CLOW… do you know where your children are?

January 15, 2013

HOUSTON — Before the Liturgy of the Word during some Sunday Masses in Catholic churches around the nation, parents willingly let streams of children leave the church exits, not sure where they are going or what they are doing exactly. It’s like the Pied Piper has left the building and has enticed throngs of children to stand up, leave their pews and parents, and willingly follow wherever his path may take them.

In this case, the path leads directly to the Word of God in a program called, “CLOW,” more commonly known as Children’s Liturgy of the Word. According to Mary Camarata, associate director of Prince of Peace Catholic Community’s children’s faith formation program, at CLOW, the readings for that particular Sunday Mass are read and presented in a way that interest the children, keep their attention and help them better understand the Gospel message.

“CLOW has been around at Prince of Peace for more than 12 years and is offered during the school year at two morning Masses on the first, third and fourth Sunday of the month, with breaks at Christmas, Easter and spring break,” said Camarata. “We have three groups of male, female and young adults known as Ministers of the Word that lead children ages first through fifth grade to our music room in the building next door that has room large enough for the 50 to 70-plus kids that choose to participate during each Mass.”

Camarata said the ministers use the same readings as in Mass, but after each reading, they ask appropriate-aged questions to the children, sometimes incorporating a skit or interactive activity where the children can participate. The team also provides discussion points for the children to go over with their parents after Mass since they hear the same reading, as well as provide a worship bulletin with activities that reinforce the Gospel message learned that day.

“Each Minister of the Word team is unique in its own way and it’s awesome to watch them interact with the children,” Camarata said. “It is a great program for the children to learn about Jesus at their level.”

Camarata said Prince of Peace continues to offer this program because of the high participation and positive feedback from the children, as well as parents. She believes that if this program is offered at other churches, parents should take advantage of the benefits it offers.

“At the 9 a.m. Mass, we have around 50 to 60 children and at 10:45 a.m., we have 70-plus children attend,” said Camarata. “The children really do love the program and have fun working on their worship bulletins afterward. We are blessed at Prince of Peace with a very successful program, which I attribute to the tremendous amount of time and talent provided by the Ministers of the Word teams that truly make the difference.”

The program is a benefit not only to the children. Claire Gregory, one of the coordinators for the children’s Liturgy of the Word at St. Laurence Catholic Church, said the program is a benefit to the parents as well.

“Parents benefit from their children participating in Children’s Liturgy of the Word because it reinforces our Church community, breaks open The Word in language the child can understand, supports open peer discussion of the child’s understanding of The Word, and plants a seed for deeper teaching in the home prompted by the child’s unique insights,” she said.

Jennifer Fletcher, mom and parishioner at Prince of Peace likes CLOW as an option for her two children, Sydney, a fifth grader, and Wesley, a third grader, when it’s available during Mass. 

“I like that they like it,” Fletcher said. “They are hearing and learning about the same readings that we are at Mass, but on a level they can more easily understand. They feel like they are participating more at the Children’s Liturgy, which for them means they get to learn about Scripture, the Mass, and their faith in a fun and positive way.”

Her daughter, Sydney, agrees.

“I like it because there they teach God’s Word in a way that children like me can better understand,” she said.