How I agree with Mrs Halligan, (January 19), I also have four children between ten and two years. My husband is not a Catholic and so all the responsibility for setting them an example of regular Mass attendance falls on me.
1 sometimes leave the younger ones at home, as they complain that it is too boring, but the 10-year-old likes us to attend Mass all together as a family. My husband is very understanding and tolerant, and often comes with us.
I am very grateful to him for supporting me in this way as, being an agnostic humanist, he derives very little satisfaction from coming to Mass, and it saddens me to hear clergy and lay Catholics condemning all humanists as evil peoples
The only time the younger children enjoy coming to church is when we have a Children's Mass once a month. They are often able to take part reading Bidding Prayers and taking part in the Offertory Procession. Occasionally we have a Children's Sermon, and what a difference it makes!
But why can't they be made to feel part of the congregation in other ways? My younger children like to come up to the altar rails with me when I receive Communion, and usually I am left with the feeling that they are in the way.
Three times we have come across a priest who blessed each little one,
and the feeling of gratitude that I had and the looks on the faces of my children showed m; what a wonderful and important thing it was to include them in this way. Perhaps in this International Year of the Child all priests could consider doing this.
(Mn) C. M. Nichols Guildford, Surrey.
Mrs J. M. Halligan, in her letter of January 19, expressed the concern which we and many of our parishioners experienced regarding the need for young children to participate in the liturgy.
With the support dour priest (and bishop), our Liturgy Committee, aided by teachers and parents, organises a special 'Liturgy of the Word' for the children. They are led to our adjoining church hall, first receiving their Bible from the celebrant at the altar. Naturally, there is no compulsion to join in, but the procession seems longer each Sunday!
They return after the Bidding Prayers, some to take part in the Offertory Procession when their work is offered and placed in front of the altar. Last Sunday their theme was the Gospel. The children heard the story of Christ calling the fishermen to follow him.
Their joint contribution was a large picture of a fishing boat with two orange plastic nets attached con taming each child's name on a slip of paper.
We have found this meaningful to the children, enabling the adults to concentrate on the homily.
It is time-consuming for a priest to organise this type of activity, particularly in a one-priest parish such as ours. With active lay participation the need is met.
Tony and Elena Clark Guildford, Surrey.
It is not true to say, "there is no policy in the Catholic Church to include young children in any worship or Sunday activity". (Letters, Children at Mass, January 19). Practice will vary from parish to parish.
In my parish, St Catherine's, Didsbury, Manchester, there is now established a "Children's Liturgy" at the 10 am Mass each Sunday. Preschool and infant school children are invited, with their parents, to meet in the community centre adjacent to the church.
Here they have readings, prayers, songs and stories appropriate to their understanding. The liturgy is led by a priest, but parents take part in its planning with ideas and production of material. There is a high degree of participation by the children.
The young congregation goes into
the church at the Offertory and is welcomed by the priest saying Mass. A special area is reserved for children and parents.
This has been taking place for the last four years, and the support it has received suggests that it is meeting a need.
D. P. Baron Gatley, Cheadle, Cheshire.
I write to support Mrs Halligan (January 19) and to share my experience as part of a two-Church family. The provision made for children in my church during Sunday Mass is minimal, and is largely restricted to segregation (with parents) in a side chapel. My wife is Anglican, and younger children — Mrs Halligan's for in stance are welcomed into the church hall for an All-together Club.
Run by parents on a rota, this club enables most parents to worship in peace up to the offertory, while giving the children activities and "education" on an informal basis. It is not a Sunday school though it does have a christian emphasis. From the parents point of view it works, and from the children's it makes church more attractive and is fun.
Small wonder that my four-year old daughter prefers the church of England to that of Rome!
A. B. Bebington Croydon, Surrey.