Circumstances change but Confirmation continues for youth in Decatur, Jacksboro, and Bridgeport
DECATUR — Was she about to faint? Clarissa Salinas was afraid she might. After months of preparation, the junior at Decatur High School was about to be interviewed by Father Reehan Soosai Antony, SAC, to determine if she was ready for Confirmation.
In March, the tri-parish community of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Decatur; St. Mary in Jacksboro; and St. John the Baptizer in Bridgeport changed their sacramental preparation classes from in-person to self-study.
Salinas fretted, “Without the monthly meetings, I was getting nervous. What if I am not prepared?”
“It ended up being fine,” she said.
Interviewing each confirmand serves two purposes, Fr. Antony explained. First, to make certain the students understand the essentials of the faith and the meaning of the sacrament. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in Confirmation “the baptized person is ‘sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit’ and is strengthened for service to the Body of Christ.”
The second purpose of the interview, the pastor said, is “to make sure they know their responsibility. In what way are they going to contribute to ministry? Choir, lector, something like that. After Confirmation, they can be leaders in the Church — put into action what they have received.”
Even before Confirmation, Salinas helped with Vacation Bible School, religious education, retreats, and other events at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, so that part of her interview was a breeze.
Despite a few changes due to the coronavirus pandemic, on August 8 at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, Fr. Antony confirmed Salinas and more than 40 other teens from the three parishes.
Anna Boyles, the director of religious education for all three parishes, said that when group meetings ceased in March, they distributed a backpack of resources with a Bible, a youth Catechism, and other materials to all the Confirmation candidates. Students, their parents, and sponsors, when available, prepared together.
Boyles held a videoconference before the interviews began to review the topics they had covered.
Another adaptation to coronavirus was to limit attendance to the confirmandi, their sponsors, and their parents due to occupancy restrictions. The Mass was livestreamed on the tri-parish Facebook page so other family members and friends could watch.
Often, the bishop administers the sacrament of Confirmation, but because of the pandemic, Bishop Michael Olson instructed priests to confirm their youth. The tri-parish community made plans for Fr. Antony to administer the sacrament.
“We kept the original date,” said Boyles. “We were a little disappointed, but we reassured the students and parents that the sacrament is still valid [when administered by a priest].”
Keeping the sacramental life of the Church as normal as possible during the pandemic is a sign of hope that the Pallottine priest wanted to share with his congregations. “We want to give confidence that the Church is here for you. Be joyful; don’t be anxious or worried,” he said.
Fr. Antony prefers Confirmation with the bishop, explaining that the visit is a source of encouragement and unity. “It lifts the community up, and he sees the future of the Church. The presence of the bishop, when he comes, makes the sacrament even more special,” said the pastor.
Even without the bishop, Salinas was “really excited” to receive the sacrament of initiation. “As I’ve gotten older, I like being involved at church more and more. Getting confirmed is what matters.”
Boyles, the director of religious education, said the circumstances were different but the timing was right, because “those confirmed are our present and our future.”