Story By: Lissy Maruthanakuzhy (Matters India).
Monippally: A Catholic parish in Kerala has devised a new way to encourage daily Mass attendance among children.
St Thomas’ Parish, Cheenkallel under Palai diocese, on January 1 gifted bicycles to 20 children aged 5 to 13 years who had attended Mass on all days during 2015.
“We promised a bicycle each for those who completed 365 days of attendance. The first day had 50 children for the Mass. Only 20 could complete the race Not all will persevere,.” parish priest Fr Joseph Kaduppil told Matters India.
Assistant pastor Fr Mathew Korankuzha helped the pastor buy the bicycles, each costing 5,200 rupees. “It is of course a moral and spiritual boost to the children,” Fr Kadupil added.
“When we promised the gift we did not imagine anyone would sponsor the bicycles. One family came forward to fund 11 cycles and another family from a nearby parish paid for nine more,” said Fr Kaduppil a visitor professor in various seminaries in India.
Ebin Dellis, one of the winners, said he goes for Mass daily because of his desire to receive Jesus. “I will continue to thank God for his gift and for all the blessing in my life,” the 13-year-old ninth grader told Matters India.
Five of the winners were first graders, the assistant pastor said.
The parish priest said the children’s gesture has inspired some parents to change their lifestyle. Father of a five-year-old was an alcoholic who had kept away from the church. The child pestered him to accompany him to the church. “Now the father has become a regular participant in the daily Mass. This is the greatest gift we priests have received this year,” the priest added.
Many of the prize winners are altar servers. “We encouraged them to participate actively in the Eucharist saying the payers loudly, and follow certain discipline in the church, as well in life.”
The sponsors also presented a kit, containing a rosary, statue of the Blessed Virgin, prayer book, chocolate and an alarm watch to wake up on time, the priest said.
The priests also monitor the children’s school progress reports to keep track of their academic performance.
What next? The priests are planning a package tour for kids that include travels by air, train and ship. “It will be much cheaper than the bicycle,” the pastor added.