Friday, May 25, 2007

Confirmation, Community, and Gas Prices

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.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm disappointed to read this and appreciate the fact that you've had the courage to share this. I hope we don't have the same experience when my children are confirmed. One of my children made her First Holy Communion recently and it was a very different and personal experience with every child being honored.

SWP said...

That's Bishop Walter Hurley for you. He was auxiliary in Detroit for my county, and I had the misfortune of having him confirm my cousin, who I was sponsoring. His homily was paltry, he had all the charm and likability of a codfish, and he was very eager to leave.

It doesn't surprise me at all that he found it more convenient to do things as you describe-- I don't think he realy likes people.

I interviewed him on behalf of a young adult ministry group for whom I was intern. We wanted to get to know our bishop. He handled the interview as he did the negative press arriving in the Detroit chancery's inbox: officiously and with an eye on his watch.

He was awarded his place in GR by Maida because of his exceptional handling of the abuse cases; so he wasn't chosen for his pastoral skills, as evidenced by your experience at confirmation.

Emily said...

That's crazy. I totally agree with you that there are few things more important that confirming new adult Catholics. My diocese (Columbus, OH) isn't very big population wise, but geographically it stretches from the Ohio river, to Amish country, includes all of Columbus and its suburbs and extends as far East as Zanesville. We're very widespread, yet Bishop Campbell comes to all the parishes individually, and he gives a wonderful, spirit-filled homily, as I have seen since I sing in our church choir at the Liturgy. I can't even imagine the sort of "cattle call" that described here.

Catholic Mom said...

I am sorry to hear this. As we have moved about the country with the Air Force my children have been received the sacraments in many different diocese. I have always seen the bishop come to the various parishes for confirmation.

That said, even if the bishop was not the best conveyor of the message, the Holy Spirit still poured out gifts and grace. It is certainly important to focus on this with the newly confirmed rather than the shortcomings of the confirmation Mass.

Maureen Wittmann said...

Catholic Mom, you are very right. We didn't let this spoil a very special day.

I decided to share this experience today to learn if this is normal procedure elsewhere. I've never heard of such a thing before.

And, I should note, that the cathedral and music were beautiful and spiritually uplifting.

As I inferred in the post, I'm proud of Callie, and I know that the Holy Spirit truly fills her soul.

It should probably also be noted that the bishop is not a young man. Perhaps age is a concern in traveling.

SWP, I'm afraid I must agree with you on the homily review.

Maureen Wittmann said...

Emily, your diocese sound similar to Lansing. Not big population wise, but huge geographically. We go from Lansing to Flint to Ann Arbor. Bishop Mengeling travels a great deal to meet his flock and gives such wonderful homilies.

Anonymous said...

Our diocese -- Valleyfield, Quebec -- doesn't even have a Mass, just I guess a liturgy of the Word. There were 3 groups crammed into one afternoon. V'field covers a fairly large area as well, but the Bishop does manage to get to our parish once a year for the confirmations. Bedlam afterwards, with everyone scrambling for a photo-op with the Bishop. Our Bp.'s first language is French -- maybe that's why he seems so "blah"... He's a relatively young man, but doesn't seem to have any charisma at all. don't know what the deal is ...

Mark said...

I'm happy to report that in the Marquette, Michigan diocese, our bishop (alex Sample) came to our parish for first communion/confirmation, gave a wonderful homily to the kids, and stuck around for at least an hour afterward posing for pics, talking with everyone. He spent a full 10 minutes answering my not-yet-Catholic wife's questions. He is as personable as everyone's favoite parish priest (only 2-years a bishop, maybe that's why).
He also comes to the school's masses twice a year and spends a lot of time with the kids. He

Judy said...

We are very blessed in the Archdiocese of the Military. Even though the archdiocese covers the globe, our bishops come to us for Confirmation. Bishop Higgins, whose area of responsibility is really the Veterans, but who confirmed our class in Misawa, Japan, because he and the other bishops are awaiting the appointment of another bishop, did a wonderful job as pastor and teacher. He came to us even though we are in relatively remote northern Japan. He spent time with our 9 confirmandi before the Mass. He came to our class dinner afterwards. He visited with our pastor. His homily was personal and well presented. We may complain about liturgy, music, and other challenges of military parishes, but Bishop Higgins treated our kids with just the right blend of respect and challenge at their Confirmation last month. Praise God!

Jean said...

I attended a similar confirmation at the Cathedral in St Paul, MN a few years back. The confirmand was in a wheelchair due to Muscular Dystrophy so the stress was yet greater for him and his family. Sigh... I am so (happily) spoiled in St Louis, MO with Archbishop Burke. Thanks be to God!

Matthew Meloche said...

We have a main Bishop located in London (two hours from my home town of Windsor Ontario), an Auxiliary Bishop (of Windsor), and two retired Bishops (both in Windsor). They manage to get around to all of the Parishes in our Diocese, which includes three "major" cities (Windsor, London and Sarnia), plus all the little towns, etc.

Esther said...

Maureen, it's too bad Callie and the others had to experience their Confirmation this way. My son was recently confirmed. The Bishop had another Confirmation to attend so he sent his vicar general who happened to be our former pastor. It was such a beautiful experience for these young people, to have someone who knew them so well confirm them on that special day.

Anonymous said...

Maureen I agree whole-heartedly. There is nothing more important than the children. Where do we think the worshipers of tommorrow are coming from. I think they should be comfirmed in thier own churches amongst their community. The biggest baptism/confirmation fans in our church are the over 50 crowd, the ones that can't travel an hour and a half. They find great joy in our children's walk with God. Chrissy

Maureen Wittmann said...

That is an excellent point Chrissy. When my chilren receive the sacraments, the older folks in our parish have always been supportive and often attend. Now that is true community!