St. Barnabas Family Catechesis: A Walk Through the Mass

Parents arrange themselves with "The Order of the Mass Floor Puzzle" pieces in order of the parts of the Mass.
Parents arrange themselves (and puzzle pieces) in order of the parts of the Mass. This shows only half of the total line. I should’ve taken a panoramic pic!

This past Sunday was our penultimate parent session as far as delivering content. (Our May gathering will be a Pentecost celebration!) Our focus was on the Eucharist as that which sustains us, and we primarily did a “walk-through” of the parts of the Mass. Here’s a summary of how things went:

  • Attendance remained steady, which was good to see; it has not fluctuated much from month to month since about November.
  • I was “flying solo” this month as Deacon Andy was unable to attend.
  • For our opening prayer, which included the setting up of our prayer table with sacred objects, I handed over more responsibility to parents and children, getting volunteers (adults and children) to take the leader parts, proclaim the reading, and sound the hand chime for each object to be brought forward. All of that comes with more hiccups since folks are not always sure what to do, but we take it as it comes and make sure people feel at ease when they are not perfect. While prayer and worship always deserve the best, it is also important to remember that when families, especially children, are involved, things don’t always go as planned. That’s OK.
  • We started by asking children to brainstorm with their parents what they would need to sustain them if going for a long hike. Answers included water, snacks, vegetables, sunscreen, a cap, and good hiking shoes.
  • We then talked about how these things physically sustain us but how we also need to be spiritually sustained and how the Eucharist sustains us.
  • The children and their catechists then left to do their lessons.
  • Before jumping into the main content with the parents, I updated them on how I got to observe a family faith formation session in the home of one of the families and offered some tips based on what I observed. I also made a point of saying that I recognize that some adults in the group may not be Catholic and invited them to consider joining the Catholic Church through the RCIA.
  • To get the parents thinking about the Mass, I had them talk at their tables about their earliest memories of going to Mass, who it was that took them and taught them about the Mass, and what they wanted their children to learn about the Mass. As always, conversation was very animated. The parents genuinely enjoy talking with one another, especially when the topics are not too deep, personal, or threatening in any way. Most related stories of one or both parents taking them to Mass as a child while a few credited their grandparents.
  • Next, I gave each table a large sheet of paper and a marker and told them to work together to, as best they can, make a list of the parts of the Mass. At first they thought that they’d never be able to do it, but after five or six minutes, they had some pretty impressive lists! I told them that if they didn’t know the correct name of a Mass part, to just use whatever words help to describe that part.
  • I did not have them report as I did not want to embarrass anyone—even though I think they did pretty well!—but instead told them to “grade” their papers as I walked them through the parts of the Mass using the slides that come with the Finding God Family Catechesis program.
  • At this point, the pastor, Fr. Donovan, joined us between two Sunday Masses he was presiding at for about 45 minutes, which I think says a lot about his desire to be with his people and to help them learn. I was able to call on him several times to add his thoughts, especially about the homily and the Eucharistic Prayer—both major parts of the presider’s role.
  • After going through the parts of the Mass and explaining them, we saw the children and their catechists slowly trickling back. I had time for one last activity. I had placed on the tables puzzle pieces that each represented a part of the Mass (from The Order of the Mass Floor Puzzle by Loyola Press). I invited parents to grab a puzzle piece and to gather on one side of the room and to work together to arrange themselves in order. It was a nice ice-breaker-type of activity and served to review the whole session. (I realized too late that the puzzle pieces are numbered, which the parents figured out and used to speed up their accomplishment of the challenge!)
  • As the children were returning, they were drawn to see their parents “playing” with puzzle pieces, and so when we had the pieces arranged in proper order, I asked the parents to place the pieces on the floor and allow the children to connect them, which a group did with great enthusiasm and joy!
Children connect the "The Order of the Mass Floor Puzzle" pieces on the floor.
Children connect the “The Order of the Mass Floor Puzzle” pieces on the floor.
  • Thankfully, it was another enriching and enjoyable session, and the parents left with a deeper understanding of the parts of the Mass and how the Eucharist sustains us!
About Joe Paprocki 2739 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

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