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Children, the future of the church

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future of the Church - world children's day - The Catholic weekly
Pope Francis waves from the popemobile during the first World Day of Children 25 May, 2024, in Rome’s Olympic Stadium. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

While in Rome 70,000 children and parents gathered with Pope Francis at the Vatican for the first World Day of Children on 25 May, hearts young and old were warmed closer to home in Sydney’s west.

At St Joachim’s Catholic Church in Lidcombe, families arrived early for an all-day affair in honour of their young ones.

Parishioners began with Mass at 11am before lunch, games and formation for children, a family holy hour, and a vigil Mass, before concluding with an evening Marian candlelight procession.

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St Joachim’s parish priest Fr Epeli Qimaqima said the day had been marked in the parish calendar since it was announced last year by Pope Francis on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

“It resonated with us because he was calling for us to return to, recognise and cultivate again the purity of childhood—that innocent, free love for God,” he told The Catholic Weekly.

“Considering the name ‘Joachim’ in Hebrew means ‘raised by God,’ here in the parish, we the priests and parents try to be at the service of God in raising up his children in communion with him.”

The children enjoyed games of ‘human bingo’ and ‘the longest line’ as part of the day’s religious and community building activities, with parents and grandparents likewise getting in on the fun and faith beside their young ones.

future of the Church - world children's day - The catholic weekly
Kids and families of St Joachim’s Lidcombe celebrate the first World Day of Children. Photo: Alphonsus Fok.

Coordinator for children’s ministry at St Joachim’s and mother of four Joanne O’Keefe believes this faith community built up of families makes St Joachim’s a second home for many young children.

“The personal connection the children form with Jesus through his church is invaluable,” she said.

“Not only are kids connected to their faith, but they have the chance to form friendships which hopefully give them the courage to continue that faith into the future.

“This World Day of Children recognises not just the children now but what they can become.

“The value for them and parents also presents so much opportunity to come to know Christ and build a life around him who holds the perfect love that a child could hope to model.”

Fr Epeli says he has witnessed this love firsthand recently through the adjacent primary school where an increasing number of non-Catholic families have requested baptism for their children.

“That shows the hand of God at work through teachers, the Catholic children in the parish—a lot of whom are involved in children’s ministry at church,” he said.

“They’re growing as friends of God and so this day is a gift for all of us to recognise again the dignity, value and vitality that youthfulness brings to the life of the church.

“This isn’t just something else to do. It’s actually who we are. We are children of God, boys and girls with dignity and beauty, invited by Christ to come to him.

“The worst thing we can do as adults is be in the way. We have to instead facilitate that journey.”

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