Sacramental Preparation - First Reconciliation and First Communion

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Manual Parish Faith Formation Programs

Best Practices for Parish Faith Formation Programs:

  • Directives First Penance and First Holy Communion
  • Parish Faith Formation (Catechesis)
  • Family Catechesis (Resources)

First Penance and First Communion

Canon 914: It is the responsibility, in the first place, of parents and those who take the place of parents as well as of the pastor to see that children who have reached the use of reason are correctly prepared and are nourished by the divine food as early as possible, preceded by sacramental confession; it is also for the pastor to be vigilant lest any children come to the Holy Banquet who have not reached the use of reason or whom he judges are not sufficiently disposed.

The following guidelines incorporate the pastoral norm of the universal Church and particular law of the Diocese of Sacramento:

• Children are to be prepared for First Penance and receive the Sacrament of Penance prior to receiving First Communion. Both sacraments would generally be received in grade two. First Penance would normally be received a couple of months or more before First Communion.

• In a given parish, First Communion could be postponed to third grade, if indicated by available resources, the number of children or the time needed for adequate preparation of both children and parents.

• The readiness required for the Sacrament of Penance consists in the capacity to discern between right and wrong, together with an understanding, appropriate to the child’s age, of what sin is. The readiness required for First Communion is not dissimilar: the ability to recognize the difference between the Eucharist and ordinary bread (and wine).

• Children who are well prepared for Penance generally welcome this opportunity to experience God’s mercy. Parents/guardians of a child occasionally may indicate that their child is “too young” for Penance. In such a case, after due pastoral discernment, delay of both Penance and Communion is often the most suitable resolution.

• The universal law, as reiterated by the particular law of our Diocese, does not permit the parish program to orient the class as a whole away from receiving First Penance prior to First Communion. The pastoral norm is: First Penance prior to First Communion.

• Delaying the preparation and reception of First Penance until sometime after First Communion is not permitted by the universal Church or by the Diocese of Sacramento.

Recommendations: First Penance and Reconciliation

Parish Faith Formation Programs should offer at least 6 sessions of immediate preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The family must be intimately involved with the formation of a child’s moral conscience and ordinarily integrates the child into the wider ecclesial communities, parents should be involved in the preparation of their children for this sacrament so that they can affirm and reinforce frequent participation in the sacrament. They orient the child toward God and encourage continual growth in the understanding of God’s mercy and love. (Cf. NDC 135-136)


Recommendations: First Holy Communion

Children’s preparation for the First Holy Communion begins in the home. The family has the most important role in communicating the Christian and human values that form the foundation of a child’s understanding of the Eucharist. Children who participate with their family in the Mass experience the Eucharistic mystery in an initial way and gradually learn to join with the liturgical assembly in prayer.


The retreat is a time for the parents and their children to prepare for the reception of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. It is usually held shortly before the reception of First Communion. It takes into consideration the attention span of the children. The retreat should provide an opportunity to review the meaning of the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist in ways especially meaningful to the children. The instruction and invitation to receive Jesus into their hearts with fasting, love, reverence, and joy should be presented in such a way that all may come to know the true presence of Jesus Christ in the Body and Blood consecrated at Mass.

Here are some ideas:

Loyola Press:

First Communion Retreat:

En Español para hacerlo en Casa guiado por los padres de familia o catequistas:

Pre-Retreat Information for Parents
• Share a letter or email with parents explaining what a retreat is and what the goals and purpose are of your first Eucharist retreat • Host a virtual parent meeting(s) or retreat session(s) to equip parents to either partner with you during the retreat or to lead the retreat at-home. Topics to address may include (but are not limited to):
   -A review of why it is necessary to partner in children’s faith formation
   -Your specific Faith Formation Program retreat details
   -Education for parents on the history of the Eucharist and the parts of the Mass
   -Reinforcing the importance of Sunday mass attendance as a family
   -Clear directions related to the parent’s role during the retreat
   -Clear directions for each activity included in the retreat
   -What to expect during the retreat (or clear instructions for at-home retreats)
   -The proper ways to receive the Eucharist.
   -What will happen on the day of First Eucharist (including parish guidelines)

Note: Please keep in mind that parents may struggle to engage given the many challenges of the current year. These suggestions are offered for you as a way to invite parents to engage in the sacramental journey.


Prior to the reception of the First Eucharist, the parish must attain proof of baptism and birth certificate from all candidates (Canon 842, 912, 894). The names of those children who celebrated First Communion, the minister, and the place and date of the ceremony are to be recorded in the parish communion register. When a parishioner receives a sacrament at your parish (First Communion, Confirmation, Marriage), a letter of notification must be sent to that person's church of baptism (Catholic Church only).
For more information, visit:

Faith Formation (Catechesis) is about Forming Disciples

Parish Faith Formation Programs are strongly recommended to facilitate a Family Catechesis to their families. To give the opportunity to learn more about our Roman Catholic faith in a family setting, and empower the family entity to grow deeper in their religious formation. We are here to help make life-long transformational catechesis for families in our Diocese of Sacramento.

- Parishes should ensure that there are sessions to introduce parents to the preparation process. Parents should be reminded of the components and process of this sacrament as well as given the opportunity to celebrate it.

“Parents don’t need theology degrees or extensive knowledge of the Bible or liturgy to pass on their faith.
Parents merely need the love they have for their children to effectively form them and introduce them
to a relationship with Christ”.
“Every child and youth program needs to have one thing:
Opportunities for kids and parents to gather together to talk about faith. And parents need to lead it”

- Inculturate the Gospel in Parish Catechetical Programs. Pope Paul VI (On Evangelization in the Modern World, no. 63) said:

“Evangelization loses much of its force and effectiveness if it does not take into consideration the actual people to whom it is addressed if it does not use their language, their signs, and symbols, if it does not answer the questions they ask, and if it does not have an impact on their concrete life. But on the other hand, evangelization risks losing its power and disappearing altogether if one empties or adulterates its content under the pretext of translating it.”
(Living as Missionary Disciples)


Family Catechesis 

Benefits of Family Catechesis

1. Involves the whole family in congregational life and learning, building up the faith of the whole family.

2. Provides a way to teach, model, and demonstrate family faith practices.

3. Provides the resources for families to live Christian practices at home.

4. Eases the transfer of learning to the home because the whole family experiences the learning and practices together.

5. Builds up the confidence and ability of parents to share faith and values with their children by providing parent education, resources, support, and encouragement.

If we want children and teens to become lifelong Catholics and members of the church we have to start now by involving the whole family in the life of the church.



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Joe Paprocki’s Catechist’s Journey: Sharing the Journey of Teaching the Catholic Faith (Loyola Press)

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