Mass draws First Communicants, closes ‘Year of the Rosary’

By: By Tom Dermody

(Note: To view dozens of photos from this event, click on the “Post Photos” icon at left.)

For the Olsen family from St. Patrick’s Parish in Washington, coming to the annual diocesan Mass for First Holy Communicants has become a “family tradition.”

This year James and Amy Olsen’s son Jameson was guest of honor. In past years it was older daughters Kaitlyn and Mackenzie. Next year the Olsens will receive an invitation because of youngest son Keegan’s first reception of the sacrament.

“It’s a big deal,” said James Olsen of the opportunity to celebrate with Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, and communicant families from around the diocese.

In terms of diocese-wide events, last Saturday’s gathering at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria was a really big deal.

In addition to celebrating the hundreds of First Communicants, the Mass also marked the close of the diocesan Year of the Most Holy Rosary.

After reciting the rosary before Mass, the First Communicants assembled in the cathedral’s Lady Chapel. They then processed down the cathedral’s center aisle following a statue of the Blessed Virgin carried by students from Peoria Notre Dame High School. Each communicant held a single flower to place near the statue in the sanctuary.

The celebration also took place near the close of the worldwide church’s observance of the Year for Priests, and at the end of the Mass Bishop Jenky consecrated all priests of the diocese to Mary, Queen of the Rosary.

“We have a lot of reasons to be thankful to God this afternoon,” said the bishop in his welcoming remarks. Looking around a cathedral filled with First Communicants in dresses and suits, Bishop Jenky also noted the celebration took place as the church observed the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi).

“You are the perfect people to join us on this feast,” he told the young people in attendance. “You have prepared, studied, and had the experience of knowing love for Christ in your heart.”

In his homily, delivered from the base of the sanctuary steps, Bishop Jenky spoke of how we miss loved ones when they are apart from us. But while humans can keep in touch by email or telephones, God is fully present whenever we receive the Eucharist.

“It is the greatest treasure of our church,” he said.

In a special challenge to parents and grandparents, Bishop Jenky said that while they show their children love by making sure they study, exercise, and “eat their veggies,” it is even more important that they “never neglect the eternal lives” of those in their care.

Encouraging regular Mass attendance, the bishop asked the families: “When the beautiful dresses and handsome suits are put away, are your families built around the Mass? Without the Eucharist, your children cannot be the givers and servers all Christians are called to be.”
Communicants filled many liturgical roles at the Mass, including altar servers, lectors, gift bearers, and petition readers.

Following Communion, Bishop Jenky asked all in the assembly to kneel as he read an “Act of Entrustment and Consecration of Priests of the Diocese of Peoria to Mary, Queen of the Rosary.” It was based on a prayer that Pope Benedict offered in Fatima during his trip to Portugal in May.

The prayer closed with an appeal that “the graces of the Year of the Rosary bear fruit throughout our diocese, especially in the lives and ministries of our priests.” The bishop also prayed that “the Lord of the Harvest send us more priests, zealous and abundant laborers for God’s harvest here in Central Illinois.”

Following Mass, Bishop Jenky greeted the First Communicants individually as he posed for photographs.

Among those coming forward were cousins Briona Beckham and Joshua Kaizer, members of St. Joseph’s Parish in Pekin. They were accompanied by their mothers, Amber Kaizer and Holly Beckham, who came into the Catholic Church along with their parents at this year’s Easter vigil.

“It’s a really special time,” said Amber Kaizer, as she took photographs of the pair on the cathedral rectory steps. “We got our First Communion and they got theirs. I just want them to know this is a very special day.”

And a close to a very special year.

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