Grade 6 Students Share Their Hidden Gifts Through Ministry

For over four decades, students in the Lower School have discovered hidden gifts and talents through serving in Oak Knoll’s Liturgical Ministry Program. Currently geared toward grade 6 students, the program asks each individual in the class to think carefully about an interest, talent, or gift they have that they can share with others during prayer services, Masses, or other school assemblies. 

Various ministries include: liturgical dance; drumming; song; lectors who perform readings; altar servers; sacristans who polish silver and clean the chapel; hospitality greeters; artists for creating decorations, altar cloths, and banners; and in the past, even bread bakers for providing host for the eucharist.

As Lower School Religion Coordinator and Grade 3 Religion Teacher Patti Cepparulo explained, “When the program was established, the goal was to have the children be involved in serving at Mass to strengthen their relationship with God and give them a role in the service. We wanted to combine leadership with spirituality to help students understand the different components that go into a Mass. Also, for students to realize there are many different ways to share their gifts.”

The process begins with a series of gatherings. Initially, students pray and take some time to think about their gifts and talents and what God might call them to do. Each year, there are anywhere from six to 12 different ministries from which students can select. After a week, students gather again for a “call to ministry,” where they write down the three top choices where they feel they would best use their gifts. They then receive an “invitation to ministry” and participate in a special day of ministry workshops.

Ministry workshop day begins in the chapel with students listening and talking about how exciting it is to put their gifts to use — even if they must move a little outside their comfort zone. They then pair up with a mentor or workshop leader and they spend an hour learning about the role they will play and the responsibilities of that ministry.

Finally, students gather back in the chapel and attend a prayer service  — each taking turns demonstrating their ministry. For example, the lectors read scripture, the musicians sing psalms, and the altar servers assist the priest.

Several weeks later, on All Saints Day, in front of the entire lower school, the sixth graders are celebrated in the Liturgical Ministries Commissioning Mass where they are officially commissioned in their new roles and blessed by the attending priest. Throughout the year, there are opportunities for each of these ministries to show their talents in a variety of ways.

“When we begin the whole process, I try to give the students a metaphor,” said Cepparulo. “In our invitation to ministry gathering this year, I told them a story about a special pair of orthopedic sneakers my brother talked me into buying 18 months ago. They still remained in their original box because I just couldn’t bring myself to take them out, wear them, and get them dirty. I said to the students, ‘what good are these wonderful sneakers if they’re going to sit in the box?’ I sat down in front of them like Mr. Rogers, and put on my sneakers and then encouraged them to pretend we all have a box on our lap. Open your box and let your gift out and use your gift to serve others and to serve the Lord.”