How the kids see their faith Print
Grand Mom
Thursday, Mar. 18, 2010 -- 12:00 AM

Grand Mom by Audrey Mettel Fixmer

This Lent has brought about a big change in our parish. We have doubled the attendance at daily Mass, thanks to a change in school policy. For the first time in maybe 30 years, the top three grades of our Catholic school students are attending Mass every day during Lent.

We daily Massers (a.k.a. senior citizens) had become adjusted to spreading out in our cozy little chapel, reserving the big church for Sundays and Thursdays when the whole student body is in attendance.

Surprised at first, we were happy to move over a bit and welcome a few teachers and so many bright young faces, filling every seat in our chapel. Only one thing worried me. What about our Word and Communion Service?

Priest shortage

Like most parishes in the U.S., we are feeling the shortage of priests. Our pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Fort Atkinson must also serve the people of St. Mary Parish in Palmyra.

Consequently, a few of the laity have been trained to act as presiders at a Word and Communion Service on the two days per week that no priest is available.

We wondered how the students would react to our conducting this service. We made certain that they understood the difference between the Mass, in which only a priest can consecrate the host, and the Word and Communion Service, in which the Eucharist has been pre-consecrated earlier. We made sure by "instructing them" every time for the first two weeks.

Taking nothing for granted, I decided to follow up with a survey. I wrote a note asking the kids to write a paragraph about their Lenten experience, including answers to three questions. Sign your name if you wish, but none required.

  • How do you feel about going to daily Mass during Lent?
  • How do you feel about lay people presiding at the Word and Communion?
  • If the priest shortage continues, how might it affect your future?

Reading the answers amused, delighted, and sometimes surprised me.

Giving peace

On question #1, I was impressed that only one out of 35 said he didn't like going to daily Mass because he had "just woke up and it makes me want to go back to sleep." Another thought it was "not necessary," and two more thought it was okay except on Mondays and Wednesdays, when it cut off half of their favorite class: gym.

The other 31 were very positive, providing numerous reasons why it was a good way to start the day. Among them were Carson's "calms me down," Reagan's and Tom's "closer to God," Nicholas' "positive start," and Rachel's "more relaxed during class." Do they reflect an early morning stress getting to school? And a need for peace?

Caleb, a non-Catholic, even admitted, "It makes me feel better. It makes me think about what I want to do better and what God wants me to do." And Clayton says, "Lately I have been in a much better mood. The Mass comforts me and I feel closer to God."

Bravery

On question #2, "How do you feel about lay people presiding at the Word and Communion Service," I had the biggest surprise. I had not expected the adjective "brave" to pop up so many times.

I had to remind myself what I knew from the days I was teaching public speaking: The greatest fear people have, second only to death, is public speaking. Maybe that's why our presiders are predominantly retired teachers.

Other descriptions of the lectors were Tom's "loving," Abby's "proud of their faith," Stephanie's "caring," Caty's and Renee's "when I get older I will volunteer to do that too." "So I can go to heaven," adds Caty. Addison's "good exercise for the elderly" was informative. I need that.

'A mess!'

As for what might happen if the priest shortage continues? The concerns were many: Mackenzie's "I want my family and children to have that same experience . . . to be baptized Catholic and married Catholic." Jade's "We might just have to come, pray, and get communion for yourself." And he added, "That would be a mess!" And Tom's "I will continue to go to church no matter how far I must drive on Sunday."

One suggested putting out "Wanted" signs "so that more priests would join." Alex was a little lacking in enthusiasm when he said, "Maybe, if there is a priest shortage, I'll try out being a priest."

P.J. declared, "If we run out of priests it will be APOCALYPTIC!"

And Grace showed the most "bravery" of all when she said, "You know what I would do? I would set up Word and Communion Services every day for the people who want to go to Mass daily or weekly."

I guess the Church will be in good hands when today's elderly pass on . . . in spite of all that "exercise" we are getting.

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