Iowa City parish takes first Communion prep online


By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

Youths at St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Iowa City planned to celebrate their first Communion at the beginning of May. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “That probably won’t happen,” said Patti McTaggart, who leads the parish’s first Communion preparation.

First Communion student Liam Steffen and his older brother, Owen, watch a first Communion prep video at home. The video features instruction by Patti McTaggart, who leads first communion prep for St. Mary Parish in Iowa City. Liam plans to receive first Communion once the church reopens and reschedules the Mass.

Still, the pandemic hasn’t prevented the parish from providing sacramental preparation for the youths. McTaggart is working to keep her students engaged through a series of videos. Every week, she sends parents an email with links to the videos, and asks parents to reply when their child has finished watching the videos.

McTaggart has created several videos so far, which parishioner Kirk Phillips records. These videos include a demonstration of all the parts of the altar, which the students are supposed to memorize as part of their first Communion prep. Another video features McTaggart playing guitar and singing “The Jesus Song,” which the students sang at the time of their first reconciliation and will sing during the Mass at which they receive first Communion. She also shares Gospel stories related to their sacramental preparations.


Some videos are intended for all youths in the parish. Last week, she recorded a children’s Stations of the Cross video and explained the meaning of Palm Sunday and Holy Thursday.

Feedback from parents has been positive so far. Recently, parent Katie Steffen sent a photograph of her two sons — one of whom has already received first Communion — watching the Communion prep videos together on a laptop. “Thank you for everything you are doing to keep church and first Communion (prep) going during this time,” Steffen wrote to McTaggart in an email. “I thought you might enjoy seeing a picture of Liam watching your video. And his older brother Owen decided to join in too!”

McTaggart said she hopes these videos will be “helpful in some small way as we all move through this difficult time in our church and world.” She plans to continue making videos “until we can meet again.”

Additional ideas and solutions

“Many parishes are doing creative things with respect to faith formation at this time,” said Rosina Hendrickson, Lifelong Faith and Lay Ministry Formation coordinator for the Diocese of Davenport. For a list of examples of what some parishes are doing to reach out during this time, go to The Catholic Messenger will highlight some of these examples in future editions. If you would like your parish featured in an upcoming article, please email

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