The Catholic community of St. Mark’s, Inala is accustomed to celebrating through the year a variety of liturgical and cultural events. St. Mark’s parishioners know that under the leadership of our Parish Priest Fr. Stephen Pilly SVD there will always be something happening in the parish. So much so that, as soon as one event is over, we are prepared and ready to welcome the next!
This year, barely before the Christmas season was over, we were already busy getting ready for the Sacramental Programme i.e. Confirmation and First Holy Communion preparatory sessions for the children in Year 3 and above. Preparing children who are 8 years or over, for the reception of the Sacraments of initiation, is a regular annual feature here at St. Mark’s. As announced well in advance, as soon as the schools re-opened after the summer vacations, enrollment forms were made available at St. Mark’s Church, School and the Parish Office and the enrollments were open from 25 February until 6 April, 2018. With a few late comers for various valid reasons, by 15 April we had 52 children registered for the Sacramental programme.
As usual the programme began soon after Easter on 18 April, with the Parents’ Information Session held at 7.00pm to make it convenient for those who are employed. All the members of the Sacramental Team were present to welcome the parents, to mark their attendance and to provide them with a folder containing all the needed information. St. Mark’s requests that all the parents of the children preparing for the Sacraments attend this evening session which usually is conducted by the Parish Priest himself. This gives our Priest an opportunity to meet them together, as well as to convey what is expected of them as parents. The information provided at this time is meant to enable the parents not only to understand the programme their child is learning but also to contribute to their child’s preparation of the Sacraments. The parents are told that the Sacramental team rely on their help and support throughout the months of the preparation; as parents, they are the first and the best teachers of their children in our Catholic faith and it is very important that both children and the parents journey together on this programme. Parents are asked to do their best to ensure that their child attends all the preparatory sessions, without missing any, since each session is an integral part of the Sacraments they are getting ready to receive. To assist the children in their preparation, the parents are asked to bring their children for Sunday Mass, as well, to support and facilitate classroom learning through their personal lives and example as parents.
As with every year, the Sacramental programme was held in the School Mercy Hall on Saturday mornings. Soon after the parents’ information session, the preparatory lessons commenced on 21 April and concluded with the celebration of the Sacraments being received on 5 August, 2018.
Anticipating the large number of enrollments, as in previous years, parents were asked to choose a suitable session time for their child from the three options available. Of course, those who came first had better chances of choosing the time most convenient to them, since the number of children in each session had to be distributed more or less evenly. Once classes began, most of the parents were very faithful in sending their children for the entire set of preparatory sessions – bringing them for the assigned session on time and picking them up once it was over. Catch-up classes were also arranged for children who were unable to attend any of the sessions.
The Sacramental Program covered mainly the three Sacraments of Initiation after Baptism; the Sacraments of Confirmation, First Holy Communion and Reconciliation. The children were prepared by using a combination of the ‘Kids Celebrate the Sacraments’ Activity book provided by the parish, as well as classes run by the teachers with the help of our volunteers. In each of the three classes held on Saturday mornings there were two volunteers with the teacher, who rendered their time and service freely for the parish. In fact, St. Mark’s is very fortunate to have such a dedicated and experienced team of volunteers who help to make the children’s sessions accessible and enjoyable.
As planned, soon after the term break on 21 July, the children had a-day retreat conducted by Mrs. Lorraine Wynne, a member of the Sacramental team of the Archdiocese of Brisbane. In addition to the common sessions she held, the children were also divided into 6 groups each having a volunteer as the leader supervising the group works. The retreat helped the children to refresh their memories and to instill deeper what they had been learning through the past 4 months. Mrs. Wynne held the attention of the children with the help of Gospel stories, pictures, videos, activities and also by sharing experiences which benefitted the children very much. The hospitality group of the parish provided morning tea and snacks, as well as lunch which included sandwiches, spring rolls and fruits. The day was concluded around 3.00pm. Thanks to all those who were part of the event, to make this day truly a meaningful experience for our children here at St. Mark’s.
In keeping with the guidelines given by the Archdiocese of Brisbane for the Sacraments of Initiation for Children, the Sacramental Program at St. Mark’s parish prepared the candidates for each of the sacraments according to their age. This year there were only 17 children who were old enough to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Although all the children were introduced to each of the three Sacraments, these older children were given special preparation and they received the Sacrament of Reconciliation at St. Mark’s on 21 July, 2018.
St. Mark’s is happy and proud that 50 of her children were ready to receive the Sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Communion. Since 50 is a large number, the children were divided into 2 groups of 25 each for the actual celebration on 5 August. Children, along with their parents, had rehearsals in their separate groups in the morning of 28 July, 2018.
Sunday, 5 August, was a very special day for St. Mark’s Parish. The Church was beautifully decorated – the children, the parents and the parish were ready for the celebration of Confirmation and First Holy Communion, held at 11.00am and 2.00pm respectively for Groups 1 and 2. The Principal Celebrant on both the occasions was Bishop Joseph Oudeman OFM. It was certainly a very special day for the children to remember and cherish – when they received Jesus for the first time in Holy Communion. We pray that they will continue to experience his grace and presence in their lives and the power of the Holy Spirit through the Sacrament of Confirmation to help them grow stronger in their faith.
A special word of thanks goes to everybody who helped to make this day a reality for the Children of St. Mark’s Parish, Inala. God bless you!