To further reach the children of the parish, Church of the Assumption in Germantown offers opportunities for the young people to be a part of fraternities and sodalities.
Since December 2021, one of those groups has been the Confraternity of St. Stephen for the altar boys, which has seen great success. But Father Bede Price, pastor of Assumption, said he knew something was missing, and there needed to be a similar opportunity for the girls of the parish and those boys not yet old enough to serve.
Then, an idea came to him, as he recalled having seen Children of Mary circles while serving in churches in the United Kingdom. After doing some research, Father Price found out that there was a moderator of the program in Louisiana.
Children of Mary circles are part of the St. Philomena Youth for Purity Program, co-sponsored by the University Living Rosary Association of St. Philomena and the Universal Archconfraternity of St. Philomena. All registered children in the circles, which must include at least five members, assume the responsibility of praying one decade of the rosary a day and invoking the aid of St. Philomena, patroness of the Children of Mary as declared by Pope Pius IX.
The Children of Mary “is a Catholic Lay Association that has for its main purpose the spiritual formation of its members. It takes for its model the spirituality of St. Louis de Montfort and his idea of total consecration to Jesus through Mary,” according to the website for the Children of Mary program. “The work of the congregation is to foster holiness in the young by giving them solid formation and peer support under the mantle of the Blessed Mother.”
Members wear a Miraculous Medal on a blue ribbon as a sign of membership, and throughout can earn 12 different silver stars to add to their ribbon.
“I immediately thought, ‘This is something we can do,’” Father Price said. “It’s got an excellent virtue program, and I think the children like to be involved in things because when they have something that is just for them and that they can take ownership of, it becomes extremely successful.”
Father Price brought the idea to Meredith Pelham, director of religious education at Assumption, and she ran with it, starting the group in January of this year. Since then, more than 20 girls ranging in age from 5-12, have joined the group, which meets the first Saturday of each month.
“Since we’re a parish dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady, it seemed like a fitting group,” Pelham said.
“Every month we have some prayers that we pray, and each meeting has been devoted to learning about the Blessed Mother, whether it’s a seasonal feast or, for Holy Week, we learned about Mary’s role during that time,” she added, noting how their very first meeting included the girls bringing their favorite representations of Mary that were blessed by Father Price. “So, it’s just about helping the children make sense of Our Lady’s many facets.”
Pelham said the idea of making sure the children are included is a direct result of The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd model that they use for religious education for children ages 3-12. Created in Rome by Dr. Sofia Cavalletti, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is a hands-on, scriptural approach to formation, she said.
“In addition to learning about the liturgical year and Scripture, they’re also learning how to polish candlesticks and arranging flowers every Sunday for the prayer table and all these many ways that might one day prepare them for hands-on work to belong to the Church in a greater sense and a practical way,” Pelham said.
Along with teaching them how to serve the parish, this year the Children of Mary Circle took on one of the biggest celebrations of the year, the parish May Crowning on Sunday, May 7. To prepare, the girls helped to make the crown by hand, washed the Mary statue outside the church, and more on Saturday, May 6.
“We’re grateful and happy that we can do this for Mary,” said 9-year-old Lucy Hartman. “I like that we can be with our friends and that we can do special things for Mary.”
“I like how we learn about Mary and how we get to spend time with her,” added 11-year-old Camille Wilson.
During the morning gathering, Father Price gathered the girls around in a circle to teach them what makes crowns so special, noting how England crowned its newest monarch, King Charles III, just a few hours prior.
“You get to say that you crowned Mary on the same day that England crowned its new king,” he told them, emphasizing that it would most likely be decades before that happened again.
“It was interesting and something I didn’t know before,” Hartman said of what Father Price said.
“It was special to learn about that,” Wilson added. “Not everyone gets to learn about that.”
As the girls prepared for the May Crowning, Heather Bogdanov, mother of Children of Mary member Hannah Bogdanov, 5, reflected on how special it is to have a group such as this for the girls.
“It’s such a special group because, for the girls, it’s important to have their own sense of belonging to the church and a sense of belonging to their faith and to their community,” Bogdanov said. “It’s important to carry on the tradition of May Crownings. We also had May Crowning events when we were younger, so passing on that tradition to our girls is beautiful.
“It shows them the importance of Mary in their own lives that they can then pass down when they become mothers to the next generation of girls,” she concluded.
Pelham said she ultimately has one goal for the girls in the Children of Mary Circle.
“It’s really a virtue-based organization to help them grow in virtue, but, ultimately, I really just want them to feel that they belong here at the church,” she concluded, “and that it is a sense of belonging that they can carry with them throughout their whole lives.”
For more information about Children of Mary, visit www.mychildrenofmary.com.