By Anneliese Esparza
As Riverside and San Bernardino counties continue their reopening, parishes are beginning to confirm young Catholics across the Diocese while still adhering to safety measures.
Bishop Alberto Rojas revised the safety directives for Masses in an April 14 letter so that parishes can increase seating capacity to 50 percent and reduce social distancing from six feet to three feet. In addition to adhering to the safety guidelines for Mass, parishes will also follow a set of directives for Confirmations.
Candidates will be seated as they arrive instead of processing into their seats like they normally would. Sponsors and candidates will remain socially distanced, unless they are from the same household.
The traditional photo with the Bishop will be skipped, and instead of directly anointing the candidate’s forehead with the Sacred Chrism, the Bishop, or his designee, will dip a clean cotton ball into the oil and then anoint the candidate. (Directives mentioned in this article are current as of press time, although they are subject to modification depending on the state of the pandemic.)
To make sure that there is no more than 50 percent capacity at the ceremony, some parishes, such as St. Bernardine in San Bernardino, are limiting guests to parents and sponsors only.
“It kind of makes me sad to know that I can’t invite other people, but because of the circumstances that are going on with COVID and everything, sometimes it’s like, maybe we just have to make do with what we have,” said Cristina Trigueros, one of roughly 40 students that will be confirmed at St. Bernardine.
Trigueros, who is a first-year student at Cal State, San Bernardino, is ready for her upcoming Confirmation. “I actually feel prepared to be confirmed, I feel excited ... I feel like I will become closer to God,” she said.
Trigueros chose St. Mary Magdalene for her Confirmation saint. “Knowing that she was there for Jesus when he was being crucified, that she was one of the people that witnessed when he was resurrected and saw that his body was gone, it made me happy that she was there for Jesus when he needed it,” said Trigueros on why she was inspired to choose St. Mary Magdalene.
Taking Confirmation preparation classes online has not been a smooth road for some students, including Trigueros. “Being online comes with difficulties, because sometimes the Internet doesn’t work or the power’s out and you just miss a class ... and then it kind of gets difficult paying attention, especially since sometimes the teacher’s Internet is kind of slow,” she said.
St. Bernardine catechist Matthew Toilolo shared similar sentiments on virtual religious education classes. “[Online learning] is challenging as a catechist ... You’re not sure if you’re getting your message across,” said Toilolo. He said that many of the students prefer to keep their video cameras off during class, which makes it hard for him to tell if they are engaged in the class and understanding the material.
“They’re more reserved online ... it’s hard to read them, and it’s hard to get them to participate sometimes,” said Toilolo, who has been a catechist at the parish for over 15 years. “It’s a challenging time for them, too ... hopefully we keep praying, and we’ll get through this.”
Like Trigueros, the student from St. Bernardine, confirmation candidate Sophia Lopez from St. Martha in Murrieta has missed having in-person Confirmation preparation classes.
“It was a different experience than I think what we all expected it to be,” said Lopez, who is in 11th grade. Lopez said that her favorite thing about her faith is that she was able to find a community of other young Catholics. “At St. Martha’s the community is great. It helped me find some of my best friends, and it’s given me so many opportunities to grow as a person,” she said.
Taking Confirmation classes online has meant that she doesn’t get to see that community of fellow young people who care about their faith. Still, she is focused on the important thing: that she will be confirmed soon despite the changes and challenges of the past year. “I’m just super excited and thankful that [my Confirmation] is finally coming up and to be able to go into this next step with the relationship with the Lord,” said Lopez.
Anneliese Esparza is a freelance writer and a parishioner of St. Martha in Murrieta.