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News from around the Archdiocese of Liverpool



Cath Pic Jubilee Issue-1
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A new way to mark your First Holy Communion.

For children making their First Holy Communion this year, an archdiocesan-wide badge competition offered an extra cause for excitement in the build-up to this always-special day.

By Simon Hart

'It is a rite of passage of every Catholic child.’ So Monsignor John Devine sums up one of the more joyful occasions on the May calendar of every parish in the archdiocese – First Holy Communion season.


This special day – unfolding, for the lucky ones, in late-spring sunshine – has always had the power to create life-long memories for children as they take the Sacrament of Holy Communion for the first time. Indeed, Mgr John, who celebrated his golden jubilee as a priest last year, still has clear memories of his own First Communion Day at Christ the King church in Childwall in the 1950s.


‘I had two Shredded Wheat for my breakfast - normally I only had one!’ he recalled. ‘I was wearing a little grey suit – a jacket with matching short trousers – with a red tie and a white shirt. It was the feast of Corpus Christi, a holy day, and my dad, who worked in the Inland Revenue, took the day off. We went off in the car to Thurstaston Hill on the Wirral.’ The sense of occasion remains the same for children and their families today and for 2024’s communicants in the Archdiocese of Liverpool, there was an extra layer of excitement in the form of a newly introduced competition to design a First Holy Communion badge. In January, all children in the archdiocese preparing for the sacrament were invited to design their own badge according to the following criteria: it had to be the size of a 2p coin and contain no more than five colours.


The winning design, from around 400 submitted, came from St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Leigh. Explaining how the competition was devised, John McMahon, head of finance for the archdiocese and a member of the badge judging panel, said: ‘Our original idea came from a discussion about the wonderful badges created since 1923 for the annual Lourdes pilgrimage. We imagined a scenario where First Holy Communions were marked in the same way and so we invited the children preparing for Communion to submit their own designs to our competition.’ Harriet Anwyl, another panel member and our archdiocesan communications officer, added: ‘We wanted something really personal for them to keep forever, something that really represents what their First Holy Communion means to them.


‘We were overwhelmed by the quality – there were some absolutely fantastic ideas. Some children included a little written explanation of their badges, so they’d clearly given it a lot of thought. It was very difficult to choose just one – each one of our judges had a handful of favourites – but we ultimately felt the winning design captured everything succinctly, with the cross in the background reminding us why we take Communion, the wine, and the Host above it.’ That winning design was by a Year 4 pupil from St Joseph’s, Michalina.


Her head teacher, Michelle Daley, said: ‘We’re all very proud of Michalina’s achievement – we love her design! This fantastic news has made this special occasion even more memorable for our Year 4 children, who are just delighted that the winner is not only from their school but also their class. Michalina is a hard-working and kind pupil who lives out our mission statement every day – in short, a very deserving winner!’

Changes down the decades


If this year’s badge competition is a new initiative, certain aspects of First Holy Communions remain the same – such as the girls’ white dresses and the boys’ red ties. Yet amid the traditions, there have been gradual changes too. Mary Coghlan, a long-serving catechist at Christ the King parish, explains that she was six when she had her First Communion; today, communicants are children from Year 4 at primary school, which means they are eight or nine years old.

As Mary explains, the preparation process, if still centred on the children in their schools, now includes their families more than in the past. In the case of Mary and her fellow catechists at Christ the King, they arrange a series of sessions for children with their parents, staged from autumn through to spring.


She explained: ‘Before, it was mainly done in the schools, and then we started bringing it into the church and making it a family thing. If you go back all those years, a lot more families were practising, whereas now a lot have fallen away from weekly Mass attendance, so across the year we have six sessions when the parents come with the children.’


According to Mgr John Devine, the greater involvement of families extends to the First Holy Communion Day itself. ‘We try to encourage families to come up and receive with them. Aunts, uncles and grandparents all show up and they make a big effort and make it an occasion for the kids. That’s where we need to meet people and build on that.’ As for exactly how to build on it, Mgr John offers the following perspective: ‘It is the first chance that kids have something to do for themselves after their Baptism.


First Communion is an opportunity to be consciously participating in the life of the Church. I say to them it’s a sign they are grown-ups – they can now join in the celebration of the Eucharist, which is a sign of Christ’s presence and His promise to be with them every day of their lives from now into the future and that God loves them no matter what they do. That is what they are celebrating. ‘As for whether people choose to live out their faith in the future is perhaps beyond my paygrade really – leave that to the Holy Spirit!’


On this question of the legacy of a First Holy Communion Day, Mary Coughlan ends with a lovely tale about a former communicant from years past. ‘I prepare the children who don’t attend Catholic primary schools and not long ago I was walking around town and a man came up to me and said, “You prepared me for my First Communion”. He’s in his 30s now and he said, “I loved those times, and I persuaded my parents to put me in St Edward’s and from there I joined the Cathedral choir, and I am still singing in it!’

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