The Sacrament of Confirmation gives us spiritual strength just as the Sacrament of the Eucharist provides spiritual nourishment. At Our Lady Of Perpetual Help Parish in San Fernando, preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation begins at age 13 and is not only intended to enable the young members of the faith to become soldiers for Christ but also to establish and develop their relationship with God and each other.
The programme begins with an introduction to the journey of faith during which the catechists and candidates learn about each other. Parents and sponsors are also invited to participate in various activities. During the introductory period, the candidates are encouraged to do self-analysis. Basic tenets of the faith are shared, for example the Commandments and the Beatitudes, which outline the behaviours and attitudes expected by God in our relationship with him and each other. The candidates are also expected to choose a ‘saint name’ and to research the life and moral and spiritual values of the saint –who should become a role model for them. Basic prayers and the parts of the Mass are reviewed. Corporal and spiritual works of mercy are discussed and candidates are expected to participate in social outreach programmes, delivering food and clothing to the less fortunate in society.
After the introductory period, which usually covers the months of October to December, the formal programme begins with the Welcoming Rite or Ceremony of Enrolment when the candidates are introduced to the parish community and presented with their bibles. Lessons are conducted by each catechist using the text “Growing in Discipleship in a Catholic Community”, provided by the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office. This is supplemented by “Witnessing to Faith”, another textbook offered by the same office. Other instructive texts geared towards preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation are also utilised. Lesson topics include the Sacraments, the Bible, God and the Holy Spirit, and the vision, mission and values of Jesus Christ. A project is assigned at this point, “Journaling with Jesus”. Liturgical feasts are noted and celebrated, and in particular the Easter Triduum, with the candidates involved in the para-liturgy at the conclusion of the Stations of the Cross.
During each term, the candidates participate in special sessions where they are anointed and supported in prayer by the catechists and prayer groups, for example Zion Community, Word and Deed prayer group.
One-day retreats are conducted with external facilitators. This year, Bernadette Gopaul-Ramkhalawan of the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office covered “I Believe”. Deacon Kester de Verteuil spoke about the disturbing influences of some kinds of popular music. Denzil Williams of YouSerVe discussed Human Sexuality, and Companions of the Transfigured Christ presented on Relationships.
Sponsors were invited to attend special sessions designed to outline their role and responsibility in the candidate’s life. Parents were included in sessions with their children which involved prayer, forgiveness and reconciliation. The candidates were also interviewed individually by qualified members of the parish community.
The Acceptance Rite is usually scheduled to coincide with the conclusion of the Church year, after a 12-month period of instruction. At this rite, candidates commit to moving forward and accepting the call of Jesus and receive their crosses, the sign of our salvation.
The Ceremony of Confirmation took place on July 5, followed by the Rite of Mission on July 12, when the candidates were sent forth to be “witnesses until the ends of the earth”.
We have been ably supported in all our efforts by the parish priest, Msgr Christian Pereira, and thank him for his continued guidance and assistance. May God bless him and all those who support our programme.
– Diane Lucky, Archdiocesan Catechetical Office – South