My First Communion 1950 and Easter

Source: the author

Somehow I have come to think that my First Communion happened at Easter time.  But I know that isn’t true. It was in summer, Sunday, July 16, 1950.

Each year after our June exams in our one room school house, Fairview SD #174, on Highway #16 (now #48),  my five older sisters and I attended an extra two weeks of school.

For the first two weeks of July we trekked with horse and buggy to Rastadt School in St Peter’s Colony, located about 4 miles north of Kronau, Saskatchewan.

Two Ursuline Sisters from their convent in Vibank conducted the full school day catechism classes preparing children for three sacraments, First Reconciliation and Communion, and Confirmation. Children’s ages ranged from 7 to 13 years.

Because the Archbishop from Regina only came to our parish for Confirmation every third year, and the age for Confirmation was 10, rarely did a child attend after being Confirmed.  Most parents considered that with Confirmation the child was ‘done’ in terms of their formal Faith education.

Although I really don’t recall anything much of those two weeks in 1950, vivid in my memory is that Sunday morning kneeling in the front right hand side pew with the other boys. (The girls were on the left side).

We boys sported a flower and ribbon on our lapels and the girls were like snow flakes, all white.  I was conscious too of my stern vigilant grandfather’s presence in his pew right behind them, not behind us.

Receiving the host on my tongue, the inevitable happened. Sister had warned us that the wafer might stick to the roof of the mouth. It did. Not quite panicking, finally producing a little saliva, I carefully managed to peel it off with my tongue and, without chewing, to swallow it.

Curiously, despite negotiating all the mechanics of physically receiving First Communion, I knew that something mysterious and holy was happening. There was no doubt in my mind that Jesus was present.

That belief was nurtured through the rest of my catechism years at the Colony, the few years of catechism correspondence with a Sister of the Missions in Regina, and the Masses and Benedictions in those early formation years of my Faith.  Of course, celebrating the Eucharist has been integral in my life since my ordination in 1972.

During the recent year of COVID streaming Masses after communion it has been a consolation to pray with those joining on-line: “I truly believe that you are truly present in the Blessed Sacrament”.

The ‘real’ Presence has been always central to my Faith.  Perhaps it is no wonder that in  my elder years I have come to associate my First Communion experience with the celebration of its institution on the Holy Thursday during the Easter Triduum.

Frank Obrigewitsch, SJ, is pastor of St. Ignatius parish in Winnipeg.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 02:13h, 29 May Reply

    Thank you Frank!

  • Chris Anne Butterill
    Posted at 10:11h, 29 May Reply

    Thank you Fr. Frank. You bring back precious and sacred memories! We in Winnipeg had our First Communion delayed a year because of the 1950 Flood. So Grade II instead of Grade I was our special year. I remember our procession – girls in white and the boys too in white trousers and shirts and ties – from St. Mary’s School down to the corner of Carlton, across St. Mary’s Ave. and along the north side to St. Mary’s Cathedral. We had already received our first Reconciliation during the week, so the First Communion was on a Sunday in May and the following week on Sunday evening we assembled for Bishop Murray’s Confirming each one of us. And I remember too the boys on the right side of the pews and the girls on the left. The Sisters of the Holy Names had us stand, kneel or sit to their ‘clappers’.

  • Jim Radde
    Posted at 12:33h, 29 May Reply

    A delightful story.

  • Catherine von Zuben
    Posted at 17:09h, 29 May Reply

    Such precious beautiful memories. Thank you for sharing them with us.

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