Youth Program Confirmation Class
Fr. Peter Daly
December 10, 2008
Fr. Daly talks about his confirmation program, which asks a lot of young people.
Like most parishes we have a youth program. It has the usual components of prayer, service, recreation and silliness. But the core of our youth program is the Confirmation class.
We didn’t plan it that way. It just evolved.
Every week about 110 young people show up for a two hour confirmation class. This is odd because only 45 of them are actually going to be confirmed. The rest come just because they want to.
Our director of religious education, Mrs. Jan Pedone, is a genius. She figured out long ago that the thing that moves teens is friendship. If their friends are there, that is where they will want to be.
So she started something called the “advocates” program. Older teens mentor younger teens. They make sure that the confirmation students show up and participate. Some advocates come all through high school, participating in the confirmation program two, three or four times. It doesn’t hurt them. Repetition is the mother of learning.
Especially for younger teens, it is cool if older teens are there. At a certain critical mass, it even becomes “cool” to go to confirmation class. We have achieved critical mass.
Like everyone else, teens want to be known personally and have their voices heard. So confirmation class includes a period of small group discussion after the presentation. The adult leaders get to know their small group very well. Everybody wants to go where they know your name, so they come.
In addition to class every teens must come to mass each week. We take attendance by having confirmation students, advocates and the adult leaders sign in at the entrance of the church.
If they miss mass at our parish, we expect them to go elsewhere. For required proof they are supposed to produce a bulletin signed by the priest or deacon from the parish where they went to church.
This dumbfounds my neighboring pastors. Not long ago a pastor from a parish about 80 miles away called me on Monday morning to recount how one of our teens had asked for his autograph on a bulletin. He moment of “celebrity” status was spoiled when she said, “Fr. Daly wants this.”
The highlight of our “youth year” is our annual retreat. It has grown into a major production. Every year we pack up two buses and several pick up trucks for an advent experience. The kids have to pay, so they take it seriously.
The older teens give the witness talks. The adult leaders do the skits and build the sets. There is a chosen theme with a motto. This year is was, “Go make a difference.”
The retreat is marked by a lot of tears. One of the most moving experiences is when we distribute “planca” letters (support letters). Often this the first time in a long time our teens have heard from their parents or siblings that they are loved. It gives them hope. Everybody needs to hear they are loved.
I admire our adult leaders, unafraid of being a “fool for Christ.” This year the male leaders dressed as Kung Fu Panda, Mr. T., the Grim Reaper, Mr. Rodgers, Ricky Ricardo, and Scooby Doo (the dog).
If it had been up to me, the confirmation program would never have become this demanding. I hesitate to ask so much from youth. But our adult leaders, know teenagers better than I do. Our DRE says that if we set the bar high, they will stretch to reach it.
I think that’s maybe what the Holy Spirit wants.