Families, parishes discover beauty in restored order of initiation sacraments

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.

Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila raises the Eucharist during the Sealed and Sent confirmation event at the Denver Coliseum on May 7, 2016. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Archdiocese of Denver)

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.”

Conan agreed.

“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

COMING UP: Past 25 years remembered, next 25 anticipated at More Than You Realize conference

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“Be not afraid!”

This was the rallying cry at the Aug. 11 More Than You Realize conference, echoing the very same call St. John Paul II gave exactly 25 years ago when he visited Denver for World Youth Day in 1993.

Over 5,000 faithful from across the Archdiocese of Denver filled the seats of the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland at what was the largest Catholic gathering in Colorado since WYD ’93. The all-day conference was presented in both English and Spanish tracks, featured a dynamic lineup of renowned Catholic speakers, and culminated in a powerful commissioning Mass.

The name More Than You Realize and consequently, the logo resembling an eyechart, stems from the idea that almost everything may appear a certain way at surface level, but upon closer inspection, it can be more than one realizes and seen in a different light. This is especially true when it comes to the Catholic Church.

Over 5,000 gathered at the Budweiser Events Center Aug. 11 for the More Than You Realize conference, which celebrated the last 25 years since World Youth Day in Denver and looked to the next 25. (Photo by Jason Weinrich)

In planning for nearly two years, pastors from each parish of the archdiocese hand-picked those parishioners and members of their community who they wished to attend the conference, which revolved around the idea of discipleship. Through engaging videos and talks given by speakers such as Chris Stefanick, Luis Soto and Dr. Edward Sri, attendees were invited to join a new movement of discipleship within the archdiocese, echoing the one sparked 25 years ago at World Youth Day.

“[I] had a great rejuvenating time at the More Than You Realize Conference,” said Alex Martinez, a parishioner at St. Pius X Parish. “I am excited to see the MTYR movement take shape.”

Brenda Garrett, a parishioner of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception said, “It was an amazing event, so blessed my pastor Father Ron from the Cathedral Basilica sent me. I am so proud to be part of this movement.”

The key to evangelization

Cardinal J. Francis Stafford spoke before Mass began about the impact of World Youth Day 1993 and the challenges the Church faces today.

“What does the summer of ’93 teach us about our present circumstances in 2018?” the cardinal asked. “The Holy Spirit was sent out in a special mission to our Church in 1993. The power of that sending was unexpected and disorienting to me as archbishop and to most others.”

Cardinal J. Francis Stafford speaks during the More Than You Realize conference. (Photo by Jason Weinrich)

But despite urban violence, threats of boycotts, organized protests and other issues prior to World Youth Day 1993, “a fundamental change took place in the Church of Denver,” said Cardinal Stafford, “but not only here — among the young people who came throughout the world, [and] even the Holy Father.

“Above all, our Church was transformed,” he said.

Cardinal Stafford said that to evangelize those who don’t know the Gospel, we first need “…a deep awareness of the delight of the Father taking in each of us as baptized men and women,” he said.

“I would urge you to think deeply and to pray deeply about realizing how delighted God is in you — each of you — because you are received by the Father as being [part of] the body of his Son, who is beloved.”

‘Jesus is much more than you realize’

In his homily given in both English and Spanish, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila also touched on what World Youth Day 1993 means for us today.

“The world likes to tell us many things about ourselves,” he said, “and not many of them today are good or uplifting. Just look at the distorted image of beauty that is prevalent today, let alone the distortions of what it means to be a human person…

“The devil is certainly having a field day in a world that has abandoned God, and even in some members of the Church who have a weak faith in Jesus,” he said.

But despite similar issues taking place in 1993, the pope brought to Denver a message of hope.

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila celebrates the commissioning Mass that closed out the conference. (photo by Andrew Wright)

“When St. John Paul II spoke to the youth gathered for the prayer vigil on Saturday night at Cherry Creek State Park, he reminded them that God and a much bigger role for them to play in history,” said Archbishop Aquila.

That message is just as important today, within an archdiocese and Church that stand at a crossroads, the archbishop said.

“We have an opportunity to make a major impact for Jesus Christ, even as the surrounding culture is becoming less Christian.”

The pope opened the doors for those who attended to become greater disciples of Christ — not just directly after World Youth Day, but forever.

“St. John Paul II believed in retrospect that a revolution had taken place in Denver,” said the archbishop. “We, today, are the inheritors of this spiritual revolution, and we must not be afraid to put out into the deep to let our nets down for a catch.

“Jesus is much more than you realize. The Church is more than you realize. And your role in the plan of God is much more than you realize or [can] even imagine,” he said.

“And so, I beg you as your shepherd today to open your hearts to Jesus and speak heart-to-heart with him who loves you most.”

Aaron Lambert, Moira Cullings and Vladimir Mauricio-Perez contributed to this report.