Most of us know that the neighborhood around Assumption has lived through many changes. Settled largely by Italian immigrants, the area began to decline as a residential community shortly after World War I. Families began to abandon the nineteenth century tenement buildings, in search of more spacious and modern housing to the north and west. Factories and offices replaced the decaying residential buildings. By 1945 Assumption School, which once had over 900 students now had only about 50 and had to close. By the early 1960’s the area around Assumption was almost totally devoid of housing. Although First Communions and some catechism instruction to children continued to take place here from time to time, Assumption has had no structured religious education program for many decades.
With the revival of River North as a residential community and a gradual increase in the number of families with children attending Assumption, this year’s Pastoral Council has been discussing whether the time has come for us to offer some sort of ministry to children once again. The Council sees this not only as a responsibility that we have as a parish but also a way of encouraging young families to continue to affiliate with Assumption after their children pass the toddler stage.
The Council has discussed a number of options. The most radical (and most expensive) option would be to reopen Assumption School. This seems highly unlikely—at least for the foreseeable future. Although our neighboring parishes of Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph now have a combined school with a robust population, we no longer have a school building that we could put back into service, nor do we have anywhere near the number of school age children that would justify having a school. A more realistic possibility for the future would be a K through 8 religious education program for children not attending a Catholic school. Students would meet for an hour or an hour and a half on Sunday or some other designated time. This program would include sacramental preparation for First Communion and Confirmation. If we elected to start religious education, we would need some time to implement it, since there are Archdiocesan standards and regulations and procedures that would have to be met and a “faculty” would have to be formed.
Another possibility that we are considering is to offer what is often called “children’s church” at one of our weekend Masses. We would provide a separate Liturgy of the Word for children between the ages (let’s say) of five and ten. After the Collect or Opening Prayer at Mass, the children and a teacher/leader would leave the church and go to a separate room where the Sunday scriptures would be presented and discussed in a way that would be more meaningful to our younger members. After the Creed the children would return to church and sit with their family for the rest of Mass. Children attending Catholic school and those who are not could participate equally in Children’s Church. Another possibility is to develop a children’s music program, enabling children who have some musical talent or interest in music to take a role in the liturgy. Finally, it would be good to restate what we already have. While our present altar servers are all adults, we would certainly welcome and provide training for those in fifth grade and up who would like to be servers. Likewise we would welcome older teens who already serve as Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist at a Catholic high school to join our roster of communion ministers.
The Council believes that the first step in pursuing any of these new programs is to see what actual interest exists. That is why there is a survey inserted in this week’s bulletin and uploaded on our parish website. There is space for you to express your potential interest in a religious education program, a children’s Liturgy of the Word, and a children’s music program. When you have completed the survey, please drop this insert in the box on the table in the back of church. Feel free to write comments on the back of the paper. The box marked “Children’s Ministry Survey” will be in the back of the church for several weeks; so you are welcome to take the survey home and return it next week if it is at all relevant to you or your family or someone you know. We do not want to judge demand based solely on who we “see” in Church. Sometimes people go elsewhere precisely because what they are looking for is not being offered here.