This spring marks the first full season that the diocese has transitioned to celebrating confirmation for youth in high school.
Bishop Richard Pates announced in his 2010 pastoral letter that it was his desire to celebrate the sacrament of confirmation with high school youth.
“They are able to understand more completely the meaning of the sacrament and enter into the celebration of the sacrament more fully and thus lead to a more pastoral developmentally appropriate outcome,” he wrote.
Shortly after the pastoral letter came out, the diocese began assisting parishes with transitioning from programs that prepared eighth graders for the sacrament to programs that offer preparation for high school youth.
At that age, youth have a better sense of their talents and gifts and can tie confirmation’s call to mission with what they sense God is calling them to, their vocation, said John Gaffney, director of the diocesan Evangelization and Catechesis department.
In baptism, one receives the graces of entering the Christian family and the remission of sin, he said. In confirmation, one prepares for mission with the strength of the Holy Spirit.
“This is really the completion of the baptismal graces that began years ago,” Gaffney said. The Eucharist and reconciliation offer the nourishment, the strength to continue to live into lifelong formation.
Since parishes have made the transition, parishes have noticed more young people playing a more active role in parish activities.
“We have a growing number of communities that are seeing an increase in active participation in what the parish has to offer,” said Gaffney. Young people are more involved in liturgical ministries, helping with religious education programs and activities offered through the parishes such as Habitat for Humanity.
He’s also witnessed the seriousness of the youth as they prepare for reception of the sacrament through the retreats he’s organized.
“I have witnessed young people who are actively searching for what this faith means, for what being Catholic means for them,” said Gaffney. “They take it seriously and I have been inspired by that. They want to know how faith figures into the issues that they’re dealing with personally and in the world.”