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Holy Communion – Policies and Practices

Policy and Practice of the Sacramental Program

Sacraments: Reconciliation, Confirmation and First Holy Communion

The sacraments are at the heart of the life of the Church. Through these gifts, God’s faithful ‘are given access to the stream of divine grace which flows form the paschal mystery of the passion, death, the resurrection of Christ’ (SC 61). The Church teaches us that the sacraments require faith which is the ‘first stage of human salvation’ (Council of Trent). Each ministry in our parish is oriented and encouraged to work together to provide every opportunity for the gift of faith, implanted in children through Baptism, to be properly nurtured, bearing fruit in discipleship, empowered by the Confirming Spirit and continually inserted into and drawing life from the Paschal Mystery in the Eucharist.

‘The family which has the primary duty of imparting education needs the help of the whole community’ (GE 3). This is especially so in forming faith. The community within which most families should find the support they need is the parish. This, in some manner, represents ‘the visible Church constituted throughout the world’ (LG 42). Our school ‘support parish with their responsibility of supporting parents as the first educators of their children’. This policy envisages all these communities working together to help children come to know our Lord Jesus Christ in the sacraments; in knowing him to love him; and in loving him to follow him.

Eligibility

Children who are baptised as infants may be considered eligible for Confirmation and first reception of Eucharist from about the age of seven (7) years. Families who are members of Our Lady Help of Christians Parish and live in the geographical boundaries of the parish are invited to enrol.

Candidates from the Our Lady Help of Christians Parish boundaries should contact the Parish Priest. Parents are invited to enrol their child (children) for the Sacraments at the Commitment Masses on allocated weekends during the year. The Parish Priest and Sacramental Team, along with the parents, will determine the readiness of each child to receive the sacraments.

The role of the Parish Priest

‘The priest, as a collaborator with the Bishop, has received the mandate and responsibility of encouraging, co-ordinating and directing the catechetical activity of the community with which he has been entrusted’.

The priest must ensure that this ministry and catechesis is carried out in accordance with the policies and pastoral practices of the Archdiocese.

  • The parish priest plays a key and active role in the sacramental preparation process. The parish priest’s responsibilities include ensuring that ‘children are properly prepared for first confession and First Holy Communion, and for the sacrament of Confirmation, by means of catechetical formation over an appropriate period of time’ (CIC 777). Both the Catholic Religious Education Syllabus and the mandated Sacramental Policies of the Archdiocese of Brisbane require that this preparation extend over a two year period for Reconciliation, Eucharist and Confirmation.
  • The parish priest ensures that appropriate ongoing catechesis is available for all children when the sacramental process has been completed.
  • In order for preparation for the sacraments ‘truly to bear fruit into the future, the parish priest will call parents, school and catechists to work harmoniously together’.

The Sacramental Program

The parish sacramental team invites all parents who wish their child to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation, First Eucharist and Confirmation within the year to enrol their child into the sacramental program. At the meeting held in the parish, parents are informed of the dates, procedures and expectations for the celebrations of the sacraments. An overview of the sacraments of initiation and Penance will be presented. Parents are then invited to enrol their child for the sacraments at the Commitment Mass on a designated weekend of the year.

Candidates and parents meet with the Parish Priest. Each family must organise to meet with the parish priest at a suitable time. Families work in partnership with the parish priest and those who are preparing the child. With their support, they ensure the readiness of the child to receive the sacraments and in collaboration with them, discern when their child is ready.

Parents are invited to present their child to the community at the commissioning Mass (Commitment) at a weekend and encourage them to bring their children regularly at least during the preparation for the reception of Sacraments.

Parents attend a Formation Session for each sacrament. Families attend sacramental preparation sessions – participation in several family group sessions are provided by the Archdiocese’s Adult Faith Education and the Parish.

The whole preparation for the reception of Sacraments of Initiation and Reconciliation is divided into three phases:

First phase: Parents information session

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC, 2223-2236) teaches clearly the role of parents in nurturing the gift of the Catholic faith. It is the role of parents as primary educators of their children to present them for initiation into the Christian community. It is in the family where children receive the help and example needed to live a Christian life and share in the mission of Jesus.

It is in the home that children primarily experience and come to know about God. When children experience the loving care of their family, when they are challenged to be the best people that they can be by their parents, and when they witness a family’s unceasing striving for healing and reconciliation, then children really learn about who God is. Parents are, whether they realize it or not, the “sacrament” of God’s presence to their children.

Parents have the responsibility to pray with their child and attend each Sunday Mass as a family. The children can then attend Children’s Liturgy at Sunday Masses as part of “breaking open” and understanding the gospel stories. In recognizing parents as the primary religious educators of their children, the Catholic Community relies on the cooperation of families for preparing children for sacraments.

Second Phase: Formal teaching (Catechesis) and Sacramental Preparation

Our Lady Help of Christians Parish encourages a family-focussed, parish-based, school RE supported approach for the preparation and celebration of the sacrament.

Family-focused

Parents play an active role in the initiation of their children by:

  • Seeking to grow in their faith journey and in their understanding of the meaning and implications of the sacraments;
  • Giving their children the opportunity to experience belonging to a parish faith community and, in particular, to celebrate Sunday Mass with their community;
  • Presenting their child for the sacraments of initiation.

Parents assist in preparing children for the Sacraments by:

  • Their daily example of Christian living.
  • Sharing of the faith through stories.
  • Reflecting together on the day’s happenings
  • Giving children the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance (Reconciliation) prior to the celebration of Eucharist and Confirmation.

The role of Grandparents and Godparents is of growing importance in the family’s catechesis of the child. (GDC 255)

What is expected of parents to assist their child with the preparation for the Sacraments?

  • Attend Sacrament Information nights and preparation sessions;
  • Attend Commitment Masses to present Enrolment Forms for the Sacramental Program;
  • Return all relevant paper work by due dates
  • Assist and support in the preparation of their child for the Sacraments
  • A sincere effort to continue their child’s ongoing faith journey by regular attendance at Parish Masses and functions is essential.

Parish-based

The Parish is the initiating community. The local Parish is the face of the Church, the community of believers that welcomes new members, celebrates their initiation and nourishes and sustains their journey into Christian maturity.

  • The Parish provides the experience of belonging to a worshipping community where children can participate in the stories, celebrations, ministries, prayers and rituals – and especially the celebration of the Eucharist – that enables them to enter in to a personal relationship with Jesus. It is the most important place in which the Christian community is formed and expressed.
  • It is primarily the responsibility of the Parish, under the leadership of the parish priest, to coordinate the activities of those involved in the initiation journey of parish members.
  • Sacramental times are special times of grace for the whole family when the parish needs to especially exercise its responsibility toward families:

‘The parish community must give special attention to parents. By means of personal contact, meetings, courses and also adult catechesis directed towards parents, the Christian community must help them to assume their responsibility…of educating their children in the faith.’ (GDC 227)

  • The celebrations of sacraments are especially graced events for the parish and should involve the whole community.
  • We are a welcoming Parish. The parish actively seeks out, engages with and supports the children and their families: those who do not identify with a parish; who are unable to participate for any reason in the initiation process; or whose reception of a sacrament has been deferred due to pastoral considerations.
  • The Parish will take special care to support children with special needs and their families in accordance with their needs and within the resources of the Parish, as well as in collaboration with appropriate agencies. “The responsibility to make sacramental life accessible and meaningful to persons with disabilities rests with a parish’s leaders.” (M.T. Harrington in The Liturgy Documents: A Parish Resource, Vol. 2). It is important that in this endeavour the parish distinguish between diverse needs and responds appropriately. The following ought to be taken into consideration:
    • Physical disabilities are likely to involve needs associated with access;
    • Intellectual disabilities may require the modification of programs and consideration given to alternative modes of delivery;

School and Parish Religious Education (RE) Program supported

OLHC School assists the parish in their responsibilities to parents by providing the knowledge and understanding of the Catholic faith, including knowledge about the sacraments within the RE program.

  • The role of the Catholic School in the sacraments of initiation is to:
    • Teach the mandated religious education program relating to the sacraments;
    • Provide opportunities for catechesis;
    • Provide an environment that witnesses to and teaches gospel values to the students and their parents;
    • Respect the primary role of parents in the faith education of their children, support them in that role and inform them about the processes for sacrament preparation and celebration available in the parish;
    • Participate in the parish sacramental team as appropriate.
  • The Catholic School will work closely with the parish in preparing for and celebrating the sacraments.

Third Phase: Reception of the Sacraments

After preparation for the sacrament has been completed, the parish sacramental team will ensure that:

  • The Parish Sacramental Program invites children from the Parish, Parish School as well as children attending State Schools within the Parish boundaries to receive the sacrament.
  • Confirmation/First Eucharist are normally celebrated at a Sunday Mass. The children celebrate the reception of the sacrament at the Parish Church involving the Archbishop (if available), the Parish Priest, members of the sacramental team and all parishioners
  • Parishioners are invited to join candidates and their families to the Confirmation/First Communion Mass.

First Reconciliation is celebrated at a weekday liturgy with the Parish Priest presiding, and parents, families and godparents (if possible) present.