Into the “sturm und drang” expressed by several readers to CNY (Aug. 29) and the “mea culpas” of Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles (Aug. 15) in response to the recent Pew Survey that found a majority of Catholics don’t believe in the ‘Real Presence’ of Jesus in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, may I place a thought.
In the 1955-1956 school year, Sister Meltha, S.S.N.D., prepared our second-grade class to receive our First Holy Communion, which happened on Sunday, May 20.
Among other well-rehearsed songs, I learned,
“Jesus Thou Art Coming,
Holy as Thou Art,
Thou the God That Made Me,
To My Sinful Heart.”
Sister taught us a lot more in anticipation of the wonderful event that loomed closer every week—to not chew the host, to not smile, talk or hug and greet others on our way to and from Communion, and to close our eyes and kneel for some moments on return to the pew and speak and listen to Jesus.
I had long since seen my mother’s worried features soften and watched her being transported “somewhere else” as she entered into her “Thanksgiving after Communion.”
In the 1970s, my brother was participating in a parish council meeting discussing our parish school. There were only two teaching sisters left there and he pointed out this change from his own experience in grammar school.
This is not meant to diminish the expanded roles of religious women in the years since the Second Vatican Council, nor the efforts of dedicated lay ministers and catechists to prepare children for the sacraments.
In my heart, I believe the loss of parish schools and teaching sisters and their special charism in imparting and instilling the faith has had an impact on what the next generations know and believe about being Catholic.