Woodbridge mother-daughter ministry builds family bonds, Eucharistic devotion

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Twice a month, before Julie Stanton and her three daughters attend Mass at Our Lady of Angels Church in Woodbridge, they say a prayer together in a small room at the back of the church before covering their heads with a blue lace, triangle-shaped veil. They then take out two golden chalices and fill them with unconsecrated hosts, and pour the wine into a glass cruet.  

Julie and her daughters Grace, Avila and Colette are members of the Daughters of Veronica for Eucharistic Stewardship, a small mother-daughter ministry at Our Lady of Angels. As sacristans, the Doves work behind the scenes to prepare for the Mass, care for the altar linens and keep the adoration chapel in tip-top shape.

“Life is so busy,” said Julie, who co-leads the group along with Keri Shanks, the head sacristan. “There’s so much going on in people’s lives today. This is a chance to slow down, be together as mother and daughter and pray.”

Whether they’re polishing patens or laundering linens for the 22 Masses celebrated each week, the goal is for mothers and daughters to build a relationship with Christ in the Eucharist — side by side.

Often, multiple girls will serve at the same time as their sisters — like Grace, Avila and Colette. 

“I grow closer to them through serving our Lord,” said Grace, a senior at Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries. 

“While I’m back there in the sacristy with my sisters preparing the ciborium and the chalice, my brother is (altar) serving. I place it in his hands,” she added. “So it’s a family affair.”

Teresa Bingham, a seventh-grader at Seton School in Manassas, serves alongside her two sisters, Lucia and Mariana, who are home-schooled. “They know a lot more than I did at their age,” Teresa said. 

Their 5-year-old sister, Veronica, can’t join Doves until she makes her first Communion, but watches everything. They call Veronica a Dot (Dove of Training). “She knows what a chalice is, a ciborium, a couple of the priest’s garments,” Teresa said.

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Anais Naupari, an eighth-grade home-schooled student, pours the unconsecrated wine into the glass cruet.  

To ensure the ministry stays grounded in prayer and not just the practicalities of running a sacristy, the Doves meet the first Saturday of every month for catechesis and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. After Mass, they kneel before the altar to pray the “Anima Christi.” When they serve inside the sacristy, they wear a veil as an imitation of Christ “hidden” but truly present in the Eucharist under the appearance of bread and wine.  

The Daughters of Veronica were founded on the feast of St. Veronica seven years ago, after a parishioner, Sharon Willoughby, answered an ad in the church bulletin for sacristans. Willoughby, who has since moved to Alabama, asked the parochial vicar, Father Michael R. Duesterhaus, if she could bring along her 6-year-old daughter as a sacristan-in-training. Others soon followed, including Natalie Sutton, an eighth-grader at St. Thomas Aquinas Regional School in Woodbridge. 

The Daughters of Veronica for Eucharistic Stewardship pray the "Anima Christi" after a recent meeting at Our Lady of Angels in Woodbridge. 


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“When I entered the Doves, I found that the girls there put their heart and soul into preparing the Mass,” said Natalie. “I think it brings us closer in our faith, together, to help the priest prepare for Mass.”

Natalie said she decided to join the Doves when she discerned a calling to the religious life in the second grade, shortly after making her first Communion. She hopes to enter the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville after she graduates from high school. Until then, she plans to stay involved in the sacristy. 

“In my opinion, the Doves are like a preparation for the consecrated life,” she said.

Whatever the girls’ vocations in life, Julie hopes they’ll benefit from their time in the sacristy long after they leave the group.

“I pray that when my daughters are older, this is a special time that they’ll remember,” said Julie. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017

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