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Technology brings 8-year-old to first Communion class.

EDGEWOOD, IOWA -- Taylor Garrison's journey to her first Communion came about through a combination of hard work, modern technology, and God's grace. She received the sacrament at St. Mark's Church in Edgewood on April 12, the day she turned 8.

"I feel really excited," she said in an interview a few days before the ceremony "It was a little difficult, but I really wanted to have my first Communion."

As a member of a military family, she currently lives at Fort Knox, an Army post in Kentucky, where her father is stationed. Because Catholic resources there were lacking, Taylor's parents, Pam and Shane Garrison, looked elsewhere to enroll their daughter in a preparation class for the sacrament.

Both natives of Iowa, the Garrisons tried to sign up Taylor for first Communion classes at a parish near the Rock Island Arsenal, an island in the Mississippi River between the cities of Davenport, Iowa, and Rock Island, 111.

The family was hoping to get stationed there this summer after being on that base once before. But parish officials said preparations could not be done at a distance. Pam was discouraged, but did not give up.

"I truly believed God would make it happen," she said. "I just kept thinking, 'Why should my daughter suffer the consequences for her dad's profession?'"

The Garrisons called St. Mark in Edgewood, the parish where Taylor's maternal grandmother belongs. Jody Kerns, St. Mark's director of faith formation, decided she and the community had to do everything they could to help.

To prepare Taylor for the sacrament of reconciliation and Communion, Kerns began teaching her in digital meetings using a program for tablets and smartphones called "FaceTime." Kerns sent Taylor study materials to do on her own.

Beginning in early January, Taylor participated in the parish's first Communion classes. Parents would hold up the tablet while Taylor was on FaceTime and move it around the room so she could interact with the nine other students and teacher.

On March 28, the Garrison family traveled to Edgewood so that Taylor could take part in a daylong first Communion retreat. It was the first time she actually met her classmates in person.

"Taylor came into the room and sat down that day with them and there was never a beat skipped," recalled Kerns. "She fit right in."

During the retreat day, Taylor had her first confession. She and her family traveled back home, and before they returned for first Communion, they participated in a rehearsal via FaceTime.

Kerns was happy her parish was able to find such a unique solution for the Garrisons through modern technology and good old-fashioned creativity

"For me this experience has been a joy," she said. "Our parish is doing exactly what Jesus would want us to do, reaching out to people and not turning them away."


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Title Annotation:FAMILY LIFE; Taylor Garrison
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:May 22, 2015
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