A First For First Communion

AnneMarie Greene, Director of Faith Formation at St. Francis DeSales Parish in Belle Harbor, was determined. After months of learning and preparation for the parish children, their First Holy Communion ceremony was sadly and unexpectedly canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the next few weeks, Greene took note of the parish pastors Father Sweeney and Father Cunningham’s online daily and Sunday masses, and then reached out to the parish academy’s principal, Chris Scharbach, for his technology expertise and know-how.

This inquiry quickly led to what became St. Francis DeSales’ first virtual Holy Communion ceremony, held on May 2, 2020via Principal Scharbach’s Zoom account. Once Greene confirmed she had in-person support and the access to the technology for a virtual event, she immediately went to work on creating the program for this event, a responsibility she welcomed with open arms as this is her passion and forte: to create any program or material around religious education and the faith formation journey.

This Holy Communion ceremony was a wonderful prayer service which included scripture and live music from the parish choir. Along with the 92 Communion celebrants, Principal Scharbach, Father Sweeney, Father Cunningham, Father Gelfant from Blessed Trinity Parish in Breezy Point, catechists and parish academy teachers were also in the Zoom session, sharing in this important milestone for the children and, as Greene mentioned, “looking on in prayer and service to God”. Afterwards, the children – some proudly dressed in their First Communion white attire – swung by the parish rectory to pick up a gift from the parish.

Their gifted crosses and prayer cards in hand, and along with the beautiful prayer service – this is exactly what the catechists and children needed to honor this special day in the Catholic faith.