By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
Beginning in 2021, children in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon will celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation in Grade 6, rather than before their First Holy Communion in Grade 2.
Bishop Mark Hagemoen announced the change of the normative age for Confirmation to Grade 6 (11 years) in a letter to the faithful released July 8. The age for celebration of First Holy Communion and First Reconciliation (Confession) will continue to be Grade 2 (7 years).
“I hope that this shift will not only present new and ongoing opportunities for effective faith-formation of youth and their families in preparing for all of the sacraments but may also be the opportunity to foster new initiatives and creativity regarding ongoing faith-formation and youth activities for the young people and their families of the parishes of our diocese,” Bishop Hagemoen said in his message to the clergy, religious, and lay faithful of the diocese.
Since 2006, Confirmation in the diocese of Saskatoon has been celebrated by children in Grade 2, immediately prior to receiving First Holy Communion (at the same celebration). Saskatoon’s Bishop at the time, Most Rev. Albert LeGatt, initiated the practice of celebrating together the Sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist – and also First Reconciliation – at Grade 2 or age 7, in the order modelled by the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
Over the past year, Bishop Mark Hagemoen has undertaken a consultation about the age of Confirmation, led by a recently-established diocesan Sacraments Committee, and including the diocese’s six deaneries and pastors, and gathering “feedback from lay parishioners, especially parents and catechists,” as well as consulting with Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools.
“This (consultation) was in large part due to many clergy and laity – especially parents – approaching me about concerns regarding the current age of Confirmation, and the ability of young children at the age of seven to fully comprehend and appreciate all of the catechetical formation in preparation for this and two other Sacraments: Holy Communion and Reconciliation,” Hagemoen explained.
The bishop noted that the consultation generated the following points:
- preparation for three sacraments in one year was overwhelming for children, parents and catechists;
- delaying Confirmation provides a greater opportunity for further family catechesis between sacraments;
- preparing for Confirmation alone at a later age presents a better opportunity for service projects and retreats;
- more emphasis should be placed on forming disciples and intentional accompaniment of families.
Confirmation and other sacraments are covered at several stages of the religious formation provided in Catholic schools, and changing the age of Confirmation does affect their religious curriculum, noted the bishop. Sacramental preparation will continue to be the primary responsibility of parishes and parents.
A number of Confirmations that were delayed this year because of COVID-19 restrictions may still involve younger candidates. “If there are any outstanding confirmations that were delayed this past spring-summer 2020, I would be pleased to receive a request from any pastor to celebrate those Confirmations in 2021. Otherwise, I direct our parishes to plan for future preparation and formation programs for Confirmation at Grade 6.”
The diocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis will outline appropriate Confirmation preparation programs in light of this change beginning this fall, the bishop announced.
“We will be meeting with deaneries to have conversations around making the transition as seamless as possible,” said Marilyn Jackson, Director of Pastoral Ministries for the diocese of Saskatoon. “I see this change as an opportunity to do something new rather than trying to do something old in a new way. The focus must be on intentional accompaniment of families and on making disciples.”
In his letter, Bishop Hagemoen also reflected on how the Sacrament of Confirmation enriches those who are baptized “with a special strength of the Holy Spirit” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1285).
“The sacraments are occasions of the reception of God’s gift of grace, which actually brings about ongoing conversion of life and heart in us,” said Bishop Hagemoen. “The hope is that the decision to change the confirmation age will encourage more young people to receive the sacrament at a time in their ongoing faith formation to better strengthen them spiritually and enrich the entire Body of Christ.”