| By Carla Smith | Correspondent

Miracle exhibit helps children see the Real Presence

The cornerstone of our faith is Jesus’ true presence in the Eucharist. Melissa Kirking, the coordinator of Children’s Adoration at St. William Parish in Round Rock, is passionate about helping children realize the True Presence. So much so, she recently spearheaded a fascinating exhibit at St. William Parish.

The Interactive Eucharistic Miracle Exhibit welcomed more than 3,000 attendees from schools and parishes throughout the diocese and beyond. Consisting of two tracks, one for elementary-aged kids and the other for middle and high schoolers, the exhibit was designed to renew and deepen participants’ faith in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Kirking said the exhibit had been a dream of hers for at least six years.

“I began to think how cool it would be for children to walk through a child-sized church with water parted like the Red Sea similar to the Avignon Eucharistic Miracle and started looking at other Eucharistic miracle stories with an eye on how to create an interactive experience for children. I am sure the idea was planted by the Holy Spirit,” she said.

Kirking prayed for discernment and when the U.S. bishops announced plans for a three-year Eucharistic Revival, she knew it was time to make her dream a reality. She originally presented her idea to St. William Parish in 2022; last spring two interactive stations were piloted during the First Communion Retreat at St. John Vianney Parish in Round Rock. They were so well-received that Kirking knew she was on to something.

The 2024 exhibit at St. William took many volunteers, with several of them working two or three shifts a day for seven days.

“I had a core group of committee members who worked faithfully and wholeheartedly putting in countless hours to make each exhibit a reality,” she said.

The bilingual event consisted of Eucharistic-themed and guided adoration displays that shared a Eucharistic miracle in child-friendly language as well as 35 international Eucharistic miracles spanning the ages for older students.

“Volunteers from all areas of our parish came together in a beautiful way to do God’s work with the Holy Spirit as our guide. Many hearts were set on fire with love for Jesus in the Eucharist,” she said.

The youth proclaimed their delight in the exhibit with comments like: “It made me confident to make my First Communion;” “He can do something cooler than everybody;” “I learned God can work miracles when not on earth.”

Some of the high schoolers who attended said, “It made me reflect on how much Jesus loves me literally with all his heart,” and “The Eucharist is the Real Presence of Christ, and these events affirmed this fact.”

Parents also hailed the event with one mom saying her son normally would have lost interest after 20 minutes but stayed attentive and wanted to go to every single station.

Kirking is confident the event provided wonder and awe for the whole family and more importantly it renewed and deepened participants’ faith in Jesus’ true presence in the Eucharist and offered opportunities to practice adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. She is hopeful the exhibit will become an annual event.

Kirking has led Childrens’ Adoration at St. William Parish for 20 years. She also creates and writes Eucharistic material internationally; she is the proud author of a book published through Ascension Press Kids. Her goal is to prayerfully tailor and mold meaningful materials to meet the needs and inspire children and youth. Her greatest inspiration is in seeing their faces light up and hearing their words of praise for Christ.

“I love hearing the children’s sweet voices as they pray aloud to Jesus with wonder,” she said. “I also enjoy watching them learn to settle and quiet themselves before Jesus so they can listen to him. It fills my heart with such joy to see them honor and love him!”

Carla Smith has written for the Catholic Spirit since 2016. A long-time Austinite, she and her husband are members of Santa Rosa Parish in Andice. They enjoy spending time with their daughter and their three dogs, as well as fellowship, golf and football.