When Avallina Goodman found out the Archdiocese of Denver would implement the restored order of the sacraments of initiation, she was a little wary.
“We initially were a tad shocked,” she said. “After just finishing confirmation with our older daughter who was in sixth grade, honestly we did have the thought that Maddelyn might be too young.”
After learning more about it, the Goodmans, parishioners at Our Lady of Fatima in Lakewood, realized what a blessing it is that their daughter will receive confirmation in third grade.
“I think a positive of the restored order is third graders are at such an influential age,” said Avallina. “In this day and age, I feel we do need to do everything we can to teach them how much God loves them, and we are children of God and need to live with his graces.”
The restored order celebrates the sacraments of initiation in the order they were intended to be received: baptism first, followed by confirmation and first Eucharist (the last two are celebrated during the same Mass).
The archdiocese began implementing the restored order in 2014. 32% of parishes started the process that year. An additional one third of parishes started in 2015. By 2016, nearly all parishes had begun transitioning.
Now, every parish has begun implementation and almost half are fully transitioned. 2020 will be the final year for the transition.
“We’ve found that parishes and parents initially are a little apprehensive because they’ve been taught that confirmation is about becoming an adult in the Church,” said Jared Staudt, catechetical formation specialist for the archdiocese.
But confirmation is a gift from God, Staudt continued. And it’s a chance to spark in younger children a desire to live out the faith fully instead of waiting to do so in the future.
The archdiocese has put an emphasis on the importance of confirmation and its graces. In 2016, over 500 high school youth from several parishes around the archdiocese were confirmed at Sealed & Sent — an event that drew in 3,000 faithful, making it the largest confirmation Mass to ever take place in northern Colorado.
Staudt believes the restored order will amplify religious education even more.
“It’s an opportunity to create a more dynamic and effective religious education program, which is based on living the Christian life rather than just teaching facts about the faith,” he said.
For St. Thomas More in Centennial this will be the first year third graders receive confirmation and first Eucharist on the same day.
Msgr. Thomas Fryar, the parish’s pastor, has noticed that the younger those receiving the sacrament are, the more eager they are.
“I’m very conscious of the fact that there always seemed to be a heightened sense of joy and excitement the younger the men and women were that were being confirmed,” said Msgr. Fryar.
“The hope is the efficacy of the sacrament is going to instill in them a stronger awareness of the gifts of the Spirit that they can put to work earlier on in their life,” he said.
Mary Pott, a children’s religious educator at Our Lady of Fatima, has also seen younger children display a greater zeal.
“They have an enthusiasm for it and an openness that the older kids don’t said Pott. “We pray those graces [from confirmation] will fill them and strengthen them and help them as things get tougher.”
Pott believes the key to a successful restored order is parent involvement, so her team provides parents with refresher courses on the faith.
“My biggest hope is that the parents will see the beauty of this,” said Pott. “They’ll see that this is something that’s good for them and good for the family and will help them all when they move forward.”
A couple who have already seen the fruits of the transition are Our Lady of Fatima parishioners Jean and Conan Fischer, whose daughter Claire is a third grader at Golden View Classical Academy.
“The tools we are given at these [parent] sessions have driven us to focus on faith as a family,” said Conan. “This reinforcement of the role of parents as primary teachers is very important at a time when society is diminishing the role of parents.”
Jean is excited to help her daughter and grateful she will receive the grace of the Holy Spirit at a young age.
“The kids have an eagerness to learn at this age,” she said, “and receiving confirmation early will hopefully help set them on the path of lifelong learning and growth in their faith.”
“At a time when grace is desperately needed in the world, I hope that Claire will have that little extra strength with the Holy Spirit at her side to tackle the world and do good in it,” he said.
Featured image by Anya Semenoff