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First Confession prior to First Communion

Answers to the most common questions regarding preparation for First Sacramental Confession prior to the reception of First Holy Communion.

Archbishop Dolan directed that all parishes should be celebrating 1st Sacramental Confession before 1st Holy Communion with children of catechetical age in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Archbishop Listecki has reaffirmed this directive.  Because we have received so many questions regarding the proper and timely implementation of this directive, which is in keeping with Canon 914, we have created this Q & A page.

If you have any questions or comments on this topic, or would like to discuss the contents of this Q & A, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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  Why celebrate 1st Sacramental Confession prior to 1st Holy Communion?

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. With this in mind, it is of the utmost importance to approach the Eucharistic Table for the first time with the understanding of forgiveness for our sins that the Sacrament of Confession provides. Preparation for 1st Sacramental Confession will enhance the reception of 1st Holy Communion by tying together the themes of forgiveness and sacrifice.

  Are children in the 2nd grade able to understand this sacrament?

While it may be true that some children might be unable to process the abstract concepts in Reconciliation, the preparation and  celebration of this sacrament will be meaningful if the focus creates a sacramental experience that brings the positive knowledge of forgiveness to children’s lives.

  How do we provide 1st Sacramental Confession to the pertinent grades while ensuring proper preparation according to canon 914?

One-way to do this ‘catch up’ would be to phase in the formation for 1st Sacramental Confession over a two-year period.

  1. Prepare and celebrate 1st Sacramental Confession with 2nd and 4th grade students for the next two years.
  2. Third grade children, who received 1st Holy Communion this past spring 2004, would celebrate 1st Sacramental Confession in the fall of their 4th grade year.
  May a parish decide to prepare children for and celebrate 1st Sacramental Confession during their 2nd grade year, and then prepare the children for and celebrate 1st Holy Communion in their 3rd grade year?

Yes. As canon 913 says, children are required to have sufficient knowledge and careful preparation so that they have the ability to understand the mystery of Christ according to their capacity. The suggested age, determined to be seven years old, is based on the “age of reason” discussed in many Church documents. Nonetheless, parents, pastors, and parish ministers are to determine whether sufficient knowledge is present and set policy accordingly.

  Is it permissible for a parent to choose to have a child delay the reception of 1st Sacramental Confession?

Yes. Parents are the primary educators of their children. Parents may decide to delay 1st Sacramental Confession until a later age, if they feel that their child is not ready. However, in this situation, 1st Holy Communion is not delayed until after the reception of 1st Sacramental Confession.

  How does a minister judge whether a child is properly disposed for 1st Holy Communion?

If children are properly prepared for 1st Sacramental Confession and 1st Holy Communion through approved parish preparation programs and familial liturgical involvement, then it follows that they are probably ready and well disposed.

  Where do we find appropriate catechetical materials?

Catechetical materials are not difficult to find. Many publishers of religious education texts used in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee have material that is developmentally appropriate to 2nd grade. In addition, within the texts for 3rd and 4th grade, there are appropriate chapters on the Sacrament of Confession, which can be utilized during preparation in a “catch-up” phase.

Kim Mandelkow

Susan Skibba
Project & MissionInsite Coordinator

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The Archdiocese of Milwaukee

3501 South Lake Drive
PO Box 070912
Milwaukee, WI 53207-0912

Phone:  (414) 769-3300
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