By Deacon John De Gano
One of the most-anticipated events for diehard baseball fans is the annual mid-season (June) draft of eligible players. This is where graduating high school and early college athletes are hired to fill the minor league “stables” where they will be groomed and possibly go to “the show” (the Major Leagues) one day. Without such a draft, many could not afford to field competitive, let alone winning teams.
The Church, too, has a “draft season,” whereby those seeking to complete their full initiation into the faith (during the Easter season) are asked to choose a confirmation sponsor with whom they are willing to journey.
During the “preseason,” the parent and teen are asked to enter into a dialogue regarding sacramental preparation and whether or not the teen will choose to continue their faith journey with their godparent (from baptism) as their confirmation sponsor or else, choose someone else instead.
Since this relationship is for life, both parties should be in agreement and understand what role each will have as the relationship and formation in faith matures.
In some cases, this decision has already been made for them. The godparent has either died or has moved away and is no longer active in the life of either the child or parent. In other cases, the godparent remains active in their lives and it seems a no brainer to ask them to continue the journey with them. And in some instances the godparent is around but for some reason the relationship is no longer a good fit and so the teen signals they desire to “draft” a new sponsor.
This draft culminates on the day of Confirmation with both teen and sponsor publicly witnessing before God and church that they have committed to walking this path together.
Like Jesus, who accompanied the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus, the sponsor’s role becomes even more important in the life of the teen as they encounter people with different beliefs (or no belief) and are being questioned or challenged about their faith.
The sponsor serves as mentor, guide and spiritual friend. They serve as the official witness for the Church and are the MVP on the teen’s team roster. Sponsors should take their role as seriously as if it were a calling from God, a vocation, to serve.
If everyone did this we would soon have a Church so knowledgeable about their faith and alive in the spirit that we would have winning seasons each and every year. And the bleachers (pews) would be packed to capacity.
However, since few of our parishes have reached capacity yet, why not use our time wisely by building for the future. Perhaps by starting a sponsors’ ministry in our parishes, we could develop a community with a sponsor’s heart. A heart that is generous of spirit and mercy and willing to serve with love and patience – in season and out of season, as 2 Timothy 4:2 says:
“…proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching..”
That is the definition of a disciple and the role of an exceptional sponsor.
Answer the call. Join Jesus’ team. Be a sponsor. And play ball!
John De Gano is a deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Riverside.