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Activities, prayer prepare first Communicants
By Renee Webb, Globe associate editor
Posted March 21, 2002

CARROLL - Second-grade students from Carroll that are about to make their first Communion were treated to a special day to stress the significance of the sacrament and aid them in preparation.

First Communion Jesus Day was held March 8 for second-graders from Kuemper Catholic School and students enrolled in the religious education program at the Carroll parishes. About 110 students participated in the day that was planned by Deacon Tim Murphy, four Kuemper second-grade teachers and two catechists from the parish religious education programs.

"I think it was a good day for kids to concentrate on and think about how special receiving the Eucharist will be," said Murphy, who preached at the Mass.

Second-grade teacher Diane Forbes said the school has been holding this day for about the last 10 years. She pointed out that most of the instruction for first Communion is held prior to this event in the traditional classroom, using the Sadler Eucharistic Book.

Each child had at least one parent or grandparent attend and help with the activities.

"It is really important to get parents involved in preparing for the sacrament. The parents got a lot out of it, too," said Murphy.

From a practical standpoint, Forbes noted that they needed parents or other family members to help with the activities but there was even greater value in the parents or grandparents feeling a part of the child's first Communion.

"We started with Mass and then had activities that would help them understand what the first Eucharist is about," she explained. "It had tremendous value in cementing all of us together, making us feel one."

Diane Boes, a second-grade teacher at Kuemper, said it was a good experience for both the children and their parents to be able to come together to prepare for first Communion.

"We think it is a wonderful way for them to spend one full day together," she said. "The parents can really focus on their child without other distractions."

Students participated in a variety of activities. They watched a video titled "Grandma's Bread" that focused on the importance of traditions within families.

To tie into that video, they made bread loaves in a variety of shapes such as crosses. They also made two items that will be used during their first Communion celebrations - banners and chalices. Students etched designs on the clay chalices that will be fired and glazed.

Samantha Bedford, a second-grade student at Kuemper, said the best part about Jesus Day was making the chalice and the banner.

She thought it was "cool" to have her mom there. "I liked making stuff with her," said Bedford.

Brian Dentlinger, another Kuemper student, said, "I liked making the bread. We had groups and it was fun."

His mom attended the event and Dentlinger liked that she helped him make the chalice.

Murphy stressed the value in bringing the Catholic school and religious education students together as it sent the message that "we are all Catholics, going to one table."

"It's a good community builder," teacher Forbes added.

Boes described it as a way to solidify the importance of first Communion. "It is a really good day for us, our community and our children," she said. "Our main focus is to make their first Communion as special as we can."

The children also used the Jesus Day as an opportunity to practice their first Communion song, "Light the Candle," that will be sung in the students' respective parishes. Students will make their first Communion in their own Carroll-area parishes within the first two weeks after Easter.

The day concluded with a prayer service.