Among the many questions the COVID-19 pandemic brought to Zoe Apodaca’s life this year was—“will I still be Confirmed?”
The Highland teen had to wait for this important milestone in her faith life, but it finally came—in a slightly different setting—on Aug. 4. She and 13 others received the Sacrament on an athletic field at The Holy Name of Jesus Parish, joined by a small contingency of family and friends.
“I didn’t think it was going to happen this year,” Zoe admitted. “But this was very nice. It went pretty smoothly.”
All over the Diocese teenagers (and some adults) are experiencing a new normal of Confirmation Masses as parishes follow safety and social distancing directives to prevent the spread of the virus.
“It definitely was weird, like not what I was expecting,” said Jaden Vasquez-Smith, a parishioner of St. Paul the Apostle in Chino Hills. She and 20 others were confirmed Aug. 4 in the parish courtyard. “I was still happy that I was able to be confirmed even under these circumstances and just to feel closer to God and to make that final step to be with him.”
After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, Confirmation Masses previously scheduled to begin following Easter were postponed. On July 20, the Diocese issued guidelines for the celebration of outdoor Confirmation Masses, including the stipulation that no more than 100 people may attend, six-foot social distancing is maintained, and face coverings are worn by all.
The 100-person limit will require parishes to hold many more Confirmation Masses. In the first two weeks of August St. Paul the Apostle has scheduled 13 Masses to Confirm its 221 teens and more than 46 adults. In response, Bishop Gerald Barnes issued a decree allowing parish pastors and administrators to fully confer the Sacrament of Confirmation upon youth for the period of July 21 through October 21. Bishop Barnes, Coadjutor Bishop Alberto Rojas and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Rutilio del Riego are still active in celebrating Confirmation Masses.
At the Aug. 4 Mass at St. Paul the Apostle on Bishop Barnes acknowledged the challenging times and told the Confirmandi that they’re needed to take an active role in church ministry now more than ever. “Confirmation in the year 2020 is even more highlighted than Confirmations of the years past, because we need the gifts of the Spirit to be taken seriously and used to live through this critical time and make the world even better,” Bishop Barnes said. “And God is calling you to do it.”
Chino Hills teen Khaylee Ennabi took Bishop Barnes’ message of encouragement seriously.
“I think it was something everyone needed to hear, that as Catholics we’re here and we need to learn to adapt to everything going on and just be with each other and love one another and spread peace.”
At the Holy Name of Jesus Confirmation Mass on Aug. 4 Bishop Rojas echoed the same call to service in his homily. Confirmation is not an end, Bishop Rojas said, but a transition into active ministry in the Church.
“You need to keep in touch with the Lord Jesus. He’s your best friend,” Bishop Rojas said. “The world needs a lot of people like you. People who want to create peace.”
Bishop Rojas told the story of his own experience as a teenager when he realized that the Lord Jesus loved him and died for him, personally. It was a moment that deepened his relationship with God and began to sow the seeds of his vocation, he said. Several of the Confirmandi said they were moved by the homily.
“It feels good to have him speaking directly to us,” said Ryan Cantwell.
Some of the teens and their family members noted that the modified Confirmation Masses brought their own blessings. “It was very personal having the smaller size and that focus on each person,” said Marie Cantwell, Ryan’s mother.
Said Zoe Apodaca’s father, Lorenzo, “It was still a church setting. I’m glad they thought outside the box.”
This year approximately 5,600 youth and 2,100 adults were scheduled to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Diocese.