Promulgated by Most Rev. Peter F. Christensen (June 2013)
Baptism, the Eucharist, and the sacrament of Confirmation together constitute the sacraments of Christian initiation whose unity must be safeguarded.
“At the Last Supper, on the night He was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again...” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1323)
Canon 914 states
“it is primarily the duty of parents and those who take the place of parents, as well as the duty of pastors, to take care that children who have reached the use of reason are prepared properly and, after they have made sacramental confession, are refreshed with this divine food as soon as possible. It is for the pastor to exercise vigilance so that children who have not attained the use of reason or whom he judges are not sufficiently disposed do not approach Holy Communion.”
Canon 97 §2 states
“a minor before the completion of the seventh year is called an infant and is considered not responsible for oneself (non suicompos). With the completion of the seventh year, however, a minor is presumed to have the use of reason
Catechesis on the Mass provided in systematic parish catechetical programs is an indispensable part of the preparation of children for their first reception of the Eucharist. Suited to the children’s age and abilities, catechesis should help children participate actively and consciously in the Mass. During planning, it is essential to remember that children around the age of reason ordinarily think concretely.
Catechesis in preparation for the first reception of the Eucharist should:
(National Directoryof Catechesis 126-127)
The catechesis for First Eucharist should prepare each child to...
Children’s preparation for the first reception of the Eucharist begins in the home. The family has the most important role in communicating the Christian and human values that form the foundation of a child’s understanding of the Eucharist. Children who participate with their family in the Mass experience the Eucharistic mystery in an initial way and gradually learn to join with the liturgical assembly in prayer.
Parents and the parish catechetical leader or catechist, together with the pastor, are responsible for determining when children have attained the age of reason and are ready to receive First Eucharist. Because reception of the Eucharist, especially for the first time, is integral to the child’s full incorporation into the ecclesial community, the pastor has a responsibility in determining every child’s readiness to receive First Eucharist. Parents have the right and duty to be involved in preparing their children for First Eucharist. Catechesis offered should help parents grow in their own understanding and appreciation of the Eucharist and enable them to catechize their children more effectively. An initial meeting for parents and first communicants is held to inform them of the plans and expectations of the preparation process. (Cf. NDC 126-127)
Parishes should ensure that there is at least one parent session to welcome families into a closer relationship with God and the Church. Parents/guardians should be made aware of expectations for the family and child and the catechetical themes for this sacrament. Parents should be integrated into the preparation process as much as possible.
The retreat is a time for the parents and their children to prepare for the reception of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. It is usually held shortly before
the reception of First Eucharist. It takes into consideration the attention span of the children. The retreat should provide an opportunity to review the meaning of the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist in ways especially meaningful to the children. The instruction and invitation to receive Jesus into their hearts with fasting, love, reverence and joy should be presented in such a way that all may come to know the true presence of Jesus Christ in the Body and Blood consecrated at Mass.
A. The celebration of First Eucharist should take place at a regularly scheduled Sunday Eucharist involving the parish community in the parish church.
B. “One who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion." (Canon 919)
C. Because of the paschal character of the sacrament of the Eucharist, the Easter season is the appropriate time for the celebration of First Eucharist, and it should be administered by the pastor.
D. The celebration should be family-centered where children should be with their families during the liturgy. There can be one celebration at which all the candidates receive First Eucharist or a number of celebrations for individual/groups of candidates.
E. The music used at the liturgy should not differ greatly from the music used at a regular Sunday liturgy. Using music unfamiliar with the congregation would deprive the parish community of full participation.
F. There should be a rehearsal of the celebration for the children and families prior to the Mass.
G. It is appropriate to have communicants renew their baptismal promises in order to emphasize the connection between the two sacraments.
H. The Lectionary for Masses with Children would not be appropriate to use for this celebration. Attention must be given to balance the needs of the entire congregation with those of the first communicants.
I. Having children serve as liturgical ministers shifts the emphasis from what is central to the day’s celebration. It is the entire community that welcomes the children to the Lord’s table and it is the regular ministers of the community that best symbolize that welcome.
J. Avoid cluttering the offertory of gifts with unnecessary objects. It is the gifts of bread and wine that will be transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. Additional items change the meaning of this action.
K. The children should not leave their parents to stand around the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer.
L. The children, accompanied by their families, should be the first of the assembly to receive Holy Eucharist.
M. Sensitivity to language issues of those involved should be conside red in the preparation of the celebration of the sacrament.
N. Children in parish catechetical programs, Catholic schools, and home schooled children should be integrated into each celebration. No group should have a private or separate celebration.
Prior to the reception of First Eucharist, the parish must attain proof of baptism from all candidates (Canon 842, 912, 894). The names of those children who celebrated First Eucharist, the minister, and place and date of the ceremony are to be recorded in the parish communion register.
Canon 777 §4 states “the catechetical instruction is given also to those who are physically or mentally handicapped, insofar as their condition permits.” Pastors are responsible to be as inclusive as possible in providing evangelization, catechetical formation, and sacramental preparation for parishioners with disabilities. Parish catechetical and sacramental preparation programs may need to be adapted for some parishioners with disabilities. (Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities 5)
“The criterion for reception of holy communion is the same for persons with developmental and mental disabilities as for all persons, namely, that the person be able to distinguish the Body of Christ from ordinary food, even if this recognition is evidenced through manner, gesture, or reverential silence rather than verbally.” (Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities 20)
“Pastors are encouraged to consult parents, those who take the place of parents, diocesan personnel involved with disability issues, psychologists, religious educators, and other experts in making their judgment. If it is determined that a parishioner who is disabled is not ready to receive the sacrament, great care is to be taken in explaining the reasons for this decision. Cases of doubt should be resolved in favor of the right of the baptized person to receive the sacrament. The existence of a disability is not considered in and of itself as disqualifying a person from receiving the Eucharist.” (Guidelines for Persons with Disabilities 20)
“Eucharistic celebrations are often enhanced by the exercise of the diverse forms of ministry open to the laity. In choosing those who will be invited to use their gifts in service to the parish community, the parish pastoral staff should be mindful of extending Christ’s welcoming invitation to qualified parishioners with disabilities.” (Guidelines for Persons with Disabilities 21)
The diocese recognizes that parents are the primary educators of their child(ren), and that some parents choose to live out their role of primary educators by providing formal catechesis at home. The parish pastor and his delegates also have the responsibility to provide catechetical instruction for the children. The rights and responsibilities of parents and the parish call for collaboration between the two. The same prerequisites for candidacy apply to children who are home schooled for religious education as are required for children in parish programs and Catholic schools. (Diocese of Superior Guidelines for Religious Education at Home)