Faith formation and Confirmation prep classes--is this unusual?

*I called the parish we recently joined, to ensure that tonight begins the Confirmation prep classes for kids 6th through 12th. (not sure if the kids will be broken up into smaller classes, we don’t have a lot of kids so far in our parish, it’s just blossoming) The office manager of the parish told me that actually tonight starts ‘faith formation’ classes, and that since our Bishop has been sick for a while, some things are being put on hold. They were planning to have the kids make Confirmation in November! :confused: I was surprised, because it’s already September, and the classes haven’t even begun. She said, that’s changed, and now they are planning for the kids to make Confirmation in the first quarter of next year, or the spring.

Okay, my son made his Confirmation in March, I think it was, when he was in 8th grade. He went through 2 years of prep course, in PA.

She said, normally it’s two years, but our parish priest "has a different vision.’’ She said, he wants the kids to be a part of the Faith Formation classes, and then the Confirmation prep classes will be basically two Saturdays. What? Two Saturdays? Wow, that’s not a lot of time to prepare, is it? I think back to my days as a kid before making Confirmation…I remember the prep classes being at least 4x per month, for nearly a year.

Anyways, just curious as to your thoughts. Does you parish have Faith Formation for adults and kids? What is your Confirmation prep class schedule like?

Just was curious if this is very typical, and maybe I’m just used to the prep classes being longer. *

Confirmed after two classes??? Umm…no.

I would say this is highly unusual! However, if your diocese does not have Confirmation guidelines in place, it will probably happen anyway.

We just got our guidelines and I’m happy to report that we seem to be going in the right direction. Confirmation here used to be ‘around the age of 16’ and now it says “at least 16”. Preparation is to be basically two years…the first year being general instruction on the faith (faith formation) and the second year to be focused Confirmation prep. The way we’ve been doing it in our parish is pretty much this way anyway. We confirm high school Juniors. This gives them two years of “youth group” before sacramental prep. When they are preparing for Confirmation they are REQUIRED to attend youth group too. Our parish went to this model in hopes of retaining some Seniors in the group. It’s worked well for us, but we are a small (240 families) parish.

I think the idea of faith formation is good…but not at the expense of preparation for receiving the sacrament.

Kathy

Every diocese is different. In the US the age can be anytime between 7 & 18, and the preparation is whatever the bishop says it is, he is the one who decides what “prepared and properly disposed” means. He usually delegates to the Catholic schools or Office of Catechesis to come up with the curriculum for sacramental prep, as well as for faith formation, RE, PSR, & Catholic school religion classes.

How the individual parish implements this–and they are not guidelines they are particular canon law of the diocese–is up to the pastor, and he usually delegates that responsibility to the school principal or DRE, who should be in communication with the Catholic schools office and the Office of Catechetics.

We are not talking about RCIA here, nor is this the Eastern Catholicism forum so let us not get off track.

Faith formation is not the same as sacramental prep. Some basic faith formation, 2 years seems to be a norm, should precede immediate preparation for sacraments. Sometimes these happen at the same time, even in the same class or group, but they are distinct.

That being said, I can tell you what the rule is in this diocese, you can go to cdob.org and click on synod legislation and scroll or search for the pages on the various sacraments if you are interested. It has the force of law and I can no more change it or claim responsibility or blame for policies that irk parents and candidates than I can for any other church teaching.

I also know that by and large most parishes follow about the same model: two years faith formation covering the Creed, Mass and Sacraments, Moral life in Christ, and Prayer, with the study of the relevant scripture and catechism topics related to those areas. Immediate preparation for Confirmation must include 3 parent-candidate-sponsor meetings, totalling no less than 3 hours, covering prescribed topics: the sacrament itself esp. related to Baptism and Christian initiation, the Holy Spirit, the Church, and discipleship. There is are required service component and retreat, to be decided by the pastor. Confirmation is in 10th grade or age 16 for baptized Catholic teens. In practice that includes a lot of children 10-14 each year who have been baptized in another Christian denomination, are prepared for full initiation with their peers, and celebrate first communion the same time as they make profession of faith and are confirmed. Plenty of the Catholic children also make their first communion in conjunction with confirmation, about 15% of the class.

Unbaptized children participate in RCIA as usual.

Faith formation should be offered in every parish in some type of formal class all through the school years. Our diocese specifically mandates a post-confirmation class and prescribes topics. Children receive sacraments of initiation, not of graduation, which means they are beginning their journey of faith and practice of the Christian life, and growth in knowledge of Christ, his Church, and his will for them.

I can also tell you that within the diocese there are dozens of parishes that do their own thing, add or subtract requirements, and interpret the prescriptions loosely, as pastors endeavor to best meet the needs of their own congregation.

You name a plan, and somebody somewhere is probably doing it, from once a month meetings, to twice a week, for one year or less, up to 3 years.

I’m not sure why people think proximate preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation need to be such an extended period like 2 years.

The way it’s lining out here in my program (Confirmation is 10th grade in our deanery) we have the high school kids going to religious education on Wed nights. Traditionally confirmation prep has been done during the religious education program, but that doesn’t work really well because we need to cover the regular religious ed material during that time. Starting this year, we will be including several 2 hour Sunday night meetings with the Confirmation kids which will be focused on Confirmation. We will also have an all-day retreat a few weeks before Confirmation (which is in March for our group).

I’m not really understanding why everyone thinks there should be some really long, drawn out preparation for Confirmation. What, really, do they need preparing for that would take that long?

Proximate preparation for marriage consists of several meetings with the priest and then either a weekend retreat or sponsor couple program. Proximate preparation for baptism of infants consists of several meetings with the parents/godparents and maybe some prep-at-home information. Preparation for First Reconciliation is about 6 weeks of prep, and same for FHC (outside regular religious education program) plus maybe a retreat. Adult confirmation for those never confirmed is about 6 weeks of meetings prior to whatever date is set for adult confirmation (around Pentecost in a lot of diocese). Only RCIA is a full year to 2 year program, and that is for catechumens-- the uncatechized and unbaptized. And, that makes sense since for some you are starting with “who is God.” Full reception for the already baptized can be much shorter than the RCIA program for catechumens.

Why is there a belief that Confirmation for children needs so much more? The kids don’t do the confirming, the bishop does. It’s not an optional sacrament, it’s an obligation of all Catholics to be confirmed. So, beyond a few weeks (maybe 6) of proximate preparation so that they are properly disposed for the sacrament, what is it that they need?

*Perhaps, this is what she meant by the priest has a ‘new vision,’ than most. When I went through Confirmation prep, it was known as religious education…and in part, you underwent classwork to prepare you for the Sacrament. Maybe it was choosing a confirmation name, doing an essay on why you are choosing that saint, and so forth. Looking back, I can’t recall what else we did that took two years. :o My son went through Confirmation classes in both 7th and 8th grade as well, making confirmation when he was 14. I have not ever heard of waiting until 10th grade, so that is new for me, also.

It’s always been 8th grade in the Dioceses my dh and I have been a part of. Once this unravels, I’ll have more to ‘report’ here…she starts her religious ed classes/faith formation tonight, so we’ll see if any curriculum is passed out.

Thanks for your thoughts, kathy, 1ke and annie. It’s interesting to me, for lack of a better word, that there isn’t ONE UNIFORM way that ALL U.S. Dioceses are supposed to follow, no? :confused:*

One would hope that on-going religious education having actual impact on day-to-day practice of the faith, aka “faith formation”, is something that starts at birth and goes on until death. Certainly, having fact-based classes from first grade through 12th isn’t excessive, considering what there is to know in order to form a conscience, intellectual understanding, and practice of a Catholic. There is so much to know!

The policy is, unfortunately, for the candidates that drop out of “faith formation” as soon as they make their First Communion. It is not unknown for such candidates to have not taken a single religious education class nor made a single confession since then. They have a tremendous amount of catching up to do. Two years is not a day too much, but requiring more has an inverse impact on how many will avail themselves of the sacrament.

In a parish where literally all of the kids get formal religious education from 1st grade through high school, like the very small parish I came from, the preparations are for the sacrament only, and don’t need to be anything like two years.

It’s kind of like marriage prep. Some of us have been prepared by our parents, our knowledge of the catechism, our prayer life, our habitual moral life, and so on, and could reasonably enter into a successful life-long marriage without any outside instruction at all. Some of us have so much in the way of ignorance and bad example to overcome that dozens upon dozens of sessions wouldn’t be over the top (not that anyone gets that for marriage). It just depends on where you are.

*I agree Easter…perhaps, I’m mixing the two up. Let me clarify what was told to me today, by the office mgr. She said that the priest has a ‘different vision,’ and in that, she meant that he wants the kids to be attending faith formation/religious ed classes that are ongoing, and then there will be additional days per month (she is thinking saturdays) for the Confirmation prep, which are to total, only two. Now, she said this is in its infant stage, so we have to wait to see what happens. I am not sure with the Bishop being sick (he has a heart problem, and has been in the hospital) what that has to do with our parish changing things? :smiley: The cat’s away, the mice will play? I mean, it seemed that way.

Now, I’ll say this. We chose this parish to join, because out of those we attended here in Florida, THIS ONE is the most traditional and reverent. I want my kids knowing that mass is not really about a Christian rock concert, but about worshipping the Lord. (thread for another time:rolleyes:) That said, I have the utmost trust and confidence in this parish with this priest’s ‘new vision.’ I am excited…and think it will be compelling.

But, it is curious that she said…with the Bishop sick and all, Fr Dennis wants to change things around a bit. What does that have to do with anything, I don’t know. :o

I am thinking like you Easter, that this is an ongoing formation class, and perhaps even after Confirmation. When my son made Confirmation–that was it. No more faith formation, so I’m also curious to see if part of the ‘vision’ will be ongoing education beyond making the Sacrament. Which if you ask me, is a good thing.

My dh and I spend a lot of time teaching the faith at home, but I have not been very pleased with the whimsical fashion of my kids’ religious education classes back in PA. God bless the nuns who ran the program, but really, I wasn’t impressed with the lessons. *

Then confirmation for those individuals should be delayed until they are properly catechized and deemed “properly disposed” by the pastor and/or bishop.

I don’t see the need to create some artificial 2 year sacrament prep program that every kid has to go through to try to force those parents/students who aren’t attending faith formation to do so to “get” their sacrament.

The sacramental preparation is separate from faith formation. If the individual is not properly disposed-- i.e. going to Mass regularly and receiving the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation-- then it’s the pastor’s job to assess the situation and decide on a course of action.

Confirmation is not some kind of reward for jumping through a bunch of hoops, attending X classes, and doing X hours of “service.” It seems that many people have the idea that kids won’t attend faith formation unless forced somehow and therefore have devised a way to hold the Sacrament hostage to attending these other classes. I believe faith formation is infinitely important, and is lifelong, but ultimately the parents are the primary educators of the children in the faith and I don’t believe that we should withhold the sacrament from the child because they have lousy parents.

It’s a sacrament whereby people receive sanctifying grace to strengthen them in the Holy Spirit and assist them in living out their baptismal call. And, it does not require that the kids know a certain amount of “stuff” before they can receive confirmation. (remember, in the East, confirmation occurs at the same time as baptism-- as an infant).

Proximate preparation for this can be done in any number of ways. Those who cannot commit to the proximate prep may need to have the sacrament delayed until such time as they are ready to commit to the preparation.

My take on that is that the Bishop’s illness and need to push Confirmation to the spring led the pastor to believe now was the perfect time to implement the new vision.

If Confirmation had gone as planned in Nov, then he would have had to wait to implement with the next batch of confirmandii, later in the year. It would be hard to set up the new program so quickly before confirmation in 8 weeks or so.

Since it’s switched to the spring he can plan and do the Saturday sessions with this batch and see how it goes between now and Q1 of next year.

That’s my guess. Unfortunate that the bishop is ill, but fortuitous for the pastor to shift into the new schedule and such.

At our old Church, the Confirmation candidates were responsible to attend x amount of youth meetings, retreats, volunteer opportunities, youth Masses, etc, etc, and then you could be Confirmed, provided it was the child’s choice and not the parents. They really held you to these requirements over the course of two years.

At our new church the kids need to:
A. Desire to be Confirmed.
and
B. Have a solid understanding of the Faith.

If you have both of these, then when the Bishop comes to our new parish, the kid may get Confirmed in the Faith. The age of the child isn’t seen as being very relevant to our new pastor. I like our new church’s way of doing things much better. To me it makes more sense this way.

It might be artificial if the one solution were indiscriminately forced upon every situation. It isn’t artificial to recognize that two years of preparation is a positive way to do it for most of the young people coming through a particular parish or through most parishes in a particular diocese.

It depends on the overall situation in a parish. In some parishes, neither the well-prepared nor the ill-prepared make a clear majority or even a distinct group. Some may be ill-prepared as to knowledge, some ill-prepared as to service, some well-prepared with regards to both, and everything in between. At some parishes, it is felt, based on experience, that it is beneficial for all to go through their approach of the sacrament together, and for a rather long time compared to some other places, the weak learning from the strong and the strong learning that they still have something to learn from the “weak”, not to mention the experience of helping others along. It is a parish situation that the youth of the parish deals with as a group, based on the experience in that parish. Yes, the East confirms infants, but we don’t, and so our bishops can look at what they think is necessary preparation in something of their own way.

If there were few in one group or the other, with regards to preparation, though, then yes, that is another situation. It wouldn’t do to invent “hoops” that don’t have any broad benefit.

*Ok…I have an update. Dropped dd off tonight, picked her up a little while ago. I walked her in and stayed for a few moments, to sign her in. They broke up into groups, and in her group, the teacher discussed how in Scripture, kids were confirmed when they were 7. They said, that might make a come back…but, when you think about it, people were often times married by the time they were teens. Very different culture back then. She said the discussion was ‘interesting,’ and she thinks she will learn more than in PA. The couple that is running this are super super kind people…I see them at mass every week, and are just so genuine.

Classes will be 2x per month for the faith formation, and they are going to figure out what to do about confirmation prep classes.

On a funny note, my dd said there was a kid who sang quietly, the lyrics to ‘Dont’ Stop Believin’ by Journey, the ENTIRE time, during class…:shrug: I said the ENTIRE time? She said…mommy, the ENTIRE time. I said no one said anything to him? She said, I finally did. He stopped for about two minutes, and started up again. lol Oh brother. :o There’s always one. lol*

*I agree…and having gotten to know this priest, I’m sure his ‘vision’ will be in stride with tradition, yet creative. *

I’m old but my age is not yet of biblical proportions and I was confirmed when I was 7 (1960). That was the age in my diocese. For 9 years in my present diocese confirmation preceded First Communion but was in the same celebration and preparation was offered to any child 6 & up. My present pastor was confirmed when he was 5, before he made his first Communion.

More and more dioceses are returning the sacraments of initiation to their original order and confirmation is not delayed to keep kids in Religious ed.

it doesn’t but the faith formation should be that long, that is, the remote preparation. The actual proximate preparation for Confirmation in most of the “programs” that parishes by is 8 lessons of for a 1-2 hour class, or covered in 4 meetings of 3+ hours on Sunday or another time than regular CCD. They need in almost every diocese formation at their age level to make an informed profession of faith, and to cover the bases on the 4 pillars of the catechism, creed, liturgy, morality and prayer. That is not confirmation prep per se it is faith formation. The actual proximate prep for the sacrament consists of understanding the doctrinal basis of the sacrament and the action of the Holy Spirit esp. in the context of sacraments of initiaton and the sacramental economy, the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church, and in the life of the individual Christian, the gifts and fruits of the Spirit, the demands of discipleship, and of course preparing for the day itself.

bear in mind that often RE for school age children is on a school year model, so a year is really 6-7 months, while RCIA or adult classes are year round (or should be). In this diocese, 9th graders in Catholic school get their RE in school, other attend CCD for the remote preparation, curriculum covers Creed and Sacraments. 10th graders attend parish programs for proximate preparation for the sacrament, emphasis on the moral life the first semester, the sacrament & holy Spirit 2nd semester. Also the 3 parent-sponsor-candidate meetings, retreat, and service project are in the 2nd year.

It is fascinating to see what various bishops have to say justifying the age set for their diocese. bishop Tobin in Youngstown gave a very good explanation for lower the age from 11th to 8th grade (that was a fun 2 years while they tried to catch every kid in the gap). Bishop Chaput has an excellent rationale for younger age, and others for the restrored order of sacraments of initiation. Publishers are now starting to issue confirmation materials for younger candidates, and books for confirmation + 1st communion. Other parishes use RCIA materials intended for children for preparing elementary age children for Confirmation–a good thing as all sacramental catechesis is supposed to be based on the RCIA model. Not the rites of course, but the formation.

I was confirmed in 6th grade, my older brother in 4th–the bishop came every 3 years so did grades 4-5-6 together. My next two siblings did it in 8th grade because a new bishop raised the age. My last two have never been confirmed for reasons to long to detail here. We moved twice while our kids were that age, so one was in 8th grade, one 11th and one 9th–we never managed to coordinate where we lived with the proper age there, either they were confirmed “too early” or “too late” for whatever parish we ended up in. My grandkids all live in the Cleveland area, but in 2 different dioceses, so one family gets confirmed in 8th grade, the other in 11th.

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