By Barb Arland-Fye
What a privilege and a joy to witness teenagers, our future teachers of the faith, receive the sacrament of confirmation!
Even though I’ve watched countless individuals (including my two sons) welcome the Holy Spirit into their lives in a more conscious way, their commitment to our faith inspires me afresh with hope.
On Sunday, March 2, Bishop Martin Amos invoked the Holy Spirit upon eight teens at Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire. They were among many groups of teens in our diocese who have been or will be confirmed this year.
Because each of us has free will, the sacrament doesn’t guarantee a lifelong commitment to the faith, the bishop acknowledged, but the Holy Spirit remains with us, waiting patiently to be invited into our lives.
“When we respond to the invitation, we become disciples,” Bishop Amos told the teens. “Disciples” comes from the Latin word “discere,” which means “to learn.”
“We learn what it means to follow Jesus; we learn what is the Father’s will for us,” Bishop Amos said. With baptism, confirmation and Eucharist, we are fully incorporated into the mystical body of Christ.
“We are disciples who journey together with Christ and with each other … we are called to “Go and make disciples of all the nations.”
From a practical standpoint, that commission can take shape in our interactions with friends, family members and acquaintances; our participation in the Mass, in various ministries or activities; or in our work lives.
To go and proclaim Christ to others “could mean publicly witnessing to Christ, but most often it is the words we say to someone and even more by how we lead our lives,” Bishop Amos observed.
“When I hear the bishop say, ‘Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit,’ at that point, my heart explodes. How fortunate these kids are to receive that,” says Helen Chostner, a longtime catechist of confirmation at Our Lady of the River.
She teaches students in their final year of preparation to receive the sacrament, and requires them to participate in various roles in the Mass. But what moves her deeply is to see students continue in ministries for a year or more after they’ve been confirmed. “That’s the work of the Holy Spirit,” Helen says.
This year, for example, six teens confirmed in previous years assisted Helen in some way.
“For them to want to be a part of this and share it with other kids … this is our opportunity for them to stay with their faith.” She tells her students, “You guys are our future teachers. You’re what our Church is looking for.”
Helen has been responding to her own call from the Holy Spirit for nearly 10 years as a catechist. “I am just a fisherman teaching these kids to fish; I am giving them the tools to fish,” she says.
In a recent reflection on the sacrament of confirmation, Pope Francis observed: “When we welcome the Holy Spirit into our hearts and allow it to act, Christ Himself is made present in us and takes form in our lives; through us, it will be He Who prays, forgives, brings hope and consolation, serves our brothers, is close to the needy and the abandoned, Who creates communion and sows peace.” (Jan. 29, 2014 ).
To witness the power of the Holy Spirit being called forth on teenagers in our diocese inspires me in my journey of faith and gives me hope for my Church.