FOREST CITY — Holy innocence was once again on display this May as First Holy Communions returned to their rightful place in the season of rebirth — fittingly being celebrated throughout the Diocese of Scranton during the glorious month dedicated to Our Lady.

Following a turbulent year marked by a global pandemic that resulted in First Communion ceremonies being held randomly based on health protocols and parish limitations due to strict guidelines, the 2021 “Mass” celebrations of young communicants experiencing the true joy of the Eucharist for the first time has been a most welcomed sight.

“We had to adjust and adapt to this ‘new normal,’ and because of that we had to get creative with how to not only keep our CCD program up and running, but to make the sacramental years interesting and special,” Jennifer Pearson, Director of Religious Education for Ascension Parish in Forest City, shared.

In preparing Ascension’s First Communion class for 2021, Pearson and her staff benefitted greatly from an engaging, user-friendly curriculum and were very thankful to provide some in-person instruction with the students.

“I also had extremely supportive parents who really took the time to be involved in the entire process,” she noted, “especially when the students need to do their lessons from home.”

The result, as has been the case throughout the Diocese, was the much-anticipated ceremony coming together as splendidly as it should — with wide-eyed, nervously excited boys and girls donning their best Spring finery to approach the altar and begin a lifelong Eucharistic journey of receiving their Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

The First Communion season not only presents beautiful, inspiring images of the Catholic Church at its best, but also provides an invaluable lesson for the children’s older counterparts in the faith.

So-called “Cradle Catholics,” who may make literally thousands of Communions throughout their lifetime, often take for granted the immense awe and wonder of physically receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus  Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

This is certainly something that is not lost on Pearson and others who devote themselves to preparing their young students in parish First Holy Communion classes.

“I think it is so important for our students to continue to build their relationship with Jesus after they receive their First Communion,” Pearson explained. “I try to encourage them to find examples of how Jesus taught us and wants us to live, whether it is at home, school, the store or wherever, and to make good choices and model their own behaviors after those things.”

She related the children will soon realize that attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion will not always be accompanied by pressed blue suits, lacy white gowns and veils, beaming parents with cameras in hand, and parties with family and friends. But it is cause for much celebration, nonetheless.

“We can celebrate all of the wonderful things that Jesus did for us by receiving Him in the Eucharist,” Pearson concluded, “but we also show Him how grateful we are for His love and sacrifice by doing our best to love one another even when things are hard.”

To receive like a child. If only.