Online Preparation for the Sacraments.

Thursday 15th July 2021

Like much of parish life, during the pandemic, preparation and celebration of the Sacraments has been disturbed. The Wisdom Group, a working party responsible for providing resources for the Sacramental Programme, provided lots of Online/Family Resources and Home Celebrations which you can view here. Catechists responded creatively by moving preparation for the Sacraments of Reconciliation, Communion and Confirmation online with the celebration of the Sacraments in smaller groups.

Here is an article from Patricia Ganley, one of the lead Catechists at Our Lady of Mount Carmel with St John Bosco parish in Blackley.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel with St John Bosco, Manchester.

The lockdown due to Covid 19 was difficult for all parishes preparing their children for the Sacraments. In our parish we have two teams, one for Our Lady of Mount Carmel church and one for St John Bosco church, serving children from the respective primary schools and a number of children who do not attend Catholic schools, who worship at either of the two churches.

In the past three years, the two teams of catechists have worked closely together, receiving training from the Wisdom group, planning together, selecting suitable resources and working on ways of communicating with families, especially during the pandemic. We are fortunate to have the full support and help of our primary schools and on each team we have at least one member who is a member of staff.

We have just begun in May 2021, to use the new resource, ‘Heart Speaks to Heart’ with our families. It is a wonderful programme, based on a beautifully produced picture book with attractive artwork and very child friendly activities. It is a resource which is aimed at ‘Family Catechesis’, which means the parent or carer works alongside their child, accompanied by the team of catechists. An online interactive PDF workbook & videos are available for each session. Printed copies of the young person’s workbook are available via the Cathedral Centre Bookshop priced at £5.00 each.

Because we are trying to work our cycles of preparation back to normal over 2021 and 2022,  we have shortened the preparation periods to six sessions within six months for this year’s and next year’s cohorts of children. We have, therefore, not been able to cover all the sessions in the programme, so have selected the key sessions and set some activities for ‘homework’.

The sessions include an exploration of key ‘virtues’ that are appropriate to the Sacraments. There is a strong scriptural element and an emphasis on Family prayer which is modelled in the sessions. The children are encouraged, between sessions, to jot things down in a little reflection book we have provided them with. In the book there are three characters; Jess , Ryan and their Grandad who have conversations about their preparation for Sacraments and tell stories about things that happen in their family life pertaining to the virtues. At each session we select a boy, a girl and one of the dads (or even a grandad once!) to read the parts of the conversation. This has worked really well. We also select a family to light a candle at the prayer time, which starts each session.

There are lots of questions for the families to discuss and we take lots of feedback from the children. This has been so rewarding to be involved in! Their answers are wonderful and they are so enthusiastic. We have found that this resource has evoked a fantastic response from the children and parents. They are so engaged with their discussions. One of the Mount Carmel catechists said at one of our recent planning meetings that he had never experienced such a positive response to a resource after many years working with many different programmes. The catechists have all said they are really enjoying it. With this resource we have all taken turns at facilitating different sections, which has really been successful and helped us all to develop our skills as catechists.

The first part of our preparation will finish in July and the children will then be ready for Reconciliation in the Autumn. We start preparing them for First Holy Communion in September and they will receive the Sacrament in November or January when there will be a series of Masses on Saturdays.

We are planning to start the next Programme in January 2022, hoping that we will be able to complete it by the Summer.

At the same time, a separate team of catechists has prepared 21 young people for the Sacrament of Confirmation using the ‘Empowered – Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit’ resources. This period of preparation has been delivered in a ten-week course on Thursday evenings, (first by Zoom and then face to face after the unlocking in May) between April and June. The young people received the Sacrament on the feast of St Anthony of Padua,  Sunday 13th June 2021 within an afternoon Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. We are hoping that this group of teenagers will form a new Youth Group in the parish going forward.

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