It seemed only natural for Joseph Abbey, 8, to return to St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria last Saturday to receive his first Communion from Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC. After all, his family belongs to the parish and the bishop had baptized him during the Easter Vigil there in 2007.
What made this special day even more special for the second-grader from St. Mark’s School in Peoria, however, is that he was surrounded by children from around the Diocese of Peoria who had also celebrated the sacrament for the first time in recent weeks. Accompanied by their family and friends, they filled the cathedral on May 31 for the annual Diocesan Mass for First Holy Communicants.
The girls glowed in veils and white dresses made of yards of tulle, lace and satin and the boys stood tall in their suits and ties, although both groups shifted from foot to foot at times as they coped with dress shoes and heels. Their bishop beamed back at them as he said, “It is always a highlight of my year when the cathedral is full of first communicants.”
Speaking from the steps of the cathedral sanctuary during his homily, Bishop Jenky told his young listeners that what they eat — proteins, vegetables and fruit — becomes part of them.
“But there is one food that actually makes us a part of it and that is the bread and wine, the holy Communion that we receive at Mass,” he said. “Every time we receive Communion we become a little bit more a part of Jesus Christ.”
Eating on a regular basis is necessary to maintain good physical health, just as being faithful to the Eucharist is vital to maintaining good spiritual health, Bishop Jenky explained.
He included the parents in his remarks, encouraging them to make prayer for their children and their spouses part of their daily spiritual diet. In addition to praying before meals, he suggested that parents bless their children when they go to bed and said this can be a sign of comfort and reassurance.
Bishop Jenky added that inviting God into their homes, their families and their marriages will not only strengthen their relationships but set an example.
“Your children will be watching that and realize the value of God in everything you say and do,” he said.