Flipping through the freshly printed pages in his office on the fifth floor of the Camden Diocesan Center in Camden, Bishop Dennis Sullivan was impressed. He praised the “very readable and beautifully designed” book.
“You hit a home run here,” Bishop Sullivan said to Amam Acholonu, co-author, with his wife Margaret, of the new text “My First Missal,” a recently-published manuscript to help children understand the Catholic Mass, learn their prayers and strengthen their spiritual life.
On Sept. 3, Acholonu presented a copy of the book to Bishop Sullivan, who wrote the book’s forward.
The Nigerian-born Amam, who came to the United States in 1994 with his wife and eight children, was inspired to write the book after his experiences as an elementary school substitute teacher in Camden.
“I would always ask the children what they wanted to be in life,” he said. “Some said a basketball player, others a firefighter. But not one said that they wanted to be a priest,” he said.
He and his wife, Margaret, began to write the book many years ago, but something funny happened on the way to publication: the standard English translation of the Sacred Liturgy, the Roman Missal was revised in 2012.
As changes were made to the priest’s words and the congregation’s responses for the Mass, the authors’ text had to reflect the updated Missal. Permission was granted to them to make use of the Missal by the International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. and Midwest Theological Forum, Inc.
In addition to sections on the Sacred Liturgy, the book provides young children with information on Mass vestments; how to pray the Stations of Cross, and the Mysteries of the Rosary; and on prayers for such occasions as before and after meals, for the deceased, and to one’s guardian angel.
The book was published with the approval of the Committee on Divine Worship and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The Acholonus, in getting support to print their text, received help from Amam’s Knights of Columbus Council, St. Jude 12092, Bellmawr.
When Amam first told the Knights of the project, “we realized this book had a lot of merit, and would be a worthwhile project to undertake,” said Emanuel Russo, a fellow Knight at the St. Jude council.
Russo is spearheading the council’s work in reaching out to other local Knights of Columbus councils, and raising money to print copies of the book for Catholic parents, teachers, catechists, and groups like the Knights of Columbus. Currently, 2,000 copies have gone through the press.
In his foreword to the book, Bishop Sullivan “highly” recommended the book to “Catholic families who are looking for a tool to help their children participate more meaningfully in the Mass, learn their prayers, and begin to develop that spiritual life. It is never too soon for a child to begin to know, love, and serve God!”
In the future, Amam said, the book is set to be published in Spanish and Igbo.
To receive a copy of “My First Missal,” contact St. Jude’s Council 12092, Knights of Columbus, 57 Hemlock Drive, Blenheim, NJ 08012. For more information, call Amam Acholonu, 856-232-7903; Emanuel Russo, 856-401-7776; or Frederick Durso, 215-498-5760.