After he converted to the Church 14 years ago at the Easter Vigil, Our Sunday…
Finding joy in the Eucharist — and a call to share your pandemic stories
Years ago, when our older kids were little, circumstances occasionally would force us to sit in the cry room at the back of church — a dreaded place that felt like we were attending Mass inside of a noisy, germ-infested closet. We loathed it.
The kids loved it, of course. The cry room was like their Xanadu, where the normal rules of Mass — sitting still, being quiet, paying attention — didn’t apply. They were like outlaws in the Wild West, but instead of guns and drink and card games, they had coloring books, toys and a huge window to bang on.
We didn’t find ourselves forced into the cry room often, but when we did, chances were good that we’d wind up sharing the enclosed space with an older couple and their special-needs son. For them, the cry room was an obvious refuge — a safe space where they could participate in the Mass as a family without their son’s physical ticks or occasional vocal outbursts distracting the priest or the congregation.
Whenever we’d join them, I always felt like we were encroaching in their sacred space — distracting them with our kids’ busyness. The parents were sweet and patient with their nonverbal son whenever he would have an episode during Mass. We’d tell our kids that it was rude to turn around and stare, and after Mass we’d remind them that God gave everyone different gifts and abilities — and challenges to bear.
It’s been years since I’ve seen that family, but I thought about them recently when I came across a moving article published in late March on the website of The Leaven, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas. Maggie MacFarland Phillips tells the story of Kimber Rose Lane, a nonverbal autistic teenager with cerebral palsy, and the day she received her first holy Communion.
As Phillips tells it, Kimber was born in Guatemala, brought to the United States as an infant and adopted by her parents, Russ and Annette Lane, in December 2005. The family prayed that Kimber would one day be able to know Christ in the Eucharist, and they sought help from the archdiocese’s special-needs ministry. Jenna Reid, Kimber’s first preschool teacher, became her first Communion instructor. Phillips wrote that Reid worked with Kimber for nearly a year, using the archdiocese’s adaptive curriculum. Through all the work, Reid impressed upon Kimber that the Eucharist was two simple things: Jesus and love.
On Jan. 18, 2020, Phillips wrote, “The members of Divine Mercy Parish [in Gardner, Kansas] joyfully assembled to support Kimber as she received Christ’s body, blood, soul and divinity for the first time. At that moment, while Russ’ and Annette’s prayer for Kimber to walk, talk, dance and sing seemingly went unanswered — at least on this side of heaven — their prayers for her to know Jesus in the Eucharist were realized before their eyes.”
Nearly a year after receiving Christ in the Eucharist for the first time, sadly, Kimber passed away on Jan. 10. Phillips wrote: “Reid hopes those who hear Kimber’s story and of the support she received from her family, her parish community and the archdiocese will ‘feel encouraged to attend.’ Through love and prayer, uplifted by community, special-needs families can bring their loved ones’ abilities and skills as gifts to the altar, participating fully in the life of the Church — together.”
Last year on Pentecost, Our Sunday Visitor published stories from readers who shared how the pandemic had shaped their faith. They were uplifting and inspiring, and this year, we again invite you to submit your stories of faith. Where did you see God during the pandemic? What has challenged you in your faith over the past year, and how did you overcome those challenges? What — or who — has inspired you? All submissions (300 words or less, please) are due by May 3 and can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN, 46750. Please put “Keeping the Faith” in the subject line and, if possible, attach a photo of yourself in the letter or email.
Scott Warden is managing editor of Our Sunday Visitor.