"Since the Eucharist is the 'source and summit of the Christian life,' (Lumen Gentium, 11.) catechesis for the Eucharist recognizes it as the heart of Christian life for the whole Church, for the dioceses and parishes, and for each individual Christian." (National Directory for Catechesis 36.A.2.) All that belongs to Christian life leads to the Eucharistic celebration or flows from it.
Among the most important insights expressed in the NDC about the eucharistic initiation of children (preparation for First Eucharist) is that such initiation is a shared responsibility. "Children's preparation for first reception of Eucharist begins in the home. The family has the most important role in communicating the Christian and human values that form the foundation for a child's understanding of 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." (36. A. 3a.)
Because of its communal nature parents alone cannot fulfill the responsibility of initiating their children into the Eucharist. We recognize this and incorporate not only parents but also the Parish staff, prayer partners, catechists, Liturgical Ministers, and the entire worshipping community. The preparation process at St. Jerome recognizes the diverse but complementary roles that must be fulfilled if children are to grow in faith.
We emphasize the need for parents to be actively involved in the preparation process. Faith Formation is not simply a matter of handing on religious facts but initiating deeper into the faith, attitudes and values of the Christian community. Young children learn attitudes and values through identification with those adults influential in their lives. For that reason we affirm that parents are the first teachers of their children. Parents teach informally but powerfully by example and instruction.
Because parents are the primary educators of their children in ways of faith, when children are presented to the church for First Eucharist, it is the parents who must be actively living the faith, including what the Church has traditionally called PRECEPTS. First among these is participation at the Sunday Mass on a weekly basis. This is the Lord's Day for the Christian. It is kept holy by celebrating the Memorial Meal and Sacrifice mandated by Jesus.
"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 Communion. Because reception of 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 Communion. Parents also have the right and the duty to be involved in preparing their children for First Communion. The catechesis offered should help parents grow in their own understanding and appreciation of the Eucharist and enable them to catechize their children more effectively." (NDC 36.A.3a.)
When this active practice of the Catholic faith is lacking, Eucharist preparation may be postponed until there is the necessary evidence that the reception of this sacrament will be the beginning of a weekly practice.
Children wishing to begin the preparation process for First Eucharist must meet the following criteria in order to participate:
|1.||Be baptized and practicing the Catholic faith at a level appropriate to their age, including weekly participation in Sunday Liturgy.|
|2.||Are participating in the parish stewardship process according to age and ability.|
|3.||Have a desire to enter into the process.|
|4.||Have successfully completed one year of the parish faith formation programs, (PSR, Parochial School, or Home Study) and be currently enrolled and participating in one of these options.|
|5.||Have successfully completed the First Penance preparation and celebrated the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.|
Preparation will include the following participation: