Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I thank all those involved in preparing our youth to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation this year. From the celebration of the sacrament to the reception afterwards, the Holy Spirit was truly at work in our parish!
Jesus invites everyone into His Church. Once we accept His invitation, He welcomes us with the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion. Baptism initiates us into the death and resurrection of Christ; Confirmation initiates us into a relationship with the Holy Spirit; and Holy Communion initiates us into communion with the Father, who receives the same body and soul of His Son that we receive in this sacrament.
While we Baptize children within a few weeks of birth, Confirmation and Holy Communion are delayed until the “age of reason”, around 7 years of age. Bishops are allowed to delay Confirmation beyond this age, if there is some pastoral advantage for doing so. In our diocese, the practice has been for the bishop to establish an age of Confirmation on a parish-by-parish basis. At present, most of our parishes celebrate the sacrament in the 8th grade or in high school years. These are also now common ages for Confirmation in many other dioceses in our country. However, this delay has origins only in the 20th century, and has contributed to some misconceptions about Confirmation, with some people now thinking Confirmation is: a rite of passage from childhood into adulthood, a mature acceptance of the Faith, or a commitment to remain an active member of the Church.
In order to highlight Confirmation’s connection to Baptism and Holy Communion, and to avoid misconceptions, Bishop Stika, after extensive consultation throughout the diocese over several years, has now established a common age for Confirmation in our diocese, so that, effective spring of 2019, all parishes will celebrate Confirmation for either 5th or 6th graders (in smaller parishes, these two grades can be combined to provide classes of reasonable size). At Saint Mary’s, we will celebrate Confirmation in the 5th grade.
Our parish will proceed with implementation of this new policy according to the following schedule:
In the spring of 2017, the bishop will Confirm our 8th and 9th grade children.
In the spring of 2018, the bishop will Confirm our 7th and 8th grade children.
In the spring of 2019, the bishop will Confirm our 5th, 6th and 7th grade children.
Thereafter, the bishop will Confirm 5th graders each spring.
Parents of Confirmation-aged children not enrolled at Saint Mary School or at Knoxville Catholic High School should enroll their children in the parish Confirmation program at the proper time. Our parish and our diocese will both continue providing comprehensive youth ministry opportunities for children who have been Confirmed. Adults who missed Confirmation as children will have an annual opportunity to receive this sacrament at the Cathedral.
Please keep our newly Confirmed parishioners in your prayers. I look forward to seeing these young Catholics bear the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit, viz. charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control and chastity.