What is the Children’s Revival of Participation at Sunday Mass?

What is the purpose of the project?

Why focus on children?

Why focus on Sunday Mass?

Is this project related to the National Eucharistic Revival?

How is Saint Meinrad partnering with parishes for this project?

What will the partner parishes do?

How will Saint Meinrad support the efforts of partner parishes?

When does this program begin?

How do we become a partner parish?

 

What is the Children’s Revival of Participation at Sunday Mass?
The Children’s Revival of Participation at Sunday Mass is a new project of Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology. Lilly Endowment Inc. is supporting the project with an initial five-year grant. Saint Meinrad is one of 26 organizations taking part in Lilly Endowment’s Nurturing Children Through Worship & Prayer Initiative.

 

What is the purpose of the project?
The project aims to increase the capacity of parishes to incorporate children’s leadership and children’s ways of worship into their regular Sunday Masses. Parishes thrive and families grow in faith when children are seen, heard, and valued in the community’s central act of corporate worship. We envision parishes in which the Sunday Eucharist is genuinely the source and summit of all activities that aim to nurture the faith of children.


Why focus on children?
Every parish should remember what Jesus says about welcoming him on earth and joining him in the kingdom of heaven:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
– Matthew 18:1–5

The potential that children possess to invigorate congregations and elicit everyone’s active participation is great. We aim to let children revive everyone’s participation at Sunday Mass.

Our vision also proceeds from Pope Francis’s recent exhortation to prioritize “the formative action of the Liturgy itself in every believer in Christ.” Childhood is the time to begin “the education necessary to be able to acquire the interior attitude that will let us use and understand liturgical symbols.” This education happens when adults accompany children in practicing the words and movements of prayer together, especially from a young age.

 

Why focus on Sunday Mass?
Our bishops, calling us to Eucharistic Revival, teach that Sunday Mass is the primary and indispensable activity in which a Catholic parish welcomes Jesus Christ and celebrates God’s reign over heaven and earth. “Christ gives himself to us so that we may continue the pilgrim path toward life with him in the fullness of the Kingdom of God.” Young and old alike, we are all on the same pilgrimage, including the youngest disciples still waiting to receive their First Communion. The ideal parish celebration of the Eucharist, then, is one in which all generations participate as “little ones” in the faith.

The Children’s Revival project does not aim to create separate children’s Masses, but to help intergenerational congregations benefit from children’s natural curiosity about God, multi-sensory interaction with the created world, and docility to the work of the Holy Spirit. In this way, every Sunday Mass can be an invitation to believers of all ages to “become like children” in their relationship with Jesus Christ and his heavenly Father.

 

Is this project related to the National Eucharistic Revival?
While the Children’s Revival project is not directly sponsored by the National Eucharistic Revival, we take inspiration from our bishops’ declaration that “participation in the Mass is an act of love.” By renewing how our parishes welcome children into the celebration of Sunday Mass, we’re renewing how we welcome Christ in the Eucharist and journey with him “to become the children of God (Jn 1:12) and to inherit the Kingdom of God,” as the bishops urge. As the National Eucharistic Revival moves from its “year of diocesan revival” to a “year of parish revival,” our project will help partner parishes put liturgical participation at the center of their plans.

 

How is Saint Meinrad partnering with parishes for this project?
Saint Meinrad is partnering with ten to fifteen parishes that share our commitment to enriching children’s participation at Sunday Mass. We are marshaling research, resources, and expertise in five elemental areas of participation:

  1. Preparing the environment for worship.
  2. Singing and moving.
  3. Proclaiming the word and hearing it explained.
  4. Leading and listening to spoken prayers.
  5. Going forth from worship to witness.

We chose these five participation areas by considering how Saint Meinrad’s institutional strengths intersect with elements of worship that have great potential to engage the participation and leadership of children. For each of these areas, we are convening experts in liturgy, catechesis, and child development to recommend practices that can become the object of concrete efforts by partner parishes. This means identifying practices in full harmony with the Roman Catholic liturgy, supported by scientific studies and pastoral experience with children, that parishes may introduce into their regular Sunday Masses with intergenerational congregations.

 

What will the partner parishes do?
Partner parishes will plan and implement specific efforts in the five participation areas to engage and involve children at Sunday Mass. Each parish will designate a Parish Facilitator to organize and catalyze the local implementation of the Children’s Revival project. The facilitator will convene a Children’s Participation Team that will meet regularly to plan and evaluate the parish’s efforts to incorporate children’s leadership and children’s ways of worship into their regular Sunday Masses.

The entire parish and especially its pastoral and liturgical leaders will need to cooperate in every effort undertaken. An important role of the Children’s Participation Team is to invite and enable presiders, homilists, choir directors, artists, catechists, and other leaders to take a leading role in implementing efforts that pertain to each one’s office or talents. In collaboration with the Program Coordinator at Saint Meinrad, the Parish Facilitators and Children’s Participation Teams will establish a rhythm of planning, implementing, evaluating, and adjusting specific efforts to revive children’s participation at Sunday Mass.

We hope parishes will make efforts that are intentional, informed, proactive, and inclusive. By intentional, we mean that parishes will commit themselves to adapting and enhancing their celebration of Sunday Mass to engage children more fully. Parish leaders will need to convince their communities that people of all ages benefit when children participate more actively in communal worship. By informed, we mean that parishes will adopt practices that find support in studies of early childhood development, in pastoral experience with children, and in consultation with children themselves. By proactive, we mean that parishes will act boldly, understanding that while they may not alter the substance of the liturgy, they should use authorized accommodations and adaptations, choosing rites and texts that correspond to the needs and abilities of the congregation, including its youngest members. By inclusive, we mean that parishes will increasingly understand and celebrate the different cultures and abilities among children in their congregations.

 

How will Saint Meinrad support the efforts of partner parishes?
The Lilly Endowment grant enables Saint Meinrad to place resources and expertise at the disposal of partner parishes in several ways:

  • An online Handbook for Children’s Participation at Sunday Mass, being developed by an expert study group.
  • Annual gatherings of Parish Facilitators and other members of the Children’s Participation Teams at Saint Meinrad for collaborative planning and evaluation.
  • Regular communication and mentoring from the Program Coordinator, including annual visits to each partner parish.
  • Two block grants of up to $7,500 each, to purchase decorative materials, liturgical objects or supplies, musical instruments, choir books, lector guides, training materials, take-home handouts, or other resources that enable efforts planned by the Children’s Participation Teams.
  • Annual honoraria paid to Parish Facilitators, recognizing the time, skill, and effort they will invest in Children’s Revival efforts at their parishes.

 

When does this project begin?
The five-year Children’s Revival of Participation at Sunday Mass formally commences at the beginning of 2024, with the first annual gathering of Parish Facilitators and Children’s Participation Team members at Saint Meinrad. Work is underway during the remaining months of 2023 to hire project staff, recruit partner parishes, and prepare the Handbook for Children’s Participation at Sunday Mass.

 


How do we become a partner parish?
We are preparing an application and process for selecting partner parishes. We will evaluate the interest and capacity of parishes to make sustainable efforts at enhancing children’s participation in Sunday Mass by asking prospective partner parishes to provide evidence of five prerequisites for success:

  1. Commitment and involvement from the pastor and staff.
  2. A volunteer or staff member able to serve as the Parish Facilitator for the project.
  3. Catechists, liturgical ministers, parents, and older children willing to meet regularly as a Children’s Participation Team to plan specific action steps.
  4. Willingness to make consideration of children’s participation an explicit element of planning every Sunday Mass.
  5. Willingness to celebrate at least one regular, intergenerational Mass every Sunday in which children are directly involved in some aspect of preparing the liturgy or leading the congregation in some aspect of participation.

Parishes eager to model intergenerational liturgical renewal should contact us to see if spots remain available before completing the online application. Please email us with any additional questions about the application or the project.