Priests visit youths on day of would-be first Communion

Chelsea Stevens
Father Dan Dorau, parochial vicar of Divine Mercy Parish in Burlington-West Burlington and St. Mary Parish-Dodgeville, blesses Henry Stevens outside Stevens’ home last month in Burlington. Father Dorau and Father Marty Goetz, the pastor, traveled to the homes of youths who were scheduled to receive first Communion this spring and offered socially-distanced blessings.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

Youths from Divine Mercy Parish in Burlington-West Burlington and St. Mary Parish in Dodgeville were supposed to receive first Communion on April 26. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, that didn’t happen.

The priests from their parishes “wanted to let them know how special they were and keep them excited about the Eucharist,” said Father Dan Dorau, the parochial vicar.

On the day first Communion would have been celebrated, Father Marty Goetz, the pastor, and Father Dorau visited the youths and offered social-distanced blessings outside their homes. The parishes contacted the parents ahead of time to ask permission, and made them promise to keep the visits a “surprise,” Father Goetz said.


The priests split duties so they could reach all 34 youths in one day. Father Goetz said he and Father Dorau wanted to let the youths know that first Communion will happen once it is safe to do so, and that “we were thinking of them and praying for them.” He mentioned that many of the youths are feeling scared right now. “We wanted to reassure them that Jesus is with them.”

Father Dorau said the parents appreciated the gesture, and the children “mostly so, after they got over the shock of seeing their priest pull up in the driveway.”

During the visits, the priests read a story from the Gospel of Mark which emphasized the gift of children. Father Goetz wrote a blessing for the occasion to encourage the youths’ personal and spiritual growth. The blessing included the following message: “When he came into the world, our Lord, the Son of God, became a child and grew in wisdom, age and grace in the eyes of God and of all who knew him. Let us therefore ask for God’s blessing, so that we will devote ourselves to the Christian upbringing of this child and so that he/she will accept willingly the guidance he/she needs.”

Father Dorau said he was grateful to see parishioners in person “after weeks of staring at photographs taped to the pews while praying Mass.” He said it is always a joy to connect with parishioners and he felt privileged to be welcomed at their homes — or in this case, their front yards. “It was great to see living people and know that the faith is still alive out there.”

Father Goetz said the front-yard blessings were among his “most special moments” as a priest.

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