Confirmation "Requirements"

Hello Fellow CA Readers and lovers of all things Catholic-

I am on the staff of a large parish, serving the Lord and his people as Asst DRE. I enjoy perusing Catholic Answers to keep my focus on the Church and Her teachings. I come to you with the goal of trying to make sure our Confirmation program is doing all that is supposed to without doing too much. I’ll list the requirements our students (8th grade for the most part) must meet to be confirmed. What I am seeking is opinions as to whether we are working too hard or asking too much - or not enough. We are a growing parish (have been for the 10 years I have been on staff) and a lot of what we do is paper and time intensive for our staff. We have about 150 kids in our Confirmation program. This year’s 1st Holy Communion class is 212 kids, so we are only getting bigger. Thanks for your help.

Two years of faith formation classes before a sacrament.

Attendance at 25+ weekly Confirmation classes on Sunday nights.

Two retreats. A one day local retreat in the Fall and a two night retreat in the Spring at a retreat center 2+ hours away.

Interview. Because of the numbers, interviews are conducted by catechists on the Spring retreat.

Letter to the Pastor requesting Confirmation. Years ago, our former pastor replied to each letter with a note.

20 service hours. We build five hours into the program.

What are we missing?

Looks about right (the exact length of programme and number of classes is really individual, we have a shorter course, but the what of what you are doing is similar to us).

What do you do to ensure the kids are participating in the wider life of the parish and sacramental life? Do you have any checks to make sure they’re at Mass every week? Do you have penitential services as part of the programme or any other way to make sure they confess at least semi-regularly? Do you give them opportunities to meet other young Catholics from other parishes by bringing them to regional events? Do they have to do any ‘homework’ between classes? Not written homework, because you clearly don’t have time to mark it, but things like trying different forms of prayer.

Our parish is somewhat different from yours (I only have 50 kids, who are a bit older than yours, but I’m the only catechist apart from the priest so I do all the paperwork) but those are the sorts of things we do.

I hesitate to say “test them” because the Sacraments are not rewards for study, but is there some way you make sure they understand the significance of the Sacrament, that it is a personal Pentecost and that they are “buying” the faith they have been “renting” from their parents. I teach 6th grade CCD and try to lightly cover those topics to get them ready for 8th grade.

First of all, God bless for your work on bringing so many children into Communion with the Church.
Do you collect attendance cards to show Mass has been attended? Will the students receive the Sacrament of Penance prior to reception of First Holy Communion & Confirmation?
Do you have any Youth Group Programs to keep the children involved in the Church after they have received all the Sacraments?

Our interviews are intended to judge their readiness. Even this has to be done delicately because not all kids (especially those on the autism spectrum) can easily show their true faith - though they are ready.

Your program appears very vibrant. I like the two retreats, interview and the letter to the Pastor requesting the Sacrament and I like that he writes a note back to them. It doesn’t sound like your missing really anything. It might be nice to receive a personal letter from their sponsors talking about their faith and love of Jesus and how they managed to keep Jesus the center of their lives after faith formation classes were finished.

My ?'s for you are what type of service do you build into the program for the kids to participate in during class time? I’m trying to find out how I can get my son to place flags on Veterans graves for Memorial Day but having a hard time contacting the right people. Also, does your parish offer Bible studies for their age. I think its a good idea for high school and college age (who stay local) to come back and participate in some type of continued learning about this man Jesus and how to keep him the center of their lives. My son did Discovering Christ, Following Christ, Encounter Bible Study and Theology of the Body. My daughter did The Teen Bible Timeline. All excellent.

We do not take Mass attendance as this would be another stack of work for our secretary to go through every week. This would be simpler with a smaller group. We do have them go to Confession in the weeks leading up to Confirmation and we do have a High School YM program. In fact, at the end of our Spring retreat two weeks ago we had an “open mic” session where the kids could say what they got out of the retreat or the year and many of them said they would be back next year.

Great Program. Sounds like you have it all covered if the Bishop makes any inquiries.
Again, God bless you. We need more people like you involved with the children of the Church.

As part of the preparation for the Spring retreat, we have families send in letters of affirmation that we give to the kids after one of the talks. It is very moving. Many of the kids get letters from their sponsors too. The service that we work into the program is a trip to a nursing home and then a trip to a homeless shelter where they prepare and serve a lunch.

The highlighted one is the only one I would question. If these students are already in CCE classes, 25 additional classes is too much. Not to mention that having them on Sunday nights is an invitation to get push back from parents. Many Catholic families see Sunday as a day to spend with family (as does the Church). Shuttling kids back to Church for Confirmation class nearly every week after having been there for Mass on Sunday morning is a big disrupter. Adding an activity on a school night is another issue.

Well, since you asked, I’ll respond.

I’m very concerned about sacramental preparation programs that list requirements beyond what is required in canon law. We must remember that the faithful have a right to the sacraments, so long as they are

  1. Properly disposed (and that includes being properly catechized)
  2. Reasonably ask for them (including “at a reasonable time/hour”)
  3. Not impeded by law (the Church’s law, not the parish’s)

If someone only completes 19 service hours rather than 20, is that member of the Christian Faithful then denied the Sacrament? If so, that’s a problem.

We can put expectations on the faithful, and we can strongly encourage such things as service hours. We can even make great efforts to accommodate these (like group service projects). But we cannot deny a sacrament to those who are properly prepared to receive them.

The Sacrament of Ordination requires a canonical retreat. Where does the Church require 2 retreats before Confirmation? If a candidate does only one, or none, is that candidate denied the sacrament? If so, that’s a problem.

We have to remember that these programs are available to Confirmation candidates, but they can never be become obstacles to receiving the Sacrament.

Again, because you asked.

Thank you, thank you.

We had the hardest time with “Confirmation Class.” Our parish had 70+ in the same classroom. Generally it was pandemonium. They actually had fathers (male parents, not priests) walking around trying to keep kids in line.

The huge group went on an overnight retreat. My son didn’t want to go. And I agreed with him. If the teachers couldn’t keep control in a classroom, how the heck were they going to do it a retreat center?

Basically, I was told, if he didn’t go on this retreat, he wouldn’t be Confirmed. :eek: Yes, he must jump through this hoop, do this dance, or he was being refused the Sacrament. :shrug: How can you do that?

I think DREs everywhere should remember that Confirmation is a Sacrament of Initiation. That we should be encouraging people to receive it. We shouldn’t put so many obstacles in the way that they leave.

Thank you Father. Your’s is the type of response I was hoping to get. While we have not denied anyone a sacrament, we have often been less than charitable. Since I am just a lowly Asst DRE, these decisions are not mine. Sometimes in this line of work we are guilty of letting OUR program or ministry develop into something that is more important than it should be.

I just called US Conference of Catholic Bishops to ask about Confirmation requirements. I was told they vary from Diocese to Diocese. Here are a few examples:


This is a cut-and-paste of what the Holy See has to say about local requirements for Confirmation.

Prot. N. 2607/98/L
December 18, 1999

Your Excellency:

This Congregation for Divine Worship expresses its appreciation for your kind reply concerning the request of a child of 11 years resident in your Diocese along with her parents, for reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation in anticipation of the local policy of conferring the Sacrament no sooner than the sophomore year of high school.

In light of Your Excellency’s considered response, this Dicastery considers it necessary to respond in some detail to the considerations you raise, and so the case was submitted to a renewed and attentive examination. The Congregation was anxious to communicate the results of this study as soon as possible asking you to note the authoritative nature of the conclusions contained therein.

At the same time this Dicastery has considered it important to respond to the considerations raised by Your Excellency in declining to dispense the girl from the Diocesan Policy in order that she might anticipate her reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation. This Congregation wishes, however, to preface its further comments with the observation that Your Excellency’s refusal to grant this dispensation must be seen as having the juridic value of an administrative act denying an anticipated conferral of the Sacrament. Among the responsibilities entrusted to this Dicastery is the authoritative examination of appeals against such administrative actions (cf. Apostolic Constitution, Pastor Bonus, arts. 19, § 1, 63).

In reply to this Congregation’s decision that appropriate steps be taken to provide for the girl’s confirmation in the near future, Your Excellency had proposed essentially two arguments:

  1. Though willingly admitting that the girl is well instructed and that her parents are very good Catholics, you point out that “instruction is not the sole criterion for recognizing the opportune time for confirmation … The evaluation is a pastoral one which involves much more than just being instructed”.

  2. Your Excellency indicates that the Diocesan Policy establishing that conferral of the Sacrament is to be no earlier than the sophomore year of high school is within the right inherent in the law in light of the legislation complementary to can. 891 for the Conference of Bishops to which you belong.

With respect to Your Excellency’s first point, it is no doubt true that there is a pastoral judgment to be made in such cases, provided that by “pastoral judgment” one is speaking of the obligation of the Sacred Pastors to determine whether those elements required by the revised Code of Canon Law are indeed present, namely, that the person be baptized, have the use of reason, be suitably instructed, and be properly disposed and able to renew the baptismal promises (cf. can. 843, S1; 889, §2). This Dicastery notes from the testimony submitted by the family, as well as that provided by Your Excellency, that it is clear this young girl has satisfied each of the canonical requisites for reception of the Sacrament.

In regard to Your Excellency’s second point, while it is clear that the Diocesan Policy is within the right inherent in the law in light of the complementary legislation for the Conference of Bishops to which you belong for can. 891, it is also clear that any such complementary legislation must always be interpreted in accord with the general norm of law. As has been stated before, the Code of Canon Law legislates that Sacred Ministers may not deny the Sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them (cf. can. 843 §1). Since it has been demonstrated that the girl possesses these requisite qualities, any other considerations, even those contained in the Diocesan Policy, need to be understood in subordination to the general norms governing the reception of the Sacraments.

The Congregation considers it useful to point out that it is the role of the parents as the primary educators of their children and then of the Sacred Pastors to see that candidates for the reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation are properly instructed to receive the Sacrament and come to it at the opportune time (cf. can. 890). Consequently, when a member of the faithful wishes to receive this Sacrament, even though not satisfying one or more elements of the local legislation (e.g., being younger than the designated age for administration of the Sacrament), those elements must give way to the fundamental right of the faithful to receive the Sacraments. Indeed, the longer the conferral of the Sacrament is delayed after the age of reason, the greater will be the number of candidates who are prepared for its reception but are deprived of its grace for a considerable period of time.

In conclusion, this Congregation for Divine Worship must insist, given the concrete circumstances of the case under consideration, that the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation be extended to the girl as soon as is conveniently possible.

In order to complete our documentation concerning this question, this Dicastery would be grateful to Your Excellency to receive notice of the agreement you will have reached with the family for the administration of the Sacrament.

With every good wish and kind regard, I remain

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Jorge A. Card. Medina Estévez

Francesco Pio Tamburrino
Archbishop Secretary

Published in Notitiae 35 (Nov.-Dec. 1999) - publication of the Congregation of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments

I hope your parish knows what a vital role that YOU play in the nurture of these young souls. I have seen obstacles for no particular reason except to elevate a teacher and frustrate a student go to far, and the student vanishes, never to be seen again.

They can have programs, but they cannot outright require anything beyond what is articulated in canon law. In other words, they cannot deny a member of the Christian Faithful, who is otherwise eligible to receive a sacrament, that sacrament merely because some local “requirement” has not been met.

For example, the Archdiocese of Seatle states in its policy
Lack of a candidate’s participation in a specific service experience shall not be used as the sole basis for denial or delay of the sacrament.

Retreats offer candidates time away to reflect on their faith experience and to deepen their relationship with Jesus and each other. Parishes are to provide at least one retreat opportunity specific to Confirmation as part of immediate preparation for the sacrament. Alternatively, parishes may offer their candidates the option of participating in a regional or Archdiocesan retreat experience designed specifically for Confirmation. Lack of a candidate’s participation in a specific retreat experience shall not be used as the sole basis for denial or delay of the sacrament.
(underlining is mine)

I would ask, what does your parish do to keep the Confirmandi and their family involved after Confirmation?

Also a suggestion, for photographs on the big day, photograph the sacramental action instead of the photo with the bishop. It will probably be more meaningful for the student.
Other suggestions from this powerpoint on ‘Post-Sacrament Evangelization’:

Father David you have once again beat me to the post! :slight_smile:

I have used the letter you posted in recent years in my own parish where the “powers involved” had insisted that kids would not be confirmed when they miss a retreat or a certain amount of class time.

In the few cases in my home parish where issues like this were raised the kids were confirmed; however, none were under the diocesan age set for confirmation.

One thing to note about the case in this letter, this was a younger person than what the diocesan policy allowed. The policy states that the child must be a sophomore in high school which is approximately 15 to 16 years old; the child in this case was 11.

The diocesan bishop was told to confirm the child even though none of the diocese’s “requirements” were met. The only requirement that was met was the canonical requirement that the child be prepared for reception of the sacrament and request to receive the sacrament.

I removed most of the content of the letter to limit the amout posted.

It wasn’t the best example because the issue itself was one of age.

Canon law does specifically allow each bishop’s conference to set the age for Confirmation. That’s why there is more to this than age itself. In my own words, the conference can set the “typical” or “usual” age, and that age becomes particular law for that country. However, the particular law must give-way to the universal law when they conflict.

I’m not trying to advocate for anyone to go around “demanding” confirmation at an age younger than what the diocesan bishop has established. What we must keep in mind as we read the letter is that what happened there was somewhat unusual in that the child was properly prepared and ready to be Confirmed, although not within the age-range in that diocese.

The principle does still hold, though, when it comes to adding extra burdens to the potential Confirmandi. Pastors cannot deny Confirmation based solely on the fact that a candidate did not attend a retreat, or did not sell enough cupcakes at the bake sale.

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