By Linzy Roussel Cotaya
Clarion Herald Guest Column
As a second grader at St. Ann School in Metairie, my daughter Annelise had really been looking forward to her first Communion. She and her classmates had been preparing all school year for their special day.
Unfortunately, when the week of Annelise’s first Communion arrived, she fell sick. She had a very serious lymph node infection and a 104-degree fever for days. She was going on daily visits to the pediatrician, and her physician even contemplated admitting her to the hospital.
On Saturday, April 21, when more than 100 children from St. Ann’s school and parish school of religion went to Mass to receive their first Holy Communion, Annelise awoke for another doctor visit. She was upset that she was missing out on such an important day.
Wanting to feel included in the festivities, she wore the fresh flower headpiece intended for her first Communion to the doctor’s office instead.
I was upset for Annelise to miss out on such a special day. I could remember my first Communion, and all the festivities and excitement among my classmates. I was sad that Annelise would not have those memories.
When I notified her teacher and the rectory that she would not be in attendance for the ceremony, the school and parish could not have been more accommodating. They sent Annelise well wishes and said not to worry – that they would absolutely create a first Communion opportunity for her that would feel just as special.
Annelise’s first Communion was rescheduled for the 9:30 a.m. Sunday Mass on April 29. The rectory reserved seats for our family in the front of church.
When we walked into the church that day, a dozen of Annelise’s friends and classmates were waiting for her in the front pew! They were all dressed in the First Communion attire they had worn to receive the sacrament for the first time. You could see the excitement and smiles on their faces when they saw Annelise. The kids did not want her to have to make her First Communion alone, so they dressed the part and showed up.
Annelise’s teacher, Brigette Entwisle, also came to the Mass to support her. St. Ann’s pastor, Father Billy O’Riordan, acknowledged Annelise from the altar in his opening remarks and homily. He was diligent about making sure that Annelise received Communion before anyone else approached the altar.
It was emotional for me as her mom to see the love and support from such a great group of kids and from their parents who made it happen.
The actions of Annelise’s teacher and pastor served as a reminder of how Catholic school is the right choice for our family.
It was a very special day for Annelise and our whole family. It is humbling and inspiring that so many people voluntarily came out to support her and witness her receiving the Eucharist. I love that these second-grade students really understand the spirit of first Communion and their faith.
We are so blessed with the community and family that we have found at St. Ann School. On this day especially, I was overwhelmed by how amazing the members of the parish truly are. It was more than we could have hoped for in a make-up first Communion ceremony!
Linzy Roussel Cotaya and her husband Paul Cotaya are the parents of daughters Annelise and Emmeline Cotaya.