Last Sunday, I had the privilege of being a confirmation sponsor to a very special young lady, Callie. The Confirmation took place in the Grand Rapids Diocese and they do things differently than we do here in the Lansing Diocese.
Rather than the bishop coming to your parish, he has you come to him. Callie's fellow 69 candidates and their families had to drive an hour or more to St. Andrew's Cathedral in Grand Rapids. Additionally, another 5 parishes were confirmed the very same day. My guess is that there were about 200 candidates present.
When I asked a deacon about this, he stated this was a more efficient use of the bishop's time, freeing him up for more important duties. This comment flabbergasted me. What is more important than going out to meet the youth of the Church and confirm them?
At the end of the Mass, the bishop gave another explanation. He felt that bringing all these parishes together under one roof created community. We are, after all, part of a bigger Church. We need to get out of our parishes and meet other Catholics in our diocese. I think he also said something about neighborhood, but at that point he was losing me as all I could think about was whether or not my seven kids, seated far from me, were holding up okay after such a long Mass.
I'm afraid to say that I didn't feel a part of the community that day. It was more like being lost in a crowd. Plus, it was an hour and half drive from my house, it was difficult for my family to find seating, grandparents where unable to attend due to the hardship of the long drive, etc. I overheard quite a bit of rumbling outside the church about gas prices ($3.50 a gallon here) and how it's cheaper for the bishop to drive to a parish than for hundreds of people to drive to him.
I'm sorry to say it was more mayhem than community. We were rushed up to the bishop when it came time for the candidates to be anointed. Callie was literally pushed by the usher when her turn came. The bishop stood there with his thumb up and ready. By the time I got to Callie and my hand on her shoulder, he was already anointing her. Rather than have the sponsor tell the bishop the confirmation name, each candidate was given a name tag. The bishop could then just read the tag instead of spending precious time asking for the name. I felt like cattle, not part of the bigger Church.
Is this a common phenomenon? Does your diocese operate this way?
Boy, do I ever appreciate Bishop Mengeling of our diocese who travels tirelessly (until his recent illness) to meet his flock.
Oh, one more thing. The bishop told the kids he had a gift for them, a very nice prayer book. The book was handed out by ushers at the door as candidates departed. When one of the kids asked the bishop to sign the book for her, the bishop refused, saying if he did it for one then he would have to do it for all. Yep, that's community.