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Women adopt children in prayer

St. Anthony women’s guild members pray for children preparing for first Communion

FORT LAUDERDALE | A small group of women here have begun sending up prayers for a special group of children, children who are preparing for one, if not the most, important day of their lives.

File photo of Patricia Solenski, director of religious education at St. Anthony Parish in Fort Lauderdale, who came up with the idea of having the women's guild members pray individually for each of the 26 students preparing to receive their first Communion.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | File

File photo of Patricia Solenski, director of religious education at St. Anthony Parish in Fort Lauderdale, who came up with the idea of having the women's guild members pray individually for each of the 26 students preparing to receive their first Communion.

“I pray for my child at Mass during the week and Sundays,” said Dolores McDiarmid of St. Anthony Parish’s Women’s Guild about her new prayer routine that also includes daily prayer at home before a small shrine of the Good Shepherd that she organized.

“I have overheard a few women talking about how they are praying for their child. It’s interesting because we have all been inspired to pray for our child in a unique way,” she said.

The children at the heart of all the prayers are the 26 boys and girls of various ages participating in formation as part of St. Anthony’s religious education program. The youngsters, who attend public school, are preparing to receive the sacrament of reconciliation and then their first holy Communion, March 2 during noon Mass.

Pat Solenski, director of the parish’s religious education program, came up with the idea. She presented it to St. Anthony’s Women’s Guild, a group of as many as 40 or more women during winter months, when seasonal residents come to South Florida and are active in guild activities.

“It is all about connecting the parish at large with the children,” said Solenski, who has worked in religious education at the parish for nearly 40 years. She firmly believes that the power of prayer will help with the children’s divine well-being as they get ready to grow closer to the Lord through the Eucharist and then continue their faith journeys.

According to McDiarmid, the women welcomed Solenski’s project, calling it a “beautiful” idea. McDiarmid explained that guild members drew from a stack of index cards prepared by Solenski, each with a child’s name and age.

“We promised to pray for them as they prepare for their special day,” said McDiarmid. “Each of the women are invited to attend the first holy Communion and personally meet the child they have been praying for.”

Jennifer Ortiz, then 12, celebrates her first Communion during the Easter Vigil Mass at St. Mary Cathedral back in 2016. Members of St. Anthony Parish's Women's Guild are now praying individually for each of the 26 children in the religious education program who will make their first Communion March 2.

Photographer: JONATHAN MARTINEZ |File

Jennifer Ortiz, then 12, celebrates her first Communion during the Easter Vigil Mass at St. Mary Cathedral back in 2016. Members of St. Anthony Parish's Women's Guild are now praying individually for each of the 26 children in the religious education program who will make their first Communion March 2.

Cheryl Bartanowitz includes her parish child in prayers every day. “They are the future of the Church, leaders of our country and world,” she said. “You don’t know what they will go on to do. Prayer is so important for these children. We don’t know how many other people are praying for them.”

McDiarmid actually wrote a prayer for her child, Delaney. “I pray that after Delaney receives you in holy Communion for the first time, she will continue to attend Mass every weekend and continue to invite you into her heart,” she prays. “As Delaney grows in adulthood, I pray that her love for you will grow deeper and she becomes more aware of how much you love her and want to be part of her daily life.”

Apparently, the ladies are excited about taking part in the children’s big day, when they will process down the aisle and meet Jesus at the altar in the Eucharist.

“The guild members will have a pew in the front of the church,” said Solenski, also looking forward to the celebration. She hopes that parishioners and family members will attend to show prayerful support and make it a grand celebration of faith.

At the end of the Mass, she plans to have the women meet their special angel face to face. Some of the ladies are planning to give their child a little gift to help them remember the special day, and the women will continue to remember the children in prayers for years to come.

“It takes a village to raise children,” said McDiarmid, speaking about the parish community being called to help raise the children in faith.

It’s a good reminder for all archdiocesan parishes: The result of praying for a child is certain to bless both the youngster and the whole Church.

Correction: The date of the first Communion Mass is March 2 at noon, not March 3 as originally stated in the story.

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