A confirmation retreat for eighth-grade students took place Saturday, Sept. 15, at Bishop Dwenger High School, Fort Wayne. Nearly 400 students participated in the daylong retreat, which focused on prayer, reconciliation and the gifts of the Holy Spirit that are received in the sacrament of confirmation.
Students belonged to one of three groups for the day, differentiated by color of T-shirt. This differentiation facilitated the movement of groups for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and reconciliation, lunch and games.
John Pratt, director of Youth Ministry for the diocese, said: “The purpose of the diocesan confirmation retreat is to allow youth to have a day to encounter the joy of our faith, as a diocese. It’s a day of catechesis on prayer, confirmation and the Holy Spirit’s gifts. Ultimately, we hope our young people vibrantly encounter the love of God.”
The day began with praise and worship songs. Third-year theology student, seminarian David Pellican of the Archdiocese of Detroit, explained how fortunate people in the United States are to be able to practice the Catholic faith publicly. When he was in China recently, he learned that practicing his Catholic faith openly was forbidden, so he and others participated in Mass secretly on the top floor of a steel factory whose owner was Catholic.
It was with this sense of privilege that the bilingual Mass began in the school’s gym, with celebrant Father Mark Gurtner.
Father Gurtner’s homily spoke to the day being the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows, and how the feast day relates to confirmation. He said the feast day recalls Mary suffering at the foot of her Son’s cross, and that this remembrance goes beyond the levels of normal grief because God allowed Mary to witness a mystical event. Recalling the account of the Roman soldier who pierced Jesus’ side, students were reminded that Mary was spiritually pierced, so that she shared in the suffering of Jesus in order to save the world. Mary is a partner with Jesus and wants us to be partners with Him by following in the footsteps of Mary in receiving of the gift of confirmation, he said.
After Mass, Father Royce Gregerson gave a presentation on prayer. He said that prayer was awkward for many, including him at times. He cited the Gospel of Luke, where the Apostles ask Jesus to teach them how to pray. The method to prayer is The Lord’s Prayer, he said, and proceeded to explain exactly how each part of The Lord’s Prayer teaches us to pray.
For example, Father Gregerson said, “Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name” means, “holy is the Lord.”
“In prayer, God comes first. It’s not about me, me, me. Praise God for all things given, first. ‘Thy kingdom come’ means that there is no more suffering in heaven, which is to come and in which we find hope.” “Thy will be done” asks that the Lord change our hearts to accept God’s will for our lives, rather than changing His will to accommodate our desires, he continued.
This session on prayer was a favorite part of the day for the students from Corpus Christi Parish, South Bend; St. Patrick Parish, Ligonier; St. John the Baptist Parish, New Haven; and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Fort Wayne, among several others.
Bella Gerardot, from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, perhaps summed up the day best when she commented, “We’re preparing for confirmation based on events that have already occurred in Church history.”
Each of the three groups then participated in adoration and reconciliation, lunch and games. The students could also learn how to make their own rosaries from colored, cotton cord. Praise and worship songs brought the large group together again for an afternoon presentation by Father Jay Horning.
Father Horning told them that confirmation is the last of three sacraments that bring a person into full communion with the Catholic Church; baptism and holy Communion are the other two.
“Confirmation is the sealing of the gifts we received in baptism, and to show the world we are children of God,” he said. He then asked for a few students to tell which confirmation name they had chosen. St. Paul of the Cross, St. Michael the Archangel, and St. Joan of Arc were named.
Father Horning said he chose St. Gabriel as his confirmation name, and he prays to St. Gabriel to intercede for him on a regular basis. Confirmation names are important, he told the candidates, because they “embody something we want to emulate; and the saint gives you the zeal to listen to the Holy Spirit for the rest of your lives.”
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