Archbishop to discuss restored order of sacraments of initiation

All invited to join in May 28 phone call

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.

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.


Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash