by Sandy Rongish
“Do not hinder the Children from coming to me!” (Mt 19:14)
by Sandy Rongish
In this article, Sandy Rongish, National Director of the “Children of Hope,” shares her story of how she was led to this Eucharistic Adoration ministry for children, founded by Fr. Antoine Thomas. Sandy Rongish is a full-time homemaker and mother of five children.
For more information about the “Children of Hope” and how you can start an Adoration ministry for children in your parish, visit website: www.childrenofhope.org.
The Marian Year, 1996, was a beginning of the preparation of the Church for the new Millennium, and we were to dedicate ourselves that first year asking Our Mother to help us begin the journey. This was also a year of big changes for me.
During this year I experienced a metanoia-a turning from the way I had been going and setting my feet to a new path of rediscovering the faith I had come to as a child. Mary became a big part of this journey and I placed myself in her hands, becoming an MI member.
I soon discovered the joy and peace of spending time before Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. We had had perpetual adoration in my parish for ten years but I never went. Now a metanoia was taking place within me. A desire to spend silent time in prayer-grace. What an awesome gift!
My first holy hour was full of grace and consolation. I came to believe in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, that I really was with Jesus! He loved me! It was the beginning of my love of adoration, my time with Jesus. I wanted to invite everyone to come to the chapel-to know this joy and peace.
I especially began to feel a strong desire to bring children to be with Jesus. I wished I had discovered the Real Presence of Jesus as a child myself.
How could I have received so many communions and not have realized what I received? Who I received? I began to bring my own children with me and they too came to love their silent time with Jesus, but a strong desire continued within me that I should bring our parish children. I didn’t know where to begin.
During my Holy Hour I would have little nudges from Our Lord, thoughts and ideas, but I still resisted. In February of 2000, Providence brought me an answer. I met Fr. Antoine Thomas (Community of St. John) at a Youth 2000 Teen Prayer Festival.
He began to tell me about “Children of Hope.” I knew in an instant this was the answer to my prayers! Fr. Antoine had been leading children’s Holy Hours for seven years. He began at the request of a mother in his native country of France.
When he was asked to come to America to help start a priory on the campus of Bradley University, Peoria, IL, he accepted and began a children’s Holy Hour right away. These children prayed for the Bradley college students.
Fr. Antoine taught me the why’s and how’s to lead a children’s Holy Hour. He shared his instructional video, taught me the format, and gave me endless amounts of encouragement! I asked for permission from my pastor and soon we began. It surpassed my dreams!
At the end of our first Holy Hour, a six-year-old boy asked his mother, “Can we stay a little longer, Mommy? I am not through talking to Jesus.” That was all I needed to hear to know this was a good thing and it would succeed.
I have struggled at times, but it has always been such a joy. Our weekly intention is for our Bishop, the Rev. Thomas Olmsted, who has given us tremendous support and encouragement.
Occasionally my ten year old son, Kenny, would grumble about going to make a Holy Hour. Then afterwards one week he said to me, “Mom, how come I sometimes don’t feel like going, but then I’m always glad I went?” I must have had a huge smile when I told him that he had learned early on one of the secrets of the spiritual life.
I told him, “The world tempts us with distractions like television and video games, but if we keep going to the Holy Hours, graces flowing from the Eucharist warm our hearts and souls and fill us with the true happiness that is only found with God.” Kenny smiled back to me and said, “Yes!”
As a result, I found such a joy in these hours and I wanted to help share it with others. Fr Antoine and I started working on an instruction manual, prayer booklets and other things to help others with this same desire to start these programs in their own parishes.
Fr. Antoine has taken the “Children of Hope” program to parishes, Catholic conferences, and EWTN. We have received so many calls and emails from others around the world who have also been feeling the call to start a children’s Holy Hour in their home parish. I’m very pleased to say there are four groups meeting here in the Wichita, KS, area each weekend and one more that meets monthly. Three more groups will be starting soon!
We sent the “Children of Hope” kit to our Holy Father and received his blessing and approval. He has made known many times his desire for children to go before the Eucharist:
“I urge priests, religious and lay people to continue and redouble their efforts to teach the younger generations the meaning and value of Eucharistic adoration and devotion. How will young people be able to know the Lord if they are not introduced to the mystery of his presence?
Like the young Samuel, by learning the words of the prayer of the heart, they will be closer to the Lord, who will accompany them in their spiritual and human growth, and in the missionary witness which they must give throughout their life. The Eucharistic mystery is in fact the ‘summit of evangelization’ (Lumen gentium, n. 28), for it is the most eminent testimony to Christ’s Resurrection.
All interior life needs silence and intimacy with Christ in order to develop. This gradual familiarity with the Lord will enable certain young people to be involved in serving as acolytes and to taking a more active part in Mass; for young boys, to be near the altar is also a privileged opportunity to hear Christ’s call to follow him more radically in the priestly ministry.” Vatican, 28 May 1996
Maybe you have also felt this call to start a children’s Holy Hour-your own family, or a group? Please listen to this quiet whisper of the Holy Spirit, you will be so glad you did! May Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, guide you and God bless you!