By Christina Leslie | Correspondent
Those times of administering the Sacrament of Confirmation to youth “are joyful occasions, and parents are rightfully proud of their daughters and sons as they take this important step into Catholic Christian adulthood,” wrote Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., in his 2014 catechesis on the Sacrament of Confirmation.
“Of course, they are not technically ‘adults’ as society understands the term, but they are capable of making some decisions for themselves and with the support, guidance and help of their parents … and with the instruction they receive in Catholic school or parish religious education programs, the decision to present themselves for reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation is [or should be] a very important moment in their lives of faith,” the Bishop said.
Photo Gallery: Confirmation in St. Denis Church, Manasquan
This spring, through the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, some 6,680 young men and women throughout the Diocese of Trenton took that next step in becoming adult members in the Catholic Church. In St. Denis Parish, Manasquan, Bishop O’Connell administered the Sacrament of Confirmation upon 77 young people.
This year’s youth were eighth-grade religious education students who attend area schools in Brielle, Wall and Manasquan, all carefully prepared by caring catechists under the leadership of Eileen Ziesmer, the parish’s pastoral assistant. Ziesmer shared her parish’s philosophy and practices, which include introducing the confirmandi to the five spiritual effects of Confirmation.
“Each is a child of God, and they are truly loved and wonderfully made. Confirmation is the full initiation of their Baptismal identity,” said Ziesmer, whose responsibilities at the parish include designing and presenting adult and intergenerational faith programs, retreats and social outreach programs. “Second, they grow closer to Christ and unite more fully and firmly to our Savior in what we do, practice, read. Jesus is our All in All.”
Learning the Gifts of the Holy Spirit comes next, said Ziesmer, realizing all the ways in one’s life that the Holy Spirit increases Wisdom, Counsel, Understanding, Knowledge, Fortitude, Piety and Fear of the Lord. The Sacrament of Confirmation renders one’s bond with the Catholic Church to be more perfect, fully Catholic.
The final effect, how to defend the faith as witnesses of Christ in the world, lends itself to “spread and defend the faith in what we say, think and the way we act in the world, both in how our lives are lived as a witness, and the services and love we give to others,” Ziesmer concluded.
This effect lends itself to service projects, both in the Church and the community at large, she said, when the youth realize their work is valued.
“We want the candidates to see … how to be a Catholic in the world and see Christ in our work,” she said. “We care for others in the community because we are all family, all children of God [and] are the hands and feet of Jesus in the world.”
Caren Butler and her son, Jack, were enthusiastic about the young man’s Confirmation experience, noting it was effective both spiritually and practically as they recalled their active role in the religious process.
“We guided and supported him, answered his questions and discussed our experiences,” Caren Butler said. “We made sure to get him to Mass weekly and drove him to all his retreats and classes. We helped him to realize what it’s all about.”
The burden did not lie solely on the parents’ shoulders, she asserted, adding, “Now that he has received Confirmation, Jack has to know that he is more responsible than we are in continuing the faith and staying involved in the community through service, and be a good role model amongst his friends.”
Jack noted that the service aspect of Confirmation preparation was a favorite activity. “I learned that community service can be fun and rewarding,” he said. “I volunteered at the recreation center and the food pantry.”
Jack, who chose to honor his beloved deceased maternal grandfather, Joseph, by choosing his name for his Confirmation name, is up to the challenge of being an adult in the Catholic Church.
“I know now I need to take more responsibility for my faith, to ask my parents to take me to church rather than just go with them,” he said.
Correspondent Mary Morrell contributed to this story.