Parishes across Archdiocese of Detroit set aside quiet time — or not so quiet time — to helping kids meet Jesus in the Eucharist
ST. CLAIR SHORES — Across the Archdiocese of Detroit, parishes are responding to Jesus’s call to “let the little children come to me” (Luke 18:16) by giving young ones and their parents opportunities to be close to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
These holy hours — or, more realistically, holy half hours — aren’t your typical time of adoration. Children are invited to sit close to Jesus in the monstrance and ask questions. Music is played, and moderators hand out booklets for children to color or write in. Every step is explained, and most importantly, the joyful noises of babies and squirming young ones are welcome and expected.
These times of prayer introduce children and their parents to the importance of Eucharistic adoration, said Fr. David Cybulski of St. Isaac Jogues in St. Clair Shores.
“It introduces to them the various aspects and areas of the church, so they get comfortable little by little,” Fr. Cybulski explained. “It does wonders for the moms, who can come and pray and not have to worry so much about fidgeting children. I think it introduces (children) and encourages questions, and they learn how to act in church and how to take cues from older brothers and sisters.”
St. Isaac Jogues introduced a children’s and family-friendly holy hour on Monday mornings following daily Mass. While the littlest ones might be too young to fully comprehend the Eucharist, children receive grace simply by being in God's presence, Fr. Cybulski said.
While some churchgoers might become agitated by the noises of children in church, a church with no noise means families aren't coming, Fr. Cybulski added.
“It is so important to have our families there,” Fr. Cybuliski said. “Sure, children may scream out and make noise, and it is going to be a little awkward, but they learn what is proper behavior in church and what is not proper. There is real good in struggling through every week and guiding them and teaching them the way to pray. They will learn. It might be awkward at first, but they get it.”
At the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak, children are never "shushed" during the children’s holy hours, which keeps parents in the pews as well, said Jamie Lynch, director of religious education.
“Some of (the parents) have never experienced adoration,” Lynch told Detroit Catholic. “There is a fear and hesitancy to try it, thinking your child is going to act up and not be perfectly quiet. So this gives them a little bit of an opportunity to know that is OK.”
Sacred Heart Parish in Dearborn began hosting family and children’s holy hours in response to the National Eucharistic Revival, which was launched last year by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
By introducing parents to adoration and giving them a judgment-free zone to bring their children, it is more likely they will return, said Julie Wieleba-Milkie, director of faith formation, youth and family ministry at Sacred Heart.
At each holy hour, Wieleba-Milkie takes time to explain to the children and their parents what is happening, passing out a workbook and guiding children through the prompts. In between, music is played, and there are short moments of silent prayer.
Teresa and Jonathan Henry brought their three children, ages 6, 8 and 10, to a recent holy hour at Sacred Heart.
Gemma Henry, 6, told Detroit Catholic she prayed for her family and friends at school. In her booklet, she was prompted to write a prayer, and wrote: “Jesus, be with me, forgive me and love me. Amen.”
At St. Isaac Jogues, parishioner Erin Paul said the parish is slowly learning how to help children get the most out of the holy hours.
During the first holy hour, they tried to pray a rosary, but her 8-year-old son, Michael, engaged for about 10 minutes before turning to a coloring sheet. Paul said it's important to let children ask questions and explore their faith creatively. For example, Paul said her son processes his emotions through drawing.
“He started drawing on the plain piece of paper on the back, and he drew a crucifix, and it had cracks in it. And I said, ‘What are the cracks for?’ And he said, ‘Well, it is because the cross has been broken, and now God is bringing it back together,’” said Paul, who first proposed the holy hours to Fr. Cybulski. “I feel like my son was getting the message that God is good and He is important. So, let your kids feel what God needs to tell them.”
It's important for children's holy hours to be accommodating to the specific needs of family life, Paul added. For instance, hosting holy hours at a time of day that allows for naptimes, school pickups or family dinners is important.
Being inclusive also means accommodating all ages and special needs, Paul said.
“We want to involve as many children as possible. Different sensory things like noises and lights and things like that (can affect children), so if your child has special needs and all of sudden they need to go, that is OK," Paul said. "Nobody is going to stare at you.”
Being with Christ in the Eucharist is all about building a relationship, Wieleba-Milkie said. For children to have deep faith, they need to begin with a friendship with Jesus.
“If you start young and realize that Jesus is in the tabernacle, on the altar at Mass, in the monstrance, however they are seeing him, that’s the Jesus who loves them," Wieleba-Milkie said. "They learn that they can talk to Jesus. They can come and sit on the steps and just look at Jesus or whatever it might be that is helping them build that relationship.”
Michael is preparing for his first Communion, Paul said, and even though he can’t receive Jesus yet, he can experience him through adoration.
“He sees Mommy receive Jesus every week," Paul said. "He understands what the meaning is. I feel like if children are going to believe that the Eucharist is really Christ, then they need to see us adore him — not only at Mass, but during adoration, and let that carry on into your home throughout the week. Children are the future of our Church, and we need as many young families as possible. Maybe this is a good warm-up.”