Pope Saint John Paul II, in his apostolic exhortation Catechesis in Our Time (Catechesi Tradendae), shares: "the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ: only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity" (CT 5).
Our parish programs and many members have lost this aim as the reason for catechesis; for learning our faith. Our programs have been more geared towards the preparation and celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation.
Although these moments are a cause for joy and celebration, they cannot remain to be the primary aim for participation in religious education and faith formation.
In the fall of 2015, Bishop Morlino asked all parishes to plan for a more uniform celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation. The bishop's desire is for the celebration of Confirmation to occur earlier in the high school years AND for faith formation opportunities (religious education, youth groups, small groups, etc.) to be the norm for adolescents to participate and grow in during their entire high school careers. St. Bernard parish has been planning for and is ready for this transition during the school year of 2016-2017.
The new standard time for someone who grows up in our faith to celebrate Confirmation will be in the fall of their tenth grade year. That will presume that they have been active in faith formation classes and they and their families feel they are ready.
The Class of 2017, which celebrated Confirmation on May 1, 2016, will be expected to continue to participate in faith formation with their peers during the school year. The group will focus more on discipleship, prayer and accountability rather than learning the ins and outs of our faith.
It is with sorrow that we must admit that some students and families will have an opportunity to abuse these changes. Once students are confirmed they may choose not to participate in faith formation any longer. This must be a risk we are willing to take, because the truth is that there have been teens and families who have abused our programs in this same way in the past. Some have participated minimally in order to be confirmed with no desire of a personal relationship with Christ or a plan for future involvement in the Church.
Our parish and Religious Education Office want to remind parents that they are the primary catechists in faith and morals for their children. We are honored that you allow us to partner with you in passing on the faith to your children. Your children will learn far more from the example you set and by witnessing your priorities and character than we will ever be able to pass on to them in a faith formation class.
As author Sherry Weddell points out in her groundbreaking work, "Forming Intentional Disciples,"
"It is Normal for all Catholics to:
All ninth and tenth graders will sign-up for and participate in religious education classes based on a small-group model of discipleship training.
Tenth and eleventh graders seeking Confirmation will attend a retreat, participate in Confirmation specific classes and will be prepared to celebrate Confirmation on Nov. 6, 2016.
Ninth graders will begin their Confirmation preparation (to be celebrated in the Fall of 2017 as sophomores) by attending a retreat at some time during their ninth grade year.
Eleventh graders will sign-up for and participate in Religious Education (much like before).
Twelfth graders will participate in a faith formation group, much like they did last year.