I want to express my gratitude to Bishop del Riego and our two Episcopal Vicars, Father Romy Seleccion, MS, and Father Rafael Partida, who have assisted me by presiding over some of the Confirmation Masses. I also want to thank all of those in the parishes who coordinate these beautiful liturgies, and the catechists who have prepared the Confirmandi for this important marker on their journey of faith. Last but certainly not least, I commend the families who planted and cultivated the seeds of faith in their children from the start, and those that supported an accompanied the adults who received the Sacrament of Confirmation this season. There were a total of almost 8,000 children and adults who were confirmed this year!
At these Confirmations I can’t help but feel lifted by the air of hope and new life that is present. I see in these faces the continuation of our local Church. I pray that the Holy Spirit will work in them as it has worked in the many generations of Catholics before them.
At the same time, I continue to be concerned about what awaits our newly confirmed as they take their next steps in faith. A recently publicized study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that the number of people in the United States who claim no religious affiliation, the so-called “nones,” has increased by seven percent just in the last eight years. Some of these people were raised in our Catholic faith but at some point, most often in young adulthood, they walked away from it.
Some of this can be attributed to cultural forces that seem to emphasize the individual over the common good, and promote instant gratification more than reflection and critical thinking. We must surely account for these factors as we practice and teach our faith, but there is much that we can do to make sure our new confirmed continue to find their home in the Church as they venture into adulthood.
How do we welcome them at our liturgies? Help them find their place in parish ministry? Dialogue with them as they discern their vocation? Encourage them to continue their formation in faith?
The Holy Father has given us a cue in declaring a Year of Mercy in our Church beginning this December. As we prepare ourselves to model this Gospel value we might also see this as an opportunity to help our newly-confirmed live out their faith by joining in the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. I can say with confidence that there are many opportunities in parish and diocesan ministries for one who feels called to feed the hungry, visit the imprisoned, or shelter the homeless, among other Works.
I will be asking our parishes to reflect on and plan how they will live this coming Year of Mercy. In this planning process, I would suggest an intentional engagement of the newly confirmed.
Let us show that we are a Church of action, and compassion. A spiritual home for life.