Bishop Stika presides at first celebration for 54 parishioners who never received holy sacrament as youth
By Dan McWilliams
A new tradition began in the diocese Sept. 13 at Sacred Heart Cathedral as Bishop Richard F. Stika celebrated the first Mass of Confirmation for adults.
“We gather this day to celebrate the sacrament of confirmation with all of you, my sisters and brothers scattered throughout the Catholic Church of East Tennessee,” the bishop said in his opening remarks.
“I just want to say welcome, welcome in the name of your brothers and sisters as we gather this day to pray that the Holy Spirit might continue to fill you with his presence.”
Fifty-four adults from 16 diocesan parishes were confirmed.
The confirmation was for baptized adult Catholics, not for RCIA catechumens or candidates.
“It’s for the adult Catholics who for whatever reason were never confirmed, and the bishop has expressed it as those who have fallen through the cracks,” said Father Richard Armstrong, assistant director of the diocesan Office of Christian Formation.
Cathedral rector Father David Boettner concelebrated the confirmation Mass, with Deacon Bill Jacobs assisting. Masters of ceremonies were Father Arthur Torres Barona and Jerry Bodie.
The confirmation Mass is to be an annual event.
“The bishop’s plan is to have this every year around the time of Pentecost,” Father Armstrong said.
Before the homily, Father Armstrong presented the confirmation candidates to the bishop.
“They have prepared and are now ready to be strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit,” Father Armstrong announced.
In his homily, the bishop talked of how he spent the sunny day upon which the confirmation Mass fell.
“But then I knew that something more beautiful and something more spectacular was going to happen in this cathedral church today,” he said, “because I was going to celebrate Mass with all of you, and I was going to pray that the Holy Spirit, which has touched your life in many ways already, would again touch your life and fill you with that sense of commitment to goodness and holiness, a commitment to Jesus.”
Bishop Stika then urged the confirmandi to let God into their hearts.
“Any time we open our hearts to God, he fills that void,” he said.
“He takes a little bitty crack in our sense of self-defense against God, and he works his way in, and things begin to change.”
The bishop said the Apostles “presented themselves as a person to another person and said, ‘I believe in Jesus.’
“That’s what Jesus is asking all of you being confirmed today. He wants you to be his hands and his voice and his person and his heart, to present yourself to another person as Jesus, imperfect as we are, weak as we can be. Jesus, the Scriptures tell us, takes the weak and he makes them strong. That’s what he wants to do with you in your life.”
Jesus “wants us to be his instruments, and he wants us to share faith,” Bishop Stika said.
“And that’s my prayer for all of you today, that the Holy Spirit might guide you and strengthen you so that you might never be afraid to talk about Jesus, that you might never be afraid to do the right thing and the good thing and the uplifting thing in those moments of temptation, to know that God will give you the strength. Because if you know that, then you honor God. You make a proclamation that you believe in Jesus, and that’s the Holy Spirit,” he added.
For the anointing, the candidates each chose a confirmation name.
“What you’re doing is you’re asking that particular saint to work with your guardian angel, who I keep very busy, just to help you on your way of life,” the bishop said. Jesus needs each one of the confirmandi, Bishop Stika said.
“This is the most profound thing I’m going to say to you today: Jesus needs you like he needed the Apostles, you as individuals, to build his kingdom,” he said.
Bishop Stika heard the confirmandi’s renewal of their baptismal vows before the laying on of hands over the whole group. He then anointed each of the adults individually.
Father Armstrong called the confirmation Mass “an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.”
“It’s their own personal Pentecost, if you will, where they receive the Holy Spirit in a new way that they hadn’t received before,” he said. “It’s the sealing of their baptism, and that’s one of the reasons why there was a renewal of the baptismal vows as part of the rite.”
To find the confirmandi, the Office of Christian Formation sent out notices to all parishes in the diocese asking if there were any adult Catholics who have never been confirmed, Father Armstrong said.
“There’s some paperwork that’s required. They have to know something about the sacrament and what they’re receiving, and then they petition the bishop to be confirmed,” he said.
Bishop Stika required that candidates be parishioners in good standing, have an understanding of the sacrament of confirmation (be properly instructed), and be properly disposed and able to renew their baptismal promises.