Confirmation @ Clifton Diocese
Resources and information
- Confirmation Catechists
- Parents & families
What is Confirmation?
Confirmation is the Sacrament that completes Baptism; in it the gift of the Holy Spirit is bestowed upon us. Anyone who freely decides to live a life as God’s child and asks for God’s Spirit under the signs of the imposition of hands and anointing with Chrism receives the strength to witness to God’s love and might in word and deed. He or She is now a full-fledged, responsible member of the Catholic Church.
Where do I begin?
With this resource we encourage parishes to review their formation of young people for the Sacrament of Confirmation. As experienced catechists and leaders, it is easy to keep the same sessions and procedures as the previous years. There is a danger in complacency leading to sessions becoming less engaging for young people when resources aren’t refreshed and relevant.
If you are a newly formed group of catechists, the prospect of taking on this important role can be daunting. However, even the most experienced catechists and youth ministers can feel nervous before meeting a new group of young people. It is important to remain calm and enjoy being with young people, accompanying them on this journey. You don’t have all the answers and, as a team, you can rely on each other for support.
We have provided 10 easy steps to help catechists prepare as a team to welcome young people and to support them as they journey towards the Sacrament.
Always remember at each step to pray, asking God to guide you, the parish and the young people through this process.
There’s something so crucial about the catechist, crucial in that here is someone immersed in a ministry of building a relationship. Of course, the relationship that is built is the one between the catechist and the one being catechised. That sounds obvious. But probably more central to formation and catechesis is the ministry of building (and deepening) a relationship between the one being catechized and Christ. That flows from the catechist’s own experience of faith, from that deeply personal encounter with the person of Jesus Christ.
Pope Francis gathered catechists and formators together at the end of the Year of Faith. He began his address by exploring the difference between working as a catechist, and being a catechist. This sense of being was, for the Holy Father, so important because it was something, a ministry, that embraced one’s whole life… not just a little part of it. He said: “[being catechist] means leading people to encounter Christ by our words and our lives, by giving witness…” (Pope Francis, Address to participants of the International Congress on Catechesis, 27 September 2013)
Then he went on to use a phrase from Pope Benedict: “The Church does not grow by proselytizing; she grows by attracting others.”(Pope Francis references Pope Benedict) The Church grows by attracting others. Doesn’t that transform the way we look at catechists? Doesn’t that transform the way we use catechists? We don’t just look for people who can teach or follow a particular programme from a book; that’s easy. We look for people who will attract others, who will draw them into deeper friendship with Jesus, who will allow those whom they walk with to know the immensity of his love for them. We look for people whose whole life is a witness to the faith they hold dear to. Their way of teaching (even though catechesis is not just about teaching folk) is consistent with the way the catechist lives their life. The way we live – not just what we say – leads people to the Lord. That’s the challenge, not just for the catechist but for the disciple.
Let’s take Pope Francis’ advice for the catechist: Be close to the Lord; put him at the centre of what we do and at the centre of who we are (rather than ourselves); and not be frightened to step outside of our comfort zone. Can a catechist fulfil his or her ministry lacking these? Possibly not! One flows from and through the others. If, as a catechist, I am not rooted in Christ, if I am not close to him, drawing deeper into intimacy with him, then where am I leading those I walk with? If I am at the centre of my catechetical ministry and not Christ, then I am a blind guide because my eyes are fixed upon me rather than Christ. If, as a catechist, I become fearful of stepping out of my comfort zone then I miss the opportunity to radiate the tremendous gift of the God who doesn’t shy away from reaching out far and wide with his gift of life and love. We may simply open doors… and nothing more. Ours is the task, the ministry of allowing God to touch lives through us – we are the instruments through which God’s word can speak its message of love to those whom we accompany. But the Holy Father goes a little further. He calls catechists the memory of God. (Pope Francis, Homily, St Peter’s Square, 29 September 2013)
That means that they speak of God’s goodness, his mercy, his love, his gentleness and his presence not just by the words they use but by the sort of people they are. They keep the memory of God alive in their own lives – through the joy of knowing the beauty of his presence – and they ignite that memory in others. How clear is that!
‘You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him/her in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him/her up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?’ (The Rite of Baptism)
The role of parents in the Sacrament of Confirmation is often a routine of dropping off and picking up. Having their children attend the meetings may give parents an evening off, but it may also make parents feel separated from the faith formation of their children, when it is the parents who will continue to be the main source of formation and direction of young people.
Confirmation is a fantastic opportunity for parishes to engage with parents, to evangelise and build community. A parish can help to develop the conversation in families about sacramental life and how they live it. A parish should make plans to provide parents with a space and time to be together, to develop conversations and become aware of how their family can lead a sacramental life.
The witness of a parent to a child is what forms us all. As we are all formed by the Father in the Sons image, we are too formed by those who care for us in our infancy. This is an unending process which in our faith journey has particular moments for special care and attention such as Confirmation. A parent who is immersed in the formation of their child through their own formation enables the child to talk freely about their joys, doubts and fears that will all be part of their journey towards Confirmation.
This may not always be logistically possible, but some way of supporting parents should be included in the plans for Confirmation as how can we expect parents to continue the formation of their children if they aren’t formed themselves.
Below are some simple suggestions of how parishes can further involve parents in the Sacrament:
- Have an open evening session for parents and candidates to launch the programme give an outline, enrol, ask questions, and meet each other and the team. Include food and drinks.
- Parents and candidates have dates of sessions and an outline of the programme and events.
- Encourage parents to be actively involved in the Confirmation preparation of the candidate. Attend sessions for parents, bringing candidates to sessions.
- Provide a space for parents to have refreshments so that they can meet each other – have some formation, sharing and opportunities for faith development.
- Give opportunities for parental involvement through support in sessions, (support catechists, refreshments during session, youth trips, fundraising activities, parish events etc)
- Candidates Retreat Day – invite parents to a service at the end of the day. Participate in a ‘Commissioning blessing’.
- Invite parents into the end of sessions for prayer together.
- Offer support to parents to enable them to engage in discussions about the material being studied. Encourage parents to reflect with their children and thoughtfully consider the decision to receive the sacrament of Confirmation.
- Support, encourage and empower parents to pray with their children and for their child’s spiritual growth.
- Emphasize the importance of the sacrament of Confirmation by taking an active part in the celebration of Confirmation.
- Celebrate with a Confirmation family evening after the celebration day.
- Encourage continued involvement in parish life through various ministries.
It goes without saying that the priest is the shepherd of the community and bears the responsibility of being a prime catechist and teacher to his own faith community. The role the priest plays in any preparation and formation must first be one of witness and example. Whilst he may not be intimately involved in the preparation sessions of the young people there is always that hope that he will be a visible presence to the young people along their journey towards Confirmation. There has to be something of the authentic witness in the priest, a sign of welcome and encouragement, a clear sign of affirmation and an outreach of care and concern for those walking towards Confirmation. There has to be a reflection of the joy of the gospel etched upon the life and ministry of the priest. As they prepare to express their ‘yes’ to the Gospel in this Sacrament of Outpouring, as they prepare to echo the promises made at their baptism, the priest walks with them allowing them to see in him something of the definitive ‘yes’ being lived out in the priest’s own life.
It may be, though, that the priest is actively involved in the preparation, supporting the catechists, leading some of the sessions, accompanying the group in prayer and reflection, and celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation with the group as they approach Confirmation itself. He may be one of the members of the team and engaged in each and every session. That has tremendous value and importance as the young people can experience something of the priest’s own faith story. The priest, though, must just simply call in to the sessions. The witness and experience of friendship and companionship to the young people is just as significant and valuable.
The priest can also accompany the parents of the candidates. It is important that someone encourage and affirm them in their vocation as first teachers. The ‘teacher’ of the parish community can strengthen the faith and witness of those who are ‘teachers’ in their home and families.
The primary role of the parish community is to witness to Christ through their actions and the way they welcome young people. If a young person is present at Mass but does not see a church who welcomes the stranger, clothes the naked, feeds the hungry and comforts the lonely, why would they return?
As the young people prepare for Confirmation, so the parish should prepare itself to recognise these and all young people further into their community. The parish community also has the opportunity to surround young people who are preparing for Confirmation in prayer and to build community through the various steps towards the parish celebration of Confirmation such as a rite of enrolment.
Many parishioners may be unaware of who is being confirmed, what they are discovering during their formation and when the celebration is taking place. Experience has shown that young people often commit to the Church and continue to develop their faith when they feel part of and supported by a community. Therefore it is paramount that young people feel the parish community present to them.
Below are some simple suggestions of how a parish can support young people preparing for Confirmation.
- Be strong witnesses to the Gospel message and strive to welcome young people at Mass, liturgies and community events.
- Talk to young people – it may feel awkward, but it is for young people too!
- Invite them to be involved in the life of the community. Ask how they would like to be involved.
- Affirm them by name.
- Create and support Mission projects to be involved in.
- Involve the parish as prayer partners for each candidate.
- Invite young people to be involved in special times e.g. Christ the King – National Youth Sunday, Pentecost, children’s Mass of Christmas, children’s Stations of the Cross on Good Friday.
- Invite them to participate in ministries within the Church community including Eucharistic Ministry, reading, welcoming, altar serving.
- Remember to give young people a formation in these ministries and provide continued support and affirmation.
- Identify and write to potential candidates – parish records of First Holy Communion – make links with your secondary schools.
- Parishioners can assist in hosting an open ‘welcome evening’ with refreshments to launch the Confirmation programme.
- Ask young people to contribute to Parish/Deanery Pastoral Councils.
The dictionary definition of a sponsor contains the words ‘introduces’ and ‘support’. The role of the sponsor in the Sacrament of Confirmation is to be that introduction to a life that has an active faith, a supportive influence and a prayerful companion.
Their role is to walk alongside the young person as they grow in faith through Confirmation and to guide them after they have received the Sacrament. Indeed, the actions of the Sponsor during the Confirmation ceremony itself are a sign to what their role in the life of the young person is. Standing behind them with their right hand on the right shoulder signifies that they are a presence in the life of the person, a guide and confidant.
Sponsors need to be fully initiated and a practising member of a parish community and should not be the parent of the young person.
Young people should be encouraged to choose their Sponsors wisely, with an emphasis on an ongoing relationship in the faith. If candidates are still in contact with their baptismal godparents, then the godparents may act as the sponsors at confirmation; giving further emphasis to the connection between baptism and confirmation.
It is not always easy to involve the Sponsor in the preparation for Confirmation as they can often live away from the parish. However, it is again, an opportunity for the parish to evangelise and form adults who are responsible for continuing the formation of young people. A simple way to include Sponsors in the process of formation is to ask the young people, when choosing their sponsor, to write a letter or invitation that invites them to be part of their journey of faith and describes the topics they have been covering.
- Resources for Parishes
- 10 Step guide to staring out
- Confirmation programmes
- Programme outline
- Sample letter to candidates
- Sample enrolment form
- Confirmation information evening format
- Rite of Enrolment
- Praying with young people
- Retreat opportunities
- Resources for the family
- YouCat Resources
- Further support
- Safeguarding and risk assessment
Taking young people away on a residential experience or holding a day retreat can be of great value to them and their journey in faith. However, it can be a daunting prospect for catechists and leaders. The most important aspect of a retreat is the building of relationships between young people themselves, and between catechists and young people.
There are a few ways you can facilitate a retreat experience for your confirmation group:
- Run your own day retreat programme using a venue such as your a parish hall, school etc
- Experienced Youth Ministers to run a day programme in your location.
- A residential venue and run your own programme.
- A residential centre with a youth ministry team to run a bespoke Confirmation retreat programme.
Before booking a venue or team, consider the following:
- What stage of the Confirmation would a residential/retreat be most beneficial to your young people?
- Costs. Are parents able to contribute the costs of transport and/or accommodation?
- Is the parish able to subsidise the experience for young people?
- Safeguarding: Do you have enough catechists, all with current DBS checks, to accompany/lead the retreat experience?
- Please visit the CSAS website for more information on procedures
If you need any further support or advice, please contact Clifton Diocese Youth Ministry.
The YouCat series are great resources and the Confirmation Catechist team should have copies to hand in their preparation and in every session. They give insight into the topics that will come up for young people and they are very accessible to young people, making them a great tool for catechesis and evangelisation.
Sacrament of Reconciliation…
- Introduction to the Sacrament of Reconciliation
- Service of Reconciliation
- A guide to the Sacrament of Reconciliation
- Interactive prayer stations
- Examination of conscience
- Mercy video
- Mercy Lyrics - Dave Matthews band
- Mercy images Powerpoint
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is an integral part of the young people’s formation and preparation for Confirmation. It gives young people the opportunity to explore on the parts of their lives that do not reflect the love of God and their life as a Christian.
We all can be nervous about receiving the Sacrament and the process of ‘going to confession’. However, young people have reflected that it isn’t the act itself that makes them nervous or anxious, it is the fear of judgment and admitting to themselves that they are not living life as they wish to.
Therefore, it is important to give young people time to prepare to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation by exploring the topics of sin, forgiveness and reconciliation. A session on this Sacrament needs to explore why we need God’s forgiveness and the example of Jesus’ death and resurrection has led to our own redemption. You may ask your Parish Priest to come and talk to the group about receiving the Sacrament.
We have provided resources to make the Sacrament part of a wider service of Reconciliation.
Catechist training opportunities
Youth Ministry and Confirmation catechist training will be available in various locations around the diocese in early 2019.
If your parish would like an individual training session, please contact Clifton Diocese Youth Ministry
Phone: 0117 9025594
A few extra points:
Enjoy the experience. Working with young people is challenging and rewarding. It will not always be a smooth process.
Keep the parish informed of your work with young people. It is very important that the parishioners know that there are young people in their parish. Use the support of the Parish Priest and the Diocese.
It is important to constantly review your work with young people and your Safeguarding procedures.