“God made us to show forth His goodness and to share with us His everlasting happiness in heaven.”3 “To gain the happiness of heaven we must know, love, and serve God in this world.”4 (The New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism)
Reflecting on the above, we can look at every sacrament and know that they are God’s gift to us to shower us with sacramental grace that helps us attain eternal life with Him in heaven. Therefore, to realize the value of each gift, it is necessary that the community reflect and prepare itself to celebrate each sacrament.
“Christian initiation is accomplished by three sacraments together: Baptism, which is the beginning of new life; Confirmation which is its strengthening; and the Eucharist which nourishes the disciple with Christ’s Body and blood for his transformation in Christ” (Catechism #1275).
“Baptism is birth into the new life in Christ. In accordance with the Lord’s will, it is necessary for salvation, as is the Church herself, which we enter by Baptism.” (Catechism #1277)
Baptisms at St. Joseph Church are celebrated after participation in the preparation classes that are held every 3rd Wednesday of the month in the school library at 7:00 p.m. Please call the church office to begin the process.
Most children entering school or religious education have been baptized as infants. It is becoming more common however, to meet school age children who haven't been baptized, or baptized but not catechized. Our concern is that the catechetical formation of these children will parallel as closely as possible to that of their peers who have already received the sacraments. Their eventual reception into the community will be planned with the parish priests and the Catechetical Leader.
First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion
The Norwich Diocese’ Guidelines for the Sacrament of Penance states that “Preparation for the Sacrament of Penance must be kept distinct by a clear and unhurried preparation prior to the preparation for Eucharist.” In addition, the Guidelines for the Reception of First Eucharist states that, “Catechesis for First Eucharist is conducted separately from introductory catechesis for the Sacrament of Reconciliation since each deserves its own concentrated preparation.”
Following these guidelines, St. Joseph Faith Formation Program implements a two year Sacramental preparation program for children ages 6-8 who are preparing to make their First Reconciliation and receive their First Holy Communion. Year 1 is devoted to fundamental catechesis, teaching the child about the Blessed Trinity, the Mass and the prayers of the Catholic Church. Year 2 is devoted to teaching the child about the Sacrament of Reconciliation (1st half of the year) and the Holy Eucharist (2nd half of the year). Prayers learned in Year 1 need to be memorized before the child can move on to Year 2.
“Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion.” (Catechism #1422)
In general, a child is eligible for First Reconciliation if:
- A parent supervises the preparation process;
- The child has participated in “formal” Religious Education programs for one year before the year of sacramental preparation;
- The child is able to distinguish right from wrong.
Parent’s weekly participation in Sunday Mass.
- Parent Workshop: The Mass
- Parents’ Formation Meetings: Parents will be expected to supplement sacramental preparation through these meetings.
In addition, the following requirements have been established to properly prepare students:
- Baptism Certificate: A Baptismal certificate is required for all children receiving Eucharist and Reconciliation for the first time.
- Attendance: Please see Attendance
- Prayers: Throughout the year, the following prayers will be required to prepare for the Sacraments. Parents are responsible for teaching their children these prayers.
- Sign of the Cross
- The Lord’s Prayer
- The Hail Mary
- Glory be to the Father
- Act of Contrition
- The Apostles’ Creed
- Additional Milestones: The following goals have been set as important milestones for the children:
|1. Know Jesus||6. Reconciliation|
|2. Forgiveness||7. The Last Supper|
|3. The Ten Commandments||8. Mysteries of the Rosary|
|4. Sin||9. Beatitudes|
|5. Examination of Conscience|
FIRST HOLY EUCHARIST
“Holy Communion augments our union with Christ. The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus. Indeed, the Lord said: ‘He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him’ 226 Life in Christ has its foundation in the Eucharist banquet: ‘As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.’” 227 (Catechism #1391)
The Eucharist is at the heart of our Catholic Faith. As Catholics, we believe that the Body and Blood of Jesus are present in consecrated bread and wine. We do not say the Eucharist is like the body and blood of Jesus, but that it is the body and blood of Jesus. The sacramental grace we receive from it nourishes our love of God and one another.
First Holy Communion is the culmination of a period of reflection, instruction, and preparation.
In general, a child is eligible for First Eucharist if:
- They meet the same requirements as given for First Reconciliation.
- They have received First Reconciliation 3-4 months prior to receiving First Eucharist.
- They regularly attend Mass with parents and can participate in basic parts of the Mass.
Parents’ Formation Meetings: Parents will be expected to supplement sacramental preparation through these meetings. They are designed to update parents’ understanding of the Sacrament, its historical development and assist the parent in faith formation of their child(ren).
“The Sacrament of Confirmation is the completion of baptismal grace. For ‘by the sacrament of Confirmation, (the baptized) are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence, they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed.’” (Catechism # 1285)
Per guidelines put forth by the Diocese of Norwich, Confirmation at St. Joseph Church is a two-year program. Year 1 focuses on reinforcing the candidate’s knowledge and understanding of the principals, precepts, and commandments of our Catholic faith. Year 2 focuses on exploring the candidate’s personal faith and beliefs while journeying with the class toward full initiation into the church. Preparation for Confirmation culminates in the student’s conscious decision to live out his/her Catholic faith commitment.
A candidate for reception of Confirmation must meet these expectations:
- Must have received the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Reconciliation before receiving Confirmation.
- Must enter Year 1 (preferable in 8th grade) before going on to Year 2
- Must select a sponsor at the beginning of the first year who will journey with them through this process and will participate in the recommended sessions.
- Complete interviews with parish priests and/or director of religious education at least once during the program.
- Must participate in the initial inquiry session.
- Must attend a full-day retreat in both Year 1 and in Year 2.
- Confirmation parent and student Inquiry Session.
- Parent Workshop, The Mass
- Confirmation Parent Meetings (dates to be determined).
In addition, the following requirements must be met:
- Baptism Certificate: A copy of the Baptismal certificate is required for all students receiving the sacrament of Confirmation.
- Attendance: Please see Attendance Policy.
- Parents’ formation meetings: This meeting is designed to update parents’ understanding of the sacrament, its historical development, and its importance in helping the Catholic community recognize the challenges that our young people face in faith. Parental and sponsor attendance is required.
- Student education and formation programs: This involves classroom instruction and activities, retreats and service projects.
- Service Hours: a minimum of 10 hours of service will be expected from each candidate. As part of this, we suggest that each student be an active member of the altar server ministry. Candidates will be expected to update the catechist’s records each week with service hours. A list of parish ministries and suggested community service projects will be provided.
- Saint Report: Each candidate will choose a Confirmation name which may be their baptismal name or taken from one of the saints. They will research it and complete a short essay explaining the importance of that patron, the reason why they chose that name or the reason why want to keep their baptismal name.
- Parish celebration of Confirmation: This is celebrated within the context of the Eucharistic Liturgy.
The Confirmation candidate must select a sponsor, preferably at the beginning of the first year. Sponsors must be practicing Catholics who have been confirmed, who attend Mass weekly and free to receive the Sacraments of the church. The Catholic Church has the following requirements for Confirmation sponsors:
- The individual must be at least 16 years old and is sufficiently mature.
- The individual must be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the sacrament of the Eucharist.
- The individual be a practicing Catholic, leading a life in harmony with the faith and the role to be undertaken.
- Parents may not be sponsors.
Based on the parent’s role as primary religious educators, parents of all children and adolescents preparing for these sacraments are required to participate in the formation aspects of the individual sacramental programs. Parents will receive notices about these preparation sessions through the mail or in “take home” notes sent with the students. In addition, parents are expected to support and encourage their children’s efforts by their own example of each of the sacraments in their own lives. This is particularly true of the Eucharist.
“The precept of the Church specifies that law of the Lord more precisely: ‘On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass.’117 ‘The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day.’” (Catechism #2180)
It is assumed and expected that parents and children will attend Mass regularly.
RCIC (Rite of Christian Initiation for Children)
RCIC is a comprehensive faith development program tailored to the needs of children, age 7 and above, whom:
- have not been baptized.
- have been baptized, but have not been in a formal religious education program nor received the sacraments of Reconciliation or First Eucharist.
Students Preparing for Baptism
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is to be followed with all children of catechetical age who are being prepared for Baptism. Their formation process must take into consideration their growth in faith and the catechetical instruction that they receive (RCIA 253)
The student’s progress in their formation depends on the influence of their parents and the help and example of their Catholic peers. Since the children to be initiated often belong to a group of children of the same age who are already baptized and are preparing for the sacrament of Eucharist, their initiation progresses gradually and within the supportive setting of this group.
The initiation of children is marked by the same steps and liturgical rites that adult catechumens participate in throughout the RCIA process. They are to participate in the Rite of Acceptance and other related rites. Baptism will generally occur one year after the Rite of Acceptance, which will take place near the end of the religious education year.
Baptized Children Preparing for Eucharist and Reconciliation
The Catholic Church recommends that children have at least one full year of catechism before studying and preparing for the sacraments of Reconciliation and First Eucharist. Therefore, the second year of the RCIC program will focus on these sacraments with all of the children during this two year program.
In general, children are eligible for the sacraments of initiation if:
- a parent supervises the preparation process;
- the child has participated in formal religious education for one year before the year of sacramental preparation;
- they participate in the family retreats each year;
- the child is able to distinguish right from wrong;
- the child regularly attends Mass with parents and can participate in basic parts of the Mass.
- Parent Workshop: The Mass.
- Parents’ Formation Meeting: Parents will be expected to supplement sacramental preparation through these meetings. They are designed to update parents’ understanding of the Sacrament, its historical development and assist the parent in faith formation of their child(ren). Schedule of meetings to be determined.
- RCIC Family Retreats in the fall and spring.
In addition, the following requirements must be met:
- Baptism Certificate: A Baptismal certificate is required for the children preparing for First Reconciliation or First Eucharist.
- Class Attendance: Attendance for religious education is important to the child’s understanding and being prepared. Please see Attendance Policy.
- Mass Attendance: students are required to attend weekly Mass with their parents.
- Prayers: Throughout the year, the following prayers will be required to prepare for the Sacraments. Parents are responsible for teaching their children these prayers. Catechists will provide only a review prior to reception of sacraments. Copies of common prayers are provided in the student textbook
- The Lord’s Prayer
- The Hail Mary
- Glory to the Father
- Act of Contrition
It is the responsibility of the parents to ensure regular attendance and timeliness of each student. Regular attendance of weekly religious education classes is critical to your child’s faith development.
The Director of Faith Formation must be notified directly, in advance, in the event your child(ren) will be absent from the program. The individual classroom catechists are not responsible for administrative record keeping.
If a child has more than 3 absences from religious education, parents will be called for a conference with the Director of Faith Formation and the pastor to discuss future participation in the program.
Tardiness is not acceptable. It is disruptive to class continuity and distracting for both the educator and students who have already begun the week’s lesson. Students who arrive after the start of class are considered tardy. Excessive tardiness will be brought to the parents’ attention and will be addressed on an individual basis.
Code of Conduct – Discipline
The Faith Formation Program involves Roman Catholic studies and faith development. It is expected that parents, students, administrators, educators and staff cooperate in the faith development process.
Students are expected to:
- Bring their assigned books and required materials to each class session;
- Arrive on time for class;
- Attend each full class session;
- Respect the authority of the catechists and other faith formation personnel;
- Respect the thoughts and feelings of other students in each class;
- Actively take part in class discussion and activities;
- Refrain from chewing gum or eating during class;
Any student who disrupts a class and fails to respond to the catechist’s directives will be asked to leave the class. (See Discipline Procedures)
Our goal is to maintain an atmosphere in which students can form a learning community and hear the Gospel message. To ensure such an atmosphere, the following disciplinary procedures have been established:
- When minor infractions or behavior problems occur, the catechist will attempt to correct the situation directly with the student.
- If the student is unable to maintain control of his/her behavior in class, the child will be brought to the director, who will contact the parent(s) or guardian. They will be expected to pick the child up.
- If a student is asked to leave class a second time during the year, the parent(s) or guardian will be called and asked to take the student home. When this occurs, a conference will be scheduled involving the parent(s) or guardian, child, catechist and director. The student will not be permitted to return to class until the problem has been resolved and an agreement reached about how the child will behave and make up any missed work.
- If the student is asked to leave the classroom a third time during the year, the parent(s) or guardian will be called and asked to take the student home. In order for the student to return to class, a parent or guardian must attend the next class with the student.
- In extreme cases, a student may be dismissed from the program if he/she fails to make a sincere effort to improve.
Catechism classes and Sacramental preparation classes here at St. Joseph Church are a very important part of your child’s formation in the Catholic faith and should be taken seriously. Your child’s and your cooperation with these policies are necessary for a successful and fruitful program.