Four major concerns have prompted us to re-think the high school years as the most appropriate age for this Sacrament:
--The number of adolescents accepting our invitation to participate in preparation for Confirmation is less than 40% of those who are eligible for the Sacrament.
--This Sacrament is often mistakenly seen as bringing to completion the need for continuing education and ongoing growth in faith—more like a graduation than an initiation.
--The grace of Confirmation to help adolescents in facing the many moral and spiritual challenges that our society presents today is delayed long past the time when that grace is needed.
--Since over 60% of our teens are not being confirmed, we have thousands of adults attempting to face the challenges of the modern world without the grace of Confirmation to help them.
Last year, I convened a task force to look at the question of an appropriate age for Confirmation in our Diocese. The task force was unanimous in its conclusion that the age should be lowered. They further recommended that the Sacrament be celebrated in the original order in which the Church, for centuries, celebrated what we know as the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. I consulted with the seventeen pastors who make up the Presbyteral Council and they, too, gave their unanimous support to the task force's recommendations. On the basis of the consultation, with this pastoral letter I am revising the policy of our Diocese so that the Sacrament of Confirmation will be prepared for and celebrated in conjunction with First Eucharist. Under this new policy, our children will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation in the 3rd grade.
The way Confirmation is currently celebrated in most diocese it is more akin to a Bar Mitzvah or a Quincenera ceremony. It is a marker of adulthood. Three cheers for Bishop Olmstead’s move to place Confirmation in its rightful position as a Sacrament of Initiation.