Stories of Accompaniment

Walking together in the Body of Christ.

A Story of Pastoral Accompaniment: A Child With OCD Doesn’t Want Eucharist How to respond? This is based on a true situation in one of our parishes but will be shared without any names. 

A Parish Catechetical Leader (PCL) reached out to me from one of our parishes about a child in the parish program.[*] The child has OCD and ADHD. The vigilance about germs required during COVID have significantly exacerbated the child’s OCD symptoms to the point of not being able to eat in public spaces and is afraid to receive communion. This doesn’t help their ADHD symptoms either, making it more difficult to be still.  With all of this, the child can’t attend the parish catechetical program and certainly doesn’t want to prepare for first celebration [†]of Eucharist. 

What would you do? 

This PCL recognizes the reality of mental illness and, also that their role is to accompany the person and family, not treat the illness. So, a plan was developed with the child’s mother to work at home, but it wasn’t going so well. So, the PCL reached out to me for ideas after asking the mother more questions, what the issues seemed to be and additional questions to clarify how the child learns and what the child enjoys. Audio recordings are particularly helpful, the mother said, as well as being actively engaged. Therefore video resources could be helpful as well engagement in comfortable modalities (collages, coloring, drawing, making videos, etc). 

They use Christ Our Life by Loyola Press, so we reached out to Matt DeCaux, our educational consultant for Loyola, for suggestions on their interactive resources. He promptly shared links and info for Finding God which looks promising. This will continue to be a work in progress, but below is summary of initial pastoral plan. 

Long term goal is for the child to feel a part of the parish community, and hopefully at some point will feel comfortable returning to participating in person. 

  • This is expected to develop from feeling cared for, respected and welcome in the catechetical program in whatever way is comfortable for him. 

Immediate goal: that he and his mother feel cared for and that the parish want to support them in a way that is comfortable for them. 

  • This will be a collaborative process. The PCL has already proactively initiated this. 

Suggested plan to be discussed with mother for reactions, thoughts and suggestions:  Have material from book narrated by someone in the parish: prayer, scripture story, reflective questions.                                             

  • Purpose of narrator from parish, this provides concrete parish connection rather than anonymous narrator on purchased item. 
  • Ask their mother if thinks would have a preference for teen, boy or girl, or an adult, man or woman. 

For catechist, can they supply reflective questions if book option isn’t clear without group discussion and suggest an integrative activity related to theme? Maybe even something that is developed over time based on multiple sessions? It could be cool for the child and other kids in the catechetical group. 

  • If not, perhaps think of something that each could do and share with the other. I’d suggest following lead of the child and other kids, whatever medium(s) they feel comfortable, can have different options. 
  • Let them know always welcome to come to actual session, even if just for 5 minutes. This doesn’t mean have to every week if comes once. 
  • Let them know schedule of any special events/sessions. 


Perhaps over time they will be curious to meet narrator. That’s why I’m thinking it’d be good to have someone who would bring their personality to the task.

Regarding sacrament preparation: follow same plan, inviting them to attend with peers, but leaving up them. Then when ready emotionally, they will be all set and feel prepared. 

We can reassess plan and adjust as needed.  In fact, EXPECT to need adjustments along the way.

Some additional background: The child is eight years old and could also be part of the conversation potentially, but this shouldn’t be forced. 

It’s important to remember there isn’t one response, and all responses are not equally valid. In other words, it’s important to focus on the particular person, what their concerns are, what makes them comfortable, what is helpful, and also some more about them as a person, their interests, strengths, relationships, hobbies, etc. 

Most important thing to remember is that your attitude makes a huge difference. Genuine concern and respect is recognized and appreciated by people. This PCL shared with me, “I definitely feel like I am in over my head sometimes. Bringing all of the kids in our program closer to Christ is so important that I don’t want to botch it for anyone!” 

With such an attitude, I sincerely doubt there’s any chance of that happening in this parish!

[*] This story was first shared last year. The religious education curriculum was incorrectly reported as Alive in Christ.

[†] Image from NAMI Facebook page: