Children and youth are a vital part of life at St. Helena's/Santa Elena. In addition to traditional Sunday School, we provide experiential education through leadership in worship, community service, and fellowship events that help kids develop into mature, committed Christians.
Baptism is full initiation into the Church by water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Both children and adults may be baptized. It signifies the dying of the old self and the rising to new life in Christ. The new Christian then becomes a member of the Body of Christ, the Church, which promises to sustain the person in their baptismal vows, which are enshrined in what we call the "Baptismal Covenant."
The Holy Eucharist, also known as Holy Communion, the Mass (la Misa), or the Lord's Supper, is the central practice of worship in the Episcopal Church. Holy Communion is open to all of the baptized, regardless of denominational background. Many parents in our parish also preserve the tradition of waiting until their children are a bit older before admitting them to Communion in a beautiful ceremony known as Comunión Solemne (First Holy Communion). This custom is purely optional, and children and adults may come to Communion at any time. In the Episcopal Church, we speak of the "Real Presence" of Christ in the Eucharist, which supports a wide range of views and spiritualities around how Jesus is present among us.
Confirmation / Reception
Confirmation represents a mature commitment to fulfilling the vows of one's baptism. In this ancient ritual, the bishop lays hands on the Christian and calls upon the Holy Spirit to strengthen him or her with gifts to sustain the Christian's mature life of faith. A person who has already been confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church or one of the Orthodox Churches is "received" rather than confirmed by the bishop into the fellowship of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Confirmations occur during the bishop's regular visitation to the parish, at St. James Cathedral in June, and in October during the Misa Hispana.
Diocesan Hispanic Youth Event
Every fall, the Diocese of Chicago holds a day-long retreat for Hispanic youth from congregations around our large Diocese. Santa Elena has been the host for this popular event many times, and we are delighted to be hosting it again in 2017 on Saturday, September 9th!
MIQRA (meek • rah) is an overnight retreat that focuses on the Bible and allows teens to discover what’s in it, why we should care, and how to read it. “MIQRA” is a Hebrew word, which means “A public reading of scripture" or simply "Bible" as it refers to the ancient Jewish practice of listening to a reading from scripture.
Throughout the year, St. Helena's/Santa Elena hosts a number of events that focus on the contributions that children and youth make to the life of the parish. These include quinceañeras, Día de los Ninos (April 30), our Easter Party, celebration of Kung Fu achievements, and the Troop 69 Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser.
Bilingual Christian Education
St. Helena's/Santa Elena is a place that understands that Christian education must keep pace with children's physical, emotional, and mental development. As children grow, the Church must help them to ask mature questions about their faith and how they apply it to their daily lives. For this reason, preparation for the Sacrament of Confession, First Holy Communion (Comunión Solemne), and Confirmation includes a focus on community service, social justice, and acts of mercy, as well as traditional curricula. Christian Education for both children and adults takes place between the services at 10:15 am.
Youth who are approaching their fifteenth birthday may wish to mark their passage into young adulthood by having a fiesta de quince años (often referred to as a quinceañera), with a Mass at the church. Although this has traditionally been an event for young women, some young men are now choosing to observe this rite of passage, as well. Parents who wish to schedule a Mass for their daughter or son are encouraged to speak to Fr. Ethan to learn about the requirements and to schedule a date for the plática and the Mass.
Leadership in Worship
We believe that children and youth learn best by doing. Although Sunday School classes are an important part of forming young Christians, we also know that children mature in their faith by meaningful participation in worship. Fr. Ethan always tells altar servers who are nervous about making a mistake that what God requires is faithfulness, not perfection. Whether they are carrying the cross in the procession, serving with the priest and deacons at the altar, or reading the day's lessons to the congregation, they learn important things about being a Christian.
Boy Scout Troop 69
Every Tuesday evening from 7:15-8:45 pm, Boy Scout Troop 69 meets at St. Helena's/Santa Elena. If you have a child that is interested in scouting, we encourage you to have a conversation with our Scout leader, Ron Fox. St. Helena's also holds a Scouting Sunday service every February to honor and encourage kids who are participating in the scouting program. Troop 69 has been a wonderful presence in our parish and are responsible for several important service and volunteer projects, including tending the church grounds and building our baptismal pool!
The Diocese of Chicago offers this week-long program every summer for children and youth 7-17 years old. Among the goals of Camp Chicago is for kids to "feel challenged and know they can dare to attempt new things. We want them to make lasting friendships. And we want them to know they are loved by God and called to a life of purpose and meaning." In 2017, 11 campers from Santa Elena/St. Helena's participated. The program is not limited to Episcopalians or regular church-goers, and financial scholarships are usually available.
Every Thursday at 6 pm and Saturday at 9 am, Maestro Raúl offers Kung Fu classes at St. Helena's for children and youth at various levels of expertise.