Brothers Ethan and Liam listen to Fr. Tran during a recent session of "Breakfast with God." (Photo by Melodie Wyttenbach)
Sunday mornings, young children gather in their respective homes for a special program that connects them and their family via Zoom with other families, with the Gospel, and with their Catholic faith.
“Breakfast with God” may be a virtual event, but the joyfulness is palpable, say participants and organizers.
Sponsored by the Barbara and Patrick Roche Center for Catholic Education and the Church in the 21st Century Center, “Breakfast with God” was created in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when churches and religious education classrooms closed. "Breakfast with God" is a 30-minute program that gets families ready for Mass and to find God in the everyday through the Gospel, song, prayer, children's literature, and art.
“It’s been a real gift,” said C21 Center Director Karen Kiefer. “‘Breakfast with God’ offers families the grace found in community and in the work of the Holy Spirit. There have been real relationships and friendships formed in this virtual space. The kids get to pray and sing and learn that faith can be fun.”
“Breakfast with God” is meant to be a casual, no-fuss proposition, a scaffolding resource for young families before or after a virtual or in-person Mass. Pajama-clad children on the Zoom screens can be seen seated at the kitchen table with cereal bowls before them. Others are on the sofa surrounded by stuffed animals and parents with coffee mugs. Grandparents and other relatives join in too.
The hosts of "Breakfast with God" are an engaging pair highly skilled at speaking to families and young children about the Catholic faith: Anne Krane, a Boston College alumna and teacher at St. Columbkille Partnership School, and Quang Tran, S.J., a member of the Jesuit Community at BC and doctoral student in the Lynch School of Education and Higher Education’s counseling psychology program.
Krane has been an educator at STCPS for 12 years and has led her own pre-K classroom for the past six years. She has a master’s degree from the Lynch School and M.Div. degree from the School of Theology and Ministry. Fr. Tran has been one of the celebrants of the family Mass at St. Ignatius Church.
“Something that makes ‘Breakfast with God’ distinct is the parent engagement,” said Roche Center Executive Director Melodie Wyttenbach, who recruited Krane and Fr. Tran for the program. “Parents often are challenged with ‘How do I teach the faith to my children?’ ‘How do I help them to understand this complex world that we’re living in and navigate it through the lens of our Catholic faith?’ I think Anne and Fr. Tran do a great job of modeling that for parents.
“Kids are the spotlight, but parents get just as much from ‘Breakfast with God,’” she said.
Kiefer echoed that sentiment, noting that the team has received emails and gifts from parents expressing their gratitude. “During ‘Breakfast with God’ it is great to see parents watching their kids get excited about God and excited to talk about God. The program also gives parents a lot to talk with their kids about during the week.”
“It feels like this is where God wants us to go,” said Fr. Tran. “The best thing we can pass on to kids is the faith. It holds you through so many things in life.”
“‘Breakfast with God’ is full-family faith formation,” summarized Krane, whose own mother joins from her home each week.
The organizers and hosts of "Breakfast with God" (l-r): Roche Center for Catholic Education Executive Director Melodie Wyttenbach, Church in the 21st Century Center Director Karen Kiefer, Lynch School doctoral student Quang Tran, S.J., and St. Columbkille Partnership School teacher Anne Krane.
Typically, some 150 people from Boston, New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, California, and beyond participate in “Breakfast with God.” Organizers admit that initially they did not know if “Breakfast with God” would work or how long it would go on for—that was more than 35 weeks ago.
“It’s been such a joy,” said Krane. “We do it because we love it. The families are so wonderful. I hope it doesn’t go away.”
“Breakfast with God” follows a consistent structure. After an introduction, Fr. Tran proclaims the week’s Gospel and gives a homily, asking the children questions. Krane reads aloud from a children’s book which has a theme connected to the Gospel reading. She then introduces a craft or art project the families can do together. This is followed by prayer intentions, reciting the Lord’s Prayer, and a closing song.
“It doesn’t replace Mass,” said Krane, “but it’s communion with a small ‘c.’ It’s become a really helpful way to be together when a lot of times we’re far apart.”
“It’s a joyful and organic way of letting children reintroduce you to Jesus,” said Fr. Tran, adding a passage from the Gospel of Matthew: “Jesus said the mysteries of the kingdom are hidden from the wise, but revealed to the children.”
Perhaps the most moving part of “Breakfast with God” occurs when the children offer their prayer intentions. Their intentions demonstrate a deep concern and compassion for others: the sick, the lonely, family members, and animals.
“They are praying for things they love, the things that are important to them,” noted Krane.
The pandemic is also very much on the children’s minds. They pray for those who have died and those in the hospital. At a “Breakfast with God” in December, children prayed for those who couldn’t travel to celebrate Christmas.
“‘Breakfast with God’ brings children’s voices into celebrating the faith. It creates a space for children to share and centers it, which is beautiful,” said Wyttenbach, who regularly participates with her three children.
“Personally, ‘Breakfast with God’ has been an unexpected grace for me,” said Fr. Tran. “If you can explain the faith to the little ones, you can explain it to anyone. It has really simplified the way I pray and think about God.”
To learn more about "Breakfast with God" or to register for the free program, visit the program's website.
Kathleen Sullivan | University Communications | February 2021