The Children’s Liturgy of the Word Ministry, known as the Niños para Cristo Ministry, has been in existence for about 15 years. Velasco and fellow teenager Maria Sonora recently took over the ministry after the last coordinator left in 2011.
“Before I took over I didn’t really like going to church,” Sonora said. “As I started teaching I started getting more involved in my faith and I decided to stay in the ministry.”
Velasco was inspired to join the ministry after attending a retreat shortly before the previous coordinator left. Since taking on a larger role in the ministry, he said he has grown in faith and is now considering a vocation as a priest or deacon.
“Spiritually, I have grown a lot,” Velasco said. “I have come closer to my faith.”
Every Sunday during the 9 a.m. Mass, children are invited to come forward before the first reading, they are blessed by the priest and then escorted out of the church and taken to the parish center.
A group of youth volunteers engage the children in the readings by dramatizing the scriptures, breaking down the stories and asking questions. They also sometimes provide handouts and offer other activities that revolve around themes found in the Sunday readings.
The volunteers also help the children practice the responses they will later say when they leave the ministry and join the congregation at Mass.
Since the ministry meets during the Spanish Mass, the sessions are conducted bilingually to accommodate all participants.
The children are later reunited with their families before the Liturgy of the Eucharist begins.
Sonora and Velasco agree that having the children take part in a Children’s Liturgy of the Word helps the children grasp concepts and themes covered in the Sunday readings by having them presented in a way that they understand.
Parishioners are grateful for having the ministry available and for its growth over the years. The ministry hopes to expand the ministry to the 11 a.m. Sunday Mass in the future.