Sacramental Preparation at the Catholic Community of
St. Matthias/St. Matthias School
As you know St. Matthias School is an integral part of the Catholic Community of St. Matthias. The School is not an entity in itself; it is part of the total larger community of St. Matthias. We, at St. Matthias, follow the guidelines for sacramental preparation as outlined in the National Directory for Catechesis and mandated by the Diocese of Metuchen.
We know that the liturgical life of the Church revolves around the sacraments, with the Eucharist at the center. The church celebrates seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony.
The National Directory for Catechesis explicitly states that sacramental catechesis:
- Is intended for all members of the Christian Community, takes place within the community, and involves the whole community of faith;
- Involves parents in the preparation of their children for the sacraments.
In compliance with these two mandates, sacramental preparation is not a part of the academic religion curriculum in St. Matthias School. Our second graders do receive instruction on Penance and Eucharist but the primary formation is presented to all second graders – those in St. Matthias School as well as those attending other schools and their parents – at ten sessions on a Sunday morning after the 9 AM Mass. Instruction involves the whole community of faith and it is formational not academic. And, though our 7th and 8th graders participate in religious instruction here at school, a more comprehensive communal/justice education sacramental formation program has been developed for Confirmation for all the young people in these grade levels within our parish community. It is described in more detail below.
Children’s preparation for the first reception of Eucharist begins in the home. It is the family that plays the most important role in communicating the Christian and human values that form the foundation for a child’s understanding of the Eucharist. It is absolutely essential that parents bring their child/ren to weekly Mass, to experience the Eucharistic mystery in an initial way so they can gradually learn to join with their community of faith in prayer.
Because it is the parents’ right and responsibility to be involved in preparing their children for First Communion, they must be exposed to the catechesis that is offered so that they too, can grow in their understanding and appreciation of the Eucharist and more effectively share in the catechesis of their children.
Our formation process at The Catholic Community of St. Matthias takes place within the parish community. The curriculum includes ten catechetical/formation sessions – five for First Penance and five for First Eucharist. These sessions are scheduled on Sunday mornings throughout the year beginning in October. There is also a First Eucharist Retreat Day on a Saturday in the Spring. Attendance for all sessions is mandatory and each child must be accompanied by at least one parent. Some time prior to First Communion there is also a scheduled interview with Father Doug, both parents and the child must be present.
Children will celebrate First Reconciliation on a Saturday morning in January or early February. First Communions are celebrated at specific Sunday morning masses over a period of 4-5 weeks within the Easter season. The families choose the dates and the Mass most convenient for them. All of the First Communicants and their families, as a group, celebrate Eucharist on the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ usually at the noon Mass.
All families that desire their children to receive First Reconciliation and First Eucharist must complete a registration form that is available on the parish website, www.stmatthias.net
Catechesis for Children’s First Reception of the Sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation
It is the responsibility of the parents, the catechetical leader and the pastor to determine when children are ready to receive First Penance. Readiness for reception of this sacrament includes knowledge of the person of Jesus Christ and the Gospel message of forgiveness, knowledge of sin and its effect and understanding and experience of sorrow, forgiveness and conversion. [NDC,p. 135]
According to the directives of the Diocese of Metuchen, children must receive the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation for the first time prior to their first reception of the Eucharist.
Since the celebration of First Confession precedes First Communion, catechesis for this sacrament precedes the catechesis for First Communion and must be kept distinct so that the specific identity of each sacrament is apparent.
We respect the children’s natural disposition, ability, age and circumstances in our catechesis for the Sacrament of penance. Since the family is intimately involved in the formation of a child’s moral conscience and ordinarily integrates the child into the wider ecclesial community, parents should be involved in the preparation of their children for this sacrament. [NDC, p. 135]
Catechesis for Confirmation
The Diocese of Metuchen designated the age of Confirmation to be in the 8th grade or early 9th grade year. Here in the Catholic Community of St. Matthias/St. Matthias School preparation for Confirmation is a two year process beginning in the child’s 7th grade year. Over the two year period the process of faith development emphasizes:
- Growth in personal prayer,
- Intense involvement in a faith community which includes community, worship, service and the Gospel message,
- An awareness of our encounter with Jesus in the sacramental celebration.
In order to provide a more comprehensive formation process for the reception of Confirmation, St. Matthias has partnered with the Center for Faith Justice based in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.
The Center for Faith Justice is a non-profit organization that creates transformative experiences and educates individuals and communities by facilitating programs for youth and young adults that integrate spirituality with community service and justice education. During the 7th and 8th grade years our youth – both those in St. Matthias School and those in or GIFT Program come together each year for 4-5 small group sessions. These sessions typically meet on Sunday afternoons/early evenings during the school year.
Participation in the Center for Faith Justice’s ServiceworX Camp for one week [Sunday through Friday] is required and is not an option during the summer between the 7th and 8th grade years. The camp, using St. Matthias as a home base, arranges for youth participation at various service sites during the mornings. The campers return in the afternoon to unpack their experiences and connect them to the gospel message under the leadership of experienced adult counselors from the Center. The camp is scheduled for at least four weeks during the summer. There are specific fees attached to participation in ServiceworX as we are contracted with the Center for Faith Justice.