Young people from around the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend will gather at Bishop Dwenger High School in Fort Wayne on Saturday, Oct. 8, to finalize preparations for the sacrament of confirmation. Last year, more than 400 junior high school students were challenged to live their Catholic faith daily and to realize that Confirmation continues a lifelong journey with the Holy Spirit.
“Made for Greatness” is the rally’s theme, which gains its inspiration from the lives of the saints. It is based on the example of young people like Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, Blessed Jacinto and Blessed Francisco Marto, who show the path to sainthood for modern-day youth.
The rally will begin with a Eucharistic celebration by celebrant and homilist Father Andrew Budzinski, and will include lunch, presentations, breakout sessions organized by gender, music and prayer. It will embrace students who are enrolled in Catholic schools, those in religious education programs and those who are homeschooled as well. The day will be an opportunity for them to experience the Universal Church within the diocese, while learning about the Sacrament of Confirmation and the graces it bestows.
Andrew Ouellette, director of youth ministry for the diocese, said the rally’s goal is to share the sacramental reality of confirmation — and is an opportunity for Catholic youth and their peers to “take ownership of their commitment to Christ.”
Keynote speaker for the day will be Joshua Cormeau, founder of Project Hope and an inspiration in his own right. Cormeau is a young husband and father of five, from South Bend, who was diagnosed with Stage IV brain cancer. He underwent successful surgery and has been a cancer survivor since 2014. He said Project Hope’s mission is to inspire hope where there is none: ”… to speak of the unfathomable love of Jesus Christ, and the hope we have in Him.” He will ask his listeners: “What will you share with the world? Will you share hope?”
Cormeau is also a talented musician and will underscore his message instrumentally. “I’m still alive, and, since then, God has given me reason to sing about the beauty of life,” he said.
Confirmation is usually the fourth sacrament Catholics receive after baptism, first reconciliation and first Eucharist. It is the sacrament in which the faithful are sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and are strengthened in their faith journey. It is one of three sacraments of initiation and gives the fortitude to live with boldness the Catholic faith that was entered into at baptism. This is especially important for young people, who are about to face many new challenges as they enter young adulthood.
Deanna Rorick’s daughter Bethany is an eighth-grade student at St. Louis Academy, Besancon, and will participate as an important part of her sacramental preparation. An older daughter, Olivia, attended when she was a Canterbury student; so “It will be interesting to see Bethany’s perspective on it” as a Catholic School student, Deanna said.
A letter from the diocese provided assurance to parents that they are their children’s first catechists and thanked them for making the rally a priority in sacramental preparation. Although they are not invited to participate in the full day of activities, parents are welcome at the opening Mass and closing adoration to provide support to their children as they make a personal commitment to Christ.
Diocese implements new and unique confirmation preparation program
This year, a new confirmation preparation program, published by Our Sunday Visitor and specifically designed for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, was implemented in all parishes throughout the diocese. At the request of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, OSV developed the program as a supplement to its “Alive in Christ” kindergarten- through eighth-grade catechetical series.
This new program was developed specifically for students and youth in the Catholic schools and parish religious education programs of the diocese who are preparing for the reception of the sacrament of confirmation. It includes a four-unit Candidate Book, online lesson plans for teachers and catechists and online multimedia resources. One unique feature of the program is that it includes video presentations by Bishop Rhoades, addressing the candidates at the beginning of the program and before each unit, as well as videos of the Bishop addressing teachers, parents and sponsors.
Bishop Rhoades commented that he was pleased with the opportunity to communicate with the candidates during their formation for confirmation, prior to the actual confirmation Mass. He expressed his hope that the videos would enhance the catechetical experience. The Bishop thanked OSV for developing a program that connects him with the candidates and that also provides rich content and an excellent methodology that incorporates prayer, instruction and activities to reinforce the lessons.
Carl Loesch, diocesan secretary for Catholic education, called the confirmation program “a national trend-setter,” and thanked OSV, which he called “a great gift to the diocese,” for its immediate attention to the Bishop’s request. OSV developed the program, from concept to completion, in about a year — one-third of the normal time to complete such a project.
Kim Conte, director of youth sacramental formation at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Fort Wayne, said that the new program is “really a breakthrough” because it both standardizes and personalizes confirmation preparation across the diocese. Students are all using the same textbook and watching Bishop Rhoades in videos introducing each of the interactive program’s units.
In an opening letter to the students, Bishop Rhoades states: “I am looking forward with joyful anticipation to your receiving the sacrament of confirmation. This will be a special moment in your journey of faith. God will infuse His Holy Spirit in you and fill you with His gifts. He will unite you more firmly to Christ and the Church and strengthen you to live your faith with conviction and courage.”
Unit One of the program provides catechesis on the Holy Spirit, beginning with Jesus calling the first disciples and then promising them the Holy Spirit to help them answer His call. The unit looks at Scripture passages that refer to the Holy Spirit, as well as the various symbols of the Holy Spirit in the Bible. Students are led to reflect on the Holy Spirit’s presence in their lives as they seek to follow the call of Jesus.
Unit Two provides a review of the seven sacraments of the Church and the meaning of sanctifying and actual grace. Special attention is given to the sacrament of baptism and the connection between baptism and confirmation, including the important renewal of baptismal promises during the Rite of Confirmation.
Unit Three presents further catechesis on the three Sacraments of Initiation, the actual Rite of Confirmation and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Unit Four, titled “The Spirit-Filled Life,” focuses on the effects of the sacrament of confirmation and the call to live the graces of the sacrament. Students learn the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Proximate preparation for confirmation is also provided, with catechesis and preparation for the sacrament of reconciliation.
Throughout the program, various saints are presented as examples of “life according to the Spirit.” Students are assisted as they discern which saint to choose as their confirmation patron.
According to Sue Sherburne, Bishop Rhoades also emphasizes the important role of parents in the faith formation of their teenage children and helps them to accomplish that task. Catechists add service components and retreats, as they also teach the regular junior high curriculum on the life of Christ, the creed and the history of the Church, using the regular OSV seventh- and eighth-grade texts. She believes that the entire Alive in Christ program provides a solid basis for confirmation and brings the candidates to a deeper relationship with the Holy Trinity.
Finally, Bishop Rhoades, in his pastoral concern for strong adolescent catechesis, has also mandated Theology of the Body for middle school students to be part of the seventh- and eighth-grade catechesis in all schools and parish religious education programs in the diocese. He said: “These years are vitally important in the lives of our young people. We have a responsibility to ensure their solid formation in the faith and to promote their growth in the faith during their teenage years. I am very grateful to our pastors, catechists, parents and sponsors for all they do to engage our young people in the life of the Church.”
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