The Word of God for the children

Every Sunday, as we reach the end of The Gloria during High Mass, the congregation of St. Olav is used to seeing the colourful row of children bowing in front of the altar before they march off to Sunday School. Together with an adult from the congregation they spend the time of the homily working through the day's text in a way that will make it comprehensible for young children who have not received first communion.

On the third Sunday of Lent the Gospel spoke of the Temple in Jerusalem. Here the children from St. Olav congregation are busily constructing the Temple

Sometimes we help them dramatise the Bible story, at other times we tell the story illustrating it with felt pictures, says Lena Tande, who is responsible for the Sunday School. The children are keen participants and will often share their thoughts on the subject. We also sing songs which are linked to the day's text. Lena and the four adult helpers who share in the work of explaining the Gospel text work on a rota. The children return to mass after Credo so that they can participate in the liturgy of the Eucarist.

Many congregations have positive experiences with this method of instruction. For the children, the 'break' this represents in the middle of a long mass, means that their patience does not run out so easily. Oslo Catholic Bishopric has formulated guidlines for this type of Sunday School, and the activities are approved by the bishop.

Sunday School is important for us, says Hanne Bjordal, mother of Aurora Alexandra. Big sister Julia also used to join in, but once she received First Communion she would rather attend the whole mass. When we adults attend mass, we wish to be part of the fellowship. This sense of fellowship is not so easily experienced for the children as they sit squashed in between all the adults in the benches. In Sunday School, they are integrated at their own level and this gives them a sense of security. The children make friends and feel that they belong, while they at the same time also participate with the adults in the mass. Aurora is very engaged in the other children, knows their names and discusses what they have said during the teaching of the Gospel text. She also looks forward to meeting the children again. It is wonderful that such activities can take place inside the overall frame of the High Mass, says Hanne.