For many Catholic families, the day their child receives the Sacrament of First Holy Communion marks a pivotal moment in their journey of faith.   The Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey wants to make sure that financial hardship doesn't stand in the way of that experience, by collecting First Communion outfits for families who might not be able to afford a suit or dress for their child receiving the sacrament.

“It's a unique idea and you wouldn't think there would be a need, but these suits and dresses can get pricey,” said Kelly Marsicano, a public relations specialist at the Archdiocese of Newark.

“This is a special day for the kids to celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion, and now they are able to do that from these donations,” she told CNA.

For the past three years, the Archdiocese of Newark has been gathering new and gently used dresses, suits, shoes and veils for children preparing to receive their First Communion. This year, they have collected more than 500 dresses and over 200 suits for families in need.

“We receive calls from people needing one dress or one suit, to a parish needing 25, to a parish saying they will take whatever they can get,” said Lynn Gully, the Associate Director of Development at the Archdiocese, who also spearheaded the donation project.

The idea all started when the archdiocese received a call from a boutique asking if they would accept some donated First Communion dresses and suits.

“I was carrying the dresses into the building after picking them up, and there were people who were asking what was going on and if they could bring in their daughters," Gully explained. “It just kind of spread from there.”

Now, the majority of First Communion garments are donated from families who do collections at their parishes, but Gully said they have also received unexpected packages in the mail with brand new outfits. Children at a nearby parish started to make veils over the summer to donate to the campaign, and they have also received donations of socks, tights, purses, ties, and belts.

This year, four parishes in the archdiocese have participated in the donation program, and they already have additional parishes lined up for next year.

After the dresses and suits are worn, the children are able to keep the outfits or donate them for another year of use.

“It's up to them if they want to keep it or pass it on, there is a no charge... We don't ask any questions. If you need it, we are here for you,” Gully said.

After three successful years of donations, the Archdiocese of Newark plans to continue the program as long as there is a need for it.

“It's really a great help to the families in need,” Gully reflected. Photo credit: Alicia Chelini via