Dear Fellow Parishioners,
April 24th will be a special day in the lives of fifty-two members of our parish family. On this day these individuals will gather with family and friends at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. Our Archbishop will preside over their Sacrament of Confirmation in which each of these ninth grade students will be asked whether or not they wish to embrace our Roman Catholic faith. At their Baptism, parents and godparents made the choice for them to join our Christian family. At their First Reconciliation and First Communion, parents and godparents still had a major role in the decision. Now, for the very first time each Confirmation candidate will be asked to make this all-important decision on their own. What will they decide?
Over the years these candidates have attended countless Faith Formation classes, gone on numerous class retreats, and embraced a plethora of service projects. We, their individual and parish families, were charged with guiding their preparation. How have we done? Only time will tell. Will these young people embrace our Catholic faith? Only time will tell. Will they become active parish members? Only time will tell. Our work is nearly completed. This is a time for all of us to pray for these young men and women as they complete the final steps of their initiation into our faith.
I will have the privilege of representing our community at the Confirmation Mass. Tradition holds that just prior to the start of the service the Archbishop will ask each pastor whether or not their candidates are prepared. I have always taken this moment very seriously. In other words, I have to do my own preparation before I can answer this question. What does my research entail? I suppose I could simply walk into our Confirmation class on a particular evening and ask for a show of hands as to whether these young candidates believe they are ready to receive this final Sacrament of Initiation. Or, I could just ask their parents, sponsors (a.k.a., their godparents) and teachers for their input. Instead, I have made an effort to connect with each candidate on a one-on-one basis just prior to Confirmation. This outreach is better known as “the final meeting with the pastor.”
Yes, I believe that after all the years of preparation, we should make a statement to these young people about the importance of this moment in their faith journey. Thus, over the next two months I will take an hour with each candidate to inquire about their decision, and then to discuss what this decision actually means. Sound intimidating? Well, rest assured that no one has ever failed this “final meeting.” Actually, this moment is an opportunity for me to build up each student’s confidence. Granted, the students are all at different levels of understanding. For example, some students will talk about the teachings of St. Augustine, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, or some other Church leader. Some students will talk about current Church issues such as the clergy sex abuse scandal, dwindling church membership, our care for the homeless and less fortunate, and so much more. Others will have a more simplistic discussion. The bottom line is that I try to meet each young person where he or she is with our Catholic faith. Affirmation and inspiration are my goals for this “final meeting.” At the end of these 52 interviews, I hope to be able to give our Archbishop a resounding “Yes!” when he asks about our candidates’ preparation. Please pray for our candidates and all the adults guiding their formation.