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Cross Stepping Into The Faith

Parents of small children can sometimes find it challenging to keep their children busy and engaged during Mass. Parents want their children to be immersed with them in the faith at an early age, but it can be challenging for children. Asking a young child to sit quietly for an hour while adults talk at an adult level, distractions can come quickly, especially since there is so much cool stuff up there on the altar; why not make a run for it? 

Fortunately, at St. Francis, parents can take advantage of Cross Step, a Faith Formation program at the Parish designed to provide liturgical lessons to preschool-aged children during the 9:00 AM Mass on Sundays. Katie Sega, a parent and regular volunteer at the program, points out her experience, “On the days my kids go to Cross Step and I go to Mass, I can listen and take in what’s happening and join in. When there isn’t Cross Step, or we go to a different Mass, and the twins are with me, I can only listen with one ear. I’m watching that they will not run up on the altar and cause a scene!” Other moms have said the same thing; she adds, “It’s like we’re at the Olympics, and we are up and down and running around.”  Katie joined the Cross Step volunteer staff when it returned after the pandemic. “I wanted to get involved but didn’t have a lot of time and bandwidth; this seemed like a great way to get my kids involved and give back,” she found.  She volunteered and signed the twins up for the program, and she says, “The rest is history!  After the first few times, I found that I really enjoyed it, and there weren’t a lot of Level C certified volunteers available. I thought, ‘Hey, I’m already Level C certified,’ so I signed up for as many slots as possible and enjoyed working with the kids.” 

Another long-term volunteer in Cross Step, Katlhey S. Winter, agrees. “This program is great, and we need to get the word out to people. Andrea Javier runs the program well, and parents participate as volunteers.” Katlhey thinks parents’ involvement as volunteers helps with engagement in Cross Step because they see the program’s value firsthand. “But,” she says, “I want people to know we have a lot of fun and still learn about the faith with the children.” She emphasizes that the program allows parents to focus on the Mass and their faith on the Sundays they choose to participate; they can dedicate that Mass time to providing their undivided attention to God.

Liliana Palermo is one of the teen volunteers in the program, but she has a long history. “My mom was a volunteer in the program when the name was ‘Play N’ Pray.’ I knew about it, tagged along with my mom, and helped in the class as a 10-year-old.” She remembers loving the younger kids and the fun she had playing with them. Because of that experience, Liliana says, “The summer before freshman year in high school, I wanted to do more and remembered the program, how much I loved it, and the importance of it.” She was still in her faith formation as she prepared for confirmation, and the parallel of helping younger kids drove her to get involved. As someone baptized at St. Francis and who attended Faith Formation at the Parish, she knows the value of the faith formation program. “I learned a lot from the people there every week. Working with kids now, I am amazed at how much they grow and change in a short time; seeing how they break out in the short time we are with them is a lot of fun. I feel I have a special place at St. Francis because of all my relationships here.”

As a parent, Katie also sees the program’s impact on the children involved. “They are getting a taste of religious education,” she emphasizes, “with stories on their level told in a way they can understand. We are doing activities they like. While Mass can be long or boring for them because they can’t participate, these activities engage them.”  Even simple things like rituals of the faith are taught. “We go over the ‘sign of the Cross’ and simple prayers,” she explains. “I wasn’t sure the kids were picking up on it, but when our kids turned two and had been in the program, they knew how to make ‘prayer hands.’”  Katlhey sees the same progress. “You get to know the little ones and see them developing quickly throughout the years. When they become four or five, you can see how well their faith has developed and how they absorb all that we share with them. Even when you think they aren’t paying attention, they are!”

“Many parents don’t know about Cross Step and may not think Faith Formation (at St. Francis) starts that young,” says Liliana. “Sometimes parents will come by after Mass and ask, ‘Why are all these kids here?’ Then they will find out about it and want to attend.” She emphasizes that it’s a great program and thinks people should take advantage of it for their kids and their own benefit. Andrea (Javier) does a great job and is fantastic. She is the reason why it works so well.”  

The Coordinator of the Cross Step program, Andrea Javier, has been formally working for the Cross Step program for the past five years. She initially began volunteering even earlier than that.  “I learned about the Play N’ Pray program when my daughter attended the Franciscan Preschool. Back then, volunteering was not required, but my daughter, who was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum and with ADHD, struggled with lots of behavioral issues when she would attend. She also suffered from severe separation anxiety, so I ended up just remaining in the class with her every Sunday, and I just never left. I felt like God called me to work for this program, and I transitioned to becoming a staff member. I love the Cross Step program so much because it provides a safe space for children to learn about God and develop their faith in a way that is developmentally appropriate and meaningful to them. 

Cross Step is available for children up to five years old who are not enrolled in kindergarten. Sessions are offered every Sunday morning (excluding holiday weekends) at Clare Hall from 9:00 AM-10:00 AM.  To find out more or to sign up for the program and receive weekly email RSVPs, please contact Andrea Javier at or visit  

Author: Mike Watson