The Children’s Eucharistic Adoration Hour at St. Jerome, Newport News, is a time when small children can spend some quiet time with Christ, and a space where it’s all right to make a little joyful noise unto the Lord.
“We practice being quiet and still, but if a rogue toddler starts off running, that’s all right,” Crystal Rivera-Silva, who founded the children’s holy hour group, said.
St. Jerome holds eucharistic adoration on the first Thursday of every month. The children’s hour, held from 4 to 5 p.m., has become a small but meaningful part of parish life – a time of learning and devotion as well as fun and fellowship.
During the hour, the children practice silent moments of adoration, interspersed with a little time to move about: to sing quiet songs, to listen to stories of the saints and to learn about the Catholic faith – particularly about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Afterwards, the families meet in the nursery for playtime and a potluck dinner.
“It all started with the families,” director of faith formation and youth minister Margaret Curtis said. “They’ve organized all of it. It’s beautiful, and we’re very grateful to them for doing this and bringing their children.”
Rivera-Silva said she was inspired to begin the Children’s Eucharistic Adoration Hour when she read about another church that had launched a similar program.
“As soon as I learned about it, I thought, ‘it would be awesome if we could do something like this,’” she said.
She put together an online sign-up and found a few families who were interested. The group held its first gathering in August 2022.
As much as the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist lies at the heart of the Catholic faith, Rivera-Silva said, eucharistic adoration is not always taught in youth formation classes.
“It can be hard if you aren’t used to it,” she said. “The hope is that they will grow up having practiced, so that they are comfortable with it – so as to instill a love of just being in his presence.”
Father George Prado, pastor of St. Jerome, said the children have become a welcome addition to the parish’s Adoration Thursdays.
“It’s normal to see the kids restless from time to time, but you can see there’s a real mindfulness there, too: that they are aware that Jesus is there, exposed in the Blessed Sacrament,” he said. “It’s inspiring to see them – and the parents, who are already planting a longing for the Eucharist within them.”
All are welcome
Therese O’Grady said she began to bring her two daughters to the group so they could spend time with other children while learning adoration in a grace-filled and understanding environment.
“It’s a time when children can still be themselves and be introduced to the practice of eucharistic adoration,” she said.
O’Grady recounted a time when she had invited a friend to join the gathering.
“She said, ‘But my kids won’t behave.’ I told her, ‘Perfect. It’s OK. No one is judging you.’”
“All of the parishioners know it’s the hour for children’s adoration,” she said. “Sometimes, they giggle. A lot of them remember how it was when their own children were small.”
“My children are excited to come,” said Gabriella Combs, a parishioner of St. Jerome. “They know that this is something for them.”
Combs said she enjoys not only the spiritual aspect of the group, but the sense of community it instills as well.
With four children under the age of six, dinner and bedtimes can be a challenge, she said, especially when her husband is out of town.
“It was one night of the week I didn’t have to worry about dinner,” she said, laughing.
“I needed the fellowship,” she added. “It’s been a blessing, finding this support.”
Friends in faith
During their gathering on Thursday, May 4, the children began their time with Jesus in prayer. Noah Rivera-Silva prayed for his older brother, who had a lot of homework. Magdalena O’Grady prayed for a friend who had been sick.
Clair Rivera-Silva prayed for her great-grandmother. She also prayed for “all the animals in the sea, and for people not to throw trash in the water.”
Then, the children lined up with their friends along the altar steps, to spend some time in silence before the monstrance.
After a few minutes, it was time for a ‘wiggle break’ – time to scoot about on the carpet and learn a little about other friends who stand by their sides in faith, with a few stories of the saints.
“I always try to bring some sacred art for the children to look at,” Rivera-Silva said. “For example, in March, in honor of St. Joseph’s Feast Day, I brought an image of St. Joseph that is special to my family, to expose them to the beauty that is our faith.”
At the May gathering, the children learned about St. Joan of Arc and 16th century Italian priest St. Philip Neri, whose feast days fall during that month.
Once she had read the story of St. Philip Neri, Rivera-Silva asked the children what they thought.
Charlotte O’Grady said, “He helped the poor men and the sick.”
“He was kind. He was not strict with people. He wanted them to do their best,” Rosie Rivera-Silva said.
Noah Rivera-Silva said he thought St. Philip Neri looked a bit like his father.
Rivera-Silva took a closer look at the portrait of the saint depicted with dark hair, a dark beard, and a smiling face.
“You know, he does, a little,” she said, laughing.
The children spent the last few minutes of the hour bowing their heads in silence before they filed out of the sanctuary, and off to dinner and to play.
As they were leaving, Combs paused with her eldest daughter, Raphaela, by the door.
“Why do we genuflect?” she asked.
“Because Jesus is there,” Raphaela replied, “and he’s the King.”