In Your Midst

Religious Education and the Sacraments at the Cathedral

Spring 2000

In This Issue:
Three Sundays a month, noon Mass at the Cathedral is punctuated with hundreds of small voices. Just after the Gloria is sung, the children of the parish are called up to the altar to be dismissed to their own service in the chapel.

They troop forward, some eagerly, others a little shy. There’s always at least one who runs back to the safety of mom and dad before being pulled along by a big brother or sister. And someone inevitably marches off in the wrong direction. But soon they’re all gathered at the altar — 80 to 100 children each week. After a few words of blessing, they walk to the chapel, where older children read the week’s readings and Cathedral cantors, Stacey Sunde and Dan Jinguji, lead everyone in singing.

My own boys, who fidget mercilessly during Mass, have come to regard “kids’ church” as one of the high points of their week. Partly, I think, it’s a chance to see just how close to a run they can get inside the Cathedral without getting into trouble as they race to and from the chapel. But, more fundamentally, it’s their opportunity to see Dylan, Rebecca and James, and some of their other friends from the Cathedral’s religious education program,to catch Father Ryan’s eye and try to get him to wave to them, and to hear stories and sing songs that are a lot more fun than regular church. Last year after one “kids’ church,” our family spent a month singing Love Is Something, If You Give It Away, complete with hand motions. (We still sing it at the slightest provocation.)

But of course there’s more going on here than fun, songs and a rambunctious dismissal procession to the chapel. For as they celebrate their own service in the chapel each week, our children are learning that they are part of this Cathedral, that they are important here, and that they have a role in this faith we all practice.

Over the past decade, more families with children have returned to the Cathedral. An average of 10 babies are baptized each month during one of the Sunday Masses. More than 30 children will be celebrating their First Communion here this spring. Children are visible and welcomed in nearly every aspect of our worship.

St. James has met the return of children with a variety of offerings. The religious education program, held in the classrooms of Cathedral Place for an hour each Sunday morning, serves children from age 4 through high school. The 4- and 5-year-olds solemnly practice making the sign of the cross, trying hard to remember which hand is which. Older students engage in more complex discussions of faith, service, and our role in the world. The Cathedral’s three children’s choirs — which draw young singers from throughout the region — offer not only weekly musical training but the chance to sing at one Sunday Mass each month. The servers’ program involves young people directly in the liturgy.

The way the parish celebrates the sacraments has also changed. Baptisms at St. James are a joyful affirmation of faith, celebrated in the presence of the entire congregation. These days the sacrament is held during the Sunday Masses and usually includes a couple dozen children as well, sitting cross-legged on the floor around the baptismal font so they won’t miss a thing.

As they grow older, children get their own chance to celebrate the sacraments. Last November, some 30 children (ages 7-9) celebrated the rite of First Reconciliation during a Saturday morning service with their families in the Cathedral. That same group is now preparing for their First Communion this spring. My older son, who is part of this class, informed me quite seriously the other week that he and his classmates had learned all about “the host and the cello*” of communion.

Seven and a half years ago, my husband and I brought 5-day-old Ted to St. James for Sunday Mass for the first time. Now this is his place, too.


Mary Bourguignon is a parishioner and religious education volunteer at St. James Cathedral.

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