By ERIKA ANDERSON, Special To The Bulletin | Published June 18, 2009
It was well after 2 p.m. before Nate Boster, head of security for the Kid Track, got the first word that a child was crying for his mother.
“That’s pretty impressive, considering these kids have been here all day,” he said. “It shows that everything has gone quite well.”
Indeed, in this track, located a good walk from the General Track in the Georgia International Convention Center, things ran smoothly, thanks to the 130 volunteers who presided over the 600 youngsters ages 5 to 11.
Unlike the separation of adults into General, Hispanic and Vietnamese tracks, in the Kid Track, children of all ethnicities and backgrounds joined together for a day of music, teachings, games, arts and crafts, and service projects.
At 1:30 p.m., the energy in the track was electrified when leaders told the children to pick up their projects in preparation for adoration.
“Hurry! The archbishop is coming with Jesus.”
As the children excitedly gathered in the middle of the room, the bells signaling the approaching Blessed Sacrament grew louder.
“Jesus is going to enter the room with you. And this is a time for you guys to be present with God and tell him everything that is on your heart,” a leader told the young crowd.
As Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory entered the room, holding aloft the golden monstrance, the children knelt and clasped their hands together in reverent prayer.
“I am delighted to be with my young friends today,” Archbishop Gregory told them, reminding them of Jesus’ great love for children.
“Jesus always has time for the little ones. I have a theory that he actually enjoys the company of the little ones more than the company of the big ones,” he said, with a wink.
“We remember what Jesus said to his first disciples. He said, ‘Let the little children come to me … for to such is the kingdom of heaven.’ This is why we always schedule time for Jesus to come to you during the Eucharistic Congress.”
Archbishop Gregory told the children that one reason Jesus enjoys their company is because they love to sing. High, soft voices then echoed in the hall as they sang the “Tantum Ergo” and several other hymns.
For Sori Govin, associate director of catechetical ministry for the Office of Formation and Discipleship and coordinator of the Kid Track, the months of detailed planning became worthwhile when the archbishop entered the room with the Blessed Sacrament.
“You forget all the obstacles it took to get here. To see all the kids so quiet—you can hear a pin drop. You see their expressions of this simple, childlike faith, and you know something special is happening,” she said.
Zander Hattersley, 7, was attending his third Kid Track at the annual congress. He said he was offering special prayers for his football coach, who is serving in the military in Iraq, and that he especially enjoyed adoration.
“I love singing all of the songs, and my favorite is when we put our hands up to God,” he said.
Natasha Enriquez, 9, also loved adoration.
“It’s my second time (here), and it’s better than the first because I understand more things,” she said. “My favorite part was when the archbishop brought in Jesus.”
For many of the volunteers, like husband and wife Angela and Lewis Byrne, who spent the day with a small group of children, the experience was an uplifting one.
“It’s so amazing the way kids worship,” Angela said. “They’re happy and so full of energy, and that’s how they give themselves to God. We can learn so much from kids.”
Her husband was volunteering in the Kid Track for his third consecutive year.
“I love teaching, and I love my faith. Combining the two keeps me coming back,” he said.
Aubrey Ashdown, a member of Christ Music Kids, the traveling worship group who led music for the Kid Track, was moved by her experience with the children.
“Doing the Kid Track was such a great experience for me. It was not only beneficial for the children … but also for helping me to really connect with God,” she said. “I noticed that the children there were not at all afraid to really open up and sing along and do the moves with us. It was an amazing thing when I heard the children sing out to God during adoration to ‘Here I Am to Worship.’ It was really uplifting and made me even more excited to go on stage and lead them in worship.”
While handling security, Boster kept tabs on the goings-on of the day and expressed his hope that more people would volunteer for the Kid Track during future congresses.
“This year we have fewer kids because we have fewer volunteers. There have to be some people who serve,” he said. “You really do gain grace by serving.”