb. He is always with you and likes when you talk to him. God bless you as you receive Jesus on your first holy Communion. May the love of Jesus shine in our heart now and forever. I will always be praying for you. Miss Dolores.”
Delaney’s father was on hand. “It is nice that the ladies are praying for the children,” said Jay Delaney. “It makes the day even more special. It helps the children know that receiving holy Communion goes beyond just an event.”
Indeed, it’s another step in their life journey with the community of believers.