Students engage in practice monthly at DBQ school
By Dan Russo
DUBUQUE — When St. Columbkille School in Dubuque has monthly eucharistic adoration for its elementary school students, the young people sometimes have opportunities to ask questions of Father David Schatz or other clergy of the parish before and afterward. One that has come up is “What’s that smell?” according to Colin Vogler.
The second-grader said many kids were initially unfamiliar with incense, which is spread during the procession of the Blessed Sacrament from the church into the school. He explained that a reason the substance is burned during the processions is because “the three kings brought incense to Jesus as a gift.” He added that everyone should try eucharistic adoration “so they can have quiet time with Jesus.”
Classes take turns being part of the procession. They are led by a sacristan who swings a thurible to spread the sweet odor, while a priest walks behind the children carrying the Eucharist in a container called a monstrance. Students and teachers typically come out of their classrooms and kneel as the procession goes by. The monstrance is placed in a room on the second floor that groups of students visit for half-hour blocks throughout the day. A second procession occurs when the consecrated host is brought back to the church.
“We’re lucky to be able to do it,” said Lilli Eisbach, a fourth-grader, of her experiences at adoration. “You feel a lot better afterwards. We have a chance to do this at school, and some people don’t believe in Jesus, but we do; and we know that he helps us.”
In a world where children have many distractions and parents sometimes worry about diminishing attention spans, the students at St. Columbkille are proving that today’s kids can focus and have an intuitive understanding of the importance of spiritual life.
“The students do value quiet time and prayer time,” said Barb Roling, principal of the school. “(Eucharistic adoration) is teaching them the importance of silence and listening.”
In order to remain concentrated on prayer during adoration, Nora Kurt, a second-grader, sometimes likes to picture Jesus as she keeps her eyes on the Eucharist.
“You’re looking at the monstrance, how it’s designed, and you’re thinking someone really worked hard on that,” reflected Kurt. “People took a long time to create that so we should be (quiet and praying) instead of talking or whispering and doing all the stuff that we have around us.”
Kurt linked eucharistic adoration to some of the other things she has learned about being Catholic.
“I think you should do this because you know how sometimes you go to reconciliation?” she said. “You ask for forgiveness, but what you can do at adoration is think about what you’ve done and what you could do. So basically they both connect.”
St. Columbkille School’s staff exposed students to eucharistic adoration a few times last year. Based on the positive response, it was decided to make the practice a part of the students’ routine this year. Adaptations were made to account for the youth of the participants. For example, adults discovered that it is sometimes a challenge for younger students to bend their necks to look up at the Blessed Sacrament when its exposed on the adult-sized altar in the church. That observation led to mats being placed on the floor in a special place in the school, according to Father Schatz, who is pastor of St. Columbkille Parish.
“We lowered the altar to their eye level,” said the priest. “It helped the students to embrace it. They just have the experience of Christ being closer to them.”
During adoration, music is sometimes played and the children can pray the rosary or use prayer cards.
“My mind is usually just blown because Jesus is present in the room,” reflected fourth-grader Ben Freund. “We can do it because we take our time, and we don’t usually rush ourselves. We can ask Jesus for forgiveness, and we can pray for people that are in the hospital or people that have a really bad illness.”
Clare Wellik, a third-grader, said she is happy to have the prayer time during adoration regularly.
“Some children don’t really get to do it as much as we do since they’re in public school,” she said. “You can have one-on-one time with Jesus.”
Students pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament at St. Columbkille School while seated on mats. The monthly practice of adoration gives all students a chance to participate in half-hour blocks of time throughout the day. The altar is lower to make it easier for children to view the Eucharist.