Archbishop to discuss restored order of sacraments of initiation

All invited to join in May 28 phone call

Julie Filby

Archbishop Samuel Aquila will host a live phone call at the end of the month to discuss his initiative to restore the sacraments of initiation—baptism, confirmation and Eucharist—to their original order, which places confirmation before first Eucharist.

The TeleForum call, to be held 7 p.m. May 28 and open to all Catholics, is the second in a series by the archbishop, allowing him to listen to and speak with thousands of participants in real time.

“The phone call will be a resource for parents, religious education instructors, teachers and principals, and even young people themselves to ask questions of the archbishop about the plan to return the sacraments of initiation to their proper order in our archdiocese,” explained Karna Swanson, executive director of communications.

In a letter to be released May 24, Pentecost Sunday, titled “Saints Among Us,” Archbishop Aquila will explain the importance of restored order, and ask every parish to implement the changes necessary to have it in place by 2020. In doing so, children of the Archdiocese of Denver will be confirmed and receive first Eucharist in third grade, compared to recent years when confirmation was typically received in middle school or high school, and first Eucharist in second grade.

Archbishop Aquila restored confirmation to its original place in the Diocese of Fargo, N.D. in 2002, where he served as bishop prior to coming to the Archdiocese of Denver in 2012. An increasing number of dioceses in the United States have adopted, or are in the process of adopting a restored order policy, including the Diocese of Honolulu announced by Bishop Larry Silva April 24.

Unfortunately, confirmation has become “the sacrament of farewell,” Pope Francis said when visiting with young people in Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy in September 2013.

“Whatever we are doing now isn’t working,” Swanson said, “as the sacrament of confirmation tends to mark the end, rather than the beginning, of a close relationship with Christ.”

During the call, the archbishop wants to hear from those directly impacted by the change, she said, and the TeleForum technology will allow participants the opportunity to ask questions as well as leave feedback.

“The most common question we receive is ‘Why are we doing this?’” Swanson said. “That is a great question, and one I hope will be asked on May 28.”

Other questions, she added, might include the history of the sacraments of initiation, how the order was changed in the early 20th century, how the archdiocese will handle the changes, how to prepare children for sacraments, and how the restored order may provide a new opportunity for the parishes’ approach to youth ministry.

“I invite every single Catholic to participate in this phone call,” Swanson said. “This is a major initiative by the Archdiocese of Denver, and one that will need the cooperation of all members of the faithful of northern Colorado.”

Hundreds of Catholics participated in the archbishop’s inaugural TeleForum Dec. 21, 2014, which featured a Christmas message, as well as the archbishop’s live responses to 13 questions. In addition, 268 people left voice messages asking a specific question, requesting information or guidance, or simply wishing the archbishop a merry Christmas.

TeleForum technology, developed by the Highlands Ranch-based corporation Broadnet and donated to the archdiocese, is a step in the Office of Communication’s ongoing plans to develop more tools to communicate the message of the archbishop in new and different ways, according to Swanson.

Since Broadnet’s inception in 2004, they have managed more than 14,000 telephone interactive events, involving politicians, world leaders, professional sports teams and faith-based organizations.

> Register for the TeleForum by texting “bishop” to 313131.

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Last November 11, on the centenary of its relocation to a 93-acre campus in suburban Washington, D.C., Georgetown Preparatory School announced a $60 million capital campaign. In his message for the opening of the campaign, Georgetown Prep’s president, Father James Van Dyke, SJ, said that, in addition to improving the school’s residential facilities, the campaign intended to boost Prep’s endowment to meet increasing demands for financial aid. Like other high-end Catholic secondary schools, Georgetown Prep is rightly concerned about pricing itself out of reach of most families. So Prep’s determination to make itself more affordable through an enhanced endowment capable of funding scholarships and other forms of financial aid for less-than-wealthy students is all to the good.

What I find disturbing about the campaign is its “branding” slogan. I first became aware of it when, driving past the campus a few months ago, I noticed a billboard at the corner of Rockville Pike and Tuckerman Lane. In large, bold letters, it proclaimed, “FOR THE GREATER GLORY.” And I wondered, “…of what?” Then one day, when traffic allowed, I slowed down and espied the much smaller inscription in the bottom right corner: “Georgetown Prep’s Legacy Campaign.”

Ad maiorem Dei gloriam [For the greater glory of God], often reduced to the abbreviation, AMDG, was the Latin motto of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. Georgetown Prep is a Jesuit school. So what happened to the D-word? What happened to God? Why did AMDG become AM[D]G while being translated into fundraising English?

I made inquiries of Jesuit friends and learned that amputating the “D” in AMDG is not unique to Georgetown Prep; it’s a tactic used by other Jesuit institutions engaged in the heavy-lift fundraising of capital campaigns. That was not good news. Nor was I reassured by pondering Father Van Dyke’s campaign-opening message, in which the words “Jesus Christ” did not appear. Neither did Pope Francis’s call for the Church’s institutions to prepare missionary disciples as part of what the Pope has called a “Church permanently in mission.” And neither did the word “God,” save for a closing “Thanks, and God bless.”

Father Van Dyke did mention that “Ignatian values” were one of the “pillars” of Georgetown prep’s “reputation for excellence.” And he did conclude his message with a call for “men who will make a difference in a world that badly needs people who care, people who, in the words Ignatius wrote his best friend Francis Xavier as he sent him on the Society of Jesus’s first mission, will ‘set the world on fire’.” Fine. But ignition to what end?

Ignatius sent Francis Xavier to the Indies and on to East Asia to set the world on fire with love of the Lord Jesus Christ, by evangelizing those then known as “heathens” with the warmth of the Gospel and the enlivening flame of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith. St. Ignatius was a New Evangelization man half a millennium before Pope St. John Paul II used the term. St. Ignatius’s chief “Ignatian value” was gloria Dei, the glory of God.

Forming young men into spiritually incandescent, intellectually formidable and courageous Christian disciples, radically conformed to Jesus Christ and just as deeply committed to converting the world, was the originating purpose of Jesuit schools in post-Reformation Europe. Those schools were not content to prepare generic “men for others;” they were passionately devoted to forming Catholic men for converting others, the “others” being those who had abandoned Catholicism for Protestantism or secular rationalism. That was why the Jesuits were hated and feared by powerful leaders with other agendas, be they Protestant monarchs like Elizabeth I of England or rationalist politicians like Portugal’s 18th-century prime minister, the Marquis of Pombal.

Religious education in U.S. Catholic elementary schools has been improved in recent decades. And we live in something of a golden age of Catholic campus ministry at American colleges and universities. It’s Catholic secondary education in the U.S. that remains to be thoroughly reformed so that Catholic high schools prepare future leaders of the New Evangelization: leaders who will bring others to Christ, heal a deeply wounded culture, and become agents of a sane politics. Jesuit secondary education, beginning with prominent and academically excellent schools like Georgetown Prep, could and should be at the forefront of that reform.

Jesuit secondary education is unlikely to provide that leadership, however, if its self-presentation brackets God and announces itself as committed to “the greater glory” of…whatever.