Young parishioners participate in a monthly Eucharistic adoration
Sun associate editor
With wide smiles and hands clutching battery-operated candles, children from the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Syracuse waited anxiously in the vestibule to walk down the aisle and participate in the parish’s monthly children’s Eucharistic adoration.
Why were these children so happy to be at church while many of their friends were home on a Sunday afternoon playing or watching cartoons?
“We get to sit on the altar and talk with Father,” explained Alex Stanley, 7, from LaFayette. His twin brother Michal nodded his head in agreement. “We also talk about Jesus and we do prayers,” added Michal.
Anne Smorol, 5, and younger brother Chris, 3, jumped up and down in excitement as they waited to line up. Their father shook his head and smiled. “They love to come here. They ask every week if this is the week they get to walk down the aisle,” he said.
The voices and laughter in the vestibule softened as the pastor, Father Andrew Baranski, with help from Sister Melanie Jaworski, CSSF, lined the children up for the procession. Parents, grandparents and parishioners moved ahead to take seats in the church. Slowly, but with great precision, the children made their way to the front of the church.
Candles were collected as each child reached the front of the altar and then, without any coercing, each child happily grabbed a mat and a spot on the floor in front of the altar and waited for Father Baranski to begin.
As he looked into the faces of the 10 children gathered, ranging in age from three to 11, Father Baranski smiled. “Now, remember, we start with the incense.”
Ten heads nodded in unison. The priest turned to the children and without prompting, the children followed him in prayer.
“Jesus we adore you.…”
Priest and teacher
Every month during the children’s Eucharistic adoration, Father Baranski is not only priest but also teacher. Speaking slowly and letting the children see his every movement, Father Baranski helps children and their families understand their faith more fully.
“Now we are going to hear a story,” Father Baranski said to the children, holding up a book of readings. “Let’s find out how Jesus is present in a special way amongst us, today, on Pentecost. Let’s listen to what happens.”
The children listened intently. Father Baranski finished the passage and looked up.
“Okay, who’s ready for questions?” Hands shot up quickly as Father Baranski moved around the small group.
“What did Jesus promise us?”
“Who can tell me why it’s important to celebrate the Holy Spirit?”
“What were the two things that happened that let the apostles know the Holy Spirit was there?”
A chorus of voices called out the answers and Father Baranski smiled. “Wow. You guys are pretty smart. Now, is everyone ready to say the rosary?”
Two altar servers begin passing out rosary beads to the children and to the congregation.
“Do we all remember how to say the rosary?” Heads nodded as voices rose up in unison, starting the rosary.
Throughout the adoration, Father Baranski continually checked to be sure that his young parishioners were engaged and following what he was doing. Even the altar servers received praise for each completed task.
He explained the adoration cross, he explained why he was using incense, and he even explained why, in some stained glass pictures, there are flames above the heads of the apostles. He left no question unanswered.
As the service drew to a close, Father Baranski looked seriously at the group. “Let’s close our eyes now and just talk to Jesus. Tell him how much you love him.”
Eyes squeezed tightly shut, the children on the altar prayed silently to Jesus, telling Him they loved Him.
Following the end of the adoration service, children and their families gathered downstairs in a parish hall to share refreshments and socialize. Father Baraski looked around at the families with pride. “These are faithful people,” he said smiling. “These are dedicated parents. They not only bring their children to the children’s Mass that was earlier in the day, but then once a month, they come back and bring them to the adoration service. Many of them don’t live nearby so it’s a lot of driving for them, but they don’t mind. They know it’s important.”
In fact, families of the young parishioners were the ones who brought the idea of a children’s Eucharistic adoration to Father Baranski’s attention a little more than a year ago.
“I really didn’t know if it was going to work,” admitted Father Baranski. “At first, attendance was slow, but then every month it started picking up. We broke for the summer, but even when we came back, the kids were all excited to come to the service again. I think they enjoy seeing everything up close.”
The materials for the adoration service were taken from the Children of Hope program. “We tweaked the program slightly to work for our parish, but it’s a great resource,” stated Father Baranski. “And we keep to the same structure each month: adoration, thanksgiving, petitions and rosary. And depending on the season, we also focus on a specific event like Lent, Advent, Pentecost or Easter.”
“I’m glad this has worked out so great,” continued Father Baranski. “The children learn why we do certain things in the church a certain way. We generally have as many as 35 children participating, and some aren’t even from this parish, but their parents want them to have the experience and they bring them. Now that’s dedication That’s faith.”
As one of the Stanley twins waited in line for a snack, he turned to his brother. “This is just the best day. It’s the best day of all.”
The children’s adoration of the Eucharist is held monthly at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Syracuse. For more information contact (315) 422-2343.