First Communicants told sacrament brings Jesus even nearer than a hug

Dressed in her First Communion attire, 7-year-old Alemie Claire I. Cuizon joined cathedral cantor Rosa Beyer in leading the responsorial psalm during the Mass with First Communicants at St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria on June 11. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

When we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, the Lord is as near to us as if we were with him in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago and he gave us a hug.

That’s one message Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, shared with First Communicants and their families from around the Diocese of Peoria who joined him for Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral on June 11.

Jennifer Scully takes a photo of her daughter, Sydney, with Bishop Jenky after the diocesan Mass with First Communicants. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

“We might imagine how wonderful it would be to live in those (Gospel) days, to touch Jesus, to pour out our hearts to him, to hear him speak,” the bishop said in his homily.

Looking out over an assembly that included dozens of children who received their first Communion in recent weeks and were again wearing their white dresses or sport coats and ties, the bishop emphasized that in Holy Communion “Jesus is truly among us.”

The Eucharist is “not a symbol, not an email, not a text message,” said Bishop Jenky. God designed humans to need physical touch, he added, and through the sacrament, “we touch Jesus and he touches us.”

19 FC John receives

This year’s liturgy also included the reception of Communion for the first time by John Mackiewicz, who received from his pastor, Msgr. Brian Brownsey of St. Mark Parish, Peoria. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

“All your life, you can bring everything to that loving Lord,” the bishop told the assembly, including four rows of First Communicants from the cathedral parish. “Even if you were alive 2,000 years ago and the Lord held you in his arms, it wouldn’t be any closer.”


After Mass, the First Communicants and their families had an opportunity to get close to the bishop, who posed for photos in the cathedral sanctuary. A few of the children, remembering that Bishop Jenky began his homily by telling how he recently enjoyed a hug from his grandniece during a visit to the University of Notre Dame, embraced the bishop before smiling for the camera.

Assisting with the liturgy were members of the cathedral First Communion class, who served as lectors and cantors. Among those bringing forward the offertory gifts was John Mackiewicz, who later in the Mass would receive his first Communion from Msgr. Brian Brownsey, pastor of St. Mark Parish in Peoria.

Music was provided by the Sacred Heart of Jesus Children’s Choir, with Nattalee Pierce singing a solo rendition of “Surely the Presence” right before the Communion hymn.

Bishop Jenky told the diocese’s First Communicants that he, their parents, families, friends, and parishioners “all rejoice with you today.”

“I urge you, for all your life, let Jesus touch you,” said Bishop Jenky, “and, in faith, cling to him in return.”

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