Proud parents and relatives watched their children reach a milestone in their spiritual life recently.
Twenty-six children in the second grade religious education class of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Alcoa celebrated their First Eucharist Mass on Saturday, April 21.
"This is a great time for the children to grow in their faith and for other congregation members to renew their faith," said Father Alex Waraksa, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima.
For some, this event was steeped in family tradition. "This is a very special occasion, she is wearing the same dress I wore," said Julie Pepperman, whose 8-year-old daughter, Olivia, received the sacrament on Saturday. Julie Pepperman said that her daughter is the eighth female member of the family to wear the dress.
"I feel really special. Its an honor to do this," said Olivia Pepperman, who is a second grader at Sam Houston Elementary School.
For 8-year-old Gina Bock, her veil had special meaning. It belonged
to her mother who wore it at her first communion.
"Its a beautiful passage for the kids," said Maryann Bock.
The event was also provided an opportunity for families to gather. "I feel excited because 26 people are going to be at my house," said 8-year-old Jonah Paszek. "Im also excited about receiving the body of Christ," said the Foothills Elementary second grader.
The Monat family had relatives travel from Florida, Connecticut and Ohio for 9-year-old Joey Monats special day. "Its a day of peace and happiness," said Dan Monat, Joeys father.
After Mass, the class celebrated with cake and punch at the churchs Family Life Center. The crowd enjoyed a slide show presentation of the journey leading up to their first Eucharist.
The day was also special for the religious education director and for the teachers.
"I love working with kids and working with them in this aspect is
more than fun, its inspiring," said Jayne Rahe, a second
grade religious education instructor who has been teaching for more than 20 years.
"This is where kids become full members of our church and they become closer to God," religious education director, LuAnne Zelasko explained the significance of the rite of passage. "The parents will remember this day forever."