“We do not want to create a risk”

First communion children in white albums © Harald Oppitz (KNA)

Before Corona, First Communion children had classes once a week. Normally they would now prepare for the feast in their group lessons. But despite the Corona pandemic, people in Hurth near Cologne are being creative.

Interviewer: Are then the registration numbers declining? Have also directly less registered because of the pandemic?

Wigbert Spinrath (pastoral counselor in Hurth): No, not at all. So here in Hurth we basically have the quite expected registration numbers, also a bit more than in 2020. As the year was predictable. There are only very few families that put back.

We now have cancellations from last year, because we still have about 50 children here in Hurth who want to make their First Communion. These children didn't go last year and are now in their fourth year of school and have gotten older. Three families informed us that they did not want to participate in the First Communion.

Interviewer: But that means that the children are actually prepared, the only thing missing is the party.

Spinrath: Yes, last year we got to the middle of March. Then we could celebrate First Communion again, as soon as the services went again and also celebrations went for the people in a framework that they also wanted to have. We started with about five children in the church and their relatives, so that it was corona compliant.

Then we still had short preliminary meetings, but the children were prepared. The only thing we would have to do now is look at the children who come after a year and see how we can get them in touch with the topic again. But that is basically prepared. The problem is the current year.

Interviewer: How do you do it in the Hurth communities?? You could say that not everyone does it the same way?

Spinrath: No, the landscape has never been more colorful, I would say, even in the entire Rhine-Erft district, according to what I hear in contact with colleagues. We had everything prepared for the situation we had in the fall. We wanted to start after the fall vacations, and unfortunately that was no longer possible.

At that time we had thought about it parish by parish, so in the individual parishes the groups with the catechists. And that did not work. We were then able to start with a few groups, with a view to the school groups. The children who were still together in one school until mid-December came together in one group.

In some cases, we have also enlisted the help of religion teachers who are also catechists, who have taken over the preparation of the children in the afternoon with a class group, so that there are no additional contacts. We do not want to create any risk. That ran until the middle of December.

Some of the groups are currently in online contact with the catechists or with Father Muller and me, and we are continuing this process. Some small groups have started in other parishes. Some of them, when they were very small, were continued by parents.

And online teaching, I know from neighboring parishes that they have started that, but that was not quite easy. In the meantime, they have switched to a model where they bring the children into the large church in small groups for a short time.

Interviewer: Which is not possible at the moment. They also produced videos for the children and the families. What is it about?

Spinrath: Fortunately, we had done that directly from March onwards. At the moment we have compiled about eight catechetical videos, some of which relate to the Bible stories that we have in the communion course. We are now sending them out one by one. They also have good viewing figures on our YouTube channel. The families should look at this with the children.

We also have worksheets prepared, but we don't want to overfeed the kids with them right now because they're already in homeschool anyway. And we don't want to exhaust that. Actually, we have now received the go-ahead from the state government.

The children come partly on 22. February back to the schools. We will then start immediately, and always school-related, that in a place where, for example, there are 16 children from one class, we already make a weekend two weeks after school starts: Friday, Saturday, Sunday with catechesis units spread over the weekend, to have the children in presence, to allow them to be in presence.

And so we are now tackling it school by school and class group by class group.

Interviewer: You have just said: Videos do not replace this group lesson. There is much more going on than just teaching content. But still, it is probably not possible to create this closeness that usually exists in the communion groups. By distance, by distance alone?

Spinrath: That is exactly what is missing. And that's why we want to give it to the children in the presence groups. Where it always goes is when parents have the time opportunity and do it when parents then watch these videos together with children. That is quite a good experience.

Then the questions come up, they are discussed. Then parents or even families sometimes call to discuss a certain question again. Then it goes quite well, but there is also the relationship aspect, because the parents watch this catechesis together with the children.

There are relatively many questions in it, which one can pursue then.

Interviewer: But when will then the first communion celebration take place?? Probably not on White Sunday. This should be a lightning preparation.

Spinrath: I just got off the phone with Father Muller, with whom I am responsible for the four Hurth parishes in the south. We spoke with the other colleagues yesterday afternoon. Unfortunately, we ame that after Easter these things can not start as they were once thought of. But we had not yet ied fixed dates.

At the moment we are trying to provide the children from the fourth school year in any case still in this school year. That is one aspect and the other is that we ame that there will probably be opportunities for families to celebrate again from mid-June onwards, and that we will then start again perhaps just before the beginning of the summer vacations and then at the end of the summer vacations.

Then we could offer such services again in autumn as we did last year: always five children per service with their relatives. That is then approximately a service celebration group, which we can make yes corona conform in the church very well. And there we have also experienced very beautiful celebrations. They were also very personal, of a very different kind, but also very beautiful.

The interview was conducted by Dagmar Peters.

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