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First Communions gradually rescheduled

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As she pored over the RSVPs and stared at the floor plan of the church, Jackie Regan felt as if she was planning a wedding. But the director of religious education at Our Lady of Hope Church in Potomac Falls was making seating charts for the first Communion Mass. 

Once churches in Northern Virginia were allowed to celebrate public Masses, Father William P. Saunders, pastor, wanted the children to be able to receive. So, Regan and the staff worked with the parents to come up with a date and a plan, including social distanced assigned seating, to safely host the joyous occasion. Even with the precautions, only 60 percent of the 54 first Communicants and their families participated. 

Some parishes around the diocese are slowly rescheduling postponed sacramental events such as first Communions. Others are still waiting. “We offered families the opportunity to start scheduling first Communions, and I would say 90 percent plus are not ready to come back to public Masses yet,” said Amy Strickland, director of faith formation of St. Ann Church in Arlington. 

St. Teresa Church in Ashburn usually has four first Communion Masses, but it held five in June and plans for more later in the summer, said religious education secretary Constance Gilligan. The Masses were livestreamed, but the video didn’t show the children receiving Communion as Gilligan didn’t have time to get permission from all the parents to show footage of their children. Still, “If grandmom and grandpop couldn’t make it, at least they could watch the Mass,” she said. 

Our Lady of Hope held a first Communion May 30 but plans to hold another in September for the families who preferred to wait. It’s been complicated not only to plan the Masses but also to prepare the children from afar to receive the sacrament, said Regan. Fortunately, the catechists started the school year using online video and tools, and when they no longer could meet in person, they had video meetings with students and parents as well.  

“We couldn’t do our retreat, which we usually do the weekend before, (and) we had materials already prepared: a monstrance craft, a large rosary we give them, holy cards, some activities, a poster,” said Regan. “So, we packaged all that and hand delivered it to each house so they could do the activities and get excited about it.”

Our Lady of Hope First Communicant Jonathan Daniel, 7, had lots of at-home prep help from his younger brother and sister, said his mother, Heidi Daniel. “His brother was the priest and his sister was the altar server. We had a little Mass set, so my little 3-year-old was saying, ‘This is the pretend body of Christ’ and he’d hold up the oyster cracker and my daughter was holding the pall under his chin,” said Heidi. “They had fun doing that, they really enjoyed eating lots of crackers.”

Jonathan Daniel (left) smiles with his siblings on the day of his first Communion at Our Lady of Hope Church in Potomac Falls May 30. COURTESY

Lr first communionOn the day of his first Communion, Jonathan wore a gray tie, a suit freshly purchased from Amazon and a black and white face mask with the words Lamb of God, Messiah, Prince of Peace and other names for God on the fabric. It was a beautiful Mass, said his mother, the first they’d been able to attend since the beginning of the pandemic. They had the option of waiting for the fall first Communion, but Jonathan chose this one. 

“Ultimately he’s the one who decided that May 30 was the better date,” said Heidi. “Mommy and Daddy are thinking ahead to family wanting to visit and be there for the event and he said, ‘It’s just more important that I go to first Communion.’ He wanted to be with Jesus.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020