By Kathleen Estrella
Catechetical formation is an indispensable experience of the Sacraments of Initiation. One of those Sacraments is Confirmation, a sign of witness and mission. This is the sacrament in which the Holy Spirit gives special strength to the recipient with the accompanying obligation to bear witness to the Gospel in word and deed.
During April and May, Bishop Barnes, Bishop del Riego and the Episcopal Vicars have been confirming youth and adults throughout the six vicariates of the iocese.
This year in the Diocese of San Bernardino by the end of May 5,500 youth and 2,230 adults will have received the Sacrament of Confirmation. These numbers are greatly important. They indicate the tremendous need to involve the youth in parish life for the strengthening of their personal faith as well as for the propagation of faith within our parish churches, our local church, and throughout the Universal Church.
The most effective way to keep youth involved after they have received the Sacrament is to make sure they were already involved in parish life during their Confirmation formation years.
At Our Lady of the Assumption Parish (OLA), our students are instructed for three years before they receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. Throughout these years, they are required to do at least 30 hours of community service per year, with a maximum 15 hours in liturgical ministry. The other 15 hours they are required to serve in any combination of parish life, charity and justice, or evangelization.
As the Director of Youth Ministry, as well as Youth Confirmation, I have the unique privilege of getting to know our youth within any of these ministries which serve youth. This allows our Youth Ministry Core Teams (Jr. High, High School, English and Spanish), Youth Confirmation Catechists, as well as myself, to have meaningful relationships with most, if not all, of our youth.
The youth are not strangers to us, and more importantly, we are not strangers to them. We know who they are and their stories. Consequently, they also know who we are and our stories. Honesty, openness, and genuineness are the building blocks of trust. Like anyone else, youth can spot someone who does not sincerely care for them. Youth will stay connected to their parish if they feel welcomed, needed, and appreciated. In other words, if they feel God’s unconditional love and sanctifying grace…like in any family, they know they belong here. The most beautiful sentiments I hear are from young adults whose lives have pulled them away for a time; they find their way back to OLA, and say they have come home.
What activities will your parish offer to the youth after Confirmation?
Confirmed Youth are invited to join Liturgical Ministries, the Social Concern Committee, Youth Ministry Core Team, and Catechetical Ministry as Religious Education Catechists or Aides. Once they have discerned which ministry they have chosen to serve the people of God, they are then required to become certified in that ministry by taking Diocesan formation classes for their chosen ministry. Confirmed Youth are also encouraged to attend our monthly OLA CAFÉ (Catholic Adult Faith Experience) where they can continue to grow in understanding of their faith, through fellowship and formation with adult topics, which are relative to the faith experience of Catholic young adults in today’s society.
Kathleen Estrella is Director of Youth Confirmation at Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in San Bernardino.