by Ginny Duschner and Scott Frieler
When we first thought how Confirmation preparation was typically experienced in our area, we realized that youth seemed to cram their whole sacramental journey in one year’s time while they attended school and were involved in other activities. We decided the process would be more meaningful if the youth could “own” the process and do it at a pace that allowed them some time for service, reflection and prayer. So we designed a program that allowed them to receive the sacrament of Confirmation either in the 10th, 11th or 12th grade.
The Discipleship Training Sessions can be taken in either the Fall or Spring session. When we meet with students the spring of their 9th grade year, we lay out the program so they can do some of the activities over the summer. We designed a program that fits the needs of all students who have been part of a faith formation process, be it those from Cathedral High School, St. John’s Prep, the home-schooled, or those from our parishes attending the public high schools.
The program pre-supposes youth have had a basic training in the tenets of their faith. We strive to help them move that “head” knowledge down into their hearts, so they can decide on their own whether or not they want to discover and follow the life that God had designed for them from the very beginning. We work to help them find their gifts and talents and talk about how they can use these gifts/talents in the world to bring Christ’s love and hope to those who desperately need it. We help them “try on” some different prayer types so they can find one that matches their own personal spirituality. And we help them form a small group “family” where they feel safe discussing their concerns, getting their questions answered, and sharing their fears and doubts out in the open.
Like the early church, conversion starts in relationship and we try to help the youth build those relationships, not only with their small group, but also with their Mentor or Sponsor as well. The ultimate goal of Discipleship Training is to open the hearts of the young people to the idea that they were designed by God with a purpose. They will lead a life that will be uniquely their own and a life that could use all their gifts and talents to make the world a better place and lead others to the joy they have found. We call it “preparing the soil.”
As we are able, we plant seeds of faith and then leave the rest to the power of the Holy Spirit. People in ministry seldom get to see the harvest of the seeds they have planted, occasionally we get glimpses of hearts growing closer to Christ. We see it though their dedication to the children when they teach Vacation Bible School or teach little ones in a classroom year after year. When they become leaders in parish ministries (such as Children’s Liturgy of the Word and Peer Ministry Teams) and join service orientated groups, or when they lead others to Christ by modeling their love for Jesus, we see the gift of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
Editor’s note: the parishes of St. Anthony’s, St. John Cantius, St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. Michael in St. Cloud, along with St. Joseph’s in Waite Park are working together to provide a collaborative Confirmation preparation program in 2019-2020. This article explains that process.