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Active School Mass Inspires Students, Draws Parents


St Paschal Baylon
Thousand Oaks, CA
Archdiocese of Los Angeles
United States

More Info

For more information, email Fr Dave Heney.

Involving as many students as possible in weekly school Mass creates enthusiasm in students and an increase in parents attending school Mass.

"Friday Masses with Saint Paschal Baylon School are truly 'food for the soul' for members of both school and the parish community." Father Dave Heney

The need it meets

  • Children actively participate and understand what is happening.
  • More parents attend weekday Mass.
  • Teachers enjoy making the Mass come to life for the students.
  • Pray for vocations with a special "vocation angel" passed from class to class.

Where it came from

Vice-Principal Julie Roland, who is also the Religion Coordinator, saw the need to help her students keep their focus at Mass through hands-on involvement.

How it works

Over the summer, a volunteer parent assembles a "Liturgy Book" with the readings for the coming school year and details about the saint of the day. When school starts, the Religion Coordinator assigns each class several school Masses. The classes get the readings and information plus a Liturgy Planning Sheet. The teacher fills out the planning sheet and sends it to the priest a week ahead of the Mass for comments/approval.

  • A yearly theme is chosen, i.e., the Ten Commandments, with each Commandment highlighted for a few weeks.
  • Every class creates a poster reflecting the theme.
  • The class poster is displayed while they coordinate the Friday Mass.
  • The students participate as altar servers, lectors, gift bearers, choir members, in the signing ministry (simultaneous translation in sign language), or write the prayers of the faithful.
  • A student reads an introduction before Mass, explaining the day's saint or summarizing the readings.
  • As a way to contextualize the Gospel or to illustrate the homily, the children occasionally pantomime through still frames (tableaux), in period costume. Most often, this tableau is presented before Mass begins after the short introduction.
  • The priest incorporates in his homily the Gospel, the theme and the saint of the day.
  • After communion, two students from the presenting class pass the Vocation Angel Plaque to the next class to pray daily for vocations.

The results

  • The children look forward to Mass.
  • A growing number of parents participate in school Mass.
  • Children lose their anxiety over public speaking or presentation.
  • Students often become active in the parish after eighth-grade graduation, participating in various ways during Sunday Mass.

Key elements

  • A priest that is supportive and patient.
  • The religion coordinator (who helps the students prepare their Masses and practice) must understand, respect, and revere the liturgy, so as to make sure the various presentations enhance rather than detract from the liturgical celebration. In this regard points from the Directory for Masses with Children, numbers 35, 36 and 47 are instructive (see below).
  • Keep priest informed of each Liturgy Plan.
  • Tie together the saint of the day and the Gospel reading.
  • Teachers who love their faith and are enthusiastic for including the children in Mass.
  • As much student participation as possible.
  • Encourage teachers to rehearse in church with microphones on. The more students rehearse, the more confident they are.
  • Sponsoring class discusses plans in Religion class leading up to their Masses.
  • Use tableau format to contextualize readings before Mass or as illustration material for homily. Simple costumes to help facilitate what the students are acting out.
  • For the sake of focus and reverence, the principal reminds students they are in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

From Directory for Masses with Children no.35: In addition to the visual elements that belong to the celebration and to the place of celebration, it is appropriate to introduce other elements that will permit children to perceive visually the wonderful works of God in creation and redemption and thus support their prayer. The liturgy should never appear as something dry and merely intellectual.

no.36: For the same reason, the use of art work prepared by the children themselves may be useful, for example, as illustrations of a homily, as visual expressions of the intentions of the general intercessions, or as inspirations to reflection.

no.47: All the elements that will help to explain the readings should be given great consideration so that the children may make the biblical readings their own and may come more and more to appreciate the value of God's word. Among such elements are the introductory comments that may precede the readings and that by explaining the context or by introducing the text itself help the children to listen better and more fruitfully.

How to implement it

  • Identify a faculty member to coordinate it.
  • Choose a theme for the year with input from faculty and staff, forwarding to principal and pastor for final approval.
  • Get a volunteer to assemble the Liturgy Book.
  • Assign the year's school Masses and make up folders including the liturgy planning sheet for each teacher.
  • Meet with all staff and children, sharing an overview and answering any questions.
  • Get information to all the priests in the parish, thanking them for their help.
  • Rotate host classes.
  • When old enough, students write a two-paragraph Mass introduction.
  • Send draft of liturgy plans to the priest for approval on Thursday, for comments/approval.
  • Student rehearsals.

Fr Dave Heney is pastor of St Paschal Baylon.

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