I teach at a Catholic school, and this year I have Grade 2s for the first time (in a 2/3 split) which means I get to help prepare the students for two sacraments, First Reconciliation (which was in the fall) and First Eucharist (also known as First Communion), which will be taking place next weekend.

It’s a tradition at our school to hold a day-long First Eucharist retreat at the Parish Hall across from the school. I was a bit overwhelmed by the planning of the event, and woke up in the middle of the night a few weeks ago with a brainwave: I should contract my mom to help organize this! (I would say that I get the organizational gene from her, but in fact I get it from both sides, in different ways. My Dad, for example, has an alphabetized list of every book he’s ever read, and very precise systems for loading the dishwasher and rotating ice cube trays.)

Thankfully, my mother (a retired teacher herself) agreed to help out, and I owe her a huge debt of gratitude. From buying supplies to preparing materials to testing out the activities, she put in hours and hours of time on top of any work I did. We used many of the centres that my creative and talented predecessor shared from her years as our school’s Grade 2 teacher, as well as a couple of ideas provided by our school board’s Religious Education Consultant, and one or two we came up with on our own.

I am also extremely grateful for the parent and grandparent volunteers who joined us. The centres ran so smoothly and were cleaned up in a jiffy with so many hands to help, and the ladies were all great company for our pizza lunch (which we dug into while the kids were still busy playing outside!)

Here are some shots of the retreat activities (I’m choosing not to show any of the children, but you can still get an idea of what we did) partly in case the ideas can be of help to any other teachers, and also as a way to visually keep track of what I may need to remember for next year! The centres were 20 minutes each (4 kids per centre), and I gave the students a booklet of First Eucharist word searches and colouring pages to work through if they finished any centre early.

1. Chalice Decoration (when you lift up the host, you see Jesus underneath)
2. Decorating People (scrapbook paper is much easier to cut than fabric)
Note: The kids were amused to find an old Sears Photo Studio charm with my picture in it mixed in with my mom’s button collection!

3. Doves of Peace

4. Drama: The Road to Emmaus

5. Mod Podge Candle Holders

6. Decorated Foam Crosses

7. Bread making 
(We had a grandma stationed in the kitchen, who was actually my mom’s roommate during their first year of teaching! They enjoyed getting caught up.)

8. Wine Making – no photo of the set-up for this one, but each child had a 
baggie of grapes to squeeze and strain into a cup which was added into their grape juice at snack time.
(Yes, we let them have a bit of butter on their unleavened bread…and most of them still didn’t like it – but they loved the process of baking!)
Extra activity (when done grape squeezing): Altar Cloth Decorating – each child put their hand print and name on the cloth, to be displayed at First Eucharist
Table for extra supplies:

We were joined at lunchtime by the Monsignor from our church, who spoke to the children and let them try a couple of unconsecrated hosts so the taste and texture won’t be a surprise on the big day. Our classroom “supporters” (students who are not Catholic and won’t be receiving the Eucharist) even got a chance to try. 
After lunch, our amazing choir director/music teacher popped by to run through the music for the Mass…and boy, do my kids love to sing!
I was so pleased with how the day went, and I can’t say enough how thankful I am to everyone who helped to make things run so smoothly.

It seems like only yesterday that Frannie made her First Eucharist, but it was actually a whole year ago. Just since I love this photo so much, let’s reminisce, shall we?

Next year it will be Maggie’s turn, but for now it’s all about my beautiful students and their special day next Sunday. Please say a prayer for us!

P.S. Feel free to ask if you’d like any details about our retreat activities!

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