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Serving as lectors or EMHCs helps students on their faith journey

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Kim Krings, a senior at St. Francis High School and a member of St. Francis Parish, both in Humphrey, said she volunteers to read at Mass and distribute holy Communion to help bring her closer to God and neighbor.

And a desire to help the church grow closer to God prompted Kyle Lindhorst, a senior at Holy Family High School and a member of Holy Family Parish, both in Lindsay, to volunteer this year to be an extraordinary minister of holy Communion (EMHC).

Krings and Lindhorst are two of more than a hundred youths, who each year join adults across the archdiocese for a training session as a lector or EMHC. The youths must be juniors in high school or older, and preparation for the ministries ends with an urban and a rural mandation Mass, or commissioning.

This year, the Aug. 29 Mass at St. Mary Church in Norfolk commissioned nearly 400 people, including Krings, six other St. Francis seniors and five juniors, and Lindhorst and 11 other Holy Family students. About 500 people were commissioned at an Aug. 30 Mass at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha. Archbishop George J. Lucas presided at both Masses.

Krings said serving as an EMHC is a privilege.

"Holding the body of Christ and helping others to receive him ... it is a special thing," she said.

And whether helping classmates with Mass at school, during retreats, prayer services or other events, or helping the parish at weekend Masses, she knows she is assisting her community - in effect, her family.

"It's nice to see in their eyes the belief they have, and know they are part of your community," Krings said. "It makes it extra special."

Lindhorst said he enjoys attending Mass with his classmates as part of school, when they often gather around the altar. Now he can serve his friends in a bigger way, he said.

Every year in the archdiocese between 800 and 900 people are commissioned as EMHCs or lectors, and about 15 percent to 20 percent - or more than 120 annually - are high school youths, said Christian Brother William Woeger, director of the archdiocese's Office of Divine Worship, which oversees the lector and EMHC programs.

Brother Woeger also helps lead the training sessions, and he encourages pastors and teachers to invite youths to be EMHCs or lectors if they are mature enough to appreciate what they will be doing.

"It has to be based on maturity and a growing spirituality," Brother Woeger said. "They have to be at a level of maturity to appreciate the importance of this ministry."

Karl Henkel, liturgist and music ministry leader at Sacred Heart Parish in Norfolk, said he schedules about a dozen high school students for Sunday Masses right along with adults who are EHMCs.

"I treat them as an adult," Henkel said. "They go through the same training process as an adult and they send me their preferred Masses for Sundays."

Father Wayne Pavela, a teacher and chaplain at St. Francis High School and Holy Family High School, said he invites juniors in high school to lector but waits until his students, including Krings, are seniors to ask them to be EMHCs.

"These are callings and ministries, not activities to just put on a resume," Father Pavela said.

He also insists that EMHCs and lectors help lead the campus ministry programs at the two schools.

"I use these students as leaders," Father Pavela said. "They are involved in retreats and other activities, because ministry involves more than just distributing the Eucharist."

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